Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Name Change Game; Staffordshire terrier = pit bull

Have you ever heard the question, or wondered for yourself;
"What's the difference between Staffordshire Terriers and Pit Bulls?"
(or any variation thereof)
People often encounter the mention of Staffordshire terriers in any arena of pitbull conversation.  Staffordshires are referenced as a wholly separate breed from pitbulls, and on this faulty premise, people typically make several assumptions/assertions;
  1. The given; these are different breeds.  Ergo, many traits--especially behavior--may or may not be shared, any more so than any other breed from one to the other.  (That in itself is a faulty premise but that's a post for another day.)
  2. They have different histories and purposes.
  3. People cannot tell one from the other, or they are often confused for one another.
  4. Because of this, people confuse the two, the statistics on pitbull/staffordshire attacks can't possibly be accurate or relevant.
  5. This claim is unspoken, but heavily implied by the aforementioned; BSL (breed specific legislation) does not work.  Why it's relevant is because one of the very few hats anti-BSL advocates hangs its hat on is the (statistically) insignificant drop in bite/attack rates since the UK banned pitbulls.  This might, perhaps, somehow signify something if Staffordshire terriers and pitbulls were truly wholly different animals, as different from each other as, say, Cocker Spaniels and malamutes, but an unspoken fact is important to bear: the pitbull ban did not include Staffordshire terriers.

Why does that matter?
Because Staffordshire terriers are about as different from pit bulls as chocolate labs are to yellow labs.

The AKC doesn't recognize pitbulls by their common title; the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT for short), but does recognize the breed under the more formal and more confusing title; American Staffordshire terrier (often nicknamed 'AmStaff' 'Am Staff' or even the slightly more transparent 'Am Bully').  
It is the same breed.  
The AKC initially refused to acknowledge and set a standard for the pitbull breed precisely because of its undivorceable dog-fighting origin and purpose.  (In fact, the AKC's initial rejection was the whole reason the UKC was formed--to serve as a kennel club that recognized fighting breed dogs, and in fact, a pitbull had to have won three fights to be eligible for recognition(1).)

The American Kennel Club advertises the American Staffordshire's history as thus(2);
Until the early 19th century, the Bulldog used for bull baiting in England was more active and longer-legged than the breed as we know it today. It is thought that the cross of this older Bulldog and a game terrier breed created the Staffordshire Terrier. Originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half or Pit Dog, it became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England. When accepted for AKC registration in 1936, the name changed to American Staffordshire Terrier to reflect the heavier American type and to distinguish them as separate breeds.
The history of the pitbull:  When bull-baiting was outlawed in England, gambling sadists turned to pitting dogs against each other... and for this purpose, they crossed the Olde English Bulldogge (spelling verbatim)--for aggression and strength, especially jaw power--with terrier breeds for speed, agility, tenacity, and prey-drive.  When dog-fighting was outlawed, many dogmen took their bloodsport overseas to the Americas, where it had yet to be outlawed.  This 'migration and separation' was a historically  recent occurrence.  Aside from getting a little bigger than their English ancestors (which was also a tandem phenomena in humans as well--but in both, only marginally at best), the differences are negligible.   

Every line up to but the last is the pitbull's history (3), verbatim... all the key players and words are present;

  • bull-baiting
  • english bulldogs
  • terriers
  • bull and terrier
  • pit dog
But there are heavy omissions.  The entirety of the reason for the breed's inception, for example... why exactly it is these dog 'fanciers' decided to cross bulldogs with terriers?? DOG.FIGHTING.  No other reason.  Adequate and fantastic family, guard, farm, hunting,  tracking, retrieving, assistance breeds... all already existed (many by centuries, if not more), were present, and accessible in the area.  People were much more pragmatic about dogs in those times. As mercenary as it sounds to modern cream puffs; they were a means to an end.  

Why take a smaller,  more controllable, portable, sustainable, and companionable dog that 'got the job done' (whether it be herding, ratting, etc.) and make it larger, more unpredictable, more costly in resources (feed, etc.), and more difficult to handle?  It sure wasn't for gently guiding livestock or babysitting, I can tell you that.  Disturbingly,
especially the trusting due given them, the UKC and AKC won't.  They even go one step further and continue endangering families and perpetuating blatantly false perceptions that are getting pets and people maimed and killed on a mass scale;
Right Breed for You?The Am Staff is a people-oriented dog that thrives when he is made part of the family and given a job to do. Although friendly, this breed is loyal to his family and will protect them from any threat. His short coat is low-maintenance, but regular exercise and training is necessary.
A mess of Staffordshire owner-victims would beg to differ about the breed's loyalty and threat level.  Comb news archives (4) and you'll drown in the overwhelming testimony of this.  Opponents of BSL like to claim that BSL 'doesn't work' by citing the fairly undiminished number of bites and serious attacks overseas.  Perhaps  that is because BSL wasn't implemented to the fullest as it pertains to fighting breeds--Staffordshires are legal there, and so all the pitbull owners have to do is relabel the same dog and it passes for the other breed because... well, the other breed isn't really 'another breed'.  It is the same dog, different name.

