by Doris Donnerman
(last updated August 17, 2009)
The ancestors of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier were true fighting dogs, known as Bull Terriers and a lighter type of Bulldog. In many respects the Bulldog of the 1800s resembled the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of today, for it was entirely unlike the present short "sour mug" Bulldog. The early Bulldog stood straighter on his legs and was, of necessity, more agile for the uses to which it was utilized, that of fighting and baiting.
Around 1800 to 1820, the Bulldog was crossed with the Old English Terrier to produce the Staffordshire, as a type more adapted to fighting in the pit. The Bulldog, used for bull and bear baiting, ranking high among the most fashionable sports from the middle of the sixteenth century to the seventeenth, was large and heavy. The type had come down from the large mastiff-type fighting dog of England called the Alaunt, a direct descendant from the Pugnaces.
As bull and bear baiting gradually went out of fashion, matching dog against dog became a popular sport. To combine the gameness and agility of the Terrier with the tenacity and courage of the Bulldog, the cross was made in an effort to produce a dog unmatched for pit fighting. The Staffordshire name, however, was not given to the breed until after it had come through a variety of nomenclatures. Originally known as the Bull and Terrier dog, or half and half, it gradually became referred to as Pit Dog or Pit Bull Terrier. When they were brought to America in 1870, they were known as Pit Bull Terriers, later as American Bull Terriers or Yankee Terriers.
Specialized dog breeding, which began to take on a serious aspect during the late 1800s, ignored the Staffordshire Bull Terrier with his dark past of barbarous blood sports, bear and bull baiting, dog fighting, and even matches between man and dog. His past gave him a disreputable character, but the miners in Staffordshire and other near localities preserved the breed, keeping all the qualities of gameness and intelligence.
There have always been differences of opinion about the distinctions between the English and American branches of the Staffordshire Terrier family. The fact that gameness and working qualities were more important to fanciers than purity of conformation naturally brought this about. The English branch has been more variable as to conformation while the American branch has striven to follow more closely the bench show type. Breeders in this country have developed a type that averages a good ten pounds heavier than the modern Staffordshire of England.
Although gameness is an attribute of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the use to which it has been put because man has used this courage for his own sport in pit fighting should not be held against a dog that has many other endearing qualities. Around children they are affectionate and safe, and are of a docile and tractable nature in general.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier should give the impression of great strength for his size. He is a well put together dog, muscular, but agile and graceful, keenly alive to his surroundings. He should be stocky but not long-legged or racy in outline. His courage is proverbial. The general size of the male is about eighteen to nineteen inches at shoulders for the male and seventeen to eighteen inches for the female. The coat is short, close, stiff to the touch and has a glossy look.
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