- In ancient times, Romans developed several breeds for the purpose of gladiator sports. Later, a descendent of these dogs, the bullenbeisser, was valued by butchers for its ability to control unruly cattle by catching and gripping bulls on their way to market. Butchers began to hold contests to see who had the best bull dogs, and the contests evolved into cruel bull baiting events that often lasted for hours.
- The practice of bull baiting and other blood sports was outlawed in England around 1835. Owners of dogs instead staged clandestine events inside, where they couldn't be caught, and pitted one dog against another. Dog fighting favored a smaller, more agile dog, and the bull dogs were crossed with terriers to create the bull and terrier for that purpose.
- The dogs gradually became to be known as pit bulldogs, then pit bulls.
- Pit bulls came to America by the mid-1800s, where they were used for fighting as well as all-purpose farm dogs.
- AKC would not register pit bulls because they felt to do so would be to endorse dog fighting.
- The United Kennel Club was formed in 1898 to register pit bulls, which it continues to register now as American pit bull terriers. The UKC now registers many breeds.
- The American Dog Breeder's Association was formed in 1909 to register only pit bulls.
- In 1936, the AKC accepted pit bulls under the name Staffordshire terrier (changed to American Staffordshire terrier in 1972).
- In the early 1900s, pit bulls became a symbol of American spirit. A pit bull named Stubby was a national war hero, and Petey of Our Gang was very popular.
- In the 1980s pit bulls became popular as tough dogs, with people encouraging crosses to more aggressive breeds to create pit bull mixes for guarding and fighting. Pit bulls were associated with many dog attacks, some fatal, and have since then been the target of breed specific legislation.
- Most pit bulls continue to live as peaceful family members. They are the most popular breed registered by the UKC, and overall, one of the most popular breeds in America.
American Staffordshire Terrier Behavior Concerns
- Makes a loyal and fun-loving companion.
- Playful and generally good with children, but may be overly protective of them. As with any large dog, they should be supervised when around children.
- Fairly friendly toward strangers. Early socialization is essential.
- Not friendly towards strange dogs, and may not be good with small pets.
- The pit bull learns quickly, but can be stubborn. It tends to rebel against forceful methods.
- Does best with a firm owner who can combine reward-based training with good control and leadership.
- Training is essential to combat the negative image the public tends to have of the breed.
American Staffordshire Terrier Suggested Exercises
- Makes a calm and alert housedog as long as it receives regular exercise.
- Requires daily exercise in the form of a long walk, short jog, or energetic games.
- It is not a good candidate for dog parks because if it does become involved in a fight---which can break out at any gathering of dogs---it tends not to lose.
- The pit bull enjoys cold weather outings but its short coat is not suited to living outside.
- Obedience training is essential not only for control, but for the mental exercise it provides.
- Weight pulling is a favorite sport.
American Staffordshire Terrier Grooming
- Coat is short, close and glossy.
- The coat needs only occasional brushing, once every week or so, to remove dead hair.
- Shedding is average.
Suggested American Staffordshire Terrier Nutritional Needs
- Pit bulls tend to stay in good weight or tend to be slightly overweight.
- Adult dogs should be fed a balanced diet, with restricted calories if the dog starts to gain too much weight.
- Puppies should be fed a large-breed growth food, which slows their growing rate but not final size. This may decrease the incidence or severity of hip dysplasia in adults.