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The Working American Bulldogs by David Putnam Q. Who exactly were the Philo-Kuon breeders? Please give us more details.

A. When debates were first heard at the turn of the 18th century on whether to make bull baiting illegal or not in England's parliament, a group of visionary dog breeders began an effort to save the legendary symbol of British courage, the primordial English Bulldog. This group would eventually be called the Philo-Kuon breeders. Parliamentary debates continued for three and a half decades, during that time the British newspapers crucified the Bulldog, painting a caricature "monster dog" image similar to the current media campaign against the Pit Bull. The 19th century English newspapers were correct in only one area: the working Bulldog was too hard a dog to be a family pet without an out cross.

Philo-Kuon breeders crossed Pug into Bulldogs to create a new breed that was to carry on the name and the valor of the original canine warrior but be more manageable. The Pug out cross was needed to tone down the extremely hard and aggressive personalities of the bull baiting dogs. The original Bulldog resembled an American Staffordshire Terrier or a Performance AB and weighed about 50 pounds. Pug/Bulldog crosses often weighed only 20 pounds and resembled Boston Terriers with rose ears. The Pug/Bulls were tested in rat pits for gameness and functional structure. These weren't show breeders trying to save the English Bulldog, they were people who use to bait bulls as a breed test. The 20 pound miniature Bulldogs that survived the rat pits were bred to large 100% Bulldogs with short muzzles or small Mastiffs, both had to have mellow temperaments to be considered worthy breed candidates by Philo-Kuon breeders. The result was a 40 to 60 pound dog that resembled a Boxer.

In 1835 bull baiting was made illegal. By the 1860s the new breed had solidified and was gaining popularity as a home guardian. A breed standard was drawn up and dogs shows were held. A painting of Rosa and Crib, the foundation pair that most bloodlines sprang from, was incorporated into the English show standard.

rosa and crib

Rosa and Crib were the Adam and Eve of Philo-Kuon English Bulldogs

The standard was written under the pen name Philo-Kuon, Latin for dog lover. Philo-Kuon not only insisted that the newly created Bulldog Pug Bull breed must resemble Rosa and Crib, or in effect resemble Boxers, the dogs had to be courageous and resolute. The new version of the English Bulldog must be able to attack on command any threatening person or any wild animal and still be easy to control.

The English breeders throughout the 19th century who followed the dictates of Philo-Kuon bred a courageous Boxer like Bulldog that was a family protector par excellence. They tested their dogs extensively in various athletic activities such as throwing wooden planks into a churning ocean from 15 foot cliffs. The Philo-Kuon Bulldogs would plunge off the cliffs, into white caps and drag the planks to shore, barking joyfully for their masters to throw the plank out again.

The English Philo-Kuon Bulldog was used to create many fine Bull breeds around the world. English breeders sold top dogs to the Germans. The modern Boxer is at least 50% descended from Philo-Kuon bloodlines. Many Philo-Kuon Bulldogs were also exported to America and the AB is partially descended from this source.

champion crib

Champion Crib was a typical Philo-Kuon English Bulldog

The reason so many of these magnificent Philo-Kuon Bulldogs were shipped out of England has to do with a schism within the 19th century English Bulldog community. Towards the second half of the 19th century Boxer like Bulldogs stopped winning dog shows. A third type had been created through in breeding that looked nothing like a Boxer or a small Johnson AB. The new type was dubbed the sour mug. It looked like nothing that had ever come before it. The sour mug had a muzzle so short it could not be measured. Its elbows were bowed out like a piano's legs. Its chest was so wide it couldn't move in a normal fashion. The Philo-Kuon breeders examined the third type, the sour mug, and declared it an abomination against nature and didn't take the sour mug breeder's threats seriously, threats to take over the English Bulldog national club and change the standard to favor the freakish sour mug.

Sour Mug breeders scorned the drawings of Rosa and Crib in the Philo-Kuon standard and the performance testing required to keep the English Bulldog athletic. They created a squatty non athletic toad like dog, the modern AKC English Bulldog and called for the athletic Philo-Kuon breeders to abandon the lithe Bulldog form. Unfortunately, the Philo-Kuon breeders were distracted from the game of political football within the English Bulldog national breed club. Because of their negligence Judges were convinced that the squatty sour mug type was correct and the Boxer type was incorrect. Sour Mug breeders won more and more dog shows as the century advanced.

The Philo-Kuon breeders were distracted because they were busy importing the finest Spanish Bulldogs that had confirmations similar to athletic English Bulldogs but were larger. From a functional and working point of view the Philo-Kuon breeders were doing excellent work. Spanish Bulldogs were imported that weighed 90 pounds and had thoroughly tested dispositions. The Spanish Bulldog was descended entirely from English Bulldog stock, so this was not an other breed out cross. The Philo-Kuon breeders were actually reducing the amount of Pug in their new toned down house Bulldogs. They sought Spanish Bulldogs with exceptionally short noses, roughly 2 or 2 inches long. They were doing superb work if the goal was to produce a typey but still functional Bulldog.


Belcher was a Philo-Kuon Bulldog that won over 100 Pit contests

As the last decade of the 19th century loomed the Philo-Kuon breeders discovered that their dogs were being shunned by the public in favor of the sour mug. The Sour Mug breeders had publicly exposed the crossing of Spanish Bulldog into their competitor's lines. A hue and cry was raised that the Philo-Kuon breeders were being unpatriotic when they crossed foreign blood into English Bulldogs. There were other reasons for the new type's popularity, sour mugs were physically chained or hobbled by their stumpy short legs and smashed in faces. Sour mugs would chase cats but not catch them. Some Philo-Kuon Bulldogs would kill all the neighborhood cats and whip all the local dogs. Others were mellower and with proper training were great guard dogs that could exercise restraint. Over time the Philo-Kuon Bulldog was given a more sedate personality but they would always be rambunctious dogs.

Philo-Kuon breeders did not go down without a fight. They challenged the sour mug breeders to walking races over twelve mile courses. The sour mug breeders were loathe to accept the challenge but would have lost face if they forfeited. Sour mugs did indeed race Philo-Kuon Bulldogs. The sour mugs would collapse after two miles of walking and were exposed as being grossly non-functional. The Philo-Kuon Bulldogs could zip around the 12 mile course for hours and wear out several different handlers. Sour Mug breeders shot back that maybe the new sour mug type wasn't a ball of fire but at least it wasn't polluted with Spanish blood. A second media campaign was directed at the Philo-Kuon breeders. The phony patriotic argument carried the day, never mind that the original out cross a century earlier was made to a breed that originated in Asia. The drawings of Rosa and Crib were torn from the standard and ground under a boot heel as the sneering sour mug breeders had their final revenge for being humiliated in the walking races. At the turn of the 19th century there were essentially no Philo-Kuon Bulldogs left in England.

line drawing

This line drawing shows an 1870 Philo-Kuon English Bulldog, virtually identical to a Johnson AB

Copyright 1999 by Dave Putnam

The Working American Bulldog is the largest book ever written about ABs, 110,000 words, 8 1/2 by 11-inch pages with over 300 color photos plus dozens of historical prints. It has a hard cover, sewn binding and will last for decades.

The Working American Bulldog took five years to write. It represents thousands of miles of travel. The author went to 30 different states and visited top breeders to  document their ABs first hand. It also 
represents a massive academic research effort that not only traces the history of the Bulldog in America but chronicles the ancestral English Bulldog from 800 BC to the 19th century. Facets of Bulldog history are presented that appear nowhere else. The reader will learn why and how the working English Bulldog became superior to the Bulldogs of continental Europe. We examine how the American Bulldog evolved from the ultimate canine warrior: the Elizabethan English Bulldog.

The breeder section features in depth analysis of the various foundation breeding programs that virtually every program today is based on, such as Kyle Symmes (Suregrip kennels), Alan Scott (Owl Hollow Kennels) and Larry Koura (Road Hawg Kennels). After reading the breeder section any AB pedigree will be meaningful to the novice Bulldogger, not just an incomprehensible jumble of names.

The AB is not a show breed, rather the quintessential working canine. When we say 'working' we mean every aspect of that word. This book delves into every nuance of the ancient baiting sports that produced the working Bulldog as well as the three primary working sports that are used today to develop drive 
and ability: Weight Pull, Hog Catching and Protection/ Obedience sports such as Schutzhund, Ring Sport and the BST. A Bulldog's response to protection training can be very different from a German Shepherd's. Read this book and you will be forewarned. Forewarned is forearmed. 

While The Working American Bulldog's emphasis is not on showing or show breeding, a few well-crafted pages are provided on showing the AB in the ABA and ABNA rings. It answers these questions: Should I show my Bulldog in the Bully or Standard class? What is the best way to condition for the show ring? 
However, it does not answer this question - How can I play breed politics to win a dog show? That is not what the book or American Bulldoggers are about.

Great emphasis is placed on how to select a working caliber puppy. Questions like these are answered in exhausting detail: What are the advantages of the Johnson line vs. the performance lines? What about the so-called Hybrid AB that is half Johnson and half performance? What are the criteria for selecting an individual breeder? What are the pros and cons of line breeding vs. out crossing? What genetic defects is the AB prone to? What are the technical challenges facing AB breeders today? How effective are the various temperament tests on AB puppies?

Extensive training guidelines and information on how to raise an American Bulldog are given in an easy to read narrative, not in a dry - how to - manual style. In fact, the whole book reads more like a novel than the typical, boring, breed book style. A surprising amount of Bulldog history can be documented in America from the 18th century to the present. This information is presented in a cohesive, chronological fashion, separating fact from fantasy and giving alternate viewpoints when more then one theory fits the historical record. For instance, there are several origin theories concerning the American Bulldog. Each one is presented separately with supporting evidence. Then the author shows how these different theories are not mutually exclusive and the reader is finally given an accurate picture as to where the American Bulldog really came from and why it is the dog that we know today. 

Finally, it is not the author's goal to popularize the American Bulldog. Most breed books are really propaganda pieces that paint glowing, unrealistic, portraits of the breed in question. After reading this book you will know the positive and negative aspects of the American Bulldog and will be ready to 
select, raise and train a Bulldog with your eyes wide open to his virtues and vices.

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