The Breed History
Ancient lineage of all fighting dogs traces back to Roman war dogs, from which the Mastiff lines arose. The early Staffordshire arose from Bulldog and Mastiff crosses, and were used for bull and bear baiting. These were called Old Pit Bulls, or Pit Dogs. Manchester terrier and English White terrier (now extinct) crosses were done to make the dog smaller and quicker when dog fighting replaced baiting. These terrier crosses were termed Bull and Terrier, and eventually became known as Staffordshire Bull Terriers. The first dogs to reach North America arrived in the 1880s. It was from these American imports that the American Staffordshire Terriers originated, which are taller and heavier in stature than the Staffordshire bull. First AKC registry for Staffordshire Bull Terriers occurred in 1974.
Breeding for Function
Originally bred for bull and bear baiting, they were later bred for dog fighting. They were also highly prized as ratters. Staffordshire Bull Terriers were sometimes called Nanny Dogs in Britain because of their role as guardians of the home and family.
Height at Withers: 14-16" (35.5-40.5 cm)
Weight: females 24-34 lb (11-15.5 kg), males 28-38 lb (12.5-17 kg).
Coat: The short, smooth glossy coat lies flat and colors accepted include brindle, brindle and white, black, red, white, fawn or blue. Liver or Black and Tan are disqualifying colors.
Longevity: 11-12 years
Points of Conformation: The breed is characterized by a compact, muscular square conformation. They possess a broad skull with prominent masseter muscles, a black nose, and short blocky muzzle. The stop is distinct. The eyes are front facing and moderate in size, round and variable in color. Ears are small to medium in size, half pricked or rose. They have a short well-muscled neck, level topline, and are broad through the chest. The thorax is barrel shaped and the abdomen mildly tucked up. The low set tapering tail is carried low. Limbs are straight-boned, the feet are compact and medium in size. Dewclaws may be removed. The hindquarters are well muscled. The gait is strong, quick, moderate in stride length, and agility is evident.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed attributes include: Good with family, gentle, loyal, playful, intelligent, low shedding and grooming needs, good for city or country, and have moderate exercise needs.
They may see small pets or children as prey, may fight with other dogs, will not back down in a fight and have a tenacious crushing bite. They should be on leash unless in a fenced enclosure. Electric fencing will not deter them. They are good diggers. They need human companionship, and do not do well if left alone or kenneled. They do not tolerate temperature extremes well. At least a basic level obedience training course is strongly advised. Early socialization to children and other pets should be done. They are generally tolerant, but should be supervised. They will guard family, but not the home. They may snore.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 17.4% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 16.4% affected.
Juvenile Cataracts (Hereditary Cataracts, HC): Autosomal recessive disorder causing bilateral nuclear and cortical cataracts with an onset around 3 months of age. Identified in 2.05% of Staffordshire Bull Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. A genetic test is available. CERF does not recommend breeding any Staffordshire Bull Terrier with a cataract.
L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria (L2-HGA): Autosomal recessive disorder. Affected Staffordshire Bull Terriers present with seizures, ataxia, dementia, and tremors. Levels of L-2-hydroxyglutaric acid are elevated in all body fluids evaluated (urine, plasma, and CSF). A genetic test is available.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Staffordshire Bull Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 10.25% of Staffordshire Bull Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Brachycephalic Complex: Includes Elongated Soft Palate, Stenotic Nares, Hypoplastic Trachea, and Everted Laryngeal Saccules. Causes dyspnea, and can cause collapse and death with extreme stress. Identified in 5.5% of Staffordshire Bull Terriers in an Australian study. Surgery is indicated in severe cases.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Too few Staffordshire Bull Terriers have been tested for thyroid autoantibodies at Michigan State University to determine an accurate frequency. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Tibial Tuberosity Avulsion Fracture: Traumatic avulsion seen in immature dogs, usually between 4-6 months of age. Requires surgical repair. Occurs in 3.3% of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, who account for 85% of all cases seen.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.23% of Staffordshire Bull Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Demodicosis, Juvenile Generalized: Overgrowth of demodex mites in hair follicles due to an underlying immunodeficiency. Causes hair loss and inflammation. Reported 17.1 odds ratio versus other breeds.
Gastric Carcinoma: A breed predisposition is identified for this stomach cancer. The most frequent clinical features are vomiting, polydipsia and weight loss, with endoscopic findings of a large deep ulcer with thickened, irregular rims and walls.
Mast Cell Tumor: Subcutaneous skin tumors that produce histamine and cause inflammation and ulceration. An increased incidence of mast cell tumors is identified in Staffordshire Bull Terriers versus other breeds.
Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV): Congenital ocular disorder affecting the development and regression of the hyaloid artery (the primary vitreous). It can progress to secondary cataracts or intra-lenticular hemorrhage. Unknown mode of inheritance. CERF does not recommend breeding any Staffordshire Bull Terrier with PHPV.
Cystinuria/Cystine bladder stones: A study in the UK showed that 21.6% of cases of cystine bladder stone cases were Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Caused by an error in cystine metabolism. Treat with surgical removal and life-long medical therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance in this breed.
Inverted Canines: In affected Staffordshire Bull Terriers, the mandibular canine teeth are tipped (curved) caudally and impact at the mesio-palatal gingival margin of the maxillary canine teeth.
Chronic Pulmonary Fibrosis: Causes progressive chronic cough, dyspnea, and tachypnea over months to years. Response to prednisolone, with or without bronchodilators, is variable. Reported at an increased frequency in young to middle aged Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Congenital Laryngeal Paralysis: Reported at an increased frequency in the breed in the UK, with an average age of onset of 4 to 6 months. Causes voice change or hoarse bark, exercise intolerance, gagging, coughing, stridor, dyspnea, cyanosis, collapse, and vomiting. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Compulsive Tail Chasing, Epilepsy, Osteochondritis Dessicans- Stifle, and Prognathism are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Ciliary Dyskinesia: Primary ciliary dyskinesia was diagnosed in a 14-week old Staffordshire bull terrier that had a history of respiratory disease from 7 weeks of age. Pneumonia was diagnosed based on thoracic radiographs and trans-tracheal aspirate. Transmission electron microscopy of the bronchi and trachea indicated the presence of both primary and secondary ciliary dyskinesia.
Ocular Mixed Germ Cell Tumor: A 3-year-old female neutered Staffordshire Bull Terrier presented with a mixed germ cell tumor involving the base of the iris and the ciliary body of the right eye.
Rhabdomyoma/Myxosarcoma: Separate case reports of; a six-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier with right atrial rhabdomyoma, a six-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier with a lingual rhabdomyosarcoma, and a case of right atrial myxosarcoma in a Staffordshire bull terrier.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for L2-HGA is available from the Animal Health Trust.
Direct test for HC is available from the Animal Health Trust.
Direct test for black color, tan points and mask is available from Health Gene.
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend patella evaluation, hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies.
- Breed name synonyms: Stafford
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 78 (958 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America: sbtca.com
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Canada: staffordcanada.com
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club (UK): thesbtc.com
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