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Staffordshire Terrier


 

Since earliest times one canine descendant of the wolf has been especially identified for the size, breadth of head, shortness of muzzle, strength of jaw and outstanding courage. Mainly used for hunting large game such as wild boar, this dog also had a role as a warrior dog. Just such a dog was to be found fighting alongside the Ancient Britons against the Roman invaders.

The Romans were so impressed with these dogs, whom they called 'Pugnaces' or 'broad-mouthed' dogs, that some were sent to Rome to be used for the sporting entertainments that so delighted Roman crowds. Their bloodlines featured in the later development of many of the larger European breeds and, at the time of the Norman Conquest, they could be found taking part in bull, bear and even lion baiting.

Bear and bull baiting reached the height of popularity from the middle of the 16th century through to the middle of the 17th century when very large and powerful dogs were required to 'throw' the bull. From the end of the 17th century it became more popular to tether the bull and a somewhat smaller bull dog was developed. This 'bulldog' was leggier, lighter and altogether quicker than his modern cousin. The head, however, is not dissimilar and had been expertly evolved by selective breeding for the specific task to hand. To enable the dog to pin the bull by the nose and hang on for a long time, the under-jaw was hugely developed while a top jaw that lay back was bred for, so that the nostrils were not obstructed. It is even thought that the wrinkles on the face were selectively bred in so that blood (and a nose wound would bleed heavily) could run off the dog's face and not into his eyes.

Staffords are large-hearted and their way of showing that they love human beings does not express itself by a friendly wag of the tail and a gentle lick of the tongue. This is a dog that will launch itself at visitors, and even when trained to be more controlled, will still be a fussy pet - nudging and pawing the object of his affection in order to win a stroke and a pat in response. If you want a quiet reserved dog who 'knows his place' and will wait to be asked to join in the game, then a Stafford is not for you. It is recorded that fighting dogs often changed hands - to settle debts or simply to raise funds, but whatever the cause it is a well-known fact that Staffords are amazingly adaptable at changing home or even owners. Unfortunately, this does make them easy prey for 'dognappers' from whom they will need protection.

Staffords are physically extremely strong for their size. They can bruise your legs if they try to barge past you, can be extraordinarily powerful if allowed to pull on a lead and, if left unsupervised and lonely, amazingly destructive in the home.

Finally, deep down inside them, is the in-bred possibility of fighting with other dogs. The motto generally taken by most Staffords Clubs is that of the Scottish kings - 'nemo me impunne lacisset'. Roughly translated, this means that 'no one can attack me without getting back as good as I'm given'. No responsible Stafford owner will fail to remember that, if attacked, even the quietest Stafford could respond and fight back. Because of their power, their build and their history, they can do a lot more damage than their size would suggest. Of course, there are those people who will actively seek out the sort of dog they hope will beat up all the other dogs in the neighbourhood. If you feel that you are such a person then this breed is definitely not for you, as you would only bring a good breed into disrepute. Modern society is not willing to accept anti-social behaviour from dogs. Irresponsible owners undo all the hard work that generations of genuine lovers of the breed have expended in civilising it, while retaining all the characteristics that make the Stafford such a special and rewarding dog to own.

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