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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Common nicknamesStafford [1] Staffy
OriginUnited Kingdom
Foundation stock
36–41 cm (14–16 in)
Weight Dogs
13–17 kg (29–37 lb)
11–15.4 kg (24–34 lb)
Coat Smooth, short and close
Colour Red, fawn, white, black or blue, or any one of these colours with white, any shade of brindle or any shade of brindle with white.
Litter size 5-7
Life span Over 12 years
Kennel club standards
KC standard
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a British breed of short-haired terrier of medium size. It originated in the Black Country of the English Midlands.[2] It is the direct descendant of the bull and terrier cross-bred from the Old English Bulldog and the Old English Terrier.[3]

After the introduction of legislation criminalising dogfighting in 1835 and again in 1911, the Stafford was more commonly kept as a companion dog. Its history as a fighting dog made it difficult for the breed to gain recognition by the British Kennel Club; it was eventually recognised in 1935.[2]


Two bulldogs Crib and Rosa, Abraham Cooper 1817
First ever Staffordshire Bull Terrier show, Cradley Heath 1935.
Gentleman Jim, Joseph Dunn's award-winning Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Theories of origin[edit]

The Stafford developed in what was then called the Black Country of Staffordshire and parts of Warwickshire.[2] There are two theories about the development of the Stafford as recognised by The Kennel Club.[4][5]

The first and more widely held theory is that the Stafford, like the Bull Terrier, descends from the long-extinct bull and terrier,[2][4] which originated as a cross between the ferocious, thickly muscled Old English Bulldog and the agile, lithe and feisty Black and Tan Terrier.[2][4] The aggressive Old English Bulldog, bred for bear and bull baiting, was often pitted against its own kind in organised dog fights, but it was determined that lighter, faster dogs were better suited for dogfighting than the heavier Bulldog.[4] In an effort to produce a lighter, faster, more agile dog with the courage and tenacity of the Bulldog, breeders outcrossed with local terriers and ultimately achieved success.[2][4]

The second less widely held theory is that the Old English Bulldog was not crossed with terriers; rather, the Stafford as a breed began with direct descendants derived from generations of selective breeding of early Bulldogs which produced a smaller dog with a more athletic build.[4][5] Some believe the theory is evidentially supported by certain genetic characteristics and similarities in the appearances of modern Staffords when compared to the Old English Bulldogs depicted in some of the early 19th-century paintings.[4][5]

Early history[edit]

In the early 1800s, “bull and terrier” crossbreeds had been developed to satisfy the need for vermin control and the taste for blood sports.[6] In the mid–19th century, James Hinks wanted to develop a socially acceptable "gentleman's companion" with refinement, cleaner lines, and courage without the aggressive tendencies.[7] Two different types of bull and terriers resulted, including Hink's cross of the bull and terrier with the English White Terrier to achieve a more refined appearance with better legs and a more appealing head. A later outcross included the Dalmatian and Collie which led to the development of an athletic white dog known as Hink's "white cavalier", the forerunner to the modern Bull Terrier.[2][5] Devotees preferred the original bull and terrier type over Hink's Bull Terrier, and remained loyal to their preferred type, which became the modern Staffordshire Bull Terrier of the same ancestry as the Bull Terrier.[2]

DNA analysis[edit]

In 2017, a genome-wide study suggested that all of the bull and terrier–type dogs, including the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, map back to the terriers of Ireland and to origins which date to the period 1860–1870. The timing coincides with historical descriptions of dog fighting contests in Ireland, a lack of accurate stud book documentation, and subsequently, the undocumented crosses of dogs during the time when these breeds were first created.[8] By 1874, in Britain the first Kennel Club Stud Book was published, which included Bull Terriers[9] and Bulldogs.[10]

Early protection[edit]

The Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 made blood sports illegal, and effectively stopped bull- and bear-baiting in the UK.[4][11] Bull and bear-baiting required large arenas which made it easier for authorities to police, whereas illegal dog fighting was much harder to terminate because fight sponsors kept their venues hidden and closely guarded in private basements and similar locations. As a result, dog fighting continued long after bull and bear-baiting had ceased. It was not until the passage of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 that organised dog fighting in Britain largely came to an end.[4]


The Stafford's early origins as a fighting dog made it difficult for it to gain recognition from The Kennel Club.[2] In 1930, the name "Staffordshire Bull Terrier" first appeared in advertisements for dogs of the type.[4] Throughout 1932 and 1933 attempts were made by dog show judge and breeder Joseph Dunn to achieve recognition.

