American Staffordshire Terrier

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: January 20, 2009

The American Staffordshire Terrier is noted for its impressive strength, protective nature, and fearless courage. The breed is classified by the American Kennel Club. It is often confused with the "American Pit Bull Terrier," a different, distinct breed recognized by the United Kennel Club. The primary distinction is that the American Staffordshire Terrier generally has a larger bone structure, head size, and is heavier than its relative, the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Physical Characteristics

This stocky and muscular breed is large, combining great strength with agility and grace. Its springy gait and low center of gravity, meanwhile, help it remain balanced while jumping, and nimble enough to easily escape an opponent’s teeth. Speaking of teeth, the American Staffordshire Terrier's jaws are immensely powerful.

The dog’s short and shiny coat, which is pressed close against its body, make it very attractive. The American Staffordshire Terrier's coat can be solid or patched and is seen in any color; however, all white, more than 80 percent white, black and tan, and liver are discouraged by kennel clubs.

Personality and Temperament

The generally playful and docile Staff (as it's lovingly referred to at times), shows affection to strangers in the presence of its owners. This protective dog is basically good with children, but is aggressive towards strange dogs, particularly those who pose a challenge to it. The Staff is daring, tenacious and adamant, and is always craving for its owner's attention and love.


The American Staffordshire Terrier can stay outside in temperate climates, but it feels most comfortable while indoors, sharing its master’s home. This energetic breed needs daily exercise, such as a vigorous game outdoors or a long leash-led walk. Minimal coat care is required.

The breed is also often placed in group commonly referred to as "pit bulls;" therefore, be prepared to educate strangers or passerby of the breed's genteel nature when walking the Staffordshire.


This breed, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, is prone to minor health problems such as elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and heart disease, and major ailments like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), canine hip dysplasia (although seldom seen), and cerebellar ataxia. The American Staffordshire Terrier may also suffer from cruciate ligament rupture and allergies. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run hip, thyroid, cardiac, elbow, knee, and eye exams on the dog.

History and Background

A cousin to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier was originally bred by crossing certain old terriers (e.g., the English Smooth Terrier) with an old variety of Bulldog.

The American Staffordshire's excellent fighting ability made the breed an instant favorite for fanatics of dogfighting, a sport which became popular in the United States in the late 19th century. Unlike dogfighting fans in England, however, Americans preferred fighting larger "pits." In the U.S., the dogs were known by such names as Yankee Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, and American Bull Terrier.

The breed was accepted for registration in the American Kennel Club's stud book in 1936, later revising the breed's name to American Staffordshire Terrier in 1972.

Docility became nearly as important as ferociousness for fighting dogs, as handlers needed to be able to control these powerful dogs in the midst of a fight. The American Staffordshire was no different, and it soon developed into a trustworthy dog with a sweet disposition. In spite of this, many chose the breed for its ravenous fighting quality.

Breed-specific laws in the U.S. would target the American Staffordshire in the 1980s, seeking to limit the population of the breed. Be that as it may, the American Staffordshire is still loved today by fanciers who prefer this playful yet misunderstood breed.

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