17 English Dog Breeds That Make the Best Bloody Mates

Blimey, England has a rich history of dogs! More often than not, English dog breeds were given one of two jobs: hunting or fighting. As hunters, dogs in England chased down foxes, tracked birds and kept workplaces free of rodents. As fighters, several English breeds were at the mercy of some pretty dodgy wankers who pitted them against one another. Over time, English dog breeds have become incredibly hardy, sweet family pets. They love the outdoors and tend to be happy, social creatures. Anyone with kids begging for a canine companion may want to visit the English dog breed aisle at their local Tesco first.

English hunting dogs

Not unlike dogs native to Germany and Russia, most English dog breeds were designed to hunt. If you were wealthy or lucky enough during the Victorian era to go for a lengthy hunt in the countryside, chances are you had a pointer or setter of some kind in tow. Canines existed for every type of hunt, whether you wanted a full pack of beagles to keep up with rabbits on foot or a reliable English Setter to retrieve birds in wet marshlands.

You’ll notice many unique types of terriers on this list. Terriers love to dig. Their jobs typically involved digging into burrows to flush out foxes or wriggling through fences to continue a chase. Many smaller terriers were bred to scare away rats or other vermin infiltrating homes and factories. Terriers range in size and shape but almost always have a plucky, cheeky disposition.

Unlike many Australian breeds who have keen herding skills and high levels of energy no matter the time of day, most English dog breeds are better at tracking and retrieving. Only the Old English sheepdog is really known for its ability to wrangle large groups of livestock. English dog breeds typically enjoy calm, cozy evenings after completing their work for the day.

English fighting dogs

Sadly, several English dog breeds were used solely for fighting purposes in their hay day. Bull terriers and bulldogs were bred selfishly by blokes involved in bull baiting and dog fighting. This is why these breeds have muscular bodies and are often fearless and confident. When these types of horrific practices were outlawed, chances were good both breeds would become extinct. (In fact, many English breeds went extinct over the years as other types of dogs were honed by dedicated clubs.) However, several groups of dog lovers decided to breed out any aggressive tendencies in bull terriers and bulldogs to keep these pups around. Talk about people with some sense and sensibility!

The first dog show

For better or worse, England is all about hierarchies and class. So, it makes sense the first dog shows began there. In fact, the term “breed” only gained popularity in Victorian England when people began showing dogs as a way to pass the time and show off their breeding skills. Ciara Farrell of The Kennel Club told Country Life that before the 1800s, dogs were referred to simply as “types” or “breed types.” When The Kennel Club was founded in 1873, it was the first club of its kind. Not only did it provide breeders and judges with a consistent set of guidelines to follow in terms of appearance, it “ensure[d] that all dog shows and field trials were run fairly and honestly and with the welfare of the dogs in mind.”

We have The Kennel Club to thank for events like The National Dog Show and The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Modern English dog breeds

The British royal family has unsurprisingly chosen pet dogs with English origins. Prince William and Kate Middleton recently adopted an English Cocker Spaniel, and Prince Charles owns several Jack Russell terriers. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are beagle people and Princess Anne is all about bull terriers. Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, went Welsh; she’s a corgi person through and through.

If you want to live like a royal (at least when it comes to dog ownership), keep reading.

english dog breeds airedale terrier
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1. Airedale Terrier

Height: 23 inches
Weight: 50-70 pounds
Personality: Bold, Friendly
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Low
Life Expectancy: 11-14 years

Airedale terriers are called “The King of Terriers” because they are both courageous in demeanor and larger than any other terrier. Funny enough, they were bred by working class folks in the Aire Valley during the Industrial Revolution to hunt and chase vermin away. These energetic sweethearts also know how to play—and need tons of playtime. The American Kennel Club says their versatility makes them excellent guard dogs, companion animals and athletes. Interested in agility or course training? Start here!

english dog breeds beagle
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2. Beagle

Height: 10-15 inches
Weight: 15-30 pounds
Personality: Friendly, Doting
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years

Beagles are kid-friendly family dogs with doting dispositions. These sensitive souls love company and friends! English hunters in the 1500s worked alongside dogs who would eventually be bred in the mid-1800s to produce the modern beagle. However, their ancient lineage is murky, and it’s unclear where their ancestors originated. Their name may be Gaelic (beag means “little”), but the word beagle has been used to describe many types of small hounds. In any case, these dogs are loyal to the bone.

