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What Were American Staffordshire Terriers Bred For? (History & Facts)

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

American Staffordshire Terrier_Shutterstock_Vladimirkarp

What Were American Staffordshire Terriers Bred For? (History & Facts)

American Staffordshire Terriers, also sometimes referred to as Pit Bulls, are a strong breed of dog that tend to be extremely loyal to their human counterparts. These dogs have a stereotype that they are dangerous,  because they were originally bred to fight, but any owner of this breed will tell you that this simply isn’t the case. With proper training, care, and attention, these dogs can make excellent family pets and can even get along well with other dogs within the household.

A way to understand this dog breed and how to be a good human parent to one is to learn about their history and what they were bred for. Then you can be a confident American Staffordshire Terrier owner and ensure the health and happiness of your pet as time goes on. Here’s what you should know.

American Staffordshire Terriers Were Originally Bred to Fight

The original American Staffordshire Terriers were referred to only as Pit Bull Terriers in the beginning. These dogs were developed in Britain when blood sports such as bull and bear baiting became illegal after an 1835 act was passed by the parliament. The idea was to create a breed for dog fighting, so breeders mixed the Bulldog and the Terrier to create the Pit Bull Terrier.

Dog fighting was popular in Britain because other blood sports were outlawed, so Pit Bull Terriers were not in short supply. The problem was that those who bred Pit Bull Terriers for hunting and as pets couldn’t get official registries to recognize their dogs due to their affiliation with fighting. No registry wanted to be associated with a blood sport dog.

So, breeders established a new line of breed referred to as the Staffordshire Terrier. Unfortunately, the Staffordshire Terrier continued to be used in dog fighting sports, so it wasn’t until 1935, when anti-dog fighting legislation was in place, that registries started looking at the breed for official recognition. When the Kennel Club in Britain decided to officially recognize the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, it paved the way for the American Kennel Club to recognize Staffordshire Terriers/Pit Bull Terriers in the United States.

After much deliberation, the American Kennel Club decided to name the Americanized Bull Terrier the American Staffordshire Terrier, as a nod to their British cousins that were established before then. The biggest difference between the Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier is the reason for their breeding and breeding practices. The other difference is just their name.

Two Pitbulls standing aside of a river
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock

How Pit Bulls Became American Staffordshire Terriers

Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers are unofficial siblings. The Staffordshire Terrier is essentially the same breed but has had the dog-fighting aspects of the breed bred out of them. Today’s Staffordshire Terrier is loyal and sociable. They get along well in family households and can even enjoy their time with other dogs, unlike their ancestors that were bred to fight.

While many of today’s Pit Bull Terriers are still bred for fighting and baiting (usually illegally), the Staffordshire Terrier is bred for hunting and as family pets. Essentially, the Pit Bull Terrier has been turned into the Staffordshire Terrier through breeding and that’s how the Staffordshire came about. While most Staffordshire Terriers can technically be considered Pit Bulls, the same can’t be said for Pit Bulls, as it’s the breeding that makes a Staffordshire and the breed itself that makes the Pit Bull.

In chronological order, there was first the Pit Bull Terrier, then there was the Staffordshire Terrier out of Britain. Finally, along came the American Staffordshire Terrier. They are all closely related. Their differences simply come down to breeding practices and temperament. Both Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Terriers share extremely similar appearances and features overall. Their temperaments are not even all that different, as Pit Bulls have always been loyal to their human counterparts.


The American Staffordshire Terrier is a renowned breed with great strength, charisma, and restraint. These dogs are excellent hunters and wonderful with children and can make great companions for the elderly. They have been stigmatized, but with proper training and a loving home, they tend to prove the stigma wrong time and time again.

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Featured Image Credit: Vladimirkarp, Shutterstock

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