To correctly give the origin and history of the American Staffordshire Terrier, it is necessary to comment briefly on two other dogs, namely the Bulldog and the Terrier.
Until the early part of the 19th century; the Bulldog was bred with great care in England for the purpose of baiting bulls. The Bulldog of that day was vastly different from our present-day British Bulldog. Pictures from as late as 1870 represent the Bulldog as agile and as standing straight on his legs-his front legs in particular. In some cases he was even possessed of a muzzle, and long rat tails were not uncommon. The Bulldog of that day, with the exception of the head, looked more like the present-day American Staffordshire Terrier than like the present-day British Bulldog.
Some writers contend it was the white English Terrier, or the Black-and-Tan Terrier, that was used as a cross with the Bulldog to perfect the Staffordshire Terrier. It seems easier to believe that any game terrier, such as the Fox Terrier of the early 1800s, was used in this cross, since some of the foremost authorities on dogs of that time state that the Black-and-Tan and the white English Terrier were none too game, but these same authorities go on to stress the gameness of the Fox Terrier. It is reasonable to believe that breeders who were attempting to perfect a dog that would combine the spirit and agility of the terrier with the courage and tenacity of the Bulldog, would not use a terrier that was not game. In analyzing the three above-mentioned terriers at that time, we find that there was not a great deal of difference in body conformation, the greatest differences being in color, aggressiveness, and spirit.
Early in the mid-1800s the "Bull and Terrier" breeds were developed to satisfy the needs for vermin control and animal-based blood sports. The "Bull and Terriers" were based on the Old English Bulldog (now extinct) and one or more of Old English Terrier and "Black and Tan Terrier", now known as Manchester Terrier. This new breed combined the speed and dexterity of lightly built terriers with the dour tenacity of the Bulldog, which was a poor performer in most combat situations, having been bred almost exclusively for killing bulls and bears tied to a post. Due to the lack of breed standards - breeding was for performance, not appearance - the "Bull and Terrier" eventually divided into the ancestors of "Bull Terriers" and "Staffordshire Bull Terriers", both smaller and easier to handle than the progenitor.
In the 1860s, James Hinks of Birmingham started breeding "Bull and Terriers" with "English White Terriers" (now extinct), looking for a cleaner appearance with better legs and nicer head. In 1862, Hinks entered a bitch called "Puss" sired by his white Bulldog called "Madman" into the Bull Terrier Class at the dog show held at the Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. Originally known as the "Hinks Breed" and "The White Cavalier", these dogs did not yet have the now-familiar "egg face", but kept the stop in the skull profile.
Bull Terrier circa 1915
In any event, it was the cross between the Bulldog and the Terrier that resulted in the Staffordshire Terrier, which was originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half, and at times Pit Dog or Pit Builterrier. Later, it assumed the name in England as Staffordshire Bull Terrier.These dogs began to find their way into America as early as 1870, where they became known as Pit Dog, Pit Bull Terrier, later American Bull Terrier, and still later as Yankee Terrier. All American Staffordshire Terrierís can trace their pedigrees back to English and Irish imports, especially those imported by John P. Colby.
In 1898 the United Kennel Club (UKC) was formed with the express intent of providing registration and fighting guidelines for the now officially-named American Pit Bull Terrier. One of the founders, C. Z. Bennett assigned the UKC registration number 1 to his own APBT, Bennett's Ring in 1898. From that moment on, cross breeding was no longer accepted. Later, those who wished to distance themselves from the fighting aspect of the breed petitioned the American Kennel Club (AKC) for recognition of the American Pit Bull Terrier so that it would be eligible for dog shows and other performance events. The AKC conceded on the 10th of June, 1936, but only under the stipulation that the dogs registered with them be called "Staffordshire Terriers", the name of the province in England in which the breed supposedly originated.
Upon acceptance of the breed, many people dual-registered their dogs with both the AKC and the UKC. PR Lucenay's Peter the dog that starred in the Our Gang series was the first dual-registered American Pit Bull Terrier/Staffordshire Terrier. With this purportedly newly created breed, the AKC required a breed standard. After visiting a few kennels, a committee headed by Wilfred T. Brandon chose Colby's Primo as a standard for the "Staffordshire Terrier". Colby's Primo was whelped on May the 29th, 1935. His sire was: Colby's Brandy and his dam: Colby's Mable. Primo was registered with the AKC 641-443, the UKC 233-460 and the ADBA 500-01.
The UKC evolved, eventually beginning to register other working-type breeds, and later holding shows similar to those of the AKC. Currently, the UKC is the second largest purebred dog registry in the united states of America, complete with strict bylaws that ban anyone who is convicted of dog fighting.
