How American Bully XLs are fuelling rise of illegal dog fights in UK

How American Bully XLs are fuelling the rise of illegal dog fights across Britain – with the bloodthirsty beasts bred for battle with a terrifying ‘hair-trigger response’ to ATTACK

  • Dogfighting has been banned in Britain for the past 200 years 
  • Despite this, the sickening ‘sport’ is growing in popularity across the country 

In a dingy abandoned building somewhere in the UK, two snarling American Bully XL dogs tear into each in a sickening battle to the death.

The bloodied monsters savagely rip into one another’s flesh all while being goaded by their owners in the illegal pit fight, as spectators place bets on which mutt will win – and which will die. 

Despite being outlawed in the UK almost 200 years ago, authorities have warned dog fighting in Britain is on the rise, with underground breeders and criminals gangs running brutal boot camps to turn the animals into ruthless killing machines.

With their ‘hair-trigger response’ and ‘desire to kill’, the muscular American Bully XLs are the ‘fighters’ of choice in this disturbing underworld, with experts saying the horrific levels of savagery displayed by the dogs are ‘unnatural’ and instilled in them through violent training and years of inbreeding. 

But the bloodshed is now spilling out onto the UK’s streets, with the animals responsible for the majority of fatal dog attacks since 2021 amid a boom in their popularity, with Bully XLs increasingly being used by celebrities as status symbols. 

Despite being outlawed in the UK almost 200 years ago, authorities have warned dog fighting in Britain is on the rise

Dogs involved in the savage clashes often die and face a life of violence and brutality. Pictured is a dog involved in the illegal fights, with blood smeared all over the wall

With their 'hair-trigger response' and 'desire to kill', the muscular American Bully XLs are the 'fighters' of choice in this disturbing underworld, with experts saying the horrific levels of savagery displayed by the dogs are 'unnatural' and instilled in them through violent training and years of inbreeding.

Two in four deadly dog attacks in the UK in 2021 involved XL bulldogs – rising to six in 10 in 2022, including high-profile maulings that killed children Jack Lis, 10, and Bella-Rae Birch, aged 17 months. 

So far in 2023, the dogs have fatally savaged two people – amid fears a third person, a four-year-old girl, could also have fallen victim. 

It comes as shocking footage on social media has shown how the dogs chase down some of their victims, with one video in London capturing the moment one of the beasts tackles a screaming woman to the floor while it tears chunks of her flesh off.  

Only this week it was revealed two Bully XLs were responsible for killing 22 pregnant sheep and injuring 48 others in a frenzied attack in Wales that forced a farmer to shoot both of the dogs. 

Meanwhile, police forces across the UK say they are increasingly being called out to seize or destroy the animals – which shares the DNA with the banned American Pit Bull Terriers but that are not on Britain’s list of dangerous dogs. 

In July, horrifying footage showed the moment two police officers in South Yorkshire were attacked by a Bully XL, with the incident leading to a warning from one of the county’s top cops, who said Britain could no longer ‘ignore the fact that the XL bully breed is disproportionately represented in the number of dog attacks’.

The situation comes as Britain is gripped by an epidemic of dogfighting, with the RSPCA saying it has attended an average of 30 incidents a month this year. 

Horrifying police body-worn camera footage shows the moment two officers in South Yorkshire were attacked by an American Bully XL

The dog can be seen mauling one of the officers in the footage, released by police in July of this year

It followed warnings police forces were seizing more of the dogs, with figures showing the animals are resresponsible for the majority of fatal dog attacks

While in London, one woman was filmed being attacked by a Bully XL as she screamed and begged for help

Pictures show how Bully XLs are forced to run on make-shift treadmills amid claims some of the animals are whipped or kicked by their owners to make them more aggressive.  

And there is evidence of a low-level group of wannabe dogfighters obsessed with the culture of ‘strong’ dogs.

These animals may not take part in matches, but they are trained to be aggressive, risking injury to other pets and people. 

Meanwhile, pictures on social media show how other owners are ‘training’ their dogs, letting the animals dangle from ropes by their teeth to strengthen their jaws and biting power.   

Other owners appear to allow their animals to sink their teeth into tree branches as they while dangling in the air.  

Dr Lawrence Newport, a law and criminology lecturer at Royal Holloway University recently published a detailed report on the Bully XL, and was worried by the trend.

He told MailOnline the dog’s violent upbringing by savage owners had led to them having a ‘hair trigger response’ and a ‘desire to kill’. 

