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 aggresive 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.
Common health problems
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are known to suffer from Hereditary
Cataracts (HC) and L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria (L2HGA)—a
metabolic disorder resulting in behavioural changes and dementia-like
symptoms—both of which are detectable via DNA tests.
Distichiasis (commonly known as “double eyelash”) and
Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (or PHPV)—a condition
whereby the blood supply to the ocular lens fails to regress and
fibrovascular tissue forms causing hazy vision—both of which
are checked by way of an ocular examination throughout the life
of a breeding stud or brood-bitch to minimize the transfer and spread
of these conditions.
The breed is known to be at a higher risk from mastocytoma (mast
cell tumours) than the general population of dogs
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.
Height and Weight
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.