Sadly, too many people take kennel clubs to be the be-all-end-all of dog knowledge and professionalism.  It is important to remember these are not charity groups or educational institutions... these are, first, foremost, and always, a business.  These groups operate with financial agendas.  Papers, dog shows, breeding licenses, schutzhund events... there is money in dogs--if you're working through a Kennel Club.  It's rather telling, that the next line under the breed propaganda is, replete with link to purchase;
If you are considering purchasing an American Staffordshire Terrier puppylearn more here.
The UKC's description and history of the pitbull not only omits the inherent danger of pitbulls as companion animals, but goes a step further to wholly falsify the breed history and purpose.  They assert the dogs were bred for farm work or boar hunting, but fail to provide historical evidence supporting this.  Even pro-pitbull literature peppered with the usual arsenal of deflections, deceptions, and excuses acknowledge the breed's fighting origins. (5)
Given the earlier mention of how the UKC came to be, it should be no surprise that the fruit of men who had no compunctions about disregarding the well-being of living beings for sadistic spectacle and monetary gain... would have equally no conscience about continuing to mislead and endanger countless more, despite the snowballing death-toll rising with it.

The image--interesting to note that it is not of a 'whole' dog but one with the cropped ears and docked tail that typify fighting dogs and tend to change the whole visage of an animal--accompanying the AKC's history of the Staffordshire terrier is;

looks like s/he's got a few long lost siblings here:

oh wait... those are purebred pitbulls

How arbitrary are the differences between these allegedly separate breeds?  From inception of a breed standard in both the UKC and AKC, people have, and CONTINUE TO double-register (5) their dogs as pitbulls and Staffordshires.  The very same dog can have an AKC paper reading 'Staffordshire' and a UKC paper reading 'APBT'.  For example, this female purebred pitbull (left) won best in show in BOTH an AKC Staffordshire placing and a UKC show:
The breeder from which she springs profusely brags the dual awards her dogs routinely receive.  (6)
 This is wholly legal and acceptable, and using the Staffordshire moniker is an oft employed means of skirting breed restrictions.  The average landlord may be frustratingly thwarted by this.  They look at the animal and know it is a pitbull, but may not know what to do if someone shoves a 'Staffordshire' breed paper in their face, unawares that they are officially one in the same in the professional dog circuits.  Flagrantly disguising breed via name is far from a new tactic meant to confuse the public at large. (7)

Breed Standards:
Comparing and Contrasting the AKC's American Staffordshire Terrier and the UKC's American Pit Bull Terrier's breed standards

Head: Medium length, deep through, broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscles, distinct stop; and ears are set high
Head: It is large and broad, giving the impression of great power, but it is not disproportionate to the size of the body. Viewed from the front, the head is shaped like a broad, blunt wedge. When viewed from the side, the skull and muzzle are parallel to one another and joined by a well defined, moderately deep stop. Supraorbital arches over the eyes are well defined but not pronounced. The head is well chiseled, blending strength, elegance, and character.  Very Serious Fault: Overly large, heavy heads.

Ears - Cropped or uncropped, the latter preferred. Uncropped ears should be short and held rose or half prick. Full drop to be penalized.
Ears - Ears are high set and may be natural or cropped without preference. Prick, or flat, wide ears* are not desired.
*aka full drop

Eyes - Dark and roundlow down in skull and set far apart. No pink eyelids.
Eyes - Eyes are medium size, round and set well apart and low on the skull. All colors are equally acceptable except blue, which is a serious fault. Haw should not be visible.