english dog breeds bedlington terrier

3. Bedlington Terrier

Height: 15-18 inches
Weight: 17-23 pounds
Personality: Loyal, Lively
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 11-16 years

The Bedlington terrier is like the best friend you can take anywhere. They are polite (albeit excited to meet new people), get along well with others and can sniff out threats like none other. Bedlington terriers have been compared to cats because they love to snuggle. Get them outside and you’ll see how dog-like they can be, running fast and playing hard. According to The Bedlington Terrier Club of America, these pups were bred in the 1700s as hunters. Today they make adaptable and loyal family pets.

english dog breeds border terrier

4. Border Terrier

Height: 12-15 inches
Weight: 11-16 pounds
Personality: Friendly, Adventurous
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Border terriers were developed in Northumberland, right on the border between England and Scotland. These feisty pups are the descendants of fox-chasing dogs who could scurry into burrows, over fences and through woods to capture foxes. Not only are they adventurous working dogs, but they get along well with other pups and people. If you’re not ready to spend quality time playing and exercising your pup, don’t get a border terrier. They love to be in on the action—especially if it involves kiddos!

english dog breeds english bulldog
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5. Bulldog

Height: 14-15 inches
Weight: 40-50 pounds
Personality: Protective, Sweet
Activity Level: Low to Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 8-10 years

Bulldogs are one of those breeds humans were pretty nasty to before we came to our senses. Initially bred for bull baiting in the 1300s, these dogs were developed specifically to be brave and muscular. When bull baiting was outlawed in 1835, bulldogs would’ve gone extinct (and the Old English bulldog did) if it weren’t for a dedicated group of canine lovers who made things right. The Bulldog Club of America says this group bred the ferocity and aggression out of Bulldogs and over several generations produced the sweet family pet we know and love today—even if they are a bit stubborn.

english dog breeds bull terrier
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6. Bull Terrier

Height: 21-22 inches
Weight: 50-70 pounds
Personality: Playful, Energetic
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-13 years

Perhaps bull terriers and bulldogs tend to be stubborn because both have put up with too much nonsense from human beings! Bull terriers were bred in the 1800s to be agile competitors when bull baiting became illegal and people resorted to dog fighting. After that became illegal, many 19th-century English gentlemen decided to breed bull terriers into the affectionate, playful pets they are today. In 2006, a bull terrier named Rufus won Best in Show at Westminster. Be sure to treat this dog like a member of the family—they need and deserve it.

english dog breeds cavalier king charles spaniel
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7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Height: 12-13 inches
Weight: 13-18 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Friendly
Activity Level: Low to Moderate
Shedding Factor: Low to Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels get their lengthy title from King Charles II, who bred and enjoyed toy Spaniels in the 17th century. Charles II’s dogs were slightly different from today’s Cavs, which were developed in the early 20th century. These are super adaptable dogs who know how to chillax and treat everyone they meet like a new friend. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can thrive in the city or the country, as long as they’re brushed regularly to keep their coats silky smooth (honestly, they also love massages, so treat them!).

english dog breeds english cocker spaniel
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8. English Cocker Spaniel

Height: 15-17 inches
Weight: 26-34 pounds
Personality: Cheerful, Loving
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Technically, Spaniels are from Spain. However, a variety of spaniels were prevalent in English bird hunting circles. The English Cocker Spaniel, one of the smallest varieties, got its name for excelling at hunting woodcock. Today, they are cheerful dogs who love being helpful around the house (aka, please include them in activities) and get along with just about everyone. Their long silky coats require frequent brushing, so please give them the royal treatment.

english dog breeds english setter
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9. English Setter

Height: 23-27 inches
Weight: 45-80 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Mellow
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

There’s evidence of English Setters as far back as 500 years ago. These elegant dogs were bred by combining Springer Spaniels and Spanish Pointers, both excellent hunting dogs. The result is a stunning, speckled pup with an affectionate disposition. The English Setter Association of America says these dogs are smaller and more mellow than their Irish and Scottish Setter counterparts, making them incredibly loyal and sweet family pets.

english dog breeds english springer spaniel
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10. English Springer Spaniel

