People are usually mixed up when they talk about the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. Learn about their differences.
They may be so alike that even experienced breeders get confused. "This is understandable; the American Stafforshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier are, in fact, the same dog which followed different tracks," says Rangel Beker, who breeds Stafforshires. Its ancestor, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, still bred in England, emerged through the work of Englishmen in the begginning of the last century to breed a super dog to fight bulls, a common thing at that time. It had the agility of some terriers, with the powerful body and great determination to fight of the ancient English Bull Dog.
Taken to the United States, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier went through new breedings to increase its size. Its descendants resulted in differently sized individuals. Breeders who were interested in the fighting temperament of these dogs, obtained its recognition with the name American Pit Bull Terrier, in 1898, by the UKC - United Kennel Club, and entity of local influence.
The expansion of cinology after the beginning of this century brought a new objective to the breeding: the beauty expositions. This new mentality would prepare the ground for the appearance of the American Staffordshire Terrier, the result of the work of some Pit Bull breeders interested in perfecting its physical structure and obtaining a greater control over its temperament. To achieve this, they avoided breeding the more ferocious blood lines, as well as the colors which indicated recessiveness because these caused problems such as no pigmentação, deafness and blindness. Because of that, they eliminated from breeding completely white individuals, with light color eyes, and nose any color but black, such as the reds with red nose. They also preferred the medium sized ones for breeding, because the bigger ones were similar to the inicial Pit Bulls, bred with bigger breeds, and the smaller ones resembled the ancestor Stafford Bull Terrier. In 1936, the dogs resulting from this work were recognized by the AKC with the name of Stafford Terrier (without the "bull", to diferentiate it from its English ancestor). In 1972, they were denominated American Staffordshire Terrier, and now they are also recognized by the FCI.
The official Standard of the American Staffordshire is, however, much more restrictive than the Pit Bull's, whose standard do not restrict size, and accepts any colors. While a good Pit Bull is valued because of its courage, aggressiveness, resistence, capacity of fighting and biting, good American Staffordshire dogs distinguish thempselves by their courage, trustworthy temperament and proportionate e well muscled body. "For a Pit Bull, beauty or structural perfection don't matter, as long as it wins its oponents. In the obedience aspect, the American Staffordshire must let go of prey as soon as it hears the command, an unthinkable reaction for a Pit Bull, developed to die fighting, if necessary," says Glenn Maciel, American Staffordshires and Pit Bulls' breeder. Through decades of breedings oriented differently, the temperament of the American Stafforshire became distant from the temperament of the original Pit Bull. "In the best kennels in the USA, the Pit Bull must be a great champion to breed, which means winning 5 combats with other Pit Bulls," says Narciso Alvarenga, who breeds Pit Bulls, and owns American Stafforshires. "Though against the law, these combats and their winners are registered by an illegal newspaper, the Dog Journal, and the puppies from these dogs are the most recommended for importing." Unlike dogs in general, a Pit Bull is able to fight for hours. The competitions (fights) are interrupted by owner of the dog in disadvantage, by sticking a wood rod vertically in the dogs' mouth, to stop them from biting. The female also must win at least once before mating.
Sometimes even fatality helps the genes of the best fighter to win. "By an unlucky chance, a the male Pit Bull ran away from the kennel and killed another, my reproducer at the time," comments Narciso. "The winner became the new official reprodutor." With all this history and strong genetic fighting heritage, the best Pit Bulls are hardly defeated by the best American Staffordshires. There are currently Pit Bull breeders who are selecting the breed by structure, and there are people who breed it only as a pet.
American Staffordshires and Pit Bulls are devoted to owner and their family members. As to other dogs, including the ones from same breed, there are variations, according to blood lines. "Even mother and son fight from an early age. You can't leave two Pit Bulls together, even if they're a couple," says Glenn. Renato Malta, however, has a different experience. "The mother doesn't fight with the puppies, and it is possible to have two adult Pit Bulls together, provided that they have been together since an early age, and also that they are of a different gender." As to the American Staffordwhires, it's impossible to define one behavior. "I have 4 females and 2 males, which have been together since they were puppies, and have never had a fight," says Glenn. But this is not a general rule. "My experience is that the American Staffordshires fight even if they've been together from birth, except if it is a couple," states breeder Dieter Weihermann. As guardians, both have a very determinate style of attack, and a powerful bite. Like all other terriers, they are attentive and act quickly. They attack strangers (people, dogs, and other animals) which invade their territory; not only to defend it, but due to their strong fighting instinct. But, there are sweeter individuals in both varieties, specially among the Pit Bulls, which present a greater variation in temperament. "But even those preserve the genetic inclination to attack," says Glenn. In the street, neither one attacks strangers, not even the Pit Bulls from more aggressive blood lines. "This only happens if the person starts any threatening movement towards them or the person with whom they are walking," declares Guilhermo Thompson, Pit Bull breeder. At home, both accept the presence of visitors, as long as they get used to this since they're young.
If a person has a dog registered as an American Staffordshire Terrier, he/she may also register it as an American Pit Bull Terrier (the other way around is impossible) at the entities which accept the Pit Bull, all of them North American. Besides UKC, the Pit Bull is currently recognized by ADBA (American Dog Breeders Association), and IKC (International Kennel Club), but still lacks an official international recognition
Purchase of Puppies: The American Staffordshire
and the Pit Bull must be lively, outgoing, brave, with heavy bones, wide chest,
thick tail, straight topline, short muzzle (about 1/3 of skull length). To find
out about probable temperament and size, check the parents.
Care: A high wall around the house is mandadory (about 2,5m).
Breeders in Brazil:
Reading Material: This is The American Pit Bull Terrier, by Richard F. Stratton; How to Raise and Train a Staffordshire Terrier, by Edwin E. Rosenblun: The Stafford shireTerrier, American Stafforshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, by Anna Katherine Nicholas, all published by TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ, USA.
We would like to thank the people interviewed for the
information, and for reviewing this text. We also would like to thank all
rounder judge José Pedutti Neto, for further text editing.
Research and text: Mariana Viktor. Text editor: Marcos Pennacchi
Picture: Luiz Henrique Mendes
Owner: Kennel Villalobo's