Are English Bulldogs Born With Short Tails Or Are They Docked?


English bulldogs are one of the few breeds that are recognizable from their short stumpy tail and their wrinkled skin. Seeing as not all dogs are born with short tails, this can lead people to wonder whether English bulldogs are born with short tails, or whether they have been docked.

Docking is an illegal practice in the UK, so you may feel it’s important not to support a cruel practice such as this. However, docking is fairly unrestricted in the US, apart from in select states.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the English bulldog’s tail. This will include whether they actually have tails at all, whether they are docked, what docking is, why you would dock a dog’s tail, and more interesting facts about the tail of an English bulldog.

Want to know whether an English bulldog is born with a tail or whether it’s been docked at birth? Read on to find out!

Do English bulldogs have tails?

Do English bulldogs have tails?

Yes, English bulldogs do have tails! You may not think so because they are so small in comparison to other dog’s tails. English bulldogs have been bred to have naturally short tails, however, these can vary in size. It all depends on whether the dog is pedigree, or if it has been bred with other breeds.

There are actually three different types of tail that an English bulldog can be born with. These are:

  • Corkscrew tails
  • Long or wavy tails
  • Straight tails

Not every English bulldog is the same. Their tails can come in all shapes and sizes.

Corkscrew tails

These are a fairly common type of English bulldog tail. These types of tails tend to wrap in a downwards corkscrew shape, hence the name! Corkscrew tails have become synonymous with English bulldogs. 

These tails are more flexible as a puppy, however, they become stiffer as the dog grows older. They eventually become fixed in a bun-like shape, which may lead some people to think the poor dogs have had their tails docked. Fortunately, this isn’t the case – they’re just naturally short!

Long or wavy tails

These tend to be the rarer tails for English bulldogs to have. Some breeders consider these styles of tails to be “faulty” because they aren’t the traditional corkscrew shape.

However, wavy tails are often much healthier for dogs. They’re also much easier for the dog to wag when they see you!

Straight tails

These types of tails tend to be short and low hanging, often tapering down to a point. These can also be known as pump-handle tails. Straight tails are another common shape among English bulldogs.

These types of tails are often considered as desirable by members of the American Kennel Club. Some straight tails can be set higher, and rise upwards. Similar to the wavy tails, this is considered to be a “fault”, but is actually a natural, healthy shape.

Do English bulldogs have their tails cropped or docked?

The natural tail of an English bulldog isn’t cropped or docked. This is actually a common misconception, as people are used to dogs with longer tails.

There are actually several dog breeds which can be born with natural bobtails, including the miniature schnauzer and Pembrokeshire corgi. Other dogs with short tails tend to have had their tails docked, but thankfully the cruel practice is now restricted in certain states.

You will also be glad to know that English bulldogs don’t have to have their tails cropped or docked! They are born with naturally short tails. The preferred tail type by breeders is the corkscrew style, however, all tail types are natural.

Are English bulldogs born with tails?

English bulldogs are born with tails, yes! You may be confused as to whether English bulldogs actually have tails because they are so short – especially if you’re not familiar with the breed. English bulldogs can actually have a variation in tail length.

These shorter tails have been bred into the English bulldogs through selective breeding. In fact, all dogs are born with a tail. However, these can sometimes be docked for medical reasons.

Historically some people have docked tails because they found them more aesthetically pleasing, however, this practice has now thankfully been banned in some countries.

Are English bulldogs born with long tails?

Yes, some English bulldogs can be born with long tails! This can be mostly down to breeding. While there are cases of cross bred English bulldogs developing longer tails, even some purebred English bulldogs can be born with long tails.

Some breeders consider this to be a fault, however, these tails are perfectly healthy. It doesn’t actually mean there’s anything wrong with your dog just because they have a slightly different tail.

If your English bulldog has a longer tail, then it’s nothing to be worried about! You have a perfectly happy, healthy dog, and it just means they’ll be able to better wag their tail every time they see you!

English bulldogs have been bred to have naturally short tails. As with all new puppies, there can be some variation in their genes which determine how long their tails are.

Do American bulldogs have tails at all?

