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...

These are the four types of Staffordshire Pit Bull ownership.

1. Dogmen. These are people who raise them to fight. They breed them to fight, use treadmills, jennies, and other equipment to insure good muscle tone, feed them special diets, and train them to fight. Their methods may be cruel, both to the dog and the “bait” animals they use as the dog’s prey, but they by and large, keep the animal under lock and key, do not keep them in domestic situations, and the best of them train their dogs to obey their owner. Besides, you don't let $35 thousand dollars worth of Grand Champion breeding stock run loose in the neighborhood.. So, despite the legal and moral problems these owners create, their dogs generally do not generate problems on their own.

Unfortunately, this is, without saying, really rough on dogs. Not only does the dog have to endure the danger of other fighting dogs, but they’re also often drugged, forced into breeding, and simply killed outright when their usefulness is over. They can’t be socialized, often see every other adult dog as potential prey, and live out short but violent lives. That said, again, #1’s methods are cruel, at least they’re fed, given such veterinary care as is available, and kept in a yard with a dog house. “Cajun rules” mean that the dog should at least be tractable enough to be washed in public, handled in the ring, and pulled apart while fighting, and it’s not to be disputed that successful dogmen get where they are by knowing at least something about dogs. Considering that being a shepherd involves blood, rape, and an 85% chance of death in your stock before old age, this is just about average.

2. “Bad-boy dog" fans

This covers everything from Aryan Pride gangsters seeking a weapon with plausible deniability to urban fashionistas who want a dog to go with their outfits to scared single mothers who figure that a dog would be “good protection”. They come in various ethnicities, but are overwhelmingly urban, very often poor, and very often lack time, resources, and knowledge as to how to deal with a dog in their lives. They want a pit because of their association with toughness and danger, and see whatever aggressive behavior the dog exhibits as being desirable territoriality. Often these people will simply chain the dog in a yard, without a dog house and/or adequate water and food, and “discipline” the dog with choke chains, yelling and even beatings when the barking gets annoying. They also tend to be vague as who they want their pet to “protect” them from: intruders, of course, but they’d also like to have friends over, that dicey woman from upstairs, but they don’t want to deal with the authorities should the dog bite, their ex-spouse, but not during visiting day with their kids. They’d like to be free from drug addicts, except they might want  to have a blunt or even a rock themselves, now and then. (Of course, you wouldn't want to do this in a house where there are children. Or at least anyone I would like to know. ) 

    The result can be easily seen on any of the “Animal Cops” shows. The dog is not only aggressive, but frightened, hurt, hungry and confused. These dogs are the most likely to end up as a newspaper story, seized by authorities, and/or "humanely euthanized". It's true that in many ways, this isn't anyone's fault, it's just that you can't be working 2 jobs, living in an apartment on food stamps, and take care of a high-maintenance pet unless you really know what you're doing.

3. Animal “fluffs”.
 Their attitude can be summed up in two words: Pity Bulls. More likely to be white, and more affluent than #2’s, but are very often just as urban.  They’re convinced that they’re ideal Pitty owners, since all their dog needs to be a perfect pet is to love him as a cute little guy in a fur suit. That, vegan dog chow and whatever alternative medicine and/or lefty politics and Green philosophy they espouse for themselves. Forget about such things as collars, leashes, and muzzles, vaccines, neutering, going walks, or teaching obedience, since those are probably modern Western speciesist attitudes (“it’s so, I dunno, like he was my slave, and I wouldn’t like to project racist ideas on him”). The dog probably knows best, anyway, and if it means you have a few problems adjusting, that’s OK. He just needs a little more love and space (“I dunno, he just looks at me like that, and I just have to give him what I’m eating.”) Older female fluffs like dressing them up with flower crowns and tutus, calling them "furbabies", and pointing out that their mouths are shaped in a permanent smile, much like a dolphin or some lizards.

    Meanwhile, the dog is a nervous wreck. He doesn’t see any reason to respect his pack buddies, and is trying hard to run the household, to no avail. Yes, you might be a pacifistic egalitarian vegan, but far from being cute and cuddly, you’ve taken in a small Stalinist  in your home, and you are his Commissar.  Without giving him strict, easily understood orders, the neighbor’s pedigreed Abyssinian or overly affectionate toddler might end up on the prey list, your dinner table might get mistaken for a feeding trough or your bed the latrine. In short, it’s not your kid, a stuffed animal, or a lovebot, you have a dog.

4. Responsible owners. 

    Yes, they do exist. While #2’s and #3’s have probably had to endure a six-session obedience course at the local pet supply store, #4’s are the ones that are probably teaching it. These people generally have large yards, are older, and generally affluent, who think nothing of spending hours every day playing and caring for their dog, feeding them with kibble from reputable manufacturers (i.e. not designed according to someone’s idea of puppy steroids or a “vision” of the Peaceful Kingdom), getting them their shots, keeping them groomed, and in general, giving them appropriate love and care. They give them proper training and discipline with humane collars, leashes, and muzzles, and always eat first. These dogs are calm, happy, and will gladly pose for the local TV station’s  “Meet my Pet” segment peacefully playing with the grandkiddies next to the prize-winning blue lace hydrangeas. Watching these animals, you could easily believe everything a Fluff might say about them: "naturally friendly", "very playful, and trusting of humans", "ideal companions of children"....though the fighting dog in the baby's pram appears to be, like the idea of them as "Nanny's dogs", an urban legend.
If you could give a pit bull the life they love, it would be out in the country, perhaps sleeping in a barn, patrolling a farm or other open area in a pack with a strong leader who would tell them where, when, how and what to hunt, fight, eat, play, sleep and mark territory, in short, how to be a dog.HIs bitch chose him, the tie was long, and satisfying, and he looks forward to guiding young pups the way he was raised. With large country estates hard to find these days, this is the closest thing. 

Of the four, #1 and #4 are likely not to have problems with the dogs, and #4 with the law. Number 3 has some chance that they’ll succeed, if only because they can afford to throw money at the problem, and #2’s are a recipe for disaster. The only problem is the comparative lack of #4’s and the number of #3’s, #2’s and even #1’s that will swear up and down that they’re doing it right. Number 2’s get conflated with #1’s (and cry “prejudice” and “animal racism” when it happens) , #3’s cry incessantly that “it’s not the dog, it’s the owner” despite the fact that basic attitudes are just as much a question of hardware as programming. Unfortunatly, #2’s and #3’s comprise the majority of Pit owners nowadays, because they’’re incredibly hot in fashion right now, whether as a sign of toughness or of compassion. Number Ones just keep on cranking out puppies, that sometimes end up in shelters and pet stores.  And #4's just confuse everything!
Such is my analysis. Take it for what it is.

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