One of the dogs being 'trained' to fight was pictured exercising on a makeshift treadmill

Other pictures on social media appear to show owners letting their Bully XL train by dangling from trees and ropes

Pictures on social media appear to show owners letting their Bully XL train by dangling from trees and ropes

Pictures on social media appear to show owners letting their Bully XL train by dangling from trees and ropes

‘The American Bully is bred from fighting stock, and inbred repeatedly to produce the massive, violent breed we see today,’ he warned. 

‘These original fighting dogs were bred to be moved from cage to pit-fight. They were not bred for positive, social traits but solely for surviving and winning brutal, hours-long fights.

‘The American Bully was intensively bred from these fighting dogs, and inbred for size and strength. This has instilled in them a hair-trigger response and a desire to attack and to kill.

‘Once an attack has started, whether it be another dog, a sheep, horse or a child, an American Bully will not stop. That is why victims have had to be identified through scraps of clothing.’

It comes as it was revealed the number of illegal dogfight had ballooned, with one taking place almost every day in England and wales this year. 

In this footage, a man appears to be training one of the dogs in the art of Schutzhund, which sees animals taught how to attack and take down a human

The dog initially brings the man to the floor, biting into his protective suit

But it then continues its attack, chomping down on his unprotected foot as the man screams for help

Other footage filmed inside a shop showed the bloody fight between two American Bully XLs as desperate shoppers attempted to break up the clash

The RSPCA has investigated 1,156 incidents of organised dog fighting since 2019 – with the charity warning of a staggering surge this year.

Across Wales and England there were 355 incidents last year, up from 232 in 2021. So far this year the charity has already dealt with 155 cases. 

Many of the dogs involved in the barbaric clashes are Bully XLs, which are prized by breeders for their powerful build and violent nature.  

The dogs are thrown into bloody matches inside abandoned buildings, with most of the animals either being killed in the ring, dying as a result of their injuries or being slaughtered by their owners.  

Chief Inspector Ian Muttitt, who is part of the RSPCA’s special operations unit, claimed dogfighting was connected to organised crime gangs. 

‘The dog fighting world is a dark and secretive place. It could be happening in an inner-city warehouse next door to your office or on a rural farm in your quiet village,’ he warned. 

‘Dogs who win fights are prized but those who refuse to fight or lose are often abandoned or barbarically killed.’ 

The RSPCA released a list of England's top dog fighting hot spots amid fears the illegal activity was on the rise across the UK

This blooded dog was among those photographed by the RSPCA after their were called in to break up  an alleged dogfighting network

Dogfighting has been been illegal in Wales and England since 1835, but Mr Muttittit was now ‘rife’. 

He added: ‘Sadly we’re back seeing pre-pandemic levels of dog fighting incidents.

‘An average of 19 incidents were being investigated every month in 2019 and that has risen to a shocking 31 a month so far this year.

‘Our figures show that in the past four years, the RSPCA has uncovered and dealt with 1,156 incidents of dog fighting in England and Wales. The north of England is the worst region for it, with 42 per cent of the incidents occurring there.

‘It’s staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years, which most people would consider consigned to history, is still so rife.’

But the owner of an American Bully XL has defended the breed following the spate of recent maulings, insisting the dos have been wrongfully demonised. 

Dave Fakhr, who owns a four-year-old American bully XL called Tex, said the actions of the animals were down to their owners. 

‘It’s not fair that the dogs are labelled as something because of the people that own them,’ he told Sky News.

Animals that lose illegal dog fights are often either abandoned or killed by their owners, claimed the RSPCA

The number of fatal dog attacks in the UK have soared in recent years - hitting a record high in 2022

‘The dogs have done nothing wrong, a lot of the time the dogs in these cases have actually had a bad life being brought up.’

His comments come amid a calls by campaigners for the XL breed to be banned in the UK, joining the likes of the Pit Bull Terrier. Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro which are all outlawed. 

However, not everyone agrees with this, with a group of animal welfare trusts instead pushing for an overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

The Dog Control Coalition, made up of the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, the British Veterinary Association, Hope Rescue, The Kennel Club and the Scottish SPCA,  saying banning the dogs will not make the public safer.

The Dangerous Dogs Act has now existed for 32 years, however the number of dog bite incidents has soared. In 2022/2023, NHS data showed a provisional 9,366 recorded dog bites – an increase on the 8,819 bites recorded the previous year.

The Coalition says this indicates the current focus on identifying and banning certain breeds, rather than focusing on individual aggressive acts, has been ineffective.

