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The Bulldog’s Unique Silhouettes

A group of Bulldogs being judged at a dog show.


The Bulldog’s Unique Silhouettes

We should know what breed it is at midnight,

in the dark of the moon,

on top of a picket fence

-by the silhouette!

—Alva Rosenberg

This brilliant quote from Alva Rosenberg is as timeless as it is important. After all, what do we really have if a dog doesn’t resemble its own breed in silhouette?

Each breed’s silhouette is unique. Starting at the nose and ending with the tail, a correctly constructed dog will represent its breed in a single glance. You likely have seen the car window stickers that say, “I love my ____” with a darkened silhouette of a breed, and you could tell in most cases which breed was being referenced without seeing the breed actually named.

In AKC show rings, dogs stand lined up in the direction of travel, head to tail. The judge can then evaluate and sort the dogs based on silhouettes as well as the gaiting patterns after each individual exam.

Bulldogs happen to have a second silhouette that is judged. You have probably noted that after individual exams, the exhibitors, at the judge’s request, will turn the dogs facing towards the middle of the ring. This is giving the judge a lined-up view of the front silhouette. In some countries, particularly in Europe, this front view is the only one that is presented, unless the judge requests a side view from the class.

Presenting the front view is very much a part of the way Bulldogs are exhibited. You might see a handler turn his or her Bulldog towards the center of the ring after individual exams in a Group or Best in Show ring, or even an occasional Junior Handler will do this as an accepted way of presenting the breed.

In Bulldogs, both views are arguably equally important. As an aside, the most popular pose for Bulldogs in photographs is a three-quarter “three-legged” view. This will show not only the front view, but if posed correctly it can give a peek at what the topline looks like. It is often easy to spot high tail sets from that view.

Bulldog Silhouette

Evaluating the side view, we have several key elements, starting with the head, or more specifically, the jaws. Are they projecting considerably with good upturn? We look to see if the nose is “laid back” correctly, and if the forehead is long and flat. We can see the arched neck and the all-important topline, including the tail set (the Bulldog topline is called a “very distinctive feature of the breed”), underline, and, of course, the rear angles. Look for proper dewlaps from the side, too. Hopefully, the handlers aren’t hiding them with their leads. And while you are looking, take note of how the front assembly is constructed.

Turning forward, we also evaluate the head. From this view we look for a head that is broad and square. We look for jaws that are broad, square, and well turned-up. How is the nose placement? Eye placement? We can see ear set, placement and shape, from this view. Don’t forget that furrow. It is really so key to good head type.

Then we have the very unique Bulldog front end. Starting with the legs: Are they straight and strong with good muscling that is creating the bowed outline? Is the chest wide, deep, and full, with the body dropping between the legs? Are the elbows correctly placed? And we might take a second peek at those feet.

When the dogs are lined up, facing center ring, you’ll see the judges go around to the side and glance at the row of profiles from that view. Walking behind the dogs, looking down, we are looking at body shapes and tails, and we might even glance at the heads to find the long and furrowed skulls. And, of course, the very important pear shape that is so key to the breed. You might even say the view looking down on the dogs is actually a third silhouette. How the shoulders, ribs, loin, and hind end are positioned and shaped are all elemental to correct type.

Judging Bulldogs is certainly complex. And we are only talking about the dogs standing still!

At the next show you attend, stop by the Bulldog ring to see how they are judged. Look for the distinctive silhouettes. And, as always, feel free to reach out to a good mentor to explain the fine points of the breed.