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.