The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an English breed that dates back many centuries, to a time when the bloodsports of bull-baiting and bear-baiting were popular in Britain. In 1835, those sports were outlawed and soon were replaced with dog fighting, which was better suited to a smaller, swifter animal. The old-style Bulldog – which was larger than today’s variety – was crossed with small native black-and-tan terriers that resembled the Manchester Terrier, to create the early old-style “bull terrier” that we now know as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. By the 1930s, dogfighting had long been outlawed in England as well. However, enthusiasts of this so-called “sport” took it underground, where it still takes place both in Great Britain and America even today.
In the mid-1800s, James Hinks of Birmingham began a breeding program to create a slightly different variety of this early bull terrier. He crossed it with the now-extinct English White Terrier and got a sleeker animal that was predominantly white. He called this the Bull Terrier and began showing it under that name in the 1860s. Fanciers of the “original” old-style bull terrier (which ultimately was named the Staffy Bull) were frustrated that the name “Bull Terrier” had been given to the modified breed, but could do little about it. To make matters worse, the old-style bull terrier’s reputation was still tainted by its dog-fighting history. To preserve a place for the old-style dog, Joseph Dunn formed a club to work with other enthusiasts towards recognition of the original bull terrier as a stand-alone breed. The Kennel Club recognized the breed, which was called the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to distinguish it from the white Bull Terrier, in 1935. By the end of the 20th century, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was consistently among the top ten most popular breeds recognized by the English Kennel Club – which is quite a testament to the Staffy Bull given its rather dubious beginnings.
Staffy Bulls came to the United States primarily after World War II, although experts believe that Bull-and-Terrier type dogs were in North America sometime in the 1800s. In America, those Bull-and-Terrier types were bred to be heavier and taller than their counterparts in England and developed into the American Staffordshire Terrier. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was admitted into the American Kennel Club’s Stud Book in 1974 and officially joined the Terrier Group in 1975. It was recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1952. Despite its background as a pit-fighting dog, today’s Staffy Bull is plucky, friendly and affectionate. It makes an excellent companion and is gaining popularity in the conformation, agility and obedience ring.
The average life span of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts, congenital deafness, follicular dysplasia, pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism, cystine urolithiasis, cataracts, elbow and hip dysplasia, heart problems, hypothyroidism, L-2-hydroxuglutaric aciduria, patellar luxation and skin allergies.