Staffordshire Bull Terrier

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: July 7, 2009

The "Staffie" is sometimes mistaken for its cousin, the Pit Bull, and is very popular in the U.K., where ownership of the latter breed is controlled. It is a phenomenally strong, powerful dog for its size, seemingly comprised entirely of muscle. It is, however, considered a loving breed.

Physical Characteristics

The gait of the Stafford is agile and powerful and its coat is short, close, and smooth. Its body is long in proportion to its height, and wide enough to lend it a firm stance and low center of gravity. The dog’s small size and heavy musculature offers it great power and strength. Its head, meanwhile, is distinctly wide.

Personality and Temperament

The Stafford is referred to as the "nanny dog" in the U.K. because of its ability to function as an able nursemaid for children. The fun-loving Staffordshire Bull Terrier also loves to play with friends and family. Although most are gentle and well-behaved with children, some may become boisterous.

In addition, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a docile, friendly, and playful companion that responds to its master's every command. It craves human companionship and is amicable with strangers. Brave, tenacious, and strong-willed, it does not usually seek a quarrel. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, however, does not like to be challenged by household or strange dogs.


In mild weather, the Stafford can live outdoors, but the cold can affect it. Moreover, as it craves human contact and company, it does better as an indoor pet. Minimal coat care is required to keep this breed prim and proper.

As it is an athletic breed, it requires a nice on-leash walk daily. It is fond of a run in a secure area or a good outdoor game. Be aware that most Staffords are not good swimmers.


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, is susceptible to major health issues like canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and occasionally cataract. However, CHD rarely causes other symptoms or problems. To identify these issues, a veterinarian may recommend regularly hip and eye exams for the dog.

History and Background

The working classes of the early 19th century were fond of the popular sport of rat-killing. In cities, bull baiting (an ancient sport) was not so popular, and those who loved rat-killing started moving their attention to dog fighting. These fanciers of the sport crossed the Black and Tan Terrier with the Bulldog to create a quick, strong, and fearless competitor for the dog pit.

Due to selective breeding, a small and nimble dog with very powerful jaws was produced. Another result was that the dog was not aggressive towards people, allowing it to remain manageable even when it got excited in the pit.

Even after dog fighting was forbidden in England, such dogs continued to receive the love and attention of their fanciers. There were some fans who arranged secret gatherings for dogfights, but the true fanciers wanted to conduct competition legally and thus turned to the show ring. Eventually, efforts were made to create a breed that was not only suitable for the ring, but attractive as a pet.

In 1935, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was recognized by the English Kennel Club, and later in 1974, by the American Kennel Club. Today the breed is more popular for its loving nature than for its fighting spirit.

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