Astounding Ways of Knowing Your Bull Terriers (Fast)
THE BREED STANDARD OF THE STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER
Kennel Club Champions of the Breed Wyrefare Prince Naseem (‘Nas’) and Bellarouge Blithe Spirit JW (‘Mildred’).
A Breed Standard is a set of guidelines outlining the idealized version of a particular dog breed, in terms of conformation, appearance and temperament. They are adopted by the Kennel Club and provide essential information on the desired features and characteristics of a particular breed for show judges, exhibitors and owners. The Breed Standard for the pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier depicts the perfect Stafford, and helps to protect the breed from changes and to avoid exaggerated features, perhaps to suit a particular line of breeding, or a desire to placate individual preferences.
All breeders should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Breed Standard and it should be their guide in aiming to produce the perfect Stafford. Sadly, the over-popularity of the breed and thoughtless breeding for profit means that there are many so-called Staffords around today that fall far short of the Breed Standard. Prospective owners should read and absorb the guidelines laid out in the Breed Standard, and go to reputable breeders to purchase their puppy. Gaining an ‘eye for the dog’ requires experience and a competent breeder will be able to help.
All Kennel Club Breed Standards for pedigree dogs require them to be ‘fit for function’. This clearly is not appropriate for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, whose original function was to fight other dogs in the pit. However, it must not be forgotten that the modern Stafford was the fighting Bull and Terrier of old, and other than minor cosmetic alterations and a change in the height clause, to be considered later, the temperament and conformation of the modern dog reflects his fighting past. Where appropriate, when describing the conformation features of the Stafford, references will be made to the ‘original function’ of the breed, but this in no way indicates any form of acceptance or approval of the so-called sport of dog fighting.
For convenience, the collective masculine terms ‘dog’ and ‘he’ will be used throughout for descriptions commonly relating to both dogs and bitches. In the Breed Standard the only specified difference between the sexes is in the weight clause, but this should not be assumed to be the only difference in conformation between the two sexes. As with the male, the female must be of great strength for her size, muscular, active and agile, but built along unmistakably feminine lines. Judges will always rate a strictly feminine bitch ahead of a masculine bitch, all other qualities being equal.
The Breed Standard makes no reference to differences in ‘type’ in Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Type is defined as ‘the sum of all those points that makes a dog look like his own breed and no other’. As in other breeds, there is a range of differing types in Staffordshire Bull Terriers, often conforming along the preferential breeding lines of their respective owners and breeders. Nevertheless, there is only one Standard for the breed and, despite any preference for a particular type, all ‘typical’ Staffordshire Bull Terriers are judged by that Standard. (It is clear to see that without the Kennel Club Breed Standards there would be little or no consistency within the dog breeds.)
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a compact and powerfully constructed dog in a small space. Of middle weight, but not of heavy weight, he should be a dog of great substance in relation to his size. Being neither too Bull nor too Terrier, he has his own unique identity in the canine world.
THE BREED STANDARD FOR THE STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER
The first Breed Standard was established in 1935, the year the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was recognized and granted pedigree status by the Kennel Club. Changes were incorporated in the revised Kennel Club Standard of 1948, which came into operation in 1949. No further changes were made until the mid-1980s, and the revised Kennel Club Breed Standard of 1987 remains in force today.
In this chapter all variations from the original Breed Standard will be commented on, when appropriate.
The introductory statement by the Kennel Club has been included in the Breed Standards of all pedigree dogs since 1 January 2012. It sets out in clear terms exactly what is essential in all breeds of dogs and cannot be disputed in terms of their health and welfare. The contents of the statement will be taken into consideration whenever applicable in the following discussion of the Standard for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
General appearance: smooth-coated, well balanced, of great strength for his size. Muscular, active and agile.
A well balanced bitch, illustrating the General Appearance clause of the Breed Standard.
The coat of a Stafford should be of medium coarse texture, short and close to the skin. In fact, it is one of the shortest coats of all dogs. The coat feels semi-harsh to the touch, and is close fitting to provide the dog with an armour-like protection in the face of adversity. The coat of a Stafford in good condition will lie flat and be gleaming. Faults include long, harsh or coarse coats, together with any sign of ruff.
A well balanced Stafford clearly demonstrates that attribute from whatever angle he is viewed, with every feature of his conformation in balance and harmony with all his other features.
