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The Staffordshire Bull Terrier:
What's in a Name?

One of the most frequent questions we hear about about Staffordshire Bull Terriers is if they are just "a type of Pit Bull". 

The short answer is no. The longer answer is still no, and we will discuss some of this confusion below.

The following text is the sole property of Theatric Staffordshire Bull Terriers and may not be used without express permission.

At first glance, many of the breed’s uninitiated often confuse the Staffordshire Bull Terrier with other similarly named albeit completely distinct bull breeds. The vast wealth of misinformation regarding the bull breeds readily available online only adds to the public’s understandable confusion.


To be clear, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (often referred to as the abbreviated Stafford, “Staffy”, or “Staffy-Bull”) is its own distinct breed with its own unique heritage, origins, and history. In fact, you will find that many Staffordshire Bull Terrier fanciers are not at all fond of the term “Staffy” when referring to our breed, as experience has shown that this term has been co-opted in such a way as to only cause further confusion. In fact, much of the well-meaning public has adopted the term “Staffy” to refer to any bull breed or mix thereof. Many rescue organizations in the United States cling to this nickname in an attempt to soften the image of Pit Bulls and bull breed mixes in their care and make them sound more adoptable to the public. 


This unfortunate practice of labeling everything in the shelter with a blocky head as a “Staffy” has contributed greatly to the misinformation surrounding the real Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The breed remains relatively uncommon in the United States, although the adventures in the borrowing of nicknames has led many to believe that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier can be found in great numbers in shelters across the country, or worse yet that the official name of the breed is simply a nickname itself for any apparent bull breed. Both of these however are quite untrue. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is very rarely found in United States shelter systems, despite how many dogs currently in the shelter system are clearly mislabeled as “Staffordshire Bull Terriers”.


Part of being a steward of a breed is pushing for correct information to be shared with the public. Though the confusion in names may seem unimportant to the public, it is gravely significant when considering the preservation of the true, purebred Staffordshire Bull Terrier for the future. Part of the draw of purebred dogs is the predictability of both type and temperament. 


When people meet my dogs in public, they are often struck by how uniquely wonderful they are. In turn, they may go to a shelter in the hopes of finding a Staffordshire Bull Terrier because of the positive experience they had with mine. And when that shelter has incorrectly labeled a dog of another breed or mix of other breeds as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, that same person may bring it home expecting it to act like the dogs of mine they met before - and they’ll likely be disappointed when it doesn’t. 


On the flip side, when somebody has an unfortunate experience with a dog of another breed that has been incorrectly labeled as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, our dogs are then blamed for the actions of another breed or mix of breeds entirely. And then, it’s the dogs and the breed as a whole that suffer.

Contrary to much of the oft-disseminated misinformation, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not a variation of a Pit Bull (American Pit Bull Terrier). The Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed can be considered a bull breed or a bull-and-terrier-breed along with others (such as the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier), but this grouping does not make the Stafford any less of its own completely separate entity. 


One way to understand this separation is to draw an analogy from other breeds. For example, the Golden Retriever and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever are both retrievers with reddish coats. However one is not a variation of the other, and the two boast distinct beginnings, heritages, appearances, and traits. Such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not a “type” of Pit Bull, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is not a “type” of Golden Retriever.


Much of this confusion stems from the American public’s familiarity with the similarly-named American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff). Contrary to what the name may suggest, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are two separate and distinct breeds, with the former (AmStaff) being formed in the United States and the latter (Stafford) in England. 


To understand this a bit more, we should take a closer look at the American Staffordshire Terrier. According to the United States parent club for the American Staffordshire Terrier (the Staffordshire Terrier Club of America): 


“In 1936, they were accepted for registration in the AKC Stud Book as Staffordshire Terriers. The name of the breed was revised effective January 1, 1972 to American Staffordshire Terrier. Breeders in this country had developed a type which is heavier in weight than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England and the name change was to distinguish them as separate breeds.”


In fact the name American Staffordshire Terrier largely came about upon seeking breed recognition for the American Pit Bull Terrier via the American Kennel Club (AKC). The term “pit” was seen as too unsavory for AKC recognition, and so the term “Staffordshire” was borrowed from its established cousin breed the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England as a means to separate the breed from its more unsavory dog fighting origins in an effort to gain legitimacy and respectability in the United States. 


The current modern day separation between the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier can be awfully muddy and up to frequent debate amongst enthusiasts, so we won’t focus on that here. The important takeaway is that when it comes to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the individuality of the breed compared to the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier is quite clear.


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s name, on the other hand, comes from the region of its own inception - the Staffordshire region of England. The breed’s name was born from the early days in which a split was seen differentiating the Bull Terrier from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, both of which share similar English origins but split sharply around 1900. You can read a more in-depth discussion of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s history on our website here.


While the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier share some similarities, there are also many important distinctions between the two. Namely, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the smaller of the two breeds, and the two have very different outlines and proportions. We can see some of these fundamental differences highlighted upon comparison of the current AKC breed standards, which serve as the modern blueprints for these breeds:

While we completely understand the basis of confusion between these individual breeds, we are also deeply passionate about continuing to help dispel this confusion for the sake of our breeds’ preservation, heritage, and public perception.

The above text is the sole property of Theatric Staffordshire Bull Terriers and may not be used without express permission.

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