Muzzle- Medium length, rounded on upper side to fall away abruptly below eyes. Jaws well defined. Under-jaw to be strong and have biting power. Lips close and even, no looseness. Upper teeth to meet tightly outside lower teeth in front. Nose definitely black.
Muzzle - The muzzle is broad and deep with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose, and a slight falling away under the eyes. The length of muzzle is shorter than the length of skull, with a ratio of approximately 2:3. The topline of the muzzle is straight. The lower jaw is well developed, wide and deep. Lips are clean and tight  The American Pit Bull Terrier has a complete set of evenly spaced, white teeth meeting in a scissors bite.  Faults: Snipey muzzle; flews; weak lower jaw. The nose is large with wide, open nostrils. The nose may be any color.
Here, here we see the first and only definitive difference between the breed standards--the color of a dog's nose. Asserting that the trait of nose pigmentation is somehow indicative of a behavior aspect of form meets function* is a  task that would best even champions of  mental gymnastics.
*See dog behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova's"Heritability of behavior" (10) and the relevant section on  physical-behavioral body conformation

Neck: Heavyslightly archedtapering from shoulders to back of skullNo looseness of skinMedium length.
Neck:  The neck is of moderate length and muscular. There is a slight arch at the crest. The neck widens gradually from where it joins the skull to where it blends in to well laid-back shoulders. The skin on the neck is tight and without dewlap.
Faults: Neck too thin or weak; ewe neck; dewlap.

Shoulders: Strong and muscular with blades wide and sloping.
Shoulders:  The shoulder blades are long, wide, muscular, and well laid back. The upper arm is roughly equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at an apparent right angle.

Back: Fairly short. Slight sloping from withers to rump with gentle short slope at rump to base of tail. 
Back:  The back is strong and firm. The topline inclines very slightly downward from the withers to a broad, muscular, level back.

Body: Well-sprung ribs, deep in rear. All ribs close together. Chest deep and broad.  Loins slightly tucked.
Body:  The chest is deep, well filled in, and moderately wide with ample room for heart and lungs, but the chest should never be wider than it is deep. The forechest does not extend much beyond the point of shoulder. The ribs extend well back and are well sprung from the spine, then flattening to form a deep body extending to the elbows. The topline inclines very slightly downward from the withers to a broad, muscular, level back. The loin is short, muscular and slightly arched to the top of the croup, but narrower than the rib cage and with a moderate tuck-up. The croup is slightly sloping downward.

Tail: Short in comparison to size, low set, tapering to a fine point; not curled or held over back. Not docked.
Tail:  The tail is set on as a natural extension of the topline, and tapers to a point. When the dog is relaxed, the tail is carried low and extends approximately to the hock. When the dog is moving, the tail is carried level with the backline. When the dog is excited, the tail may be carried in a raised, upright position (challenge tail), but never curled over the back (gay tail). Fault: Long tail (tail tip passes beyond point of hock).

Legs:  Forelegs set rather wide apart to permit chest development. The front legs should be straight, large or round bones, pastern uprightNo semblance of bend in front. Hindquarters well-muscled, let down at hocks, turning neither in nor out. Feet of moderate size, well-arched and compact. Gait must be springy but without roll or pace.
Legs:  The forelegs are strong and muscular. The elbows are set close to the body. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are set moderately wide apart and perpendicular to the ground. The pasterns are short, powerful, straight, and flexible. When viewed in profile, the pasterns are nearly erect
Faults: Upright or loaded shoulders; elbows turned outward or tied-in; down at the pasterns; front legs bowed; wrists knuckled over; toeing in or out.The feet are round, proportionate to the size of the dog, well arched, and tight. Pads are hard, tough, and well cushioned. Dewclaws may be removed.

Coat: Short, close, stiff to the touch, and glossy.
Coat:  The coat is glossy and smooth, close, and moderately stiff to the touch.  Faults: Curly, wavy, or sparse coat.

Color: Any color, solid, parti, or patched is permissible, but all white, more than 80 per cent white, black and tan, and liver not to be encouraged.
Color: Any color, color pattern, or combination of colors is acceptable, except for merle(11)
Merle A marking pattern, used in conjunction with another color, to describe Shetland Sheepdogs, Collies, Great Danes, and Australian Shepherds. The color is characterized by a marbling effect of dark patches against a lighter background of the same color

Size: Height and weight should be in proportion. A height of about 18 to 19 inches at shoulders for the male and 17 to 18 inches for the female is to be considered preferable.
Size:  The American Pit Bull Terrier must be both powerful and agile; overall balance and the correct proportion of weight to height, therefore, is far more important than the dog’s actual weight and/or height.
Desirable weight for a mature male in good condition is between 35 and 60 pounds. Desirable weight for a mature female in good condition is between 30 and 50 pounds.
As a general and approximate guideline only, the desirable height range for mature males is from 18 to 21 inches at the withers; for mature females it is from 17 to 20 inches at the withers.
It is important to note that dogs over or under these weight and height ranges are not to be penalized unless they are disproportionately massive or rangy.
Very Serious Fault: Excessively large or overly massive dogs and dogs with a height and/or weight so far from what is desired as to compromise health, structure, movement and physical ability.

