This section is from the book "The Terriers. A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland", by Rawdon B. Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: The Terriers.
It was always to be much regretted that Mr. Shirley did not endeavour, more than actually was the case, to continue the variety; and had he done so there is no reason to doubt that the Ettington Park Kennels might now be as noted for "little bull terriers" as they are for wavy-coated retrievers. Could such dogs as Nelson and Dick be produced to-day, I should not be at all afraid of a return to popularity of such a handsome strain. Messrs. J. F. Godfrey, Hinks, J. Watts, Harry Nightingale, J. Whillock, and E. Bailey, all of Birmingham or the neighbourhood, from time to time had excellent bull terriers under 161b. in weight, and in their days they brought quite as much money as the larger variety.
At one or two of our London shows an attempt was made, similar to what was done with regard to bull terriers other than white, to resuscitate the little dogs by providing classes for them. The result was, however, a failure, and the one or two competitors were either bandy legged little creatures or indifferent specimens of the English white terrier. So we must take it that for the present the bull terrier under 151b. weight is lost, and that the illustration on another page is actually out of place in a book supposed to be given over to the description of modern dogs. We live in times of change and fashion, and maybe another generation may find the restoration of this dog and of the old-fashioned brindled and white, or fallow smut bull terriers of which our "old men" are so fond of talking.
There is no doubt that the bull terrier, be he either big or little, has not reached that height of popularity his merits might deserve, by reason of the obnoxious custom of cropping his ears. This cruelty was originally perpetrated in order that when fighting the ears would not afford hold for an opponent's teeth. Then the aural appendages were cut right off. Now the operation is a much more artistic piece of work, and the ears are so cut as to stand straight up almost to a point, with an inward curve, rather than an outward one, which is said to give the animal a smarter and more aristocratic appearance. It may do so or not, and I cannot deny that a modern bull terrier with his ears on does look, to say the least, dowdy and coarse alongside one that is properly cropped. This, however, arises from the fact that the bull terrier has been bred with ears that will crop the best - thick at the roots, and just such ears that hang badly and look inelegant on the dog that carries them. It would not take many generations to produce bull terriers with nice drop ears, as has been the case with the Irish terrier, which would not require cropping. I have heard it urged that bull terriers never had such good "drop" ears as were sometimes to be found on the original Irish terrier, and that unsuccessful attempts have already been made to breed them with drop ears that would look well uncropped. However, be that as it may, I am afraid that we are a long way off such a desirable change, and the ordinary "bull terrier breeder" is not yet educated up to that point attained by the admirers of Irish terriers; at any rate, education or otherwise, the cropped bull terrier has not yet had his day. I need scarcely say here that cropping a terrier is illegal, and prosecutions for cruelty to animals under such circumstances have been successful.
This mutilation is usually done when the animal is from seven to ten months old. It is a troublesome performance, requiring considerable skill and nerve. It is customary in many cases to have the dog under chloroform when it is being performed upon, and one operator has an ingenious contrivance* to which he fastens the patient with straps. Even when the actual cutting is finished the trouble is not ended, for the ears have to be fastened up, and daily manipulated until they grow into the correct position. Prior to showing bull terriers it is the custom to cut their whiskers, which is again said to smarten their appearance, and the short superfluous hair which grows on the cropped ears is carefully shaved off on the eve of the show. Then it is not unusual to singe the tail in order that it may appear smoother and neater than nature originally made it; and, in fact, a bull terrier is rather a difficult dog to trim and get ready for exhibition, in order that he may appear to the best advantage before the judge.
A few years ago I attended a country exhibition in the North, where there was an excellent class of bull terriers, which the judge had weeded out until only three or four remained. He was about handing the first prize ribbon to a well-known exhibitor, who had charge of a certain dog, which was being shown on a tight chain. Unfortunately the handler inadvertently slackened the chain for a moment, the dog shook itself, and a perfect cloud of white powder flew from his jacket. The judge smiled, the spectators tittered, and the handler, looking foolish, without more ado took his dog out of the ring. Chinese clay was much used on white dogs to hide any yellowness or redness that might appear on the skin, and perhaps also to hide a fawn or brindled mark.