Mad dogs and Englishmen


Sociable, loyal, courageous, fun-loving, full of spirit, and sometimes slightly bonkers, English Bull Terriers have always been part of Mason & Sons family life. The breed was developed in the mid 1800s and is attributed to the efforts of one man, James Hinks, who crossed Bulldogs with now extinct Old English White Terriers to produce a dog that combined bull-like strength and tenacity with the terrier’s fearless agility.


James Hinks (1829-1878)

The breed made its first public appearance at a Birmingham dog show in 1862, and throughout the 1870s began to dominate canine exhibitions throughout England. Unfortunately, in 1878, Hinks contracted tuberculosis and died aged 49, but his white strain of Bull Terriers continued to thrive, becoming well established, widespread and popular. Two of his sons, Frederick and James II, continued to breed show-dogs, followed by his grandson Carleton, who maintained the Hinks association with Bull Terriers until his death in 1977.


Carleton Hinks (c1915)

Contrary to popular belief, the English Bull Terrier was not bred for dog fighting. In the early 1800s, “Bull and Terrier” crossbreeds had been developed to satisfy the need for vermin control and the taste for blood sports, but Hinks’ objective was to improve appearance and select behaviour traits to create a “gentleman’s companion” that was brave but not aggressive. The result of his endeavour became known as “The White Cavalier” - recognising the chivalrous nature of a breed which while never seeking to start a fight was well able to finish one.


"Madman" - one of Hinks' first White Cavaliers

Today, the English Bull Terrier is instantly recognised by its distinctive head – sometimes described as egg-shaped or shark-like (which can appear menacing - in contrast to the breed’s sweet amenable nature). The original dogs bred by Hinks had a more common skull profile with a stop rather than a gentle slope from the top of the head to the nose. The first modern Bull Terrier is now considered to be “Lord Gladiator”, from 1917, being the first dog with no stop at all.


"Lord Gladiator" the first modern Bull Terrier (1917)

The unique appearance of the the Bull Terrier is not to everyone's taste - inspiring love with some and fear in others. This strong physical presence, together with the extraordinary personality of the breed, has led it to be cast in several Hollywood movies, television shows, cartoons and advertisements.


An original looking "Bullseye" with Oliver Reed in Oliver! (1968)

The most famous cinematic characterisation of a Bull Terrier undoubtedly occurred in the 1968 musical drama film, Oliver!, inspired by Charles Dickens' novel, Oliver Twist. The dog assuming the role of Bullseye was perfectly cast, having the look of the original breed. In the 2007 television dramatisation of the novel, a modern looking Bull Terrier is cast next to Tom Hardy - probably the only actor who could live up to Oliver Reed's portrayal of the villainous Bill Sykes.


A modern Bull Terrier with a modern Bill Sykes played by Tom Hardy (2007)

Given the history of the breed, it is not surprising to find that the English Bull Terrier appealed to men of combat - none more so than General George S. Patton who commanded the US 3rd Army during WWII. Patton was a dog lover, and had owned several breeds, including an English Bull Terrier called "Tank". When Patton arrived in England in 1944, he decided that he wanted a dog to keep him company - and where better a place to find a Bull Terrier.


General Patton on his M20 tank in England (1944)

An English Bull Terrier was found in desperate need of a home. Its previous owner was an RAF officer who was flying night bombings over Germany, and the dog would often join him on bombing raids. On one occasion the officer decided not to take him on the flight, and sadly the plane didn't return, leaving the dog orphaned. Patton became his new master, naming him "Willie", and the two travelled though Europe together as the General led his troops.


General Patton and Willie at Luxembourg HQ (1944)

Whilst English Bull Terriers have become the best friends of many men, they have also been successful in charming the fairer sex. From 1920s Hollywood movie star Dolores del Rio to current American singer/songwriter Taylor Swift and British Royal, Princess Anne, the "gentleman's companion" has attracted a host of lady owners.


English actress and model Jane Birkin with Nana (c1975)

Bull Terriers are fascinating dogs, and it is possibly their intriguing nature that appeals to artistic types. English musicians Eric Clapton and Liam Gallagher together with fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs are amongst the many creatives who've shared their lives with these inspiring animals.


English musician Eric Clapton with his Bull Terrier (c1980)

In the early 2000s, The Sunday Times Colour Supplement began to publish a series of photo-based articles entitled, "We're So In Love", featuring pet owners and their beloved animals. David Mason (then owner of Nutters of Savile Row) was invited to be photographed with his Bull Terrier "Purdey". The photographer suggested that Purdey should be suitably attired, and she was fitted for a bespoke "Nutters" coat - in dogtooth check!


David Mason London designer Savile Row tailor Mason & Sons

David Mason and Purdey (2005)

Purdey's successor "Lulu" is the current canine member of the Mason family, and it seemed appropriate that she should be photographed with one of the next generation of Mason men. With a theme of 1970s glamour, Elliot Mason was dressed in Mr.Fish bespoke velvet evening wear, whilst Lulu modelled a velvet-backed diamanté collar.


Elliot Mason and Lulu (2018) 

David Mason & Vesper (2022)

Click here to read the "It's a Bullseye" article by Country Life magazine.

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