DISCLAIMER: Photos and information posted with permission from the Old White English Preservation Society (OWEPS)
We all know of the Old Southern White (OSW) being one of the foundations of the modern day American Bulldogs. The actual history as to where they came from is still very hazy to most bulldoggers and debated by many, but the entire American Bulldog fanciers agree that it is one of the most (if not the most) important foundations of the American Bulldog breed as developed by John D. Johnson and Alan Scott (that in itself is a story worth another passage, so we will leave it at that for the time being). There are well-known kennels in the rural south of the United States that still breeds and maintains the OSW. Alan Scott of Owl Hollow Kennels and of course, Pastor Lemuel Miller of Joshua Kennels to name a few. However, there is a little-known type of dog that many of us may or may not have heard of... the White English Bulldog. The White English Bulldog is a subtype of a distinct breed known as the White English (WE).
As sourced from the Old White English Preservation Society (OWEPS), the White English breed is a generic term that describes an actual breed type that goes by a few other names such as Old White English, White English Bulldogs, English Whites, or simply, White English and most commonly by rural southerners, just plain bulldogs. The breed name White English was first documented by the United States Army in March of 1871 in a report written by Officer R. G. Carter in Fort Concho, West Texas.
White English (WE) is the breed name, however there are two types within the breed: a mastiff type and a bulldog type. The mastiff type is known as the Old White English (OWE) and the bulldog type is known as the White English Bulldog (WEB).
According to the OWEPS, the OWE is the mastiff type White English and was known at one time as the White Farmer's Mastiff. They are a mastiff proper (original mastiff type) and was developed from the Shepherd’s Mastiffs (White Mastiffs or Alaunts) of England, the Alano of Spain and to some degree, the Mastin, Dogue de Bordeaux, Alpine Mastiff, and Pyrenean Mastiff of France during the 17th and 18th centuries in northern Florida and southern Georgia by cattle ranchers and homesteaders as a cattle dog and property guardian, a commoner's or farmer’s dog. When the English invaded the southeastern region of North America in 1733, they were faced with Alaunts of the older type (like their own Shepherds’ Mastiff), protecting Spanish forts and missions, guarding homesteads, and tending livestock. Hence, they simply called these old type dogs White English or Old English Whites referring to their own old type Shepherds’ Mastiff of England as what they knew them to be. They are a much calmer, more relaxed, fairly quiet, seemingly benign yard dog until the time presents itself for them to prove just how ferocious and protective they are. They are not playful dogs. Prey drive is very, very low in the mastiff type and as such they don’t typically make good hunting dogs. Though, the ferocity of the OWE when engaged in protecting their charge is unlike any other breed. Their method of attack is that they approach from the rear and go for a fatal bite under the elbow and into the chest of a predator, be it man or beast and sometimes they may go for the throat. Either way, when they respond to a threat, they respond with the intent of permanently doing away with it so that it never returns. They are extremely serious dogs that do not belong in the hands of the novice.
A very old and hard to find OWE strain found only in a specific region of middle Georgia known as the Carr White English is rapidly disappearing. This strain was originally bred by Jake Carr Sr. and this strain is still very rare that it was only in May of 2014 that the Carr family have been handed/returned a certified Carr WE by the OWEPS!
On the other hand, the bulldog type White English or the WEB is much different than the OWE in a number of ways. Most noticeable is the temperament of the WEB when compared to that of the OWE. The WEB is a much more active and playful dog with a higher prey drive, making them more suited for hunting and less suited for guarding livestock, especially fowl. They are more vocal and enjoy the attention and praise of their masters more so than the OWE. Also very protective, the WEB is not nearly as extreme and much more likely to "bluff" a threat than the OWE. Their method of attack is that they will bite a leg or arm and hold the threat, be it man or beast, until their master arrives. They do exceptional work in herding a variety of livestock, including all sorts of fowl. They are a much more versatile dog than is the OWE.
Not many people know the White English, nor do they understand the significance of these dogs in the American rural south. Specific to the White English Bulldog (WEB), this dog is by NO means an English Bulldog (EB) that is white. At first sight, they look very similar to that of a Standard Type American Bulldog (AB), but it is NOT an AB. I personally have read as much articles about historical dog breeds, as well as, talk to so many different people to find that this little-known breed actually does exist. I call it my "Holy Grail" of dogs and it has proven to be a very difficult species to find, only to realize that it’s just there. For me, these dogs will afford the dogman more valuable knowledge about their natural characteristics and learn the true nature and value of a pure breed unadulterated by cross-breeding and/or outcrossing. This is one distinct dog breed that traces its ancestry to the dogs of old that has been preserved in its true and pure form. The Bulldog in its true form!
