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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Coverage of XL Bully definition

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There has been media coverage this weekend of claims that the definition of the XL Bully type lacks clarity, with owners not knowing whether their dog will be classed as the banned breed.

We have taken quick and decisive action to protect the public from dog attacks by adding the XL Bully type to the list of dogs prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act. We firmly believe this approach is needed to reduce the risks to the public by this type.

We have produced a definition and guidance to help owners and enforcement authorities understand whether a dog should be defined as an XL bully. This involved convening a group of experts and other stakeholders to define the physical characteristics of this breed type, as well as reviewing existing breed standards provided by registries in the US and UK and testing the standard in practice.

We have also provided photographic examples of XL Bully breed types on These images are intended as a guide for owners and are not exhaustive.

It is up to the owner or keeper to identify whether they think their dog may be in scope of the ban – which only applies to XL Bully dogs. If someone has a dog that is clearly another established breed, such as a rottweiler, the ban does not apply.

If an owner has a dog that could be considered to be an XL Bully then they must consider whether it meets the minimum height requirements and has a substantial number of the characteristics set out in the standard and whether it may therefore be within the scope of the ban.

We recommend taking a precautionary approach. If you are unsure if your dog is an XL Bully or whether any puppies may grow up to be of this dog type, you should comply with the relevant requirements and restrictions as they come into force.

A Defra spokesperson said:

We convened a group including police, local authorities, devolved administrations and animal welfare and veterinary experts to define the physical characteristics of the XL Bully breed type and have published guidance and a picture bank to help owners to determine whether their dog may be in scope of the ban.

If owners are unsure whether their dog is an XL bully, they should take a precautionary approach and comply with the relevant requirements and restrictions as they come into force. If someone has a dog that is clearly another established breed, such as a rottweiler, the XL Bully ban does not apply.


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  1. Comment by Kadie Williams posted on

    I will be armed at my front door me and my dog havent left our house i dont trust the police indont trust the government and i no longer trust the vets my dog is not an xl bully but uneducated people like the government and public do not know or bother to research therefore any police come to my door over my dog i will use any means necessary to protect my dog and my home! And if my dog is threatened you best get a clear shot to me aswell! After the 3 dogs killed in south yorkshire this morning for no reason and many more and the ban is not even in place your a bunch of murdering scum.

  2. Comment by Amanda posted on

    My dog is an American Bulldog, taller than the xl bully, front heavy and block white, longer in body and narrow hind quarters...Unfortunately his physical characteristics mean he has been dragged into this ban.
    He is 9 years old, has glaucoma and is arthritic. My vet reassures me he is a standard American Bulldog. He's never needed a muzzle and now I'm forced to muzzle train him in his senior years.
    If he doesn't take to a muzzle, I can't take him out! Used to an hours exercise a day off lead.
    What about him? Am I going to be forced to put him down because he is a standard ABD ???

  3. Comment by Peter posted on

    The ban is coming into force to soon. Owners need more time to decide if there dog is an xl so called bully type what ever this means is confusing owners need to get advice about their dog. Owners are not experts to tell if a dog is an xl type. We need more time to get advice. But do not know where to get advice. The ban is to soon.

  4. Comment by Victoria Marland posted on

    The definition is vague and fits many large dogs.

    You state no recognised breed is at risk under the definition BUT your own legislation states pedigree and DNA will not be taken into account. What about crosses of recognised breeds? Eg a lab crossed with a staffy? Fully grown that may meet minimum height and have a substantial amount of characteristics included in the “definition” but it isn’t an XL Bully but could be seized as type!
    Have the government learned nothing in the last 32 years?

    You aren’t even able to instruct vets properly when it comes to them confirming a dog has been neutered! Many believe they can only complete the form if they have carried out the neutering. So what about rehomed dogs who are neutered and there is no history?

    The whole thing is a shambles!

  5. Comment by Sarah Mason posted on

    So I don’t consider my dog to be an xl bully but what if someone else does ?

  6. Comment by Amy Phipps posted on

    It’s not our dog that are the problem it’s the irresponsible owner I have had 2 off lead dogs run up to my Xl bully and bite him in the neck leaving wounds! He sat still while I got them off him and didn’t even react so you think it’s the big dog that’s got the problem! Every dog should be on a lead with no recall I have a little boy and my dog is the most affectionate beat friend he will ever have! Yea he’s powerful but he’s a big softy. My dog has changed my life pulled me out of bad place when I had a baby in lock down he’s saved my life.

  7. Comment by Siobhán Costello posted on

    Rethink this hideous idiocy. Strange that attacks only seemed to start happening in 2021... What is the real reason for this persecution?

  8. Comment by Sandra Odelga posted on

    Please provide a list of excluded breeds. You have previously acknowledged that breeds recognized by the Kennel Club are excluded. What about:
    Cane Corso?
    American Bulldog?

  9. Comment by Lee posted on

    So glad this group has added further clarification . So a Rottweiler is not an xl bully . Are these the same people that came up with the fantastic xl characteristic of . “a tail that tapers to a point” .
    This is simply not good enough . More of the same nonsence is not what is needed this is a new ban that people who were perfectly legal a month ago will now risk being classified as criminals . As a minimum we should have a place to take our dogs to have them classified if the governing department want to change the rules .

  10. Comment by Emma Tinsley posted on

    Word salad does not tell us anything new. Just Defra absolving themselves of any responsibility for a badly thought out policy. Its is clear that they do not know what a XL bully is and many cross breeds are going to have to be exempt because of this, all while taking your money. More clarity is needed how are the owners to know if their local DLO officers know what an XL bully is. How many is substantial. Is it a case if you have a large bully looking dog you are screwed. Banning dogs has been proven not to work so why is Defra/gov doing this when it doesn't target the real problem only responsible dog owners. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  11. Comment by Sammi posted on

    Why not just bring dog license as that has been proven to work. Banning breeds doesn’t work since 1, you’ve got no idea what an XL bully is so other bully breeds are going to be at risk just because of the way they look and their height. 2, the backyard breeders will move on to the next dog so, we will be back having the same conversation about another dog getting put on the banned list in a couple months or years. Start looking at the irresponsible owners and backyard breeders instead of the dogs. Innocent dogs in rescues who’ve done no harm are going to be punished along with other dogs who may look or have some characteristics are going to get dragged into this.
    Really need to start thinking more about this and honestly chuck the whole ban out and just start doing the dog licensing and looking at the other end of the lead and back yard breeders as that’s where the problem is.

  12. Comment by Charlie posted on

    It lacks clarity because
    A. You haven’t been precise enough with the standard despite your claims it’s been devised by “experts.”
    One of the main features of XL’s is very exaggerated features such as a huge head in comparison to their body, a very powerful, stocky build and heavy despite their size. Just putting a large “blocky” head and “powerful build” does not highlight the distinguishing features of an XL Bully in comparison to other breeds such an American Bulldogs, Cane Corso, and crossbreeds. You also haven’t mentioned anything about weight which is one of your main arguments of the ban in the first place.
    B. You haven’t bothered to explain what other breeds could be described as an XL Bully “type” which is why there is so much worry and confusion. You have to be clear to the public about what other breeds could come under this “type” and if you don’t believe this ban will effect other breeds then can you ensure your officers will have the training to tell the difference between an American Bulldog, Mastiff x’s and XL Bully’s?
    C. A precautionary measure is so incredibly unfair to thousands of dogs and owners who own dogs with many similar features to the XL but definitely aren’t XL’s Bully’s. Why should thousands of additional dogs need to live an incredibly restricted life because DEFRA have not been clear enough? Equally why should thousands of owners who know their dog isn’t an XL, have to live their life’s in anxiety because their incredibly family pet could be seized unjustly?

    Please, please think about creating a much more specific standard and discuss ways to mitigate unnecessary heartache by listening to dog Charities such as Blue Cross who have opposed this ban from the beginning. The only experts that matter are the ones who work with these types of dog and have first hand experience, not some bias website “BullyWatch” who have very little understanding about Bull breeds and dogs in general

  13. Comment by Rob posted on

    Banning a breed doesn't solve bites how about licence all big dog breeds ? Make sure the right people own the dogs making sure the public are safe and the poor animals are not used and abused .

  14. Comment by Liz prayers posted on

    Gov need to sort out the legislation 19inch for female ? Yet a classic bully is up to 19 inch how that fair? Should be 22inch plus so the classic don’t fall into this.

  15. Comment by Siobhan bailey posted on

    Why should owners that know our dogs are not XL bully restrict our dogs lives just on the off chance that some half whit that can’t recognise a n XL Bully I have spoken to 2 members of staff at Defra that claim to never have seen an XL Bully before and we are expected to register our dogs !!!!

  16. Comment by Carol Wade posted on

    We all know that something needs to be done. That's obvious but…

    This is so unhelpful.

    What does “substantial” mean?

    There are so many people who are worried sick that their dog MAY have one or two of the characteristics and don’t know what to do.

    Calm, well trained and well cared for family pets are going to be caught up unnecessarily so that the owners don’t fall foul of this dreadfully unclear and rushed ban.

    The whole thing needs a rethink.

  17. Comment by Amanda posted on

    My dog is a standard American Bulldog and as such exceeds the minimum height detailed in the one measurable characteristic to determine if he may be considered a banned type.
    I feel it tragic that the ABD has been dragged into this when if bully watch is to be believed his breed has been responsible for less than half the attacks of those perpetrated by SBTs, about one 3rd of the attacks perpetrated by GSDs and 1 10th of the attacks by xl bully dogs!
    The ban at no point mentioned the ABD and yet they can not fail to be dragged into this. If it was considered that the ABD should be banned, shouldn't this have been specified at the start??
    Are American Bulldogs excluded from the ban or not??
    My dog does not look like the photographs on the Defra site, he his taller, front heavy and block white,ie an American Bull dog...
    More clarity desperately needed before my dog is condemned to a muzzle life which he really doesn't deserve!

  18. Comment by Emma posted on

    Word salad nothing new, still confusing.