aka 'Staffies' and 'STB'

In research and history, the 'original' Staffordshire Bull Terrier (also affectionately known as Staffie's and STB's) first came into existence around the beginning of the 17th Century in England, and it's origins were similar to that of the English Bull Terrier. When the 'sport' of bull and bear baiting was abolished, supporters of the blood sport (or 'Hunkers', as professional bull baiters were called) turned to dog, or 'pit' fighting. As the interest in dog fighting surged, it became apparently necessary to develop a dog that was stronger, more agile and carried a longer and more punishing head than that of the old English Bulldog. It is believed that today's Staffordshire Bull Terrier was derived from the crossing of the fighting Bulldog of the 17th Century and the smaller native Terriers of the time, and became known as 'Bull and Terrier' or 'Pit Dogs'. Renowned for their courage and tenacity, the Pit Dog's were also excellent companions, and despite their ferocity when in the pit, were exceptionally good with children - it was not uncommon for a dog injured in a fight to be transported home in a pram with a baby!

Although dog fighting and many other blood sports were patronised by the aristocracy - Lord Camelford was said to have owned a famous pit dog called Belcher - fighting dogs were also owned by the poorest of families. The pit dog was the favourite breed of miners and steelworkers, and was prevalent amongst the chain makers of the Black Country where the dogs were not only fought for grim entertainment, but also provided the working men with another valuable income when worked against badgers or as ratting dogs.

With the introduction of the 'Humane Act' in 1835, many blood and baiting sports, including dog fighting, became unlawful. A group of people in the Staffordshire area endeavoured to preserve their breed by introducing them to the show world. After much discussion the Breed Standard was written describing the dog's physical attributes, and the breed was officially named the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, in order to differentiate it from the English Bull Terrier.

Officially registered as a true breed by the English Kennel Club in 1935, the first club show for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier took place in August 1935 at Cradley Heath in the West Midlands where over 60 dogs and bitches were entered . The founder club was named The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club and is affectionately known as 'The Parent Club'. There are now more than 20 independent clubs throughout the UK, ranging from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the North of Scotland and the West of England. The breed received championship status in 1938 when CC's were awarded for the first time at the Birmingham National, and the first Staffie's to achieve this acclaim were Ch. Gentleman Jim and Ch. Lady Eve. The popularity of the breed has now spread abroad with well established clubs in many countries including Australia, Eire, France, Germany, Holland, Spain and the USA to name but a few. However, in many locations, due to the 'Dangerous Dog Act' the breed is either banned, or owners must abide by strict rules if they wish to own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or any other breed classed as a fighting dog.

Breed Standards of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier:

The information detailed below is taken in one part from the official Kennel Club (UK, Australia and South Africa) Breed Standard rulings for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and also in part from John F. Gordon's book, 'The Staffordshire Bull Terrier'.

General Appearance:
Smooth coated, well balanced, of great strength for his size. Muscular, active and agile.

Traditionally of indomitable courage and tenacity. Highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.

Bold, fearless and totally reliable, but should always be supervised around other dogs.

Head & Skull:
Short, deep through with broad skull. Very pronounced cheek muscles, distinct stop, short foreface, the nose should be black.

Dark preferred but may bear some relation to coat colour. Round of medium size and set to look straight ahead. Eye rims dark.

Rose or half pricked, not large or heavy. Full, drop or pricked ears highly undesirable.

Lips tight and clean. Jaws strong, teeth large, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

Muscular, rather short, clean in outline gradually widening towards shoulders.

Legs straight and well boned, set rather wide apart, showing no weakness at the pasterns, from which point feet turn out a little. Shoulders well laid back with no looseness at elbow.

Close coupled, with level top line, wide front, deep brisket, well sprung ribs; muscular and well defined.

Well muscled, hocks well let down with stifles well bent. Legs parallel when viewed from behind.

Well padded, strong and of medium size. Nails black in solid coloured and true brindle or black-brindle dogs.

Medium length, low set, tapering to a point and carried rather low. Should not curl much and may be likened to an old-fashioned pump handle.

Gait & Movement:
Free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. Legs moving parallel when viewed from front or rear. Discernible drive from hind legs.

Smooth, short and close.

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. Black-and-Tan or liver colours are highly undesirable.

Weight - Dogs 28 lbs to 38 lbs. Bitches 24 lbs to 34 lbs. Desirable height (at withers) 14 to 16 inches, these heights being related to the weights.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

To summarise....

Staffie's are intelligent, affectionate, fearless, reliable and very much people orientated animals, who are far happier living in a domestic home environment rather than an outdoor kennel. They are great with children and are often referred to as the 'Nanny Dog', BUT - as with any breed of dog - should not be left unsupervised with children or other animals. As a breed, they are always eager to please their master and are relatively easy to train.

Maintenance of the breed is also easy, as Staffie's have a very short coat and only require a brush or bath every now and then. Plenty of regular exercise will keep a Staffie fit and happy, but they do not demand a vigorous exercise routine - if you want to stay snug and warm in front of the fire on a cold winter's day, a Stafford will be more than happy to curl up next to you! With regards to the overall health of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a good diet is very important. Because of the breed's 'laid back attitude' to exercise, they can tend to become obese quite easily! As a breed, Staffie's can suffer from respiratory problems and can become quite overheated in very hot weather. The average lifespan of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is 10 - 14 yrs.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier by Dr. Fleig Dieter
Staffordshire Bull Terrier by Mike Homan
The Complete Staffordshire Bull Terrier by Danny Gilmour

I would like to make clear that in no way do I approve of any form of dog fighting or animal baiting. I do however love Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers - I have them as pets, I have bred them in the past, I've shown them and won silverware and rosettes, but most importantly - I lived with them. I do not 'pit' them; I do not think it makes me look 'tough' when I exercise them. I just appreciate the breed for the characters that they are. I hope others will too...