Both the OWE and the WEB comes out of a pure WE breeding pair. Puppies in a litter go through a very strict and tedious process of testing and selection in their natural environment. Observing their natural guarding and herding traits for the OWE, while the hunting nature for the WEB. Physically, both types defer and can be differentiated from each other as well. The breeders of the WE have a very distinct knowledge of the temperaments and traditional functional work of the breed, hence, the dogs will ONLY be certified once they are truly certain of the dog’s natural traits.
The White English Bulldog (and the White English entirely) is a very old breed that predates the AB by more than 100 years. The AB was first documented as the "American Pit Bulldog" in 1970 by the National Kennel Club (NKC), which was the original name that John D. Johnson called his dogs. Come 1975, Johnson chose to go with the Animal Research Foundation (ARF) and it was then that the name "American Bulldog" was first documented. The "Pit" was dropped from its name by Johnson due to the confusion between the Pit Bulldogs and Johnson Bulldogs (Pit Bulldog was a common name for the American Pit Bull Terrier at that time). As earlier mentioned, the English settlers first encountered these dogs in the rural southeastern region of North America when they invaded it in 1733. So the origins of these dogs may not be England and may just be a case of mistaken identification as the English settlers identified them to have the same phenotype as those dogs that they knew, and those dogs were also descendants of the old war dogs and hunting dogs of Europe. The ancestors of the WEB are the Spanish Alanos and the French Alaunts and in some degree other dogs that were used by the cattle ranchers in the area. At that time, there were no specific knowledge as to which dog belongs to a certain breed and they were only known for what they do. Breedings done to produce these dogs were made by selecting pairs that the farmers believed could potentially produce a very good guard and farm dog, meaning... they bred their stocks according to the function they want the dogs to perform. Fortunately for these dogs, their phenotype is very consistent and it has remained the same and unaltered for over 100 years.
This breed is currently being preserved by the OWEPS headed by my good friend Heather Hedden Wilkins of Hawkinsville, GA and Ray Lane of Coldwater, MS. I personally appreciate and commend their great efforts to exhaustively do all the research and documentations in uncovering the exact origins of this breed backed with voluminous documentary evidences. The efforts demonstrated by OWEPS are by no means simple. It is NOT their intention to popularize the breed, produce puppies for profit, or to make show dogs out of farm dogs as they never have been show dogs and they endeavor to keep them that way... strictly a working farm dog. The breeders of OWEPS have a strict code of honor and ethics: breeding only true OWE. THEY DO NOT INFUSE OTHER BULLDOG TYPES INTO THEIR DOGS. Their litters of puppies are consistent in type and temperament, as they believe that (as it actually is) stability has to be bred in, it CAN NEVER be taught.
While there are so many among us who keep dogs “for the love of the breed”, how many of us can lay claim that we are doing what we do with these dogs for their own good and sake and not for our own egos? Some perform experiments on several working breeds (and other breeds) by cross-breeding them in order to "create or enhance" a particular trait or a specific "look". Some even breed several dog breeds in order to "breed out" hunting or guarding tendencies just like what is happening now to the English Bulldog and the newest craze... the American Bully. People have now created designer dogs! The American Bulldog is fast becoming an extinct breed, because of these so-called breeders who "love" the breed. Function is no longer innate in these dogs where temperaments are in question. Physical stamina and strength are no longer the feat of the historical legends that the old dogs were known for according to the stories told by John D. Johnson. Their faces are too pushed in they can no longer breathe well nor endure heat! We are killing the dog. We have made dogs to our own design and not to theirs.
There are so many lessons and insights to be learned from the White English Bulldog (the White English and the farmers/breeders of these dogs as a whole). These dogs have remained pure and unaltered for so many years. These dogs have not been (and will never be) exploited for profit. The most important trait in breeding the WE is temperament. According to the OWEPS: “the OWE is a true working dog for the very reason of its inheritance as a child’s play-toy and babysitter, and foremost as a guard dog. The most important ingredient of the OWE is their temperament, without which there is no OWE. There are examples where some modern ‘WEB’ have accomplished levels of competitive obedience and agility, while others have earned titles in competitive hog catching, while others have become temperament tested by passing a test for confidence, stability, and defense. However, to truly exemplify the aspect of the OWE, one should observe their skills guarding cattle or other farm livestock, as this is what defines them.”
Bulldog in its true form. This is the White English Bulldog and it is a very distinct dog breed. A very old and magnificent breed that is worth the great efforts of well-meaning people to keep alive and preserve. We could look up to their example to preserve and better our own breed. They may not be many, but they still exist. They are there tending to their work as their original and genetic roles were bred for. However, let me also put this out as a word of caution. There are people who now claim to have "WEB". As more people uncover the WEB according to the OWEPS, “the ‘WEB’ prefix has fast become a popular marketing tool that has led the development of yet just another term and misnomer for the American Bulldog with its un-counted terms”. The term is being used to the point where both WEB and AB have become synonymous. THEY ARE NOT!
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