In early 1935, the first show was held on the bowling green of the Conservative Club at Cradley Heath and in May that year, the KC approved the name "Staffordshire Bull Terrier"; the first name requested, "Original Bull Terrier", was rejected by the Kennel Club.[2][4] In June 1935, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club was formed during a meeting at the Old Cross Guns pub in Cradley Heath; a breed standard was approved the same day, and further shows were held that year.[4] Other pivotal breeders involved in acquiring breed recognition were Joe Mallen and actor Tom Walls.[4] The first champions recognised in England were the bitch Lady Eve and the dog Gentleman Jim in 1939.[citation needed]

It was fully accepted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1954.[12]

American Kennel Club[edit]

Staffordshires, as the English bull and terrier crosses have been historically referred, first arrived in North America in the mid to late 1800s.[13] AKC would not recognise anything they deemed to be pit bull types, as they neither endorsed nor wanted to be associated with dog fighting.[14][15] It was not until 1936, long after blood sports were banned and legislation was enacted, that AKC recognised the Staffordshire Terrier, and in 1972 changed the name to American Staffordshire Terrier. The English–bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Stafford) was recognised two years later.[16]

In an effort to achieve AKC recognition of the Stafford, Steve Stone organised the US Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, 14 January 1967.[17] There were few Staffords in the country at that time, most being imports from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other parts of the world. The first attempts to encourage club membership and gain AKC recognition began with the first rally held in the summer of 1967 which resulted in 14 memberships and 8 Staffords registered by the club. By year's end, the count had increased to 39 registered dogs. Dog imports continued, and the number of memberships and registered dogs increased exponentially but it would take nearly a decade of hosting sanctioned shows and demonstrating consistency in the breed standard by maintaining responsible breeding practices that the club would acquire official AKC recognition.[13][17]

In 1974, the AKC officially recognised the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, giving it recognition as the official AKC Parent Club representing the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. On 5 March 1974, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was the 120th breed recognised by the AKC.[13]


The Stafford is a stocky, muscular and unusually strong dog of small to medium size. It usually stands 36–41 cm at the withers. Dogs weigh some 13–17 kg, bitches approximately 2 kg less.[1] It has a broad chest, strong shoulders, well-boned wide-set legs, a medium length tail carried low, and a broad head with a short muzzle; the ears fold over at the tips and are not cropped.[1][2] The coat is short, stiff and close. The base colours can be red, fawn, white, black or blue, or any one of the aforementioned with white; any shade of brindle; or any shade of brindle with white.[1][18]

It is a healthy and robust dog with a life expectancy of 12–14 years.[13] Neurological disorders identified in the breed include cerebellar abiotrophy, Chiari-like malformation, myotonia congenita and L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria;[19]: 6  hereditary cataract has also been identified.[20]

It has a reputation for pugnaciousness; when challenged by another dog it does not back away.[18][21]


Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy.

Even in the days of blood sports, the Stafford was always a family pet and companion dog, and is even more so today.[2] It is considered loyal, courageous and affectionate, and is among the breeds recommended by the Kennel Club for families.[2][22]

In the decade 2011–2020, annual registrations with the Kennel Club fell from about 7000 to about 5000; in 2019 and 2020 it had the highest number of registrations in the Terrier group.[23] It is among the most frequently registered breeds in Australia, France and New Zealand.[21][24][25][26] In the United States it was in eighty-first place on an American Kennel Club list of registrations by number in 2020.[27]

In 2013, the breed accounted for more than a third of the dogs passing through shelters such as Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. The breed has been associated with chav culture, which tends to attract the negativity associated with it.[21]

Breed-specific legislation[edit]

In the United States the Stafford is commonly classified as a pit bull-type dog along with the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, in other countries including the United Kingdom the term pit bull is used as an abbreviation for the American Pit Bull Terrier and does not encompass the Stafford.[28] A number of federal and municipal governments have placed restrictions on the ownership of the pit bull-type dogs, including the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.[28] In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Staffords are not restricted by any breed-specific legislation.[21]

In 2018, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lobbied the British Parliament to have the Staffordshire Bull Terrier added to the list of restricted dog breeds in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.[29] The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Kennel Club, Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home all objected to the proposal, which was rejected by Parliament.[29]

Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier[edit]

In the UK, American Pit Bull Terriers are sometimes advertised as Irish Staffordshire Bull Terriers in an attempt to circumvent the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.[30] The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not recognised as a breed by the Irish Kennel Club or any other kennel club,[31] and is attributed by the RSPCA to be contributing "to a rise in incidents of dog fighting". The editor of Dogs Today magazine described the Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed as "complete fiction".[30]

Notable staffies[edit]


Images depicting standard colours and body shapes of Staffords.


