The American Staffordshire Terrier, or Am Staff, is one of several types of dogs that are described as “pit bulls.”
“Pit bull” is an umbrella term used for dogs that share select physical features of the “bully breeds” such as square heads, wide jaws, and stocky bodies. Dogs that fall under the “pit bull” label include the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
In fact, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier share a common lineage, but differ in nomenclature, as The United Kennel Club (UKC) calls the breed the American Pit Bull Terrier, while the American Kennel Club (AKC) calls it the American Staffordshire Terrier.
The Am Staff was originally bred in the county of West Midlands, England. It was not actually bred in its namesake county, Staffordshire, until later. The Am Staff’s ancestors were bulldogs bred specifically for the sport of bull baiting. Those bulldogs did not resemble today’s bulldog. Rather, they were closer in appearance to the modern-day Am Staff. Breeders of the day sought to create a dog that combined the courage and grit of the bulldog with the spunk and agility of the terrier.
While there is some disagreement as to which terrier was crossed with the bulldog to create the Am Staff, it is believed that the Fox Terrier is the most likely contributor to the modern day Am Staff’s genetics.
The Am Staff found its way to America in the 1870s, where it earned itself a number of nicknames including Pit Dog, Pit Bull Terrier, and American Bull Terrier. The Am Staff received recognition by the AKC in 1936 as the Staffordshire Terrier. American breeders changed the breed’s build into a slightly heavier version of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England, so in 1972, the AKC changed the name to the American Staffordshire Terrier in order to distinguish it as a different breed from its English relative.
The Am Staff is a courageous, loyal, and intelligent watchdog that thrives on human interaction. He loves being part of a family and having a job to do. The Am Staff has a bit of a stubborn streak and is also a clown at heart, so early and consistent obedience and socialization training with a firm, but gentle hand is key. Anecdotally, the Am staff is described as a “personality dog” around the house.
Naturally athletic, he needs plenty of regular exercise to keep his mind and body healthy. The Am Staff’s average life expectancy is around 12 years.
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The robust Am Staff is a solidly built, well-proportioned dog who looks every inch the guardian. He is stocky and athletic, and his expression is lively.
This is a deep and broad-chested dog with wide-set forelegs. The neck is heavy and of medium length. The shoulders are muscular with wide, sloping blades. The back is short and slopes slightly from shoulders to hind end. The short tail is set low, hangs straight, and tapers to a point. Males stand 18-19 inches at the shoulder and females stand 17-18 inches at the shoulder. Weight is between 40-60 pounds on average.
The skull is broad and cheeks are muscular and well-defined, as are the jaws. The muzzle is medium length and drops sharply below the eyes. Lips are close and tight.The ears can be cropped or uncropped (preferred) and are set high on the head. The dark, round eyes are widely spaced and set low in the skull.
The coat is short, stiff, and glossy. Any color that is solid, parti-colored, or patched is acceptable, although the AKC discourages coats that are black and tan, liver, all white, or more than 80% white.
The Am Staff is an intelligent, good-natured dog with a natural sense of humor and a stubborn streak. Confident and courageous, he is a watchdog in every sense of the term. Am Staff owners note that this breed is keenly aware of its surroundings at all times, in keeping with its instinctual role as guardian of the pack.
The Am Staff is generally a hardy, healthy dog. Health concerns include hip dysplasia and cardiac issues, as well some skin and coat allergies. The Am Staff is genetically prone to a neurological condition called Cerebellar ataxia, which causes a loss of muscle coordination.
Photo by dddamstaffs.com