A video showing multiple people being attacked by an American XL Bully on the streets of Birmingham surfaced last month, one of the victims being an 11-year-old girl. In response, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said that she was seeking “urgent advice” about banning the breed, something which arrived with both support and outcry.
It’s important to note that this wasn’t the first incident like this, this year alone has seen six fatalities caused by an XL Bully. Furthermore, out of the approximate 450 attacks that have been recorded so far in 2023, 45% of them have involved this same breed, an especially concerning figure considering they make up less than 1% of the UK’s dog population.
Having said this, those who defend the breed will say that many dogs act just as aggressively but are never reported due to the consequences of their attacks being far less serious.
What is an XL Bully?
XL Bullies are medium to large-sized dogs with strong and well-defined musculature. They typically have a broad, square-shaped head, a short muzzle, a distinct stop, and can weigh as much as 60kg (9st). Their ears can be cropped or left natural, and their eyes are round and expressive. When it comes to biting, their jaw can exert 305 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Nature or Nurture?
Something that continues to cause debate is whether the dog is genetically predisposed to aggression and violence. It’s not a simple question to answer, but looking into the origins of the American XL Bully and how breeders handle them can offer some insight.
On the 25th of March 2014, in Louisiana, a family’s beloved XL Bully, Nico, turned unexpectedly aggressive, resulting in the tragic death of a four-year-old girl, Mia Derouen. This incident raised significant concerns about the breed’s temperament and led BullyWatch to investigate the dog’s lineage.
Nico’s lineage traced back to a notorious XL Bully named Kimbo, known for his imposing size and muscular build. However, Kimbo’s pedigree revealed a disturbing trend of aggressive inbreeding, with a coefficient of inbreeding (COI) reaching a staggering 31.3%. Despite early warnings about Kimbo’s aggressive offspring, breeders continued to use him for breeding, resulting in multiple attacks, some of which were fatal.
The situation in the UK paints a concerning picture. Several breeders, driven by profit and ignorant of the genetic risks, have incorporated Kimbo’s bloodline into their XL Bully breeding programs. The lack of awareness regarding Kimbo’s aggressive lineage has led to a proliferation of dogs with potentially unstable temperaments in the UK. Responsible breeders in the US have acknowledged the issue and initiated studies to understand the genetic factors contributing to such behaviour, advocating for more stringent temperament testing and selective breeding.
The debate around breed-specific legislation (BSL) further complicates the issue. While some argue against BSL, citing inconclusive evidence, it is crucial to recognize the lack of comprehensive studies specifically addressing the American Bully and XL Bully breeds. Recent incidents, including fatal attacks, indicate a pressing need for updated research and responsible breeding practices.