Kept in fit condition, a true Stafford exemplifies the requirements for a dog ‘of great strength for his size, muscular, active and agile’. He most certainly should never be fat, and in human terms can be compared to a first-class middleweight boxer. Certainly as a fighting dog, he would not have lasted long had he not complied with these requirements. Today, these attributes are to be admired for the sheer rugged beauty and athleticism of a superb canine, who above everything else displays a confident individuality allied with a desire to please his owners. He is without doubt of great strength for his size. Any Stafford owner who has been hauled along behind their dog on a walk will know this only too well!
A Breed Standard is the guideline that describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which could be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare and soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed Watch section of the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However, if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as undesirable or highly undesirable, it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring.
General appearance: Smooth-coated, well balanced, of great strength for his size. Muscular, active and agile.
Characteristics: Traditionally of indomitable courage and tenacity. Highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.
Temperament: Bold, fearless and totally reliable.
Head and Skull: Short, deep through with broad skull. Very pronounced cheek muscles, with distinct stop, short foreface, nose black.
Eyes: Dark preferred but may bear some relation to coat colour. Round, of medium size, and set to look straight ahead. Eye rims dark.
Ears: Rose or half pricked, not large or heavy. Full drop or pricked ears highly undesirable.
Mouth: Lips tight and clean, jaws strong, teeth large, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Neck: Muscular, rather short, clean in outline gradually widening towards shoulders.
Forequarters: Legs straight and well boned, set rather wide apart, showing no weakness at the pasterns, from which point feet turn out a little. Shoulders well laid back with no looseness at the elbow.
Body: Close-coupled, with level topline, wide front, deep brisket, well sprung ribs; muscular and well defined.
Hindquarters: Well muscled, hocks well let down with stifles well bent. Legs parallel when viewed from behind.
Feet: Well padded, strong and of medium size. Nails black in solid-coloured dogs.
Tail: Medium length, low set, tapering to a point and carried rather low. Should not curl much and may be likened to an old-fashioned pump handle.
Gait/Movement: Free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. Legs moving parallel when viewed from front or rear. Discernible drive from hind legs.
Coat: Smooth, short and close.
Colour: Red, fawn, white, black or blue, or any of these colours with white. Any shade of brindle or any shade of brindle with white. Black and tan or liver colour highly undesirable.
Size: Desirable height at withers 36–41cm (14–16in), height being related to weight. Weight: dogs 13–17kg (28–38lb); bitches 11–15.4kg (24–34lb).
Faults: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree, and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
Note: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Characteristics: traditionally of indomitable courage and tenacity. Highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.
Indomitable courage and tenacity were required in abundance for successful fighting dogs, and any dogs that did not display such characteristics would have been discarded. Little has changed from those times and the Stafford of today will courageously display these qualities of his character whenever necessary.
The young Stafford is usually too busy growing up and enjoying life to display an abundance of ‘high intelligence’, but once past the puppy stage, and fully established in his family environment, he invariably displays high intelligence to whatever stimulus comes his way.
Staffords have a phenomenal affection for and trust of adults and children alike (even in cases where there is no justification for such trust), and it is pleasing that the Breed Standard specifically acknowledges these qualities.
Temperament: bold, fearless and totally reliable.
These are the prime attributes of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. To quote Joseph Dunn, one of the founder members and first Secretary of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club:
The man in the street asks only for a dog which will not disgrace him by running for a hare if another dog shows fight. But the dog he requires must have other attributes, and in addition mental characteristics which will make him in the true sense, a faithful companion. To my way of thinking, there are three such attributes which the ideal companion must possess. These are intelligence, teach-ability and a willingness to please his owner by obeying him. The ‘Stafford’ has all of these.
Head and Skull: short, deep through with broad skull. Very pronounced cheek muscles, distinct stop, short foreface, nose black.
A short, deep and broad skull.
Nothing more represents the individuality of the typical Stafford than his head, clearly depicting the unmistakable strength of the breed. The shape of the head enabled a very powerful bite, which was desirable in fighting dogs. The current Breed Standard requirements for the head and skull show no changes from the original standard of 1935.
Not of squarely built structure, the true Stafford possesses a well muscled block of a head that is broad, deep and wedge-shaped. The head tapers from back to front, and accommodates a strong and powerful muzzle and bite. The head shape is defined by the powerful development of a lateral bridge of bone forming the facial area of the skull, by the prominent muscular formation of the cheeks (‘cheek bumps’) on both sides of the head, and by the channel or cleft that runs from the stop between the eyes to the back of the head.
The head must not be too large or too small or the dog will appear unbalanced. A large head would have put the dog at a disadvantage in the fighting pit as it would have presented an easy target, whereas a small head, especially one that is long, narrow and lacking depth, would not meet the functional requirements of a Stafford as a powerful canine athlete.