Here is an AmStaff that won 'best in show' according to the AKC:
A purebred pitbull:
Another Staffordshire Best in Show:
Purebred pitbulls:
Another Staffordshire competitor:
Purebred pitbulls:
So here we have it, a detailed description defining each breed; identical in every which way sans one--the color of the dog's nose.  It's a stark irony that pitbull fanatics claim people who distinguish between breeds as it pertains to their heavily contrasting traits... (for no fool could confuse the very different breed standards for, say, a dalmatian versus a chow, a chow versus a beagle, a  St.Bernard versus a greyhound, or a chihuahua versus a pitbull) ...and yet are so adamant about separating, scrutinizing, and distinguishing between dogs with the very same sort of arbitrary differences that compose human 'race' (i.e. color, pigment, geographical origin or placement.)  These deliberate confusions may be why Miami Dade County, Florida, applies 47 different points of identification when scrutinizing dogs as it pertains to the pitbull ban. (12)  They apply the race argument where it is most faulty, and are conspicuously quiet where it would reveal contradiction and hypocrisy.

I'm a real Yorkie.
No... a Staffordshire is to a pitbull as a chocolate lab is to a golden or black lab.  These are not genuinely different breeds; just the same dogs, each of a different color  stripe.  This is the only adequate canine comparison to the very arbitrary pigmental differences among human races, and it does not work in the pitbull  fantasists' favor, because it truly deepens the scope of the breed specific problem.  This is why, when I speak of pitbulls, I am speaking inclusively of any of the deceptive attempts at other-breed-names (6)...  when I say pitbull, I include APBT, Am Staffs, bull dogs, pit terriers, American Bull Terriers, Yankee terriers, St. Francis terriers, New Yorkies, American bulldogs, Staffordshire Terriers, and any other ridiculous or diversionary name for the
bloodsport blend of English bulldogs and terriers that emerged post-bull-baiting-bans.  These are what I speak of when I use the term 'bully breeds'.

So what does this all come down to, when referring to what these names denote?  Geography, and maybe, weight.  A Staffordshire is a pitbull across the Atlantic.  An APBT is a pitbull in America.  It may or may not be a little heavier in general, but that is understandable considering the obesity epidemic in the US (just stating facts, not meaning to disparage!).  These differences are arbitrary at best; being a Staffordshire terrier makes a ancestral-pit-fighting dog no more different an animal from an APBT than an American man moving to London makes him a different animal.  

Sure, there are cultural issues and such, but c'mon now... animals are too cognitively simplistic to be affected in the myriad and nuanced ways people are by advanced abstract concepts such as national identity, politics, history, etc..  Locale does not re-write a dog's cognitive abilities, behaviors, genetics, and other pre-existing predispositions.  Though cliched to death, I will paraphrase Shakespeare, "What's in a name? Does a rose by any other name smell not as sweet?"

No, the purpose of the Staffordshire name continues as it began--to distance an animal from it's true, 'unsavory' history, to confuse the breed-danger issue, to mislead, to con, and falsify numbers to skew statistics in ways the average Joe will not be aware of.  Much like spouting the nanny-dog myth, anyone authoritatively asserting/arguing about differentiating between Staffordshire's and pitbulls as wholly different breeds outs themselves--in a highly visible way and easily identifiable way...  as someone who does not know what they're really talking about, vibrantly displays their ignorance of history and biology, and consideration should be given with accordance to their massive deficit in verifiable knowledge.

(1) The History of the Pit Bull Breed -- subsection on the formation of the UKC and dog-fighting
(2) AKC History of the American Staffordshire Terrier
(3) History of the American Pit Bull Terrier
(4)  Google 'staffordshire attack'
(5) Section of pro-pit lit on fighting origins and purpose breeding
(6)  Deliberately relabeling pitbulls
(7) Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog
(8)    Merle
(9)   AKC Breed Standard
(10)   UKC Breed Standard
(11)  Breeder's dogs routinely compete and succeed as BOTH 'Staffies' and pitbulls
(12)   Miami-Dade Pitbull Ordinance


  1. In Australia the name issue is a huge problem with our BSL. It frustrates me that council run shelters are even selling these dogs despite legislation that says dogs that are 'of a breed, type or description' are likewise covered under the legislation as resticted dogs. Yet just the othe day I saw two without muzzels at a local sportsfield with about a dozen kids playing nearby.

  2. Actually I think some of the people who perpetuate this pit bullshit know exactly what they are doing and do it on purpose to confuse, obfuscate, and to deflect blame. Great write up.