Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club

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History of this magnificent breed

compiled by Henry Strachan

History of origin

Authorities generally agree that the breed can be traced back to the Mastiff-like dogs through the old Bulldog. By selectively breeding from the Mastiff, the dog was reduced in size to around 50 lbs, and become known as the Bulldog. It still had the massive skull and short foreface - if fact, the short foreface became even shorter (to increase the power and grip needed to hang on). 

The old-fashioned Bulldog was a fierce, courageous animal used in the sports of bear- and bull-baiting as early as the mid-sixteenth century. When these sports fell from public favor and were outlawed, their supporters turned to dog fighting and sought to create a sporting dog that, while retaining the legendary courage and ferocity of the Bulldog, would also be very agile when in a fight.

From pictures available, the Bulldog was far from being the cumbersome dog which some pundits envisage. One argument is that the Bulldog was too large to handle in the pit, but this cannot be supported by evidence. According to Stud Book No. 1, 1874, there were Bulldogs weighing less than 9 kilograms while the upper region of these weights would have been 22-27 kilograms. 

It is a popular misconception that Staffords comes from the Bull Terrier (picture on the right). Early photos show far more similarity with the Bulldog. The word "terrier" was used to describe any dog which failed to qualify for any other description, such as gundog or a Bulldog. Although some crossings between Bulldogs and Terriers might have been done that eventually lead to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, it might have been any terrier. It is important to note that the working Bulldog had little in common with the modern Bulldog.  


"Man about Town and Staffordshire Bull Terrier Companion" Photo: 1904 A Serious Pair: "Mount Trooclos, Cyprus, July 25th 1897" "Staffordshire Bull Terrier and fashionable young owner. Photo: o. Jackson, Brecon, Wales, 1889


The working Bulldogs were constructed more like Staffordshire Bull Terriers, down to the "whip" tail - likened to the old-fashioned pump handle. The Bulldog Terrier was bred for the purpose of dog-fighting. The rules of dog-fighting favored the contestant who would not admit defeat - not necessarily the best fighter. This perpetuated the most cherished characteristics of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier - incomparable courage and tenacity. 


Intelligence and fighting ability of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier


The legendary Al Brown (an icon in the pit cult who had seen the inside of a pit for more than 40 years) had this to say about fighting dogs and why they fight. He said, "Well, ordinary dogs fight for food, territory, or sex while bull-and-terriers fight for the sheer pleasure of it. Once he had a taste of it, a bull-and-terrier would go at it without so much as a fare-thee-well just because he loved it." "If you’d ever seen a fight, you’d have noticed the dogs kept total silence no growling, snarling, or yelping because they were not angry or hysterical. They were enjoying themselves thoroughly. That’s the reason their handlers could handle them during the fight. The dogs were like professional human boxers, not barroom brawlers". "A dog could quit fighting any time, and once he did stop there was no way to make him continue. We stopped the match at the second either dog so much as turned his head away. Each handler would take his dog to its own corner and face it away from the other dog for 60 seconds. Then the handler would set him down facing the other dog. The handler of the dog that had turned its head released it, and if it crossed the middle scratch line and engaged the other one, the fight would go until one dog refused." 


Learning about the Stafford's fighting ability, its tenacity, courage and strong headedness, it becomes clear why some people might think we are not dealing with a very intelligent breed. He always wants to please his master and he will never shy away from a fight (if provoked) but his intelligence supercedes the biggest part of the dog world - not what some Radio DJ's might perceive... 


I have personally read the research on animal intelligence and how they did the ranking (Staffordshire Bull Terriers are ranked no. 49 on their list). What I don't understand is the fact that the author (on the very next page after he ranked the dogs) describes how a Staffordshire Bull Terrier outperformed other dogs in learning new tricks, mind you - he described how a Stafford did it twice. These were the exceptions - the author called it... These facts even made my little daughter of 8 scratch her head. 


You only need to go to the South African agility team and ask them who would most probably learn a new trick or command the quickest... The Stafford is one of the most intelligent breed of dogs around - if you don't own one, you will never know this! Spend some time with this magnificent breed - and I promise you - you will be surprisingly enlightened...

Breed recognition


The first registrations of this "new" variety appeared in the Kennel Gazette for May 1935 (UK). Buller of Torfield (picture on the right), a male dog, owned by Mrs. R. Raine Barker, and bred by Mr. Tom Walls. His sire was Buster, and his dam was Bother. He was welped on September 22nd 1934.
Crufts 1939. From left to right: Coronation Scot (Mr Roberts); Tough Guy (Henry Melling); Ch. Midnight Gift (Mr H. Beilby); Ch Lady Eve, the first bitch Champion (Joe Dunn); and Ch. Gentleman Jim, the first dog Champion (Joe Mallen). Mr H. Pegg, the judge, is pictured behind. Photo: H. Robinson.

In 1938, the first Championship points were awarded in Birmingham. The first two members of their sex to claim championships in England were the bitch, Lady Eve (far left) and the dog, Gentleman Jim (near left) in 1939.

The first Staffordshire Bull Terriers registered with the Kennel Union of Southern Africa, was a bitch called Micy's Sprog (Twiggers Fancy x Willie's Girl), imported by Mrs. C Draper from G.W. Bass during 1947. After Micy's Sprog, another 17 dogs reached us from different breeders until 1960 and in the 5 years after that another 19. By 1961 a total of 100 Staffords had been registered with KUSA. In 1984 alone, 1 778 Staffords were registered with KUSA.

The Stafford is a well-kept secret: smart, healthy, rough and tumble, comfort-loving, and a family pet and chum without equal when properly trained and socialized. One of the best known terriers in The British Isles (where at least 15 Stafford clubs exist), it is also one of the ten most popular dogs in Australia and the most popular terrier in South Africa. It has been said time and timer again: A Stafford will change your life...

Extracts from:

The American Kennel Club of America - 2005.

A complete History of Fighting Dogs by Mike Homan, 1999.

The Ultimate Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Clare Lee & Joyce Shorrock, 2003.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Jubilee Booklet, Louis Visagie,1985.

The Ring, Zelda Strauss & Griet Coetzer, 2001 - 2004.

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