Staffordshire Bull and American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire TerrierAmerican Staffordshire Terrier

Today the Staffordshire Bull and the American Staffordshire Terrier retain their athleticism and some Bulldog characteristics from their past. Their current popularity is testament to how breeders have ensured that both their good looks and temperament meet the social expectations of modern society.

History of the Staffordshire Bull and the American Staffordshire Terrier

Bulldogs c 1817Bulldogs c 1817

These two popular terriers originated in the Staffordshire region of the English Midlands from an old style Bulldog such as those pictured on the left. Apart from various old type Bulldogs with or without some Old English Terrier crosses, there does not seem to be any reliable documented evidence of structured development of either of these breeds before they were officially recognized. They were just popular companions of coal miners from the coal pits in the 'Black Country'. But one century after blood sports were banned, police became fastidious about applying the law. So dog shows were arranged and the first Breed Standard drawn up. This satisfied the police that Staffordshire Bull Terriers were 'show dogs', bred to compete in dog shows as an 'alternative attraction' to dog fighting[4].

Stafford 'Gentleman Jim'Stafford 'Gentleman Jim'

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

So the Staffordshire Bull Terrier we know today became known as a pure breed. But recognition by the Kennel Club UK was not until 1935. This was when a famous Stafford named 'Gentleman Jim' arguably founded the breed. His physical breed type was the basis for the first Breed Standard. But it was not only Jim's good looks that made him famous. As his name implies, he and his offspring were tractable, intelligent and easily trained. At a time when some Staffords were boisterous and rough while others were equally docile and gentle[4], the popularity of today's Stafford is testament to the founders of our modern Stafford's continuous selection of breeding dogs like 'Gentleman Jim's' with his excellent type and temperament.

The American Staffordshire Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

American Staffordshire Terrier (with cropped ears)American Staffordshire Terrier (with cropped ears)

In America, English people who emigrated during the 1800's could not bear to leave their beloved pets behind. So the forerunners of the American Staffordshire Terriers we know today arrived in America and, as many originated from the coal pits of England, they first became known as American Pit Bull Terriers. Under this name, they were first recognized by the United Kennel Club in America in 1899.

American Staffordshire Terrier 1987American Staffordshire Terrier 1987

As the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was not recognized by the Kennel Club (UK) or the American Kennel Club at that time, the Americans began developing their Staffords as a larger and more graceful breed than their English counterpart, still distinguished by their cropped ears in countries where ear cropping is allowed. In 1936 this breed was first recognized as the Staffordshire Terrier by the American Kennel Club who changed its name in 1972 to the American Staffordshire Terrier.

History of the American Staffordshire Terrier in Australia

Ka-Hanahou Lei O Makana (imp USA)Ka-Hanahou Lei O Makana (imp USA)

After almost a decade involved with Staffordshire Bull Terriers, in 1984 Bob and Ruth Murdoch decided to introduce the American Staffords into Australia. Because of quarantine complications from mainland USA at that time, the easiest route was through Hawaii. This foundation pair were a bitch Rockisland's Ho O Moa (imp USA) and a dog, Ka-Hanahou Lei O Makana (imp USA).

Ka-Hanahou's Rojo's Sam (imp USA) Ka-Hanahou's Rojo's Sam (imp USA)

From January 1st 1987 the breed was finally ANKC recognized. The dog became a Terrier Group winner, quickly putting the American Staffordshire Terrier on the map here. The Murdochs then bred Champions under the 'Amstaff' prefix. Later they imported a second dog, Ka-Hanahou's Rojo's Sam (imp USA) who unfortunately was lost to snake bite.

History of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Australia

Jim Craig with Ch Fiona BeautyJim Craig with Ch Fiona Beauty

Although there is record of a couple of imports of Staffordshire Bull Terriers being brought into Australia prior to 1950, it was not until 1951 when Bill Stevens (Westaff) arrived here with a pair of Staffords, that the breed progressed here. Some from his kennel some found their way to NSW[1]. Ted Forster brought a dog into South Australia and John Sheward brought in three bitches[3]. In 1958 in Victoria, Mr Jim Craig who later became an all-breeds judge, brought in Ch Fiona Beauty (imp UK). She had already been awarded Best of Breed at Crufts in England. Jim did much to encourage the Stafford in Victoria.

Stafford Import into NZ 1950Stafford Import into NZ 1950

As transporting dogs between Australia and our neighbour New Zealand (NZ) is relatively simple, the contribution of Marion Forester was significant in influencing the development of Staffords in this part of the world. Marion had already made a name for herself prior to emigrating from England in 1949 with her Staffords. Her Loggerheads kennel in New Zealand imported some from the famous bloodlines that founded the breed in England like the one from John Gordon pictured on the right[2]. The dogs she bred and sent to Australia were excellent for their time. These assisted the early development of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Australia. Staffords then increased in popularity and today they are among Australia's most popular Terrier breeds.

