Sometimes known simply as the Toy Bull, this little pet dog was popular at one time in the 19th century, but has since vanished.
The Toy Bull Terrier was a tiny dog, bred down from the Miniature Bull Terrier until, in exceptional cases, it was one of the smallest dogs in existence, weighing less than 3 lb (1.4 kg). Such extreme reduction was not favoured, however, the preferred weight being 8-10 lb (4-5 kg). The favourite colour was white, but brindle and black were also acceptable.
This now extinct breed was a prick-eared, rat-tailed, short-coated midget of a dog, with the defensive spirit of an animal ten times its size. It is said that the only way to prevent it from attacking a giant dog was for the toy dog‘s owner to run away as fast as possible. This would encourage the little assailant to follow suit, and avoid an embarrassing incident.
The Toy Bull was moderately well supported during the Victorian period but then, at the start of the 20th century, it began to fall out of favour. During the Edwardian period it lost its social status and ended up confined largely to the East End of London and the mining districts of the Midlands. One noble lady, writing in 1907, commented: ‘Their plucky qualities appear to appeal to a certain rough kind of man… This is a pity because their Lilliputian self-assertion is most amusing: She goes on to describe how one of her own Toy Bull Terriers was even prepared to fly at a herd of cattle and attack them, until it was kicked into the air by an angry hoof. It would seem that, despite its dwarf body, inside its brain it still considered itself to be a full- blown Bull Terrier.
With its owner it was lively, affectionate and always cheerful. It made a good watchdog and was always ready to destroy any rodents it encountered. But its main role was as a lapdog, or to be more precise, a pocket dog, since it was usually small enough to be carried on its owner’s body.
One reason given for the breed’s disappearance was that, the more its size was reduced, the more apple-headed it became, with a narrower muzzle, which resulted in it losing the typical Bull Terrier head-shape. Another problem it faced was that its owners found it difficult to ensure that it bred true to type, so not many dog shows would include classes for them.