The pronounced cheek muscles were of great importance in a dog developed originally for fighting, for which the jaws must be wide, strong and heavily boned in a correspondingly broad and heavily boned skull in order to exert the maximum power in the bite. The jaws of the Stafford are controlled by the muscles of the cheeks. Large and bumpy cheek muscles are very desirable features, greatly emphasizing the expression and individuality of the breed.
Well pronounced cheek muscles and distinct stop.
The stop is the deep and clearly defined break between the top of the skull and the muzzle of the dog, and the depression or indentation between and in front of the eyes. Viewed from the side, the Stafford’s face should descend almost vertically from the front of the skull to the topline of the muzzle. The stop must be of correct and sufficient depth to enhance the location, appearance and expression of the eyes. A stop that is too shallow often has a detrimental effect on the appearance of the eyes, making them appear elliptical in shape (instead of the round eyes desirable in the breed). A stop that is vertically angled is also incorrect for the breed.
It is important to understand the shape and construction of the dog’s head and the correct proportion of balance required between skull and muzzle. A short muzzle enables a very powerful bite. A muzzle that is too long or too short will not deliver sufficient power in the bite. Tapering slightly towards the nose, and starting both wide and deep, a strong broad short muzzle is essential, with the surface below the eyes well filled in. The broadness and depth of structure is necessary to accommodate the strong and powerful jaws. The sides of the muzzle should display a firm clean outline with tight lips, and no suggestion of fleshiness or an excess of dewlap.
A squarely formed muzzle gives the Stafford a ‘cloddy’ or over-heavy appearance, while a narrow muzzle gives a ‘pixie’ or ‘fox-like’ impression. A muzzle that tilts upwards gives the dog a ‘dishfaced’ appearance, while a downwards tilted (‘down-faced’) muzzle is often accompanied by a weakness in the formation of the under-jaw.
Numerous attempts have been made to establish the ideal ratio between the length of the skull and the length of the muzzle, but variations in type and in head size make this a complicated matter. However, since the early days of the breed there has been widespread acceptance that the correct proportion between the skull and the muzzle is in the ratio of 2:1, measuring from the occiput (the bone at the centre of the back of the head) to the stop, and from the stop to the tip of the nose. This ratio provides an easy to assess and substantially correct head shape for the breed.
Short foreface with a black nose.
A shiny black nose is an indicator of good health in many breeds of dogs, including the Stafford. Wide nostrils enhance the appearance of Staffordshire Bull Terriers and originally would have helped fighting dogs to breathe during bouts.
A black nose is not always evident in newly born or very young puppies. White puppies, or those with white forefaces, are often born with pink noses. In most cases, as the puppy grows, small segments of black begin to form that eventually merge together into a completely black nose as the puppy matures. In those cases where some pink segmentation remains evident, unless excessive, it will be regarded as a minor cosmetic fault.
Not all Stafford noses are black. A dilution in pigmentation infrequently occurs in Staffords that can result in pink, red or even brown noses. In blue Staffords the nose is generally a dull grey colour, with the correct black nose only occasionally evident. All these conditions, although not adversely affecting the dog’s health, do affect his appearance and are interpreted as minor faults in a breed that requires the nose to be black.
Eyes: dark preferred but may bear some relationship to coat colour. Round, of medium size, and set to look straight ahead. Eye rims dark.
Regardless of the coat colour of the Stafford, dark eyes enhance the dog’s visual appearance and expression. Indeed, the darker the eyes the better. No eyes are fully black, but dark brown eyes are desirable, especially where they are so dark as to appear black. Eye colour is permitted to bear some relationship to coat colour, which mainly applies to light-coloured Staffords whose eyes are a shade darker than their coat colour. Light-coloured eyes that could do with being a little darker but do not have an adverse effect on expression are considered a minor cosmetic fault. Extremely light or yellow eyes are serious faults.
The shape and placement of the eyes are of far more importance than their colour and any deviation from the requirements for these features is a major fault. The eye of the Stafford should appear as round, a characteristic that is influenced by the bone formation of the face and the presence of a well defined stop, and of medium size. Large or bulbous eyes producing a vacant expression are serious faults.
The setting of the eyes is also of great importance in the appearance and expression of the Stafford. Eyes that are either too close together or too far apart will be unable to look straight ahead. Such differences in setting may be minute, but the eyes are a crucial factor in creating the honest and alert expression that is typical for the breed.
The eye rims are required to be dark, which assists in the dog’s expression. However, pink eye rims in a dog with a white coat are not significantly detrimental and should be regarded accordingly.
Ears and eyes that meet the Standard well.
