Are American XL bullies dangerous and should they be banned?

Gruff and muscular, there's no denying that the American XL bully is a scary-looking dog. Is it a dangerous dog, though, and should the USA be considering an XL bully ban similar to the UK?

The United Kingdom has banned XL bullies, spurring backlash among bully owners.
The United Kingdom has banned XL bullies, spurring backlash among bully owners.  © Collage: IMAGO/Wirestock/ZUMA Wire

Legislation introduced in the United Kingdom has seen American XL bulldogs banned as of February 1, 2024.

Despite the fact that the ban follows numerous deadly attacks, the move has been controversial, with many XL bully owners crying foul and planning to flout the new laws.

What does this mean for America, though, should the USA follow suit and ban these muscular dogs?

"Dachshund" dog's DNA test reveals the shocking truth behind the pup's unusual pedigree!
Dogs "Dachshund" dog's DNA test reveals the shocking truth behind the pup's unusual pedigree!

If XL bullies are truly as dangerous as believed, surely there should be stricter rules around their ownership?

What is an XL bully?

Let's start with the basics: "XL bully" is an abbreviation of "American extra large bulldog" and refers to the largest bully on the market right now. Iconic in the way that they look, XL bullies somewhat resemble wrestlers, with giant bulging muscles and jaws so strong that it is nearly impossible for a human to stop them once they have started biting.

XL bullies feature a blocky head and a powerful build with small eyes that are sunken into the face, a floppy mouth and jaw, and short hair. The males generally stand between 20 and 25 inches from the ground and are classified as "XL" if they are above the 20-inch mark. An XL bully has an expected lifespan of 10-13 years.

The XL bully has become synonymous with violence and aggression, with record cases of attacks in 2023 alone. As a result, discussions about whether people should be allowed to own such dogs have been taking place around the world after the United Kingdom introduced an outright ban on the dogs last year.

Many campaigners and dog enthusiasts describe the XL bully as a dog committed to its owner, fiercely loyal, and incredibly gentle in temperament. That being said, it is a breed that needs a lot of work if you are an owner, with training being extremely important due to its tendency to go off the rails, combined with its extreme strength.

In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) describes XL bullies as "well-balanced" and "athletic" dogs "that demonstrate great strength, endurance, agility, and a friendly attitude." Bred to be used on a farm and originating from English bulldogs, they seem to be gaining in popularity right across the USA.

After a number of vicious attacks, some of which cost human lives, many people are pointing out that perhaps the attitude of the XL bully isn't quite as "friendly" as the AKC claims it to be.

Protesters have gathered in London to protest the UK's XL bully laws.
Protesters have gathered in London to protest the UK's XL bully laws.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Are XL bullies dangerous?

Following a number of fatal attacks in the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Conservative government announced the decision to ban XL bullies in September last year. The decision followed 16 recorded deaths by dog bite in 2023, more than double the amount recorded in the United Kingdom the previous year.

In January 2023, 4-year-old Alice Stones was attacked and killed by an XL bully in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Only a few months later, in September, Ian Price was mauled to death in the West Midlands while protecting his mother from two XL bullies who had attacked her.

The latter attack spurred the move by the Sunak government to institute a ban on the breed, which came into effect on December 31. Under the legislation, the breeding, selling, giving away, or abandoning of XL bullies has been made illegal since the stated date. From February 1, it is illegal to own an XL bully without an exemption certificate.

Earlier in 2023, an organization was set up within the UK to track dog attacks and map which breeds are responsible for the most violence. The group, Bully Watch, determined that XL bullies had been responsible for 45% of all attacks last year. The group also claims that XL bullies were responsible for 14 deaths since 2021, just in the UK.

Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the group explained that while the data is skewed because "if you get bitten by a sausage dog or a chihuahua, you're probably not going to post about it," the data was still pretty definitive and American XL bullies are "the No. 1 culprit."

Of course, all the data cited so far has been denied by various activist groups that claim XL bully violence is always the fault of the owner. One XL bully owner tearfully told the BBC that "in the wrong hands they can cause damage, but if you bring them up in a loving home and care for them, they do treat you with the same respect."

The overwhelming evidence still suggests that XL bullies are dangerous dogs that can swiftly become violent no matter how they are treated, however. Of additional concern is their strength, which makes it very hard to stop an attack once it has begun.

Should American XL bullies be banned as well?

American XL bullies are extremely strong and unpredictable, making them potentially quite dangerous.
American XL bullies are extremely strong and unpredictable, making them potentially quite dangerous.  © Unsplash/Alexander Belov

The simple fact that a dog breed can sometimes become violent is not evidence enough that it should be banned entirely. All dogs, especially big dogs, have the potential for violence and can do a lot of damage when on the attack. The difference here, though, is that XL bullies have a history and tendency to go off the rails.

As the UK ban comes into effect, many have pondered whether it's appropriate. While they can be cute and faithful doggos – and the vast majority of them are good little pups that'll behave like absolute angels – if any domesticated animal poses a threat to public health and safety, it should probably be banned.

This is an opinion that's likely to be attacked by many XL bully enthusiasts in the United States and elsewhere, and that's okay. It is extremely unlikely that a ban will ever come into effect in the USA, the country from which the breed originates, so those people don't really have to worry about such a thing going down.

The top 10 best low-maintenance dog breeds
Dog Guide The top 10 best low-maintenance dog breeds

Whether or not XL bullies should be banned is a matter of opinion, of course, and the decision should be made using a combination of the obviously deep emotions involved and the data available.

The American XL bully problem is complicated

Despite seeming quite straightforward, the XL bully problem is extremely difficult to conclude. While it seems beyond a doubt that these dogs pose a genuine threat to public health and safety and have harmed many people over the years, banning a dog is an extremely radical step and one that would be hard to sell to the American public.

Of course, XL bully owners are always going to resist, utilizing claims that they are being discriminated against and disingenuous statements that it is "all about the training" to push against a ban. Whether their struggle is enough of a reason to avoid action, though, is the true question.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/Wirestock/ZUMA Wire

More on Dog Guide: