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Pipe Smoking: A Realm of Confusion
Bulldog/Rhodesian/Squat Bulldog/Bullcap ©

Pipe Smoking: A Realm of Confusion

Part One: Bulldog/Rhodesian/Squat Bulldog/Bullcap

By Tarek Manadily

Anyone who has had more than a couple of pipefuls, and sometimes even before (!), knows how confusing this little world of ours is. Expert opinion could sometimes turn out to be nothing but the salt you shove onto a fresh wound. Pipe makers must be one heck of a confused bunch themselves; for example, they don't seem to agree even on seemingly straightforward issues, such as a consistent definition of classic pipe shapes. Tobacco blenders no longer recognize their own blends once the tobaccos have been tinned and described by the company's marketing manager. Professional tobacconists are in the worst situation of all: They bear upon their shoulders the confusion of each of these group, as well as their own!

Now, what the heck am I talking about? Don't know! I'm a pipe smoker, I believe to know something about tobaccos and pipes, and I even sell the stuff. So, in this, hopefully not too long, series of ramblings, I would like to point out some of the aspects of the confusion, and attempt to make it even "worse" than it already is! (After all, it is probably this confusion that adds mystique to this noble pastime and to all the people that are part of it.)

This time, let's take one tiny confusing issue, just to warm you up. What are the differences between a Rhodesian and a Bulldog (and eventually, between the Squat Bulldog and the Bullcap)? Here are some of the most common opinions:

  1. They are the same.
  2. They are the same, except that the R. has a round shank, while the B. has a diamond one.
  3. They are the same, except that the R. has a taper mouthpiece, while the B. has a diamond one.
  4. The R. is nothing but another name for a bent B. (This means that the B. is always straight!)
Let's see some excerpts from what a famous pipe expert, Jacques P. Cole, says about these two controversial shapes·:
"It [the Bulldog] is made with a square cut diamond shape stem but it was not always so. The name given by the French makers was "Haiti" (origin obscure) which could originally be obtained with either a round or a diamond shaped stem." (p. 9-10)

"It must be put on record that the real RHODESIAN can be made with either a Round or Square (diamond) stem." (p. 15)

Now, here's my 2-cent input on this issue. I would say in order for us to reach a conclusion we should discard two of the so-called common, "clear" differences: The shank or the mouthpiece being round or diamond, and the pipe being straight, quarter-bent, half-bent, or bent. I think these two aspects are the core of all confusion.

Let's go backwards a little. Now, there's no fuss over the Bullcap, right? (Ha!) We usually only look at the bowl and violą, that's a Bullcap. The bowl has to simply be flattened, squatted (YES, just like the Squat Bulldog!! Hence, the "ha"). The walls of the bowl are inclined towards the inside of the tobacco chamber. That is, they are not upright or vertical. When a pipe has these exact bowl walls but is not squatted, it's a Rhodesian. When the walls are upright, that is a Bulldog. (Think more of a Pot or a Billiard, but with a tiny bit of inward inclination at the bowl rim.)

Let's sum it up:
  • The Bulldog has an upright bowl, with just a bit of inclination at the top part of the bowl.
  • The Rhodesian has a bowl exhibiting an "acute" inclination at the bowl rim, that is, a sort of squatted bowl. (Imagine making the perfect Bulldog using marzipan, and then squashing the bowl from the sides of the upper part, from out in!)
Naturally, they both have the famous "stripes" or "lines" around the bowl. (A feature of the past was the little knots going all around the bowl of a Bulldog, such as those found on the Classic Peterson Series.)

Mind you, my argument is: Only think of the above difference (yes, "difference' in singular form). Considering the incredible variations that there are nowadays in both the Bulldog and the Rhodesian, this is the one single distinction that sets them apart, in my humble opinion. If you're a bit curious about the Squat Bulldog, it has an upright bowl (that of a Bulldog), but squatted, while still remaining upright (from the top of the bowl, from up down in vertical motion). On the other hand, the Bullcap has the same inclined bowl of the Rhodesian but squashed even more. That is, once a Rhodesian is squashed in that manner, and if you look sideways at the bowl, you find that it's really short and reduced when compared with a Rhodesian..

So, if a Squat Bulldog is a "squatted" Bulldog, with the usual upright bowl, the Bullcap is a "squatted" Rhodesian with a bowl that is squatted further!

There are, and always will be, pipes that defy all of the above, but hey, it's one heck of a confused world, anyway.

Based on the above, here are two representative pipes of the two most controversial of these shapes: The Bullldog and the Rhodesian:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge