Do English Bulldogs Have Tails?

do english bulldogs have tails

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There’s no denying that English Bulldogs are some of the cutest dogs with all their rolls and wrinkles. After looking at their cute face, one of the following things you may notice about them is their little nub of a tail!

That leads us to ask the question – do English Bulldogs have tails? Are they born with tails or not? 

The answer is simple – yes, English Bulldogs are born with tails! English Bulldogs are born with different tail types from most dogs. Their tails are short nubs that are most often straight and curve downward. Some English Bulldogs are born with corkscrew-shaped tails. Despite the varying shapes, all English Bulldogs are born with tails. 

Before we learn everything there is to know about those cute English Bulldog nubs for tails, let’s review some background information on the English Bulldog and why dogs even have tails. 

Why Doesn’t The English Bulldog Need A Longer Tail? 

The English Bulldog is one of those breeds that looks very different today than it did in the past. Unlike today, dogs in the past were bred for specific reasons to work around the home or the farm. Dogs generally spent the majority of their time outside. Today, while working dogs are still bred and used, over 60 million households have dogs, and these dogs are primarily for companionship. 

The English Bulldog is no exception. In the past, English Bulldogs were bred to be working dogs in specific conditions with certain tasks. Today, the English Bulldog is primarily bred as a loyal companion. English Bulldogs are meant to be friendly and affectionate companions that can keep you company in the home and are a buddy to go on evening walks together around the neighborhood. 

Bulldogs were originally bred as working farm dogs to help butchers control livestock. In the 15th century, they were used in a sport called bull-baiting, where they would run and attack a bull. Fortunately, this sport became illegal in 1835. 

So, how does the history of the English Bulldog affect its tail shape today? 

It’s believed that since Bulldogs originated as working farm dogs, the Bulldogs with naturally smaller tails were preferred and selectively bred. The shorter the tail, the less risk of injury while working on a farm with livestock. The constant breeding of dogs with the shortest tail is why most English Bulldogs today have tiny tails. 

This shorter tail served bulldogs not only when it came to working on the farm but also during the sad and barbaric sport of bullbaiting.

As a companion breed, the English Bulldog’s tail has become part of the breed standard. As with anything else, there are some owners that prefer the look of a certain tail type over another but any breeder that wants to compete or stay in business will need to breed bulldogs with their traditional short tail!

English Bulldog Tail Types

As mentioned above, English Bulldogs have very different tails from most dog breeds. For most dog breeds, there is only one tail type or one way the tail should look. On the other hand, the English Bulldog has three different uniquely shaped tails that they can be born with. 

 English Bulldogs most often have three different tail types: 

  • Straight tails
  • Corkscrew tails
  • Long or wavy tails

An English Bulldog can be born with a long tail, but tail shape and size depend on their breeding. In most cases, any English Bulldog with a long tail would mean that it was cross-bred with a different breed with a long tail. 

Straight Tails

Straight tails are one of the most common English Bulldog tails. They look exactly as the name implies! Straight tails are wider at the base and hang down, eventually tapering to a point. These tails are straight and very short. At most, they’re only a couple of inches long.

english bulldog straight tail

Out of all the English Bulldog tail types, the straight tail is the most desirable. It is low maintenance and doesn’t require regular cleaning as other tail types do. In addition, the straight tail doesn’t come with the risk of medical issues, like the corkscrew tail, which we’ll discuss next. 

Corkscrew Tails

Corkscrew tails are twisted into the shape of a corkscrew or bun, and they sit very close and tight against the body. While this may look cute to some people, this corkscrew shape results from an abnormal deviation of the vertebrae. Because of this, the corkscrew tail type is associated with severe health conditions, which we’ll cover later in this article. 

english bulldog with corkscrew tail

In puppies, this tail type starts as very flexible. As the dog ages, it becomes a rigid, solidified shape that stays close and tight next to the body. 

Curly Tails

Curly tails may also be referred to as “long and wavy tails.” These tails look similar to a pig’s tail. This curly tail type is not accepted as part of the American Kennel Club breed standard. Since it’s not part of the breed standard, breeders do their best to ensure their litter of puppies will not have this tail type. 

english bulldog with corkscrew tail

Even though this tail type is considered a breed fault by the AKC, many breeders argue that this tail type is much healthier than the corkscrew type. With a curly, or long and wavy, tail type, the tail can wag and swing and isn’t constricted so tightly against the body like the other two tail types. 

Medical Problems Related To Small Tails

As I mentioned above, straight and corkscrew tails are the only tail type accepted by the American Kennel Club breed standard. Unfortunately, even though corkscrew tails meet the breed standard, they can cause many problems for dogs. 

Skin Infections

The corkscrew tail is essentially a rigid bun shape that sits directly against the dog’s butt. The natural friction from movement can lead to infections and inflammation. The tight formation of the tail also creates the perfect warm and damp environment for bacteria to grow. Since this tail is so rigid, it can be challenging to clean. Infected skin in this area is commonly referred to as a tail fold pyoderma. 

This skin infection is often treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics can only do so much. Because of the tail’s tight shape, there is only so much to be done to prevent these infections. Unfortunately, that means it’s common for these infections to recur. Sometimes, the only way to solve a recurring tail fold pyoderma is to amputate the entire tail surgically. 

Spinal Column Malformations

Since the corkscrew shape tail on an English Bulldog stems from a deviation of their last vertebrae, this puts them at an increased risk of spinal column malformations.

