Is a Healthier English Bulldog Possible?


Science Friday airs on WSQX Fridays from 2-4pm.

Tune into Science Friday to learn how this loveable, wrinkly, squishy-faced English bulldog is the fourth most popular purebreed in the United States. It’s also a breed notorious for health problems, from breathing difficulties to overheating, to skin infections. While the median age is about 8.4 years, many live only 6 or fewer — and most puppies are born by c-section because of problems with the mother’s body structure.

In 2009, stirred by controversy over these health problems, the United Kingdom’s Kennel Club made some revisions to the breed standards in the name of healthier dogs. Organizations like the Bulldog Club of America say careful breeding can help weed out genes that lead to these health problems.

But do enough good genes exist in the pool, or has inbreeding wiped out that possibility? New research suggests that crossbreeding with other breeds may be the only option for producing healthier bulldogs–that there’s not enough genetic variation to be sure help, in the form of good genes, is hiding in plain sight.

Veterinary researcher Niels Pedersen, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California-Davis, explains what he found in his explorations of the English bulldog gene pool and how we might ensure a healthier future for the breed.