Ears: rose or half pricked, not large or heavy. Full drop or pricked ears highly undesirable.
The ears are most significant as they make a prominent contribution to the overall appearance and expression of the Stafford. Rose ears are most desirable – ears that in a fight could be tucked behind the back of the skull out of the way of an opponent. They should be neat and tidy, folded back to expose part of the inner burr, and depict alertness. They should also be fairly thin in texture, small to medium in size and not thickly formed. Half pricked ears are also acceptable but they must be small and neat in order not to detract from the Stafford’s expression. (Half pricked ears rise up from fairly thick cartilage at the base and then bend over towards a downwards-facing tip.)
Full drop and pricked ears are highly undesirable features in a Stafford. Large and heavy ears would have given an advantage to an opponent during a fight. Such ears are a serious fault and are considered highly undesirable in the breed.
If set too low or too close together on the skull, the ears will alter both the dog’s type and his appearance. Ears set neither too high nor too low on the skull will best enhance the alert and confident expression of the Stafford.
Mouth: lips tight and clean. Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite. i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
The lips of a Stafford should be tight and clean. Large or over-developed lips are regarded as a fault. In terms of the original function of the breed, such features would have presented easy targets for an opponent to bite and tear.
The jaws must be powerfully and strongly constructed, with twenty top and twenty-two bottom teeth. The requirement for a powerful bite is paramount, and there should be no sign of weakness in the formation of the structure of the jaws. Broadly built at the base, the jaws taper to form a broad front holding very strong front teeth. Seen from the side, the strength and depth of the under-jaw should be clearly discernible. There should be no sign of receding or shallowness of build, both of which are considered bad faults. The teeth should be large, with the front teeth (incisors) positioned upright in the jaws and with the large canines interlocked, with the bottom ones in front of the upper ones. It is not specifically mentioned in the Breed Standard, but the lower canines should be examined for any convergence directly into the line of the gums. This is a condition known as inverted canines. Small teeth, even when perfectly set, must take second place to large teeth.
Lips tight and clean.
The correct bite for the breed is the scissor bite. This is where the inside surfaces of the upper front or incisor teeth fit closely over the lower incisor teeth, to just touch the outer surfaces of the lower teeth. When the mouth is closed, the lower canines should be positioned in front of the upper ones. The scissor bite allows for a powerful bite.
The undershot bite occurs when the lower incisors protrude in front of the upper incisors, leaving a gap between the upper and lower canines. This condition can occur either through faulty positioning of the lower incisors (i.e. not upright) or when the lower jaw is set too far forward. The undershot bite is a fault, and a badly undershot bite is a serious fault.
Large white teeth.
Undesirable as the undershot bite may be, it is not as serious a fault as the overshot bite, which occurs when the lower incisors fall short of reaching the upper teeth, and the upper jaw protrudes over the lower jaw to leave a gap and incorrect positioning of the canine teeth. This condition is often seen in Staffords with a shallowly constructed under-jaw and is a serious fault.
The level or flush bite occurs when the upper and lower canines meet edge to edge. This condition produces a very weak bite, lacking in cutting edge, and must be considered a fault.
The wry jaw is a very bad fault. It occurs when there is a misalignment between the top and bottom jaws, so that the jaws do not meet in parallel alignment when the mouth is closed. The misalignment normally affects the bottom jaw but can also occur in the top one. This condition results in the upper and lower front teeth crossing obliquely, resulting in a weak bite.
The ideal Stafford should have tight and clean lips with broad and powerful jaws. Strong and large incisors should present a perfect scissor bite. The canines should clear the gums and lock closely into one another, the lower one in front of the upper. The original fighting dogs would strike downwards and sideways at their opponent, an echo of which can be seen in a Stafford at play.
A faulty mouth is not difficult to recognize, but in the show ring it must be assessed accurately in relation to the worth of the whole dog.
A correct and ‘sound’ bite.
Before moving forward from the Breed Standard requirements for the head of the Stafford, it may be worth listing the characteristics that judges look out for in particular when initially appraising the appearance of the head. These include: the length of the muzzle compared with the length of the skull; the relationship between the depth and breadth of the muzzle and the depth and breadth of the skull; the angle between the skull and the muzzle; and the shape, size and placement of both the eyes and the ears.
Neck: muscular, rather short, clean in outline gradually widening towards shoulders.
A well developed, short and muscular neck forms a crucial part of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s conformation. It should taper and widen appreciatively from the head to the shoulders. The correct neck blends and flows smoothly into the topline of the back, without any abrupt angle or unevenness at the withers. The outline of the neck must be clean and well muscled. A decidedly muscular arch from the back of the head to the entry point at the shoulders is very desirable and will be observed in a fit specimen of the breed.
