The American bulldog is a stocky, well built, strong-looking dog, with a large head and a muscular build. Its coat is short and generally smooth. The breed is a light to moderate shedder. Colors, while historically predominantly white with patches of red, black, or brindle, have grown in recent years to include many color patterns including black, red, brown, fawn, and all shades of brindle. The color conformation is quite varied, but solid black or any degree of merle is considered a cosmetic fault, and a blue color is a disqualification by the NKC Breed Standard. Black pigmentation on the nose and eye rims is traditionally preferred, with only some pink allowed. Eye color is usually brown, but heterochromia also occurs, although this is also considered a cosmetic fault. American Bulldogs are known to drool more than other breeds of dog; this varies and is more prevalent in the Bully type, which is generally a larger, heavier dog with a shorter muzzle. Standard or Performance types are generally more athletic with longer muzzles and a more square head. It is important to note that many modern American Bulldogs are a combination of the two types usually termed "hybrid." In general, American Bulldogs weigh between 27 and 54 kg (60 to 120 lb) and are 52 to 70 cm (20 to 28 in) at the withers, but have been known to greatly exceed these dimensions, especially in the "out of standard," nonworking stock.
American Bulldogs are typically confident, social, and active dogs that are at ease with their families. It is not uncommon for an American Bulldog to require a high level of attention due to their highly emotional personality. They bond strongly with their owners. They are capable of jumping in excess of 3 feet (0.91 m) vertical due to the dense muscle build of the breed. Young American Bulldogs may be slightly aloof with strangers, but as they mature the breed's normal confidence should assert itself. This breed tolerates children and can do very well with them, provided they are socialized early and understand their limits. The more exposure to good training practices, other dogs, and people, the more likely the success at being controlled both inside and outside of their environment. Early training and socialization both in the home and outside of the home is essential for this breed. While the goal of the breed was originally to produce a working farm utility dog that could catch and hold wild boar and cattle, kill vermin, and guard an owner's property, when properly trained, exercised and socialized, this breed can become a family pet.
Even the slight modifications the bulldog underwent in Spain and England up to the Industrial Revolution (before 1835), were absent in the working strains. Most settlers of the American South came from the West Midlands of England and emigrated as a result of the Civil War between Royalists and Parliamentarians, prior to the Industrial Revolution.
The Old English Bulldog was preserved by working class immigrants who brought their working dogs with them to the American South. Small farmers and ranchers used this all-around working dog for many tasks including farm guardians, stock dogs and catch dog. These dogs were not an actual breed as considered by today's standards but were a generic bulldog type. There were no recorded pedigrees or records and breeding decisions were dependent on the best working farm dogs despite breed or background. Several separate strains of the "bulldog" type dogs were kept by ranchers as utilitarian working dogs.
Perhaps the most important role of the bulldog and the reason for its survival, and in fact why it thrived throughout the South, was because of the presence of feral pigs, introduced to the New World and without predators. The bulldogs were the settlers' only means of sufficiently dealing with the vermin. By World War II, the breed was near extinction until John D. Johnson and his father scoured the back roads of the South looking for the best specimens to revive the breed. During this time a young Alan Scott grew an interest in Johnson's dogs and began to work with him on the revitalization process. At some point, Alan Scott began infusing non-Johnson catch bulldogs from working Southern farms with John D. Johnson's line, creating the now Standard American Bulldog. At another point, Johnson began crossing his line with an atavistic English bulldog from the North that had maintained its genetic athletic vigor.
American bulldogs are now safe from extinction and are enjoying a healthy increase in popularity, either as a working/protector dog or as a family pet. All over the world, they are used variously as "hog dogs" (catching escaped pigs or hunting razorbacks), as cattle drovers and as working or sport K-9s. American Bulldogs also successfully compete in several dog sports such as dog obedience, Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring, Iron Dog competition and weight pulling. They are also exhibited in conformation shows in the UKC, NKC, ABA, ABRA, EKC and the SACBR.
American Bulldogs generally live from 10 to 16 years, and tend to be strong, physically active, and often healthy. Some health problems in American bulldogs are often found within certain genetic lines, and are not common to the entire breed, while others, such as neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), Ichthyosis, disorders of the kidney and thyroid, ACL tears, hip dysplasia, cherry eye, elbow dysplasia, entropion, ectropion, and bone cancer are more common to the general population of American Bulldogs. There are DNA tests available to help breeders screen breeding animals for NCL (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis) and Ichthyosis. A Penn Hip (Pennsylvania Hip Improvement project) or OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) screening is recommended for all potential breeding animals. Some American Bulldogs are prone to allergies. Symptoms like a runny nose or a rash are examples of signs of allergies. Some vets recommend dog owners to give 25 mg of Benadryl per day; in most cases it helps.Spike and Tyke from the Tom and Jerry franchise.
The Deftones' video Bloody Cape featured a model walking an American Bulldog down the street. The American Bulldog was actually played by two separate dogs from the Norcal's American Bulldog Kennel. The names of the dogs were Big Trouble and Tory Hesta.
In Return to Me (2000), David Duchovny’s character’s dog, Mel, is played by an American Bulldog named Peetey.
In the 2001 film Kevin of the North, one of Kevin Manley's sled dogs is an American Bulldog named Snowflake.
Nedd ("Nasty Evil Dead Dog") in The Number 23 (2007)
In Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), Jangers, Tyler Labine's character’s dog, is played by an American Bulldog named Weezer.
An American Bulldog features prominently as the titular character's companion in the 2013 film Joe.
Since the 1990s, American Bulldogs have become more frequently used in films as family pets, replacing the previously popular Pit Bulls and Bull Terriers. For example:
Chance from the feature film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) and its sequel, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996). Suregrips Rattler (Chance) was only in the first Homeward Bound movie. The first film based on The Incredible Journey featured a Bull Terrier.
Although the original Petey from Hal Roach's Our Gang was an American Pit Bull, in the 1994 film remake, The Little Rascals, Petey was played by an American Bulldog.
In Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), an American Bulldog is the family pet.