  1. ^ a b c d The Kennel Club, Staffordshire Bull Terrier: Breed Standard. The Kennel Club. Archived 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Staffordshire Bull Terrier: description. The Kennel Club. Archived 16 April 2021.
  3. ^ Morris, Desmond (2001). Dogs: the ultimate dictionary of over 1,000 dog breeds. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square Publishing. ISBN 1-57076-219-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m James Beaufoy, Staffordshire Bull Terriers: a practical guide for owners and breeders, Ramsbury, Wiltshire: The Crowood Press Ltd., 2016, ISBN 9781785000973.
  5. ^ a b c d David Hancock, Sporting terriers: their form, their function and their future, Ramsbury, Wiltshire: The Crowood Press Ltd., 2009, ISBN 978-0-7566-6004-8.
  6. ^ Mason, David (1 August 2018). "MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN". Mason & Sons. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  7. ^ Zarley, B. David (22 November 2017). "Your Yorkie Was a Killing Machine". Vice. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  8. ^ Parker, Heidi G.; Dreger, Dayna L.; Rimbault, Maud; Davis, Brian W.; Mullen, Alexandra B.; Carpintero-Ramirez, Gretchen; Ostrander, Elaine A. (2017). "Genomic Analyses Reveal the Influence of Geographic Origin, Migration, and Hybridization on Modern Dog Breed Development". Cell Reports. 19 (4): 697–708. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2017.03.079. PMC 5492993. PMID 28445722.
  9. ^ Pearce, Frank (1874). Kennel Club Stud Book. 1 (1 ed.). Horace Cox. pp. 535.
  10. ^ Pearce, Frank (1874). Kennel Club Stud Book. 1 (1 ed.). Horace Cox. pp. 515.
  11. ^ Michael Worboys, Julie-Marie Strange & Neil Pemberton, The invention of the modern dog: breed and blood in Victorian Britain, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018, ISBN 9781421426587.
  12. ^ FCI breeds nomenclature: Staffordshire Bull Terrier (76). Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Accessed June 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d "Staffordshire Bull Terrier Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  14. ^ "American Staffordshire Terrier". vca_corporate. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  15. ^ Coile, D. Caroline (27 May 2001). "Back to the time of the gladiator". Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  16. ^ "American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  17. ^ a b "A Breed That Came Up the Hard Way". The New York Times. 19 September 1971. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  18. ^ a b Derek Hall, The ultimate guide to dog breeds: a useful means of identifying the dog breeds of the world and how to care for them, Buntingford: Regency House Publishing Ltd., 2016, ISBN 978-0-7858-3441-0.
  19. ^ Ronaldo C. Da Costa, Curtis W. Dewey (2015). Practical Guide to Canine and Feline Neurology, third edition, ebook. Ames, Iowa: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781119062042.
  20. ^ Cathryn S. Mellersh, Louise Pettitt, Oliver P. Forman, Mark Vaudin, Keith C. Barnett (2006). Identification of mutations in HSF4 in dogs of three different breeds with hereditary cataracts. Veterinary Ophthalmology. 9 (5): 369–378. doi:10.1111/j.1463-5224.2006.00496.x
  21. ^ a b c d Lauren Potts, "Staffordshire bull terriers: A question of class?",, published 24 January 2015.
  22. ^ Cornish, Natalie (26 April 2019). "6 best dog breeds for families with children, according to Kennel Club". Country Living. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  23. ^ Comparative tables of registrations for the years 2011-2020 inclusive. The Kennel Club. Archived 2 June 2021.
  24. ^, "Here’s a list of the most popular dog breeds in Australia in 2017",, published 2 February 2017.
  25. ^ Société Centrale Canine, "Le chien de race en 2018 : Bousculades dans le Top 20 du LOF",, published 12 February 2019.
  26. ^ The New Zealand Herald, "The most popular dogs in New Zealand",, published 22 May 2017.
  27. ^ Jan Reisen (16 March 2021). The Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2020. American Kennel Club. Accessed June 2021.
  28. ^ a b Hoffman, Christy L.; Harrison, Natalie; Wolff, London; Westgarth, Carri (2014). "Is that dog a pit bull? A cross-country comparison of perceptions of shelter workers regarding breed identification". Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 17 (4): 322–339. doi:10.1080/10888705.2014.895904. PMC 4160292. PMID 24673506.
  29. ^ a b Stuart Winter, "Staffie ban: Britain’s much loved terrier will NOT be outlawed, says minister",, published 18 July 2018.
  30. ^ a b Daniel Foggo and Adam Lusher, "Trade in 'Irish' pit bulls flouts dog law",, published 2 June 2002. (Archived 3 August 2018).
  31. ^ "Native Breeds of Ireland". The Irish Kennel Club. 16 June 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  32. ^ Sir Percy FitzPatrick, Jock of the Bushveld, London: Longmans & Co., 1907.
  33. ^ Georgia Diebelius, "Dog rescued from streets becomes one of UK’s first police Staffies",, published 19 November 2018.