The History of the Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier

This bull terrier's history spans decades and cultures.
This bull terrier's history spans decades and cultures. (Image: victorian era cast iron bulldog doorstop image by Scott Williams from

The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a rowdy and multi-cultural past. Starting as a dog-fighting breed in Ireland and England, this breed is a mix between the bull dog and the terrier. The breed has continued to develop since its inception in the 19th century. As of 2010, the breed is registered in both the UK's Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club. While no longer a fighting dog, the breed is instead a household pet known for its fearlessness, its love of chewing things, and its ability to get along with older children in family homes.

Dog Fighting

From the 13th century, dogs had been used for bull-baiting, a kind of public entertainment. Bulldog breeds fought with a bull with spectating gamblers hollering for their dog to win. To create fresh entertainment and competition, dog breeders started creating new breeds. Breeders crossed bulldogs for their strength, tenacity and almost reckless fearlessness and terriers for their quick moves and agile body types.

James Hinks

According to, Irishman James Hinks (1829-1878) was the first Bull Terrier breeder and became rich from the trade. A poor man from Mullingar, Ireland, Hinks got into dog fighting which won him money and a chance to move up in status. To create a new fierce kind of breed, Hinks brought the bull dog and the Staffordshire terrier together to create a competitive, intelligent and loyal breed.

First Staffordshire Terriers

After the mastiff-like bull dogs and quick terriers became a well established "bull and terrier" breed, breeders continued developing the breed for fighting in Staffordshire, England. When Great Britain enacted animal welfare laws that banned bulls and bear-baiting fights, crowds gathered to watch and gamble on dog-to-dog combat instead. The Irish Staffordshire terrier was the top fighting dog.

Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Registration

When England went to register the Staffordshire terrier in the Kennel Club in the 1950s there was a bit of a problem. There were two types of Staffordshire breed--an English one and a more Irish one with slight differences in shape, size and behavior. The Kennel club sent the Staffordshire dogs to Ireland to keep the dog thoroughbred as an Irish breeding strain.

In the 1980s, Irish breeders brought the breed back to England to differentiate it from the UK's Kennel Club called plain Staffordshires. They added "Irish" to the breed's name to separate the two breeds for good.

Staffordshires Vs Irish Staffordshires

Irish breeders developed a taller, leaner and more agile dog than the Kennel Club's Staffordshire dog. When Irish and English lawmakers officially banned the dog-fighting sport, few people were interested in buying or breeding the bull terrier. However, a refreshed interest in the dog revived in the 1980s when the dog was bought as a pet in the UK and in the U.S.

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