The rise of Exotic Bully dogs: Meet the teeny, tiny sibling of the XL Bully

Reina, a fun loving female Exotic Bully dog  (Richard Dozda)
Reina, a fun loving female Exotic Bully dog (Richard Dozda)

The existence of American Bully XL dogs was a very controversial and emotive topic last year.

Rishi Sunak recently moved to ban the breed in the UK after 23 fatal attacks since 2021 and several high-profile public maulings.

But now designer breeders have returned with a new invention: the Exotic Bully, with varying degrees of mini sizes known as a Bully Nano, Micro or Pocket (but somehow, not XS Bully). They are essentially a bite-sized version of an XL Bully, bred to be as small as possible.

According to experts, there are a couple of hundred genuine Exotics in the UK. But urbanites wanting a Bully type without being kicked out of their flat by a landlord or terrified housemates could encourage numbers to soar.

Ladies and gentleman, meet the Exotic Coco (Richard Dozsa)
Ladies and gentleman, meet the Exotic Coco (Richard Dozsa)

The ultimate objective in Exotic breeding is to achieve extreme musculature as if it were “on steroids”, but reducing the height by half and removing any aggression.

After years of breeding Pocket Bullies with small French and English Bulldogs, the first ever Exotic was born in 2008 – known in hushed tones as Mr Miagi.

Despite their powerful yet compact appearance, Exotics are bred to be docile in temperament and gentle with children, other dogs and small animals.

It bonds strongly with its owner making the Exotic Bully an excellent family companion, according to BRC Global pedigrees, where pets can be registered to compete at competitions.

It adds that aggression, viciousness or shyness are highly undesirable traits and very uncharacteristic for Exotics.

It is now a criminal offence to own an XL Bully in England and Wales without a certificate, with the dogs needing to be neutered, kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

The UK government defines an adult male XL Bully as at least 20in (51cm) at the withers, but Pocket Bullies tend to be significantly smaller than this. They normally reach 22 to 27cm in height, so in theory are safe from the ban.

But regardless, Exotic competitions were shut down last year after bad press resulting from the spike in XL Bully attacks.

One of the heartbroken organisers and Exotic Bully fanatic is former competitive bodybuilder Richard Dozda, 42, who is holding another competition called Bully Flex in Stafford in May.

He told The Independent: “People message me all the time saying I ‘have the devil’s dog’ and ‘it’s gonna kill you’.

“But I’m more likely to be licked to death. It will only get me if I lie on the floor and he gets me by the throat.

“They’re definitely not going to kill me - maybe at most a nasty nip round my ankle.

“During lockdown, every idiot wanted to become a breeder and cash in at the expense of the dog’s health and the bad press for Bullys everywhere.”

Introducing Chapo the Exotic Bully (Richard Dozsa)
Introducing Chapo the Exotic Bully (Richard Dozsa)

He got into Exotics, which he claims can sell for £1 million, when he suffered a horror car crash and became disabled forcing him to give up his strict exercise routine.

He channelled that energy into raising his four-strong Exotic family, with the boys named after drug kingpins Pablo and El Chapo and the girls Coco and Reina.

He added: “I should have been dead after the crash, to be honest with you, my health isn’t what it used to be.

“But these dogs give me the strength to live because I had to give up my old life as a bodybuilder in an instant. My Bullies saved me.

“You have to be responsible but the love that they give back for it is worth everything.”

His close friend and esteemed worldwide Exotic competition judge Mark Law told The Independent what he is looking for in the breed.

“First and foremost I have a full-time job in an aquatics shop, six days a week, so unlike many others I am not hustling dogs to make money,” he said.

“I have judged dogs for over 30 years, so you have to learn the breed standard and then make your own interpretation.

“Let’s get something straight, these dogs are not in any way shape or form like an XL Bully.”

Mark Law is an esteemed worldwide Exotic competition judge (Facebook)
Mark Law is an esteemed worldwide Exotic competition judge (Facebook)

He said as a judge he is “very, very picky”.

“I judge to find the best one on the day, not necessarily one I really would like because you can only judge what’s in front of you,” he added.

“They must be able to move correctly front and rear, so this means that the conformation has to be correct for the movement to work properly.

“In Exotics the front of the dog is important to have those Exotic features.”

He added: “I think Exotics and Micros will get more popular but in a different way to XLs. Everyone knows XLs were persecuted because of bad owners but a tiny Micro isn’t going to give that same feel on the street. The Micro and Exotic is a fun and loving dog.”

Exotic Bully Facebook group’s biggest complaints are when the critters chew the skirting boards or what to do about their breathing difficulties.

One breeder selling a Nano pup for £3,000-a-pop said: “Breathing difficulties is definitely something that isn’t uncommon in certain Bullies but we specifically chose our dogs to minimise any problems and still give us the look of a Bully.

“So many ‘Bullies’ for sale that just don’t have the distinct bully look. None of our bullies have any issues with movement or breathing but these are a lazy pet dog, similar to the British Bulldog. A good half an hour to an hour walk and you will have a tired sleepy dog for the rest of the day.

“They are beautiful pups. You won’t have to worry about Pockets or Micros at all. There are no laws against them and I would say with absolute certainty there won’t be any bans or restrictions on them.”

But campaign group Bully Watch, aiming to raise awareness of the scale of Bully-related dog attacks, has a different take and said it involves “grotesque levels of inbreeding” to create the new breed.

A spokesperson said since the XL Bully ban breeders had changed to Exotics to protect their income streams.

They said: “Nano, Micro, Exotic and Pocket Bullies have been considerably inbred in order to achieve an exaggerated aesthetic, sometimes with grotesque levels of inbreeding. These dogs are currently virtually uninsurable.

“Due to poor breeding, they will almost certainly have considerable health problems. Anyone with any sense of concern for animal welfare would condemn these sub-types in the strongest terms possible.”

The (not so) Big Don: Pablo (Richard Dozsa)
The (not so) Big Don: Pablo (Richard Dozsa)

They added: “It was already happening. They were developed during a big push in designer breeding - similar to what people were doing with French Bulldog breeding.

“People wanted to be the first to develop a certain type or colour. Almost Victorian-like. You have all these backyard breeders who have equipment, knowledge, and ‘brands’ who found that their main source of income has vanished and they’re now trying to move to different breeds with this very recent push into smaller American Bully categories.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said they haven’t noticed more Exotic Bully dogs coming into their care despite the boost in popularity. They added the pocket bully isn’t a banned dog, so they don’t need a muzzle by law.

They said: “Breed is not a reliable indicator of aggression in dogs. All dogs have the capacity to be aggressive. Aggression in dogs develops because of complex interactions between genetics and the experiences dogs have throughout their lives.”