Here in America we also have the American bulldog. So you may be wondering whether these dogs also have naturally short tails. The American bulldog is taller and larger than its English relative. These dogs are also more similar in stature and shape to that of a pit bull. They have longer muzzles and longer legs than the English bulldog.

There are two different types of American bulldog: Johnson and Scott. The Johnson bulldog is closer in appearance to the English bulldog, as these have a shorter nose. The Scott bulldogs have longer muzzles, and are more similar to the pit bull terrier.

The main difference between the American and English bulldogs is their tails. The American bulldogs have a much longer tail than the English bulldog. These tails are thick at the base, and taper to a point. They are typically shaped like a pump handle, and tend to hang down naturally.

Just like the English bulldog has some variation in size and shape in their tails, the American bulldog’s tails can be shaped differently. These tails can sometimes kink or curl, and can curl back naturally over the back of your dog. Just like breeders find some tail types undesirable in the English bulldog, these curled tails are considered “faulty” in the American bulldog. However, these curly tails are perfectly natural, and won’t cause them any difficulties.

Do English bulldogs have their tails docked?

English bulldogs have naturally short tails. However, sometimes medical complications can arise which means they have to have their tails docked. 

Historically this was also done as a cosmetic procedure, as some breeders preferred their show dogs to have docked tails purely for aesthetic purposes. Docking a dog’s tail can be very distressing for the animal, not to mention painful. 

Dogs rely on their tails to help them balance, so losing this can affect their sense of balance as well as their overall mood. If your English bulldog has a medical condition which means it might have to have its tail docked, you should always consult with your vet beforehand about the pros and cons of going ahead with the procedure.

What does tail docking mean?

Never heard of tail docking before or even know what it means? Tail docking, or cropping, refers to the procedure of cutting a dog’s tail short, or removing the tail altogether. This practice is now illegal in the UK and restricted in certain states in the US in terms of cosmetic procedures.

Unfortunately, it is still perfectly legal for someone to dock a dog’s tail, regardless of the circumstances. Depending on the state, this doesn’t have to be performed by a veterinarian under anesthesia, which can be highly distressing for the dogs.

However, it is also still legal to dock or crop a dog’s tail if it’s for medical purposes. English bulldogs have a history of overbreeding, as do many pedigree dogs. This makes them susceptible to different health issues. Unfortunately, English bulldogs’ short tails can sometimes be the source of these issues.

As they grow older, their short tails get stiffer, and form a tight bun-like shape which sits at the top of their rump. If this bun becomes too tight, infections can set in. This can create a whole ton of skin issues, including sores, and can cause them general discomfort. Vets can recommend docking as a form of treatment, as it can save your dog from years of discomfort and health issues.

Does it hurt your dog to have its tail docked?

Some people try to argue that it doesn’t hurt a dog to have its tail docked as a puppy. They argue that the dog’s nervous system isn’t as developed as a full grown dog. However, this isn’t the case. 

Evidence shows that a dog’s nervous system is fully developed at birth. They are still capable of feeling pain just as an adult dog can. Docking a dog’s tail involves cutting through several muscles, tendons, cartilage connections, and bone. That would be painful for anyone! It doesn’t matter that the dog is much younger – it will be just as painful to remove the tail of a puppy as it will an adult dog.

In fact, scientific studies have proven that puppies feel pain when they have their tails docked. Some people believe that if they perform tail docking within 5 days of the dog’s birth, they won’t suffer as much as an adult dog would. However, the medical evidence clearly shows this isn’t the case.

Tail docking that is done for cosmetic purposes can also cause long term distress for your dog. Just one example is that a chronic neuroma can form at the site of amputation. This is often very painful and can cause your dog more distress in the long term. 

If your English bulldog needs to have its tail docked for medical purposes, you should always discuss this with your vet beforehand. They will be able to advise you as to what is best for your English bulldog. In the event that your dog does have to have its tail docked, this should always be performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon and anesthesia must be used.

Why do people dock tails on dogs?

English bulldog tail

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tail docking isn’t a modern trend. It’s a practice that has been used for centuries, dating as far back as the Ancient Romans. It is also believed that shepherds used to dock the tails of their dogs in an attempt to prevent the spread of rabies, even though this isn’t how rabies spreads.