In Staffords with upright shoulders the neck often lacks a defined muscular arch, resulting in a loss of flexibility. This is often accompanied by loose skin formation and an excess of dewlap. A neck that is too long will be lacking in strength compared with a correct neck. Necks that are either too short or too long give the dog an unbalanced appearance.
A neck that fits the Standard well.
There is a direct link between the neck and the shoulders of all dogs. A pleasing, well formed neck will almost invariably be accompanied by correctly placed shoulders. Conversely, good shoulders will usually lead into a well formed neck. This is an important factor in producing dogs that are well balanced, athletic and agile.
Forequarters: legs straight and well boned, set rather wide apart, showing no weakness at the pasterns, from which point feet turn out a little. Shoulders well laid back with no looseness at the elbow.
Viewed from the side or the front, the forelegs of a Stafford should be as straight as the barrel of a gun and give the impression of great strength. They should be neither too long, giving a rangy appearance, nor too short. Both of these conformations will militate against a well balanced appearance and also have an adverse effect on agility.
They should have well toned muscles and ample bone formation, reflecting the subtle differences between Bulldogs and Terriers. Heavy bone construction is an exaggeration towards the Bull, with additional and undesirable heavy weight. Light bone construction is an exaggeration towards the Terrier and will give the Stafford a frail appearance.
The forelegs should be set rather wide apart. This allows the chest to be both wide and deep, with plenty of space for a healthy heart and lungs capable of sustaining long and continual exertion. Forelegs set too wide apart will hinder correct balance and emphasize an undesirable exaggeration towards the Bull and the carrying of undesirable additional weight. Forelegs set too close together, a fault often accompanied by shallow chest formation, is an exaggeration towards the Terrier. Both are prejudicial to balance.
A bitch showing a well balanced front.
The pasterns are located on the lowest part of the forelegs, just above the feet. In order to absorb impacts they should be upright and springy and show no sign of weakness or sagging, and there must be sufficient flexibility to allow the dog to twist and turn in any direction. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of the few breeds which require the front feet to turn out a little. This requirement emphasizes the dog’s ability to quickly adjust his position and rapidly move off in any direction to help prevent him from being bowled over by an opponent in the fighting days of the Bull and Terrier.
Some judges in the show ring, especially in mixed classes with other Terriers, tend to mark this turning out of the feet as a fault but the Stafford is first and foremost a Stafford and not a Terrier! For his front feet to turn out a little is a requirement of the Breed Standard and he should be judged accordingly.
Perhaps more than any other single feature, sound and well placed shoulders lend quality to the Stafford. Without them, he faces a hard task to gain top honours. The shoulder blades are attached to the ribcage and the ribs, held in place by muscles, tendons and ligaments: there are no actual joints. The main bands of muscles involved are located on the dorsal vertebrae and the vertebrae at the base of the neck. They allow for the forelegs to move forwards and backwards, but there is little lateral movement. The triangular-shaped shoulder blades should slope to the rear, fitting closely to the ribcage, and turn inwards at the top to form the withers.
What exactly does ‘shoulders well laid back’ mean? Much depends on the length of the dorsal vertebrae to which the ribs are attached. With the point of the withers always appearing at the same location in relation to the dorsal vertebrae, then the longer the dorsal vertebrae (and therefore the ribcage), then the more the shoulders will be laid back. The shorter the ribcage, the more upright the shoulders will be. Clearly, if the shoulders are to be well laid back, then the ribcage must extend well to the rear to ensure the desired slope of the shoulders.
The relationship between the well laid back shoulders and the upper arms has a direct effect on the Stafford’s forward movement. At the lower end of the shoulder blade, a joint known as the point of the shoulder is formed with the upper end of the upper arm. In order for the Stafford to move well, and with the greatest length of stride, the shoulder blades and upper arms should meet at this joint at an angle of approximately 90 degrees. In a dog with upright shoulders, the angle is more open and thus greater than the ideal; as a result the dog’s stride will be shortened and he will lack the momentum of free-flowing economical forward movement.
A bitch with well laid back shoulders.
With the dog standing upright and foursquare, the angle can be measured by placing one hand on the withers (the highest point of the shoulder blade) and the other hand on the point of the shoulder where the upper arm meets it. By running an eye down to the elbow, the angle between shoulder blade and upper arm can thus be obtained.
