Information about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (informally: Staffie, Stafford, Staffy or Staff) is a medium-sized, short-coated, old-time breed of dog. It is an English dog, where it is the 5th most popular breed, and related to the bull terrier. Having descended from dog-fighting ancestors, it is muscular and courageous. It is the subject of breed specific legislation in some jurisdictions.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a medium-sized, stocky, and very muscular dog with strong athletic ability, with a similar appearance to the American Staffordshire terrier and American pit bull terriers sharing the same ancestor. They have a broad head (male considerably more than female), defined occipital muscles, a relatively short foreface, dark round eyes and a wide mouth with a clean scissor-like bite (the top incisors slightly overlap the bottom incisors). The ears are small. The cheek muscles are very pronounced. Their lips show no looseness. From above, the head loosely resembles a triangle. The head tapers down to a strong well-muscled neck and shoulders placed on squarely spaced forelimbs. They are tucked up in their loins and the last 1-2 ribs of their ribcage are usually visible. Their tail resembles an old fashioned pump handle. Their hind quarters are well-muscled and are what give the Stafford drive when baiting. They are coloured brindle, black, red, fawn, blue, white, or any blending of these colors with white. White with any other colour broken up over the body is known as pied. Liver-colored, black and tan
dogs can occur but are rare. The coat is smooth and clings tightly to the body giving the dog a streamlined appearance.
The dogs stand 36 to 42 cm (14 to 17 in) at the withers and weigh 14 to 18 kg (31 to 40 lb) for males; bitches are 11 to 15.4 kg (24 to 34 lb).
Although individual differences in personality exist, common traits exist throughout the Staffords. Due to its breeding, and history, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is known for its character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends, its off-duty quietness and trustworthy stability, make it a foremost all-purpose dog. It has been said that “No breed is more loving with its family”
The breed is naturally muscular and may appear intimidating; however, because of their natural fondness for people, most Staffords are temperamentally ill-suited for guard or attack-dog training. Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppies are very easy to house train.
Since the British Dangerous Dogs Act made it illegal to own breeds such as the pit bull terrier, the press have reported many cases of attacks by Staffordshire Bull Terriers or dogs described as a “Staffordshire bull terrier cross” on children, adults and family pets. The RSPCA fears that breeders are renaming pit bull terriers as Staffordshire bull terriers to avoid prosecution. Also, the description “Staffordshire terrier cross” is frequently a euphemism for a dog such as the American Pit Bull Terrier. However, the Staffordshire bull terrier, like all dog breeds, is capable of dangerous behavior.
Several New South Wales state government reports analysing dog attacks have identified the Staffordshire bull terrier as the leading breed of dog responsible for biting humans (ahead of the Australian Cattle Dog, German Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier) in that state. An earlier report into breed specific legislation observed the likely reason for breeds most popular in Australia, such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers and their crosses, being represented as having a higher involvement in aggressive behaviour towards humans is due to sheer number of them in the community, and that it is still only a small percentage of animals within these breeds that cause issues.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are big-hearted and usually affectionate towards humans. They express their affection through jumping up, nuzzling, licking and pawing, and even when trained can still be ‘fussy’ with owners and others. Staffordshires are perhaps not suitable pets for those who prefer quiet, reserved dogs. Staffordshires are notably adaptable in terms of changing home or even owners, and unfortunately this can make them easy prey for dognappers.
RSPCA chief vet Mark Evans said: “Staffies have had a terrible press, but this is not of their own making – in fact they’re wonderful dogs. If people think that Staffies have problems, they’re looking at the wrong end of the dog lead! When well cared for and properly trained they can make brilliant companions. Our experience suggests that problems occur when bad owners exploit the Staffie’s desire to please by training them to show aggression.”
Before the 19th century, bloodsports such as bull baiting, bear baiting and cock fighting were common. Bulls brought to market were set upon by dogs as a way of tenderizing the meat and providing entertainment for the spectators; and dog fights with bears, bulls and other animals were often organized as entertainment for both royalty and commoners.
Early Bull and Terriers were not bred for the companion animals of today, but for the characteristic known as gameness, with the pitting of dogs against bear or bull and exotic animals testing this attribute along with the strength and skill of the dog. These early “proto-staffords” provided the ancestral foundation stock for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier. This common ancestor was known as the “Bull and Terrier”.
These bloodsports were officially eliminated in 1835 as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull or bear baits, bloodsport proponents turned to pitting their dogs against each other instead. Dog fighting was used as both a bloodsport (often involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterward, dog fighting clandestinely took place in pockets of working-class Britain and America. Dogs were released into a pit, and the last dog still fighting (or occasionally, the last dog surviving) was recognized as the winner. The quality of pluckiness or “gameness” was still highly prized, and dogs that gave up during a fight were reviled as “curs.” Despite being trained to be aggressive towards fellow dogs they had to be of good temperament with people as the handler would have to bring the dog back to scratch for each round.
As time went on the modern breed has become one with a temperament suitable for a pet and companion. It gained respectability, becoming a dog worthy to show, and was accepted by The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom as the Staffordshire bull terrier in 1935. Examples of the breed currently found in the United States have no local fighting history, being descendants of the later show dogs who migrated over the Atlantic from the United Kingdom.
The breed attained recognition to The Kennel Club on 25 May 1935. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club was formed in June 1935, one month after the breed was recognised by the kennel club. It is unusual for a breed to be recognised without a club in existence first, and even more unusual for there not to have been a breed standard in place. A standard was not drawn up until June 1935 at the Old Cross Guns, a Black Country pub in Cradley Heath in the West Midlands. A group of 30 Stafford enthusiasts gathered there and devised the standard, as well as electing the club’s first secretary, Joseph Dunn, a well-known figure in the breed. Challenge certificates were awarded to the breed in 1938, and the first champions were Ch. Gentleman Jim (bred by Joseph Dunn) and Ch. lady Eve (owned by Joseph Dunn), both taking their titles in 1939. During the 1980s owners started to breed from old British lines also importing Staffordshire Bull Terriers from Ireland which they believed to be truer to the original of the pre showing days. These dogs are often referred to as Irish Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Media reports often refer to this as a cover name for breeders to sell pitbulls illegally.
The breed was recognized in the U.S. by the American Kennel Club in 1975.