The Staffordshire Bull and American Staffordshire Terrier Today

Staffordshire Bull TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier

Originating from the same source, almost a century of development has separated these two different breeds which, at first might appear similar. But a closer examination reveals the general build of the two breeds differs. Although the Staffordshire Bull Terrier should be obviously smaller, the American Staffordshire has a far more graceful build with his longer neck and slightly sloping topline.

Oops-Undesirable Colour!Oops-Undesirable Colour!

However, the allowable colours of the two breeds have remained remarkably similar. But two colour combinations are not allowed. These are any shade of liver and black and tan. This is because those who first developed the breed believed these colours indicated cross-breeding. However, it is amazing how these colours can suddenly crop up in the best of litters as evidenced by the attached picture of quite a nicely conformed modern Staffordshire Bull Terrier with the typical black and tan marking pattern.

Comparison between the Staffordshire Bull and American Staffordshire Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier American Staffordshire Terrier
General Appearance Muscular and agile with great strength for its size Muscular and agile with great strength for its size but graceful without being long legged or racy
Size Desirable height at withers 36-41 cms (14 to 16 ins), these heights being related to the weights. Weight: dogs: 13-17 kgs (28-38 lbs); bitches 11-15.4 kgs. Bearing in mind the height and weight should be in proportion, the height for dogs is around 46 - 48 cms (18 - 19 inches) at the shoulder with bitches 43 - 46 cm (17 - 18 inches)
Colour Any of the following colours either whole or mixed with white: red, fawn, white, black or blue or of the brindle colours. Black and tan or liver highly undesirable. Any solid, patched or parti-colour is permissible. However all white or more than 80% white or black and tan or liver not to be encouraged.
Staffordshire Bull TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier Am Staffordshire TerrierAm Staffordshire Terrier
Head Short through and deep through with broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscles and distinct stop. The nose is black but the foreface should be short. Medium length and deep through with broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscles and distinct stop. The nose is black but the foreface should be of medium length and fall away under the eyes.
Eyes Dark and round, of medium size and set to look straight ahead. Dark and round, set low in skull and far apart
Ears Rose-shaped or semi-erect but not large Small, rose-shaped or semi-erect
Mouth Lips tight, perfect scissors bite Lips tight, perfect scissors bite
Neck Rather short, muscular with no dewlap Medium length, heavy and slightly arched with no dewlap
Staffordshire Bull TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier Am Staffordshire TerrierAm Staffordshire Terrier
Forequarters Forelegs straight, set wide apart with upright pasterns, but front feet may turn out a little (for balance). Forelegs straight, large with round bone, with upright pasterns. The forelegs are set wide apart (to allow chest development).
Topline Level Sloping slightly from withers to rump with a gentle short slope at rump to base of tail.
Body Balanced, well sprung ribs with chest deep and wide Fairly short, well sprung ribs with chest deep and broad
Hindquarters Well muscled with a good turn of stifle and short hocks that neither turn in nor out Well muscled  with a good turn of stifle and short hocks that neither turn in nor out
Feet Medium sized with well arched toes Medium sized, well padded feet with black nails in solid coloured dogs
Tail Medium length, set low and tapering to a point and carried low. The tail's shape and carriage may be likened to an old fashioned pump handle. Short compared with the size of the dog, set low and tapering to a point. The tail should be fairly straight and never curled or carried over the back.
Staffordshire Bull TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier American Staffordshire TerrierAmerican Staffordshire Terrier
Gait Free, with discernible power derived from its hindquarters. With economy of effort, the legs should be parallel when viewed from the front or rear. Springy without roll or pace.
Coat Smooth, short and close. Short, close and glossy feels stiff to touch.

References and Further Reading

[1] Noel Newham, "The Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Australia" in the "The British Terrier Club of NSW Diamond Jubilee Handbook 1907 - 1967" published by Hi-Line Press Page 129

[2] Marion Forester ''The Stafford in New Zealand'' in the New Zealand Kennel Gazette published by the New Zealand Kennel Club Ltd Porira NZ Vol 23 No 2 March 1983 Pages 68 - 76.

[3] Jeanette Bruce, "The Staffordshire in Australia" National Dog Newspaper Editor Frances Sefton, Windsor NSW June 1975 Pages 8 - 9.

[4] Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald, 'The Book of the Dog' Published by Nicholson & Watson, London 1948 Part 11 'Staffordshire Bull Terrier' by Phil Drabble, Page 667

See also our DVD 'Terriers Then & Now' contains more about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier


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