Issue 70

Bulldog Spirit – A National Myth?

“Do you know why the English Bulldog has a jutting chin and sloping face? It is so he can breathe without letting go." - Sir Winston Churchill is quoted as saying while addressing a Nazi envoy in 1940.

Ever since these words were uttered, Britain and its people have sought and found a national identity with the Bulldog. During wars, World Cups, terrorist attacks and even in car reviews - or more lately defeat and loss in The Ashes down under, members of the media often refer to 'Bulldog Spirit' in an attempt to sum up the experiences and expectations of what is now a nation of over 60 million, modern, cultured and sophisticated people.

So, Emily Carter asks - is the Bulldog analogy still relevant to us as a nation knowing what we do now about the Bulldog's health problems?

Maybe there is another dog now more fitting to take on the mantle of symbolising this diverse country and its people? Perhaps the English Springer Spaniel, with its adaptable and versatile attitude, coupled with a hard work ethic is a more fitting mascot for us, or the Dandie Didmont Terrier, with its quirky history, love of fun and independence is more of a British canine figurehead.

Looking at this national phenomenon in another way, is it fair that we associate ourselves with the Bulldog? Perhaps, attaching ourselves as a nation to the Bulldog is doing him or even all of us a disservice. The Bulldog epitomises a ‘fighting spirit’ that the nation has been so proud of for decades, but if Churchill hadn’t conjured up this emotive image when he did, and lets not forget that he was a Bulldog owner and lover, would it have even entered the nations consciousness?

bulldog spirit myth

Let’s look at some facts.

Since WWII, the population of Britain has grown immensely and so with that the needs of the nation have changed. Immigration has added colour and richness to the typical British stoicism for which we had become noted. Attitudes have changed and what was once an empire building, wave ruling Britania has now become a cosmopolitan society whose favourite food is Tikka Massala, whose leading football team is owned by a Russian and managed by a Portuguese man with typical Mediterranean flair.




Let us know your thoughts! Who knows, perhaps in fifty years time when we look for yet another canine mascot, you’ll be clinging on to the Staffy as the symbol of Britishness whilst your kids extol the virtues of a breed we haven’t even heard off yet.

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