The American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) was formed in 1909 because of certain fanciers' opinions that the UKC was not doing its job protecting and preserving the American Pit Bull Terrier breed as they felt it should be preserved. The ADBA's goal is the same now is at was then: to register, promote and preserve the original American Pit Bull Terrier fighting-type dog - also referred to as bulldogs and gamedogs - although like the other two registries, they officially frown upon the illegal act of dog fighting.
The American Staffordshire Terrier's standard allows a variance in weight, but it should be in proportion to size. The dog's chief requisites should be strength unusual for his size, soundness, balance, a strong powerful head, a well-muscled body, and courage that is proverbial. To clarify the confusion that may exist, even in the minds of dog fanciers, as to the difference between the American Staffordshire Terrier and the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a comment on the latter may be helpful.
The name of the "Staffordshire Terrier" was revised effective January 1, 1972 to American Staffordshire Terrier. Breeders in the united states of America had developed a type which is heavier in weight than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England and the addition of the name "America" was to distinguish them as two separate breeds.
The AKC eventually closed its studbooks to American Pit Bull Terriers. They allowed registration only to those dogs with parents registered as "Staffordshire Terriers". For a short period in the 1970's, the AKC reopened its studbooks to American Pit Bull Terriers. Today, only those dogs with American Staffordshire Terrier parents are eligible for registration. Both the UKC and the ADBA allow registration of American Staffordshire Terriers, but in these organizations the dogs carry the original name, "American Pit Bull Terrier."
Grand Champion Tudor's Black Jack (16xw) is seen as one of the foundation dogs within many American Staffordshire Terrier's pedigrees, including many AKC Champions like Ch. Tuffie of Detroit, Ch. The Ruffian, Ch. Ruffian Out Teenie, Ch. Headlight Hal, Ch. Ruffian Walkaway, Ch. Blueguard.
Other well known American Pit Bull Terrier's, that are in many American Staffordshire Terrierís pedigreeís are, Colby's Pisncher, Colby's Tige, Galvin's Pup, Jack White's Teddy, Armitage's Kager, The Gas House Dog, Clark's Jiggs, Corrington's Dixie Lil, Tudor's King and more. Champion Tudor's Black Demon a pit fighting champion, which was the great grandsire of AKC champion Ruffian Black Beauty of Harwyn.
The only other legitimate recognized history of the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, besides a Bull and Terrier cross, is that they are pure old original Bulldogs. Many paintings depict these old original Bulldogs as pure Bulldogs, with no cross-breeding between Terriers. There is a noticeable similarity to American Pit Bull Terrierís.This alternative version of history, is that they originated from Spanish Alanos dogs which were the original old time Bulldog. It is said that the English imported many of these Spanish Bulldogs from Spain, as they realized their value as a working dog.
Later when English and Irish immigrants (due to the potato famine) migrated to the united states of America, they brought their trusted Bulldogs with them. Some believe breeders kept the dogs pure and did not cross them with Terriers even though they may have originally been crossed with the English White Terrier or Black and Tan Terrier.
The Alano (or its ancestors) are said to be the ancestors of several breeds including the Ca De Bou and the Cordoba Fighting dog used as one part of the Dogo Argentino. It is possible that the English and/or Irish crossed their Spanish Bulldogs and others did not, so both might be true. The Spanish Alano and correct bred American Pit Bull Terrier resemble each other a lot.
Reference: Working Amstaffs
This article was written by the S.T.C.A breed study.
The ancient ancestors of the Am Staff are the mastiff type dogs who appear in many breed histories. Although much of this information is lost in antiquity, we know from early art of the large, heavy-headed strong dogs who were used throughout history for their strength and guarding abilities. This early group of dogs has left genetic material for all the bulldog breeds and mastiff type dogs of today.
In earlier days in England, mastiff types were bred down to smaller size and some became bulldogs (actually bulldogs were named because they were used to hold on to bulls or cattle/oxen). Originally the dogs were butchers dogs or farmers dogs who helped move the cattle around and held them still for their owners. They kept them still literally by holding on to them, usually by the nose. It became a customary entertainment in England to watch as the butcherís dog caught the bull and held in while it was killed by the butcher. For some reason the common folk began to think that meat that had been harried by the dog before dying was tastier than the meat the had died peacefully. There was for a time an English law enacted that the butcher MUST bait the bull with a dog before butchering it ! The entertainment value was so great, that the Queen reportedly even forbid other butchers from killing their stock on the same day her royal butcher did, so that the commoners would watch her dogs work.