The correct (laid back) placement of the shoulders not only makes a vital contribution to the dog’s movement, it also enhances his visually strong and athletic appearance. When the shoulder blades are too short, then the upper arms are likely also to be too short. In conjunction with a correspondingly shorter rib cage, the shoulder blades, instead of being well laid back, will be upright which will bring the entire shoulder girdle forward and closer to the base of the neck. This is a common conformation fault which impedes the sound gait required. The reduced reach of the forelegs produces a restricted stilted action instead of the desirable economical smoothness. Upright shoulders can also contribute considerably to unsoundness in front by bearing down heavily on the upper arms and elbows. This can result in ‘looseness in front’ by forcing the elbows outwards, with a consequential bunched up and untidy muscle formation over the shoulder area. This occurs not only on the outside of the shoulder blades, spoiling the dog’s flat, smooth, lithe and muscular appearance, but also on the inside of the shoulder blades, with highly undesirable consequences. Such excessive muscular development can lead to the shoulder blades being forced away from the ribcage, leading to a gap between the blades at the top. This produces an untidy coarseness at the withers, instead of the desired smooth and clean appearance, with the neck merging easily into the topline.
Of even greater consequence is the formation of excessive muscles underneath the shoulder blades. This can turn the points of the shoulders towards each other and force out the elbows. This leads to the dog moving with his elbows protruding, or even with his feet turning inwards towards each other.
There should be no doubt as to the contribution to the class and quality of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of well laid back shoulders and a powerful well constructed neck. These interdependent features, along with the broad chest and powerful forelegs, form the essential conformation of a well balanced Stafford and do so much to contribute to the strong and athletic qualities of the breed.
Body: close coupled, with level topline, wide front, deep brisket, well sprung ribs; muscular and well defined.
The coupling consists of the area running from the last rib to the haunches or on-set of the hindquarters. In a close-coupled dog this area is distinctly short, presenting a cobby and well balanced impression. Too short a length of coupling leads to a lack of flexibility. In a bitch with newly born puppies this can be a problem as she needs to be able to turn without restriction to attend to her litter. A coupling that is too long will be weak, lacking strength, and will fail to meet the desired appearance.
A sound, firm and level topline is required in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Any weakness in this area is most undesirable. There is no mention of shortness of back in the current Breed Standard, although the original 1935 standard specified that a short back was desirable. Nevertheless the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a short-backed breed particularly with regard to dogs. In bitches, some allowance must be made for the need to carry and whelp their puppies. In such a compact breed a long back, besides being weak, throws the conformation out of balance.
Along with the required short back, there must be the necessary long ribcage for the desired requirement of well laid back shoulders. A short, well muscled coupling is a prime factor in a well balanced dog.
All dogs have three distinctive bone (vertebrae) formations from the neck to the commencement of the tail. At the base of the neck are the rib-supporting dorsal vertebrae. These are followed by the lumbar vertebrae, which support the loins of the dog. At the end of the lumbar vertebrae is a bone called the croup, to which the bones of the tail are attached. Below the croup is the pelvis. The angle between the croup and the pelvis determines the tail carriage. In Staffords, the Breed Standard calls for a level topline. Thus, viewed from the side, the topline should be as level as possible from the base of the neck to the end of the loins. The croup should then slope downwards just enough from the horizontal to determine the correct set of the tail and achieve that ‘old-fashioned pump-handle’ appearance. Various faults can affect the topline. A sway back is caused by a ‘dip’ behind the shoulders. It can be caused by poor muscular development, especially in minor cases, but a severe dip is a sure indication of a spinal constructional fault. In a roach back the topline arches upwards, especially over the loins, and the tail is carried too low. Straight upright stifles, particularly when accompanied by hocks that are too long, can result in a ‘stern high’ topline. Another common defect is the ‘sloping croup’. This is where the topline, instead of being level, slopes downwards to the set-on of the tail.
A dog that fits the Standard well, with close coupling and level topline.
A well balanced dog with correct, powerful front and deep brisket.
The width of front required to provide for the necessary powerful chest development has been discussed above. It is a crucial factor in the overall balance of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
The brisket is the anterior part of the ribcage between the front legs. Given the chest development of the Stafford, the brisket should be both wide and deep. Narrowness and shallowness are not desirable. Viewed from the side, the front of the chest of the Stafford should be clearly discernible, with the lower line of the brisket showing level with or just below the point of the elbow. From here, it sweeps upwards and terminates at the end of the fixed ribs.