Height: 19 - 20 inches
Weight: 40 - 50 pounds
Personality: Dedicated, Friendly
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Another kid-friendly breed! English Springer Spaniels are outgoing, obedient and affectionate animals. Just like English Setters, these dogs have been assisting hunters for centuries. The English Springer Spaniel is adept at “springing” birds into the air and retrieving them. Though diligent at work, they are always up for cozy relaxation with their families. And those long, silky soft ears? Bloody adorable!

english dog breeds french bulldog
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11. French Bulldog

Height: 11-13 inches
Weight: 22-28 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Even-tempered
Activity Level: Low
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Yes, they’re called French Bulldogs, but these pups originated in northern England in the 1800s. They were popular among lace makers in Nottingham who eventually moved to France after the Industrial Revolution. Thus, the dogs were dubbed French Bulldogs. They are adaptable, affectionate pups who thrive just about anywhere, as long as they have companionship.

english dog breeds jack russell terrier
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12. Jack Russell Terrier

Height: 10-15 inches
Weight: 14-18 pounds
Personality: Energetic, Determined
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10+ years

The Jack Russell Club of America says these lively little buggers were bred by the Reverend John Russell in the mid-19th century to hunt foxes. Small but mighty, these are working dogs who just want to dig and chase. Aside from being very active and seemingly attached at the hip to their favorite person, they can be testy with strangers and other dogs. Jack Russells have a mind of their own, so firm, consistent training early on is essential for a well-behaved pup.

english dog breeds manchester terrier

13. Manchester Terrier (standard)

Height: 15-16 inches
Weight: 12-22 pounds
Personality: Lively, Intelligent
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Low
Life Expectancy: 15-17 years

Standard-sized Manchester Terriers originated in England to kill rats and keep textile mills free of other vermin. Toy Manchester Terriers are considered a variation of the standard, but were developed in the U.S. Both prove to be athletic, jovial breeds with a penchant for agility and coursing events. Plus, they’re super smart and learn quickly. While affectionate and cuddly with family members, they may be standoffish with new faces.

english dog breeds norwich terrier
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14. Norwich Terrier

Height: 10 inches
Weight: 12 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Alert
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Say ‘ello to another lively terrier! Norwich Terriers are one of the smallest breeds in the terrier group, but you’d never know it. Full of confidence and optimism, they’re eager to play and train well. In the late 1800s, it was popular to have a Norwich Terrier if you were a student at Cambridge. This is because they could keep rodents out and were social enough to live around other dogs and people. If you’re a Best in Show fan, you’ll recognize this breed as Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy’s winning pup!

english dog breeds old english sheepdog
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15. Old English Sheepdog

Height: 21-24 inches
Weight: 60-100 pounds
Personality: Smart, Sweet
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-12 years

Blimey, these are fluffy dogs! Old English Sheepdogs are shaggy pals eager to please and protect. Thorough grooming on a weekly basis will keep their coats (and eyes and toes) in good condition. Bred in the 1700s, Old English Sheepdogs actually herded more cattle than sheep. They were used in western England to keep livestock in line. Obedient and sweet, they are also incredibly loyal and aren’t always eager to welcome strangers.

english dog breeds whippet

16. Whippet

Height: 18-22 inches
Weight: 25-40 pounds
Personality: Calm, Playful
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Low to Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Whippet-like dogs have been around since the Middle Ages (we know this because artists painted and sculpted them in works dating back to the 1400s). The American Whippet Club says the official breed emerged in the 1800s when dog shows and racing became popular. Their build makes them excellent runners and hunters. When they need to expel energy, play fetch in a long field so they can sprint as fast as possible.

english dog breeds yorkshire terrier
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17. Yorkshire Terrier

Height: 7.5 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Lively
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 11-15 years

Despite being one of the smallest dog breeds out there, Yorkies pack a ton of energy, personality and love into their tiny frames. In fact, they are fun enough to be playful pets and affectionate enough to make excellent companions for people with anxiety. Plus, their hypoallergenic coats mean even allergy sufferers can enjoy them! Bred in Yorkshire (duh) and Lancashire to drive rodents out of textile mills and coal mines, these pups quickly became the ideal fashion accessory for posh women of high society.

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Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...