Staffordshire Bull Terrier History
From being a fighter to becoming the beloved nanny dog
Before the 19th century it was very common that people no matter what group of society they belong to participate in watching bloodsports such as bull baiting, bear baiting and cock fighting. Bulls brought to market were set upon by dogs very much similar to the Stafforfshire Bull Terrier. It was done as a way of tenderizing the meat and providing entertainment for the spectators; and dog fights with bears, bulls and other animals were often organized as entertainment for both royalty and commoners.
Early Bull and Terriers were not bred for the handsome visual specimen of today, rather they were bred for the characteristic known as gameness. The pitting of dogs against bear or bull tested the gameness, strength and skill of the dog. These early “proto-staffords” provided the ancestral foundation stock for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier. This common ancestor was known as the “Bull and Terrier”.
These bloodsports were officially eliminated in 1835 as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull or bear baits, bloodsport proponents turned to pitting their dogs against each other instead. Dog fighting was used as both a bloodsport (often involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterwards, dog fighting clandestinely took place in pockets of working-class Britain and America. Dogs were released into a pit, and the last dog still fighting (or occasionally, the last dog surviving) was recognized as the winner. The quality of pluckiness or “gameness” was still highly prized, and dogs that gave up during a fight were reviled as “curs”. As an important aside, fighting dogs were often handled in the pit during fights, by both their owners and the judge, so were bred to be as trustworthy with humans as they were aggressive towards other dogs.
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