What Are ‘Bully Dog’ Breeds? Why Do We Call Them Bullies?

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“Bully dog” may be a term you’ve heard used to describe several different breeds of dog. But what does “bully dog” mean?

You might suspect from the name that any breed with the word “bull” in it might be a bully dog breed. Indeed, that is the case with many dog breeds, such as American Pit Bull Terriers, English Bulldogs, Bull Mastiffs, and Bull Terriers.

However, there are many other dogs, like Boxers, Boston Terriers, and American Staffordshire Terriers that are considered bully dog breeds without having the word “bull” in their names.

So what do these dogs have in common that makes them all “bully breeds,” and where does that name come from?

Which Breeds Are Considered Bully Dogs?

Bull terrier puppy playing and going underneath a bulldog

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There are many breeds that we call bully dogs, and they can have vastly different looks, temperaments, and breed histories. So why do we group them all under the label of “bully dogs?”

Well, they all have one thing in common. They descend from Molosser dogs, which were large, muscular dogs who originated in Greece and had pendant ears and short muzzles.

Breeders originally mixed these large animals with other breeds to create dogs who would protect livestock, guard property, and help with day-to-day work.

Later on, many bully breeds would unfortunately be bred for bloodsports such as bull-baiting and bear-baiting. Once these barbaric sports were outlawed, many of these dogs continued to be bred as companion animals, though some were bred for dog fighting rings.

Bully dog breeds are generally not aggressive when given a proper home and socialization training, but like any other dog, humans can teach them bad habits. Most bully dogs are happy, family companions who are protective and loving, especially toward children in their homes.

There are so many breeds that share Molosser ancestors and fit in the bully dog category. It would be difficult to list them all. However, here are a few of the most well-known and popular bully dog breeds:

Want to know if your dog is a bully breed? Try this doggy DNA test to find out your pup’s breed ancestry!

Why Do We Call Them Bully Dogs?

english bulldog sticking tongue at another dog laughing - concept of bullying

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You may think that the term “bully dog” implies that dogs of this type are standoffish, cruel, or aggressive. However, the name “bully dog” has nothing to do with these dogs’ personalities, and is instead based on their history.

Because people used these dogs in bloodsports like bull-baiting, they used the name “bully” to describe them, and it stuck. Describing them as “bully dogs” doesn’t help distance these breeds from their unfortunate past.

Combine that with the fact that people have used many bully dog breeds as status symbols to invoke toughness, intimidation, and aggression — as well as people who continue to use them in illegal dog fighting rings — and it’s easy to see why their undeserved reputation persists.

Despite all of these issues, bully dogs are generally kind family dogs, and many have been described as “nanny dogs” because of their protective nature towards children. When given proper training and love, bully dogs make excellent companions and pets.

However, breed specific legislation sometimes bans bully dogs, especially if they fall under the “Pit Bull” type, or even if they look like Pit Bulls.

Fear-based laws and poor training of law enforcement to identify breeds properly can spell disaster for dogs of many breeds and their families, even if they aren’t Pit Bulls or bully dogs.

It’s important to spread knowledge and information so bully breeds can shed their bad reputation, and so people can accept them for the loving animals that they are.

What’s your favorite bully breed? Do you have a bully dog at home? Let us know in the comments below!