The term english bulldog was first mentioned in literature around 1500, the oldest spelling of the word being Bondogge and Bolddogge. The first reference to the word with the modern spelling is dated 1631 or 1632 in a letter by a man named Preswick Eaton where he writes: “procuer mee two good english Bulldogs, and let them be sent by ye first shipp”. In 1666, English scientist Christopher Merret applied: “Canis pugnax, a Butchers Bull or Bear Dog”, as an entry in his Pinax Rerum Naturalium Britannicarum.
The designation english bulldog puppies was applied because of the dog’s use in the sport of bull baiting. This entailed the setting of dogs (after placing wagers on each dog) onto a tethered bull. The english bulldog puppies that grabbed the bull by the nose and pinned it to the ground would be the victor. It was common for a bull to maim or kill several dogs at such an event, either by goring, tossing, or trampling. Over the centuries, english bulldog puppies used for bull-baiting developed the stocky bodies and massive heads and jaws that typify the breed as well as a ferocious and savage temperament.
Bull-baiting, along with bear-baiting, reached the peak of its popularity in England in the early 1800s until they were both made illegal by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835.