Get to Know the Boston Terrier: The Dapper Dog

He's called "the American Gentleman," but sometimes he can be quite the rascal!

Caroline Coile  |  Jun 9th 2014


The dapper dog in the tuxedo may look like he belongs stepping out of a horse-drawn carriage, but he’s just as happy rolling around the straw. With his terriers roots he has a taste for adventure, but he’s a civilized fellow who knows how to act in public.

But in private, watch out!

More interesting things about the Boston Terrier

  • The Boston Terrier may be confused with the French Bulldog. But the French Bulldog does not come in the white trim pattern of the Boston, and he has a larger body, larger bone, larger head, and larger ears.
  • Boston Terriers come in either black and white, brindle and white, or seal and white. The pattern of white trim is referred to by dog geneticists as Irish marked or sometimes Boston marked.

  • Boston Terriers were created when coachmen of wealthy Bostonians interbred their employers’ dogs to create dogs for themselves.
  • A dog named Hooper’s Judge, born around 1865, is the unofficial father of the breed. He was a probably of Bull and Terrier descent, or a cross between a White English Terrier and a Bulldog. He weighed about 30 pounds. He had the white trim seen in Bostons today. Judge was bred to Burnett’s Gyp, an almost all-white Bulldog-type dog. French Bulldogs were added in the mix.

  • The dogs became quite popular in the Boston area. They were called American Bull Terriers at first, but Bull Terrier fanciers objected. “Roundheads” was then suggested, but Boston Terrier was chosen after a well-known dog authority’s suggestion.
  • The Boston’s nickname is “the American Gentleman.” The breed is also often called the Boston Bulldog.
  • The AKC recognized the Boston Terrier in 1893. It was the first made-in-America breed to be recognized.

  • Color and markings didn’t matter at first, but became the breed’s trademark by the early 20th century.
  • Between 1905 and 1935, the Boston Terrier was consistently the first- or second-most popular breed in America.
  • The Boston Terrier is currently the 23rd most popular AKC breed, down from 17th a decade ago.
  • Some fanciers claim Sergeant Stubby was a Boston Terrier, although he looked more like a Boston Terrier-Pit Bull cross. Stubby was a decorated American WWI hero known for warning soldiers against poisonous gas and imminent attacks.

  • The Boston Terrier is the state dog of Massachusetts.
  • A Boston Terrier named Rhett is the mascot of Boston University. Blitz the Boston Terrier is the mascot of Wofford College.
  • Mackie the Boston Terrier became an Internet star with his tickling video (a must watch!):

  • There’s a Boston Terrier Museum in Floydada, Texas, with several hundred pieces of Boston Terrier paraphernalia. 
  • The Boston Terrier is in the AKC Non-Sporting Group. Throughout much of the world, he is in the Companion and Toy Group.
  • Although no Boston Terrier has won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show, they have won the Non-Sporting group there eight times, the last time in 1970.

  • Owners include Warren G. Harding, Vincent Price, Louis Armstrong, Joan Rivers, Yves St. Laurent, LeAnn Rimes, Allison Sweeney, Rose McGowan, Gerald Ford (childhood), Helen Keller (college), and Dogster columnists Ace’s Mama, Pamela Mitchell, and GiGi. 

Do you own a Boston Terrier? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too! 

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier. 

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