Meet the Breed: Terms of Terrier Endearment

The energetic and athletic American Staffordshire Terrier communicates love with devotion and snuggling.

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Monica Davi raised her children with a wonderful American Pit Bull Terrier, and she wanted a dog just like that to compete in American Kennel Club obedience events. It’s no surprise, then, that she turned to the American Staffordshire Terrier, a dog that in many ways is a mirror image of the APBT. (The APBT is not recognized by the AKC; it’s a United Kennel Club–recognized breed.)

The two breeds have an interesting relationship. In the rough-and-tumble years of the 19th and early 20th centuries, dog fighting was legal and popular. Many wealthy people and influential politicians owned what were then known as pit bulls or Yankee terriers or half-and-half dogs – a reference to their origin as a cross between Bulldogs and terriers. These dogs were also popular with farmers and families, who liked them for their people-loving personalities and versatile skills, which included killing vermin to hunting dangerous animals, such as wild pigs and bears.

“Pit bulls were probably some of the best-bred dogs in the [United States],” says Brian Frasche, a breeder who has been in the breed for more than 20 years and lives with seven American Staffordshire Terriers. “Breeders kept meticulous records, going back to the 1800s.”

Starting in the 1920s, Frasche says, some pit bull owners wanted to show their dogs in AKC conformation shows. In 1936, the AKC accepted the breed for registration, giving it the name of Staffordshire Terrier. The name was revised on Jan. 1, 1972, to the American Staffordshire Terrier, probably to avoid confusion with the soon-to-be recognized Staffordshire Bull Terrier. One of the best known of those early AKC-registered American Staffordshire Terriers was Lucenay’s Peter, also known as Pete the Pup from the Our Gang short film comedies.

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