The Stafford’s ribs should extend well to the rear to allow plenty of space for the heart and lungs. It also allows for the desired slope of well laid back shoulders. The depth and width of the chest in Staffords allow for the development of a good spring of ribs from the dorsal vertebrae. The ribs should be well rounded and deep. ‘Barrel’ ribs are not desirable. Such ribs are an exaggeration towards the Bulldog and in the Stafford will result in a loss of agility and balance. Likewise, a tendency towards a flatness of ribcage (known as ‘flat- or slab-sided’) is also not acceptable. This leads to a lack of development behind the shoulders and is a weakness in the breed.
The body of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, in fit and healthy condition, should always be powerfully muscled.
Hindquarters: well muscled, hocks well let down with stifles well bent. Legs parallel when viewed from behind.
Of prime importance for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the ability to drive forward from the hindquarters with power and strength. Back in the days of dog fighting, he would have needed to push into his opponent for sustained periods with strength and flexibility. Each component part of the hindquarters has a vital part to play in ensuring that maximum power is available whenever required.
In order to move forward, all dogs bring their hind leg forward into a folded position. As the foot touches down on a firm surface, the force from this action is directed upwards from the foot, through the pastern and hock joints, then through the stifle, hip and pelvis, up to the croup and the length of the back. As the stride is completed with the leg almost in a straight line, the whole of the generated force is directed forwards, propelling the dog onwards. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a very strong and athletic dog, with a powerful forward drive, and any fault that militates against this is considered a serious disadvantage.
Powerfully muscled hindquarters are of prime importance for the Stafford, not only physically but to fulfil the Breed Standard requirement to be ‘of great strength for his size’. Viewed in profile, the muscles of the upper thighs should be broadly formed with strong pliable muscle and without any hint of weakness. Viewed from the rear, these muscles should be well padded and strong. The muscles of his second thighs (between the stifles and hocks) should also be of great strength, for they help to produce a strong and powerful driving movement.
Sound and prominent well boned hocks that are correctly angulated and well let-down will achieve the maximum forward reach and backward thrust as the Stafford moves. The hocks are the joints between the upper legs and the pasterns; references to hocks being too short or too long actually refer to the length of the rear pasterns, although the term ‘hock’ is generally used to refer to the entire structure. Viewed from behind, hock formation should be absolutely vertical.
Hocks that are too straight and lacking in angulation (often accompanied by straight stifles) are not capable of the same reach as well let-down hocks. Hocks that are too long lack correct control of movement and can make the feet turn under; this is a serious fault known as ‘sickle hocks’. Over-angulation of the stifles is an exaggerated condition that can cause the hocks to project too far backwards for correct control, and can result in a condition known as ‘cow hocks’, with a serious loss of ability to drive forward with power.
Hocks well let down and well bent stifles.
Of paramount importance in the conformation of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the requirement for the stifles to be ‘well bent’. The stifle is the joint linking the upper and lower leg bones and is equivalent to the kneecap in a person. A wider angle between the upper and lower leg is described as a ‘straight stifle’. Viewed from the side, it is obvious that the required angulated conformation is missing in a dog with straight stifles.
The Stafford is without doubt a very strong dog, and well angulated and very powerful hindquarters are of huge importance to the breed. In the days of dog fighting, he would have needed all the strength and power he could muster in order to drive forward into an opponent. Well bent stifles, in combination with strong, broad and well toned muscular thighs and flexible hocks, most efficiently provide the optimum power to launch him forward efficiently with sufficient elasticity and speed. Well bent stifles also enable the correct efficient movement required by the breed.
Straight stifles contribute to lack of reach and drive, and engender a propped and stilted action when moving forwards. Viewed in profile, insufficient muscular thigh development can often be observed.
Viewed from behind, the hocks (rear pasterns) should be vertical and remain so when the Stafford is moving. Vertical hock formation is required to maximize forward drive, and any deviation from it is a weakness. In balance with the construction of the hindquarters, and with hocks vertical, the hind legs must be parallel when the Stafford is standing, and remain so when he moves forward.
Legs parallel when viewed from behind.
Feet: well padded, strong and of medium size. Nails black in solid-coloured dogs.
The feet of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier should not be ‘tight’ like those of a cat, which are short, thickly padded and compact, and nor should they be like those of a hare, which are long, thinly padded and arched in the toes. Instead, the paw formation should be somewhere in the middle: supple and strong, prominently knuckled and with well split up but not splayed or open toes. The feet should be of medium size, with the hind feet smaller than the front. Ponderous large feet present a clumsy unathletic appearance, while small feet lack the required strength. The feet must be capable of instant and prolonged performance.
Black nails undoubtedly enhance the appearance of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but deviations should be regarded as a very minor ‘cosmetic’ fault. White nails usually appear on the toes of white-coated Staffords (and those with white feet).