In recent history, tail docking was more commonly used for two purposes: cosmetic reasons and to prevent injury. Thankfully this has now been restricted for cosmetic reasons in some states. Some breeders believed that docking their dog’s tails made them a better looking dog. This could be performed by a vet, or some more cruel people would wrap an elastic band around the base of the dog’s tail to try and cut off blood flow. Some people would even perform the procedure themselves without anesthesia.

Other people dock their dog’s tail if they are a working dog. This is because some hunting dogs can get injured during the chase and catch. This isn’t as cruel a practice, however, as roughly 14% of working dogs are likely to sustain a tail injury every year. It is also worth bearing in mind that the number of working dogs that will need to have their tail cropped or docked is in the minority.

Ear cropping is an equally cruel and unnecessary practice that some people will perform on dogs to make them more “aesthetically pleasing”.

US and UK law

It is now illegal in the UK to dock a dog’s tail, except for some working breeds. You will be relieved to know that it is illegal for an owner or breeder to dock the tail of an English bulldog, and many other breeds, purely for cosmetic reasons.

However, this sadly isn’t the case in America. In fact, only a few states have specific laws in place to prohibit the use of tail docking. These states include Maryland and Pennsylvania, and there have been some laws considered to make the practice illegal in New York and Vermont. Elsewhere in America, the practice is sadly unrestricted. It doesn’t even have to be performed by a vet or while using anesthesia.

It’s important to note the distinction between a procedure that has to be performed for medical reasons or for working dogs to prevent further injury. Tail docking for cosmetic purposes just to meet an outdated “breed standard” is inherently cruel. Thankfully, because English bulldogs have a naturally short tail, they are unlikely to fall into this category.

Tail problems with English bulldogs

As we’ve mentioned briefly above, because of overbreeding in English bulldogs, pedigree dogs are likely to suffer from some health issues. This can include hip dysplasia, difficulties with breathing, and skin conditions.

One of the health issues that English bulldogs more commonly suffer from is in relation to their short tails. These naturally short tails tend to stiffen over time into a bun-like shape. This stiff, often unmovable ball can become prone to infections within the skin folds. These skin folds are often difficult to clean, which can make them a recurring problem.

Other tail issues can include ingrown tails, intertrigo, tail fold dermatitis, screw tail infections, and tail pockets. Tail pockets are a lesser known concern of English bulldogs. Most of these conditions can be treated with antiseptic creams. However, some of these can repeat until it’s necessary to surgically remove the infected areas.

What is a tail pocket?

A tail pocket is a flap of skin just underneath the tail of an English bulldog. It’s also worth bearing in mind that not all English bulldogs have one of these. Tail pockets tend to become visible within the first few months of an English bulldog’s life, and will remain there for the remainder of their life.

Just like other flaps of skin on your English bulldog, the tail pocket often collects dead skin and other bits of dirt from your dog’s daily life. Seeing as this is a fairly unnoticed part of your English bulldog’s body, this means the tail pocket often goes unnoticed. This means it’s often left to fester, and infections can set in if it isn’t cleaned regularly. The tail pocket can then become a very sensitive area that causes your dog a lot of pain.

You should always make sure to clean the tail pocket of your English bulldog. Your English bulldog is unlikely to be able to reach this themselves, so it’s often down to you as the owner to gently clean it with soap and water once a week. You should also clean under the tail, especially in the case your dog can’t reach this area of their body themselves.

If your English bulldog’s tail pocket becomes infected, you should consult with your vet for appropriate treatment.

In summary

And there you have it! You now know that English bulldogs are indeed born with tails. These tails are naturally short and stumpy, however, some dogs can be born with slightly longer or curly tails depending on their pedigree.

English bulldogs don’t have their tails docked to become those short stumps, so you won’t have to worry about your dog having suffered to look like they do.

Unfortunately, tail docking is only restricted in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Hopefully the rest of the US will follow the example set by the UK and make the practice illegal for cosmetic purposes!

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

Recent Posts