Although there has been some discussion through the years about the origin of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, authorities generally agree that the breed can be traced back to the Mastiff-like dogs through the old Bulldog which, when crossed with British terriers, produced the first “Bull and Terriers.” Books published in the early 1800s which refer to “Bull and Terriers,” “Pit Dogs”, and “Fighting Dogs” confirm that the cross existed at that time.
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 incorporate the greater agility of the terrier.
Terriers thought to have been used in the cross are the Manchester Terrier and the now-extinct English White Terrier. In addition, crosses with various of the old working terriers were made.
Because of the attentions of different groups of English fanciers, two distinct types of Bull and Terrier arose and, by 1900, they were easily distinguished. James Hinks’s elegant white dogs, produced by crossing the predecessor of the modern Bulldog with the English White Terrier (and some say Pointer and Dalmatian) were recognized by the Kennel Club (UK) and the American Kennel Club at the turn of the century. This “White Cavalier” is known today as the Bull Terrier.
The other Bull and Terrier — the Stafford, which was owned by the common man — was not as easily “legitimized.” Fanciers of the “working class dog” met in England in 1935 to form a club for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier fanciers and draw up a Breed Standard.
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 brought to the United States lived their lives out simply as companions; it was not until 1975 that The American Kennel Club recognized the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a registerable breed that could be shown outside of the Miscellaneous Classes. The first Stafford to be registered in the American Kennel Club Stud Book was the English import, Ch. Tinkinswood Imperial. The first U.S. champion was a bitch, the Australian import, Northwark Becky Sharpe.
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. In the U.S., it is often mistaken for its cousin, the American Pit Bull Terrier,which has established a greater foothold there.