Medium-sized feet, well padded, tight and strong with black nails.
Tail: medium length, low set, tapering to a point and carried rather low. Should not curl much and may be likened to an old-fashioned pump handle.
The tail should be of medium length and neither too long nor too short. (Check the length by taking the tip of the tail down to the point of the hock joint. If the tip ends at the point of the hock, then the tail is considered to be medium in length.) The tail should not appear heavy or thick. The one cosmetic change allowed in Staffords is trimming the fur on the underside of the tail to assist in establishing the correct tapering whip tail. Trimming can help to disguise an incorrect tail to a certain extent, but it is the bones of the tail that determine just how well tapered the tail will be.
It is highly desirable for the tail to be carried rather low in Staffordshire Bull Terriers. The tail should not be carried high, nor curl over at the tip. Nor should it be curled instead of held straight when standing. The bones of the tail are attached to the rear of the croup, and quite a small difference in the angle at which the croup is set will significantly alter the carriage of the tail. Tail carriage can also be influenced by attitude and temperament, with some Staffords tending to carry their tail high in the vicinity of other dogs. This is particularly so with young puppies, who always seem to be excited.
The ‘old-fashioned pump handle’ may have been familiar back in 1935 perhaps, but is not often seen in more modern times. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to picture the specified shape of tail required by the Breed Standard. Certainly the Stafford looks good with a tail shaped like a ‘pump handle’.
Gait/Movement: free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. Legs moving parallel when viewed from front or rear. Discernible drive from hind legs.
Back in 1935 there was no movement clause in the first Kennel Club-approved Breed Standard, although the reasons for the omission have never been firmly established. The revised Breed Standard of 1948/9 also omitted any reference to movement. It wasn’t until the present gait/movement clause was included in the current Breed Standard of 1987 that the subject of how the Stafford should move was specified. Movement is a vital part in assessing conformation.
A soundly constructed Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with well laid back shoulders and well bent stifles, will, if sound and healthy, be expected to move well in a freely powerful and agile gait with little lift from the ground from both back and front feet. A Stafford should always be moved on a loose lead, never on a tight lead with his head strung up, as favoured in some breeds. When moved on a loose lead at a brisk and controlled trot, he should be seen to eagerly respond with a forceful drive from well muscled hindquarters. There are Staffords that move well, but in general, with some notable exceptions, they are not as attractive on the move as some other terriers. Of more importance is soundness of movement, with the legs moving parallel when viewed both from front and rear, with as little deviation as possible.
When it comes to movement, the construction of the Stafford must be taken into consideration. The breadth of his total front assembly, with lesser width in rear, a well developed rib-cage and a lightness in the area of the loins, all lead to the forward location of his centre of gravity. As he drives forward from his powerful hindquarters, the transfer of weight from one front leg to the other produces a characteristic sway in his gait as he compensates for the shift in weight distribution: a movement that has been uncharitably likened to that of a drunken sailor. This is known as the ‘Stafford roll’ and it is an unmistakable characteristic of the breed. As a result of it, they have a tough time competing against other breeds with a more graceful gait.
A dog on the move showing the requirements of the Standard.
Coat: smooth, short and close.
This has already been discussed in the section dealing with the general appearance of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Colour: red, fawn, white, black or blue, or any of these colours with white. Any shade of brindle or any shade of brindle with white. Black and tan or liver colour highly undesirable.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a breed of many colours, and a litter of puppies may sometimes display a range of colours. All the colours listed in the Breed Standard are acceptable, the only exceptions being black and tan and liver.
Size: desirable height at withers 36–41cm (14– 16in), height being related to weight. Weight: dogs 13–17kg (28–38lb); bitches 11–15.4kg (24– 34lb).
Height should be measured from the top of the shoulder, where the neck joins the withers, down the front leg to the ground. In order to achieve an accurate measurement, the dog must be standing absolutely upright. Although no mention is made in the Breed Standard, it is usually preferable for bitches to be slightly shorter than dogs.
Faults: any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree, and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
Note: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles descended into the scrotum.
The message from the fault clause is a clear one. A dog should not be ‘fault judged’ alone. Rather, a balance of his overall virtues should be taken fully into consideration, with acknowledgement of whatever faults he may be deemed to possess.
The original Breed Standard contained fault clauses for certain characteristics, some of them of a disqualifying nature. However, the current Standard clearly rejects such measures. The Stafford should be judged for the qualities he possesses, and not rejected out of hand for his minor faults. It must be remembered that even the greatest Staffordshire Bull Terriers have, without exception, possessed some faults.