Spina Bifida

This is an inherited congenital abnormality of the spine in which the spinal cord doesn’t get fully enclosed by the vertebrae. Nerves are not enclosed in the spinal cord and are left exposed. The lower back is most commonly affected, though any part of the spine can be affected. 

In severe cases, it’s obvious to tell if a puppy is born with this condition. Puppies will have strange hindlimb weakness and a stumbling gait. Radiographs (x-rays) can be taken to confirm the incomplete vertebrae. In these severe cases in puppies, the puppy is most often humanely euthanized because there is no treatment. 

Though it is invasive and costly, mild cases can be treated with reconstructive surgery. It’s also possible that the deformity may be found incidentally when taking radiographs for another unrelated reason. No treatment is necessary in those cases of older dogs previously not exhibiting any symptoms indicating pain. 

Thoracic Vertebral Canal Stenosis (CTVC)

This is a condition in which the vertebrae get malformed and squeeze the spinal cord. This condition is often present at birth; unfortunately, even with surgical management, most of these patients continue to have neurological deficits. 

What About Other Tiny Tail Issues? 

Did you know that a dog’s tail actually serves a purpose? Tails provide several benefits to dogs that help them in their everyday life. If you look at different dog breeds, they all have different types of tails. 

Sighthounds have long whip-like tails that allow them to counterbalance when they change direction during high-speed runs. Labrador Retrievers and other water dogs have long, thick tails that they can use as a rudder to help them change direction and move quickly when swimming. Siberian Huskies have thick, fluffy tails that they can use to cover their face to stay warm when they sleep at night

But the English Bulldog just has a little nub…so does this slow them down in the world of dogs?

Not really! When it comes to balance, the big round English bulldog doesn’t need a tail to stay upright. Their wide stand and stocky body keep them balanced and the English bulldog wasn’t bred for their athletic prowess on land or in the water.

Dogs also use their tails as a communication tool! Since dogs are a nonverbal species, they use body language to communicate. A happy dog is likely to wag its tail loosely, but a scared dog may tuck their tail between its legs. How a dog moves its tail can tell a lot about its feelings.

Researchers were so convinced that dogs intentionally communicate with their tails that they decided to study it. One study showed that dogs wagging their tail to the left were anxious or insecure, while dogs wagging their tail to the right were relaxed and comfortable.

However, even with a short tail, the English bulldog isn’t left out and it’s easy to spot a happy bulldog by their trademark butt wiggle. You can see a happy bulldog showing this technique off in the video below:

What Is A Tail Pocket On An English Bulldog?

A tail pocket on an English Bulldog is an area of folded skin that develops under their tails and collects dirt and moisture. 

Bulldogs are prone to getting this tail pocket due to their excessive folded skin. For dogs with this, it’s essential to clean the skin regularly, or it can become infected.

Are English Bulldog Tails Docked?

As I mentioned above, in certain extreme cases of recurrent skin infections, an English Bulldog’s tail does need to be surgically amputated. However, medically necessary surgical amputation is very different than what is commonly referred to as “tail docking.”

While tail docking is the surgical removal of a portion of the tail, the phrasing “tail docking” is typically only used when surgically amputating the tail for cosmetic reasons versus out of medical necessity. 

Tail docking originated in Ancient Roman times to prevent the spread of rabies and to prevent injuries. If dogs didn’t have a long tail dragging behind them as they worked or slept outside, they were less likely to get injured or bitten by rodents.

Later, when pet taxes were implemented, working dogs were exempt from those taxes. Many dog owners then started docking their dogs’ tails to pass them off as working dogs.

Today, tail docking is considered an outdated practice only done for cosmetic reasons. Many breeders want it done solely to provide a specific look to their dog. Most veterinarians believe tail docking for cosmetic reasons is unnecessary and refuse to do it.

In fact, tail docking has legal restrictions in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Both Maryland and Pennsylvania state laws only allow veterinarians to perform the surgery if it is medically appropriate. Similarly, it is illegal in all of the UK unless it is deemed medically necessary. In the UK, tail docking is considered mutilation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

English Bulldogs do have shorter tails than most dogs, but their tails are like that naturally and are not docked- unlike other breeds like Rotties and Boxers. Surgical tail amputation is always considered a last resort to resolve a medical issue. In some cases, English Bulldogs with corkscrew tails may require surgical amputation to resolve a recurring tail fold pyoderma issue.

Final Thoughts

For many reasons, English Bulldogs have become one of the most popular dog breeds. Not only are they super cute, but they’re loyal companions with goofy and friendly personalities. 

Since English Bulldogs are born with such short tails, it’s easy to miss them when looking at them! That may lead you to ask, “Do English Bulldogs even have tails?”

As we’ve covered in this article, all English Bulldogs are indeed born with tails! Their tails are much shorter than most dog breeds, which can also make you wonder if their tails are docked. Today, tail docking is widely viewed as an outdated procedure, and most veterinarians will only perform a surgical tail amputation if it is medically necessary.

Unlike most dog breeds that are born with a straight, flowing tail, English Bulldogs are born with one of three tail types: straight, corkscrew, or curly. Straight tails are the most common, and curly tails are the least common since they’re not allowed in the AKC breed standard. 

While corkscrew-shaped tails are standard for English Bulldogs and a part of the accepted AKC breed standard, the corkscrew shape results from the last few vertebrae being deformed, unfortunately, this can lead to many medical issues. 

If you’re considering owning an English Bulldog, be sure to consider their tail type! Corkscrew-shaped tail types will require regular cleaning to prevent infection. Hopefully, since the straight tail is acceptable in the breed standard, more breeders will begin to breed for this tail type that is much healthier for the English Bulldog!