Also known as the Am Staff, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a dog breed of the Terrier group, and Mastiff (Bull) family which has its origins in Staffordshire, England. Until the early 19th century, the Bulldog used for bull baiting or dog fighting in England had longer legs and was more active than the breed we know today. Later, crossing among the Bulldog and a variety of terriers – probably the English Sooth Terrier and Fox Terrier – helped develop the active, combative and muscular breed known in England as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier – originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half or Pit Dog. This breed emerged as part of the breeders’ attempt to create a dog that combined the brawn of a bulldog with the courage of a terrier. When this breed was brought to the United States, it was bred to be stronger and larger. Once in the America, it became a preference for American breeders who gave it a more powerful head and increased its weight.
This dog became famous amongst lovers of dog fighting, a popular yet illegal sport at the time; their fighting ability helped them gain entry and dominate the fighting pits. When dog fighting was legal and popular, wealthy people and prominent politicians would visit dog fights and bet on their dogs. Following the ban on dog fighting in 1900, this dog breed was developed in two strains: a show strain and a fighting dog strain. The show strain was called the American Staffordshire, and the fighting dog strain was called the American Pit Bull Terrier (also the American Bull Terrier or the Yankee Terrier), with the two being recognized as separate breeds. This emergence was promoted also by the fact that Americans preferred a slightly bigger dog than the English. The American Pit Bull terrier is today undergoing breeding with the same gentle qualities that the American Staffordshire Terrier possesses. The American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier are the two main breeds that are regarded as “pit bulls”. With the right type of owner, both these strains make amazing pets.
Other names for the American Staffordshire Terrier include Staffie, Stafford, Staff, Staffy and Amstaff. This breed was accepted for registration in 1936 by the American Kennel Club (AKC) under a different name, Staffordshire Terrier, which was designed to reflect the heavier American type in comparison to its British cousin, as well as distinguish the two as separate breeds. In 1972, the name was changed to American Staffordshire Terrier.
Sadly, this dog has too often attracted individuals in search of its fighting abilities rather than its ability to love. Since the 1980s, the dog has found itself in the midst of controversy and the target of breed-specific laws designed to ban or control specific types of dogs. In the right home, these dogs make for wonderful companions, although they come with societal baggage. It may be difficult for this dog to be accepted in public generally because it is one of the breeds that is regarded as a “pit bull”. Nevertheless, the American Staffordshire Terrier is today enjoying one of its more popular phases with individuals who want a dog that loves fun and people.
It is important to note that there is no breed named “Pit Bull”. Whenever this term is used, it is generally in reference to either the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and sometimes the British breed – the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This label may also be used for any dog that resembles these breeds, whether or not that dog is a Lab mix or has little or no “pit bull” in his background.