Eventually this sport gave way to some other type of meat tenderizer and the dogs were used on other "game". One of these uses was rat killing. The English seem to have had lots of rats and folks amused themselves by watching dogs put into "pits" (arenas) with hundreds of rats. OF course betting was done on how many could be dispatched how fast. This called for a smaller, faster dog so some of the now extinct English terriers were crossed with the bulldog. These were probably Black and Tan terriers (similar to todayí Manchester) and the old White terrier. Rats were too easy, so these sporting souls were always thinking up new challenges for their dogs. These early bulldogs and now bull-and-terriers were used to fight bears, stage, badgers, and each other. Dogs were more easily come by than bears, which were probably getting kind of scarce in England, and dogs were probably easier to keep for a commoner than expensive cattle.
The bull-and-terriers evolved into three of our modern breeds: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier.
The early bull-and-terrier came to America with immigrants from England and Ireland. Here some grew bigger and taller in response to their duties in a new and wilder country. Some stayed in cites and were kept by the same type of "sporting" owner as in England and Ireland. These were fought against each other around the pubs of New York, Chicago, and Boston (and other cities of course). A product of some of these dogs is the very American breed of Boston Bulldog, or Boston terrier as it is now known. These used to be 35-40 lb dogs, and except for the shorter bulldog face and screw tail were very similar to the early Am Staff (or Pit Bull, Bulldog, American Bulldog, Bull and Terrier, Yankee Terrier, some of the names these dogs were know under then).
The Larger bull-and-terrier was still a farm dog and stockmanís dog. He followed the wagons west with the settlers and helped work stock and guarded the homestead. He was a general purpose homestead dog, much as the dog describe in the book and movie, Old Yeller. He ran with the hounds on hunting expeditions, exactly as depicted in the old movie, The Yearling, and although not as fleet or strong of nose as the hounds, he was still the "catch" dog who dispatched the animal when it turned at bay.
By the late 1800ís a fighting dog registry was started in America to keep track of the prized pedigrees and publish the rules for fighting organization in the country. The United Kennel Club registered the dogs as American Pit Bull Terriers. Sometimes this was written as American (pit) Bull, or American Bull Terrier. Mostly they were known as bulldogs, or Pit Bulls.
Although it is this dog fighting background that is mostly remembered, only a relatively small number of the dogs were fought. Most of them went on being farmerís and general purpose countrymenís dogs, and still worked stock, penning and guarding and helping, just as they had done in their earliest days.
In the early 1930ís a group of fanciers petitioned the American Kennel Club to accept their dogs into the registry. These dogs already registered with the United Kennel Club, but their owners had no interest in dog fighting. They wanted to promote their breed as family dogs and show dogs. They formed a national breed club and wrote a standard for the breed. Much agonizing was done over the proper name for the breed, and the American Kennel Club was not inclined to register them with the same name as the United Kennel Club did. Finally they were accepted with the name of Staffordshire Terrier in 1936. This was just a year after the English bull-and-terriers under the same name of the Staffordshire Bull Terriers were recognized with the Kennel Club of England. The standards of both the English and American breeds were written similarly, and even contained some identical phrases. The authors of both kept in touch with each other, working toward their common goad of acceptance by their kennel clubs. At that time , the dogs described were more similar in size and structure than the breeds appear today.
In the early 1970ís the name of the Staffordshire terrier was changed to American Staffordshire terrier with the American Kennel Club recognized the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed.
Even as the late as the 1960ís, the AKC stud books were opened to permit United Kennel Club registered American Pit Bull Terrier to compete in AKC shows as American Staffordshire Terriers. Some exceptional dogs were brought into the AKC registry at the time, some even winning the Staffordshire Terrier Club of America National Speciality and an all-breed best in Show. Their influence is still strong in some breederís lines today.
The American Staffordshire Terrier has an amazing identity problem. The same dog can still be registered the Untied Kennel Club (which is no longer a fighting dogs registry, but an all breed registry similar to the American Kennel Club), and/or with the American Dog Breederís Association, as an American Pit Bull Terrier and if its parents were registered with the AKC, it can also be registered by the AKC under the name of the American Staffordshire Terrier.
Some of the breeders of both American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers will tell you that they are not the same breed and the "the other registry group" is ruining the breed. However, the only real difference between these dogs is their name and registry, and the individual breederís selections and goals. There was no other breed of dog added to the bloodlines to create American Staffordshire Terriers.
This breed, under several of its names, along with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has been under attack by anti-dog groups and has been wrongly maligned by the media. The generic name of "pit bull" has now become a term to denote a dog used for fighting, no matter what its genetic background, much like saying "bird dog" or "guard dog". Most of the dogs now called that, we would all call mixed breeds. However, there is still a Breed of dog called American Pit Bull Terrier, and many of them trace their pedigrees back to the 1800ís. Many of them are still exactly where they have always been, working at their jobs and being faithful companions.
Reference: Cruisin Kennels