Jack Lis was attacked by the XL bully dog while playing with a friend at a house after school in Pentwyn

Little Jack Lis suffered 'severe injuries to the head and neck' when he was set upon by the seven stone XL Bully while playing at his friend's home

The dog that killed the schoolboy was repeatedly filmed being out of control in the weeks leading up the the fatal attack, dragging along its owners and wriggling away from their grasp

They warn banning more breeds will see dogs destroyed based on how they look, rather than dealing with the causes of dangerous and aggressive dogs.

What is an American Bully XL and what makes it so dangerous? 

American bullies are a relatively new breed, having originated in the 1980s. 

They are mixed breed bulldogs, typically American pitbull terriers crossed American, English and Olde English bulldogs. 

Despite their relative popularity in the UK, they are not officially registered as a breed by the UK Kennel Club, making it difficult to know exactly how many are in the country. 

They are seen as ‘status symbols’ and are often purchased for their intimidating looks. 

Though the bully XL is the most common, the dogs can also be bred with mastiffs and other larger dogs to make them bigger, XXL or even XXXL. 

Controversial and illegal practices such as ear cropping are also carried out to make them appear more intimidating. 

The males can weigh between 70 and 130 pounds of muscle bone and have enormous strength. 

The ‘status symbol’ nature of the dogs has seen them become something of a weapon, purchased by people who want a thuggish and scary looking dog. 

Despite their lack of official certification, there is also a booming market with puppies regularly sold on Facebook and through places like Gumtree for anywhere between £500 and £3,000. 

However, experts are at pains to warn of their potentially dangerous nature, especially if their aggression is encouraged. 

They descend from bull-baiting dogs and if they aren’t trained properly then their aggression could surface.   

This could pose a real threat to humans, particularly children, and has been seen in several shocking recent deaths involving the dog.  


A spokesperson from the coalition told MailOnline: ‘The increased popularity of American XL bullies has made them valuable commodities, resulting in irresponsible breeding, rearing and ownership. 

‘However, the solution to the concerning number of dog bite incidents and fatalities is not to ban this or any other breed of dog because a ban would not effectively protect the public.

‘Thirty-two years of the Dangerous Dogs Act, with its focus on banning specific types, coupled with increasing cases of dog bite incidents shows how ineffective this approach is.

‘Instead, the Government needs to focus on the improvement and enforcement of current breeding and dog control regulations, and on promoting responsible dog ownership and training.’ 

Earlier this year, a man was mauled to death by an American XL Bully after it turned on him while he was looking after it for a friend in Leigh, Gtr Manchester.

Jonathan Hogg, 37, entered the dogs’ pen when it went for him, leaving bite wounds on his arm, leg and head, an inquest into his death heard.

The horror attack came after a six-year-old boy in South Yorkshire was scalped by a dog only two weeks after they’d bought it from Facebook.

In March last year, 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch was killed in her family’s home in St Helens, Merseyside, just a week after they bought the dog.

Schoolboy Jack Lis, 10, was killed in an attack by an XL Bully in 2021 while playing at a friend’s house in Caerphilly, South Wales.  

In one shocking incident, a woman was mauled to death by one of the two XL Bullies she bought after believing them to be ‘gentle giants’.

Joanne Robinson, 43, died after being attacked in her own home in Rotherham last July. Her partner suffered serious injuries in the incident.

The UK Bully Kennel Club is among the groups trying to encourage more responsible ownership, promoting obedience certificates through their regular events. 

The group also has lists a number of licensed breeders and give strict stipulations and rules for those seeking to own the dogs. 

Mr Fakhr added that Bully XLs were not the sort of pet a first time dog owner should ever have. 

Bella-Rae Birch, pictured, was mauled to death by an American Bully dog which had been recently bought by her father Ryan

Joanne Robinson (pictured) owned two Bully XLs and was killed by one of them in 2022

Joanne is understood to have been the owner of the animal, called Rocco (pictured), which is on the legal dog breeds list and attacked her at around 10pm

‘They’re a big, strong breed. Every dog has the capability of aggression, they’re an animal. We have the capability of aggression,’ he added.

‘And if not trained properly and not brought up right then the dogs.’

But Dr Newport insisted the animals would always pose a lethal risk, regardless of what their owners were like.  

‘A 60kg fighting dog, bred for violence is not a family pet – this is why even good, experienced owners, have been ripped apart, at a moment’s notice, by their own American Bully,’ he added.

‘They are designed to be unpredictable, powerful killers. They should not be on Britain’s streets.’


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