Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proposed legislation that would ban the American XL Bully dogs, a controversial breed, from the country. The decision comes after Sunak declared the dogs were a "danger to communities" following a series of recent dog attacks.
Sunak said he had instructed concerned people to legally define the breed so that it can be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act in England, Wales and Scotland.
But, what is an American XL Bully? What makes them this dangerous? Interestingly, dog experts say American XL Bully is "not a dog breed" at all. Said to have originated in the US in the late 1980s, the American Bully is a cross of American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers. Breeders then went on to create a "bigger and stronger" version after they went on to be crossed with other breeds like English Bulldogs, Old English Bulldogge and American Bulldogs to create an even more muscular dog.
According to the UK campaign group Bully Watch, American Bully began to be popular in the UK around 2014 or 2015 and its population steeply rose during the Covid pandemic. Currently, there are four types of American Bully: standard, pocket, classic and XL. The XL can weigh more than 60kg, and at 33-50cm height, it can easily subdue an adult human.
Debbie Connolly, an expert, told Sky News that American XL Bully have no specific DNA markers, making them difficult to ban outright. "It is not recognised as a breed in this country and therefore you cannot simply write the words 'XL Bully' at the end of the current dangerous dogs list," Connolly said.
However, the US does recognise the American Bully as a specific breed.
Reports quoting local British media claim American XL Bully was behind at least two of four fatal in the UK in 2021. The number rose to six out of ten in 2022 and they were responsible for 45 per cent of dog attacks on humans and other dogs in 2023.
While many dog experts agree the American XL Bully is aggressive, they blame it on the breeders. They say the dogs had been bred for fighting and repeatedly inbred.
American Bully is illegal in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. If banned in Britain, they join the list of four banned breeds of dog in the country: the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro.