Originating in England, the bulldog is a medium-size, heavy-set dog with a very muscular build. Bulldogs are short and squat. Their signature pushed-in nose and underbite combine to give them their distinctive "sourpuss" look. They have folds of skin over and under their snouts, and generally are of dappled fawn, white and gray coloring. While not ranked very highly as an intelligent breed, bulldogs are patient and relatively docile.
The American bulldog is a descendant of the English bulldogs brought over to the Western Hemisphere by English and Scottish immigrants. The English bulldog developed into a less athletic breed after bullbaiting -- the popular sport in which bulldogs would attack tethered bulls -- was outlawed in England in 1835. The original breed was brought to America, where its aggressiveness and strength was still useful. Bulldogs guarded herds and flocks from predators, and protected settlers' families and properties from intruders. They also were used in dog fighting.
English tailors and cobblers, displaced by the Industrial Revolution, brought the bulldog to France when they settled in Normandy. The French bulldog is much smaller than most other bulldogs leading to speculation the breed the settlers brought with them was a miniature or toy breed. Playful and affectionate, they are lovingly known as "Frenchies."
The English bulldog is descended from mastiffs, which originated in Asia and were brought to Europe by nomads. Bred for their ferocity and their ability to fight or hold aggressive prey, bulldogs developed their name for their popular use as dogs that helped handle bulls. They assisted men in rounding up wild bulls and later were used in bullbaiting. The bulldog was bred to have an upturned nose so it could clamp onto the snout of bulls while still being able to breathe.
There are about a dozen or so other bulldog breeds apart from these three main breeds and there are several other breeds -- such as the pit bull terrier and the Staffordshire terrier -- that are closely related to the bulldog and sometimes classed as bulldogs. Other common bulldog breeds are the Australian bulldog, the alapaha blue blood bulldog, the bulldog campeiro -- a South American relative of the original English bulldog. There also are a variety of dogs that are close variations to the English bulldog, namely the olde English bulldogge, the Victorian bulldog and the Dorset olde tyme bulldogge.