The American Staffordshire Terrier, along with the American Pit Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier comprise a group of dogs often referred to as Bully breeds; collectively and generically this group is most often referred to as Pit Bulls. Although the vast majority of American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeders disfavor the term, it is the result of the conflict surrounding the relationship of the three breeds, with some saying that they are completely separate breeds, and others saying that are merely varieties of the same breed, e.g., Longhaired vs. Shorthaired Chihuahua.
A medium-sized, short-coated American dog breed, the American Staffordshire Terrier is the descendent of imported English dogs; the predecessors of the modern Staffordshire Bull Terrier which is itself a direct descendent of 19th century fighting dogs. With their import to the United States during the mid to latter part of the 19th century the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier were initially one in the same breed. Over the ensuing decades American breeders would make their own modifications to type leading the eventual acceptance of the breed by the American Kennel Club as the American Staffordshire Terrier in 1936; the name change was intended to fully separate the breed its forefather, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England. The American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier are also known as American Terriers, Yankee Terriers, Rebel Terriers, Pits, AmStaffs, APBT’s, and American Dogs.
This breed is so closely related to the other types that comprise the Bully breed group, please see the history section of the article about Bully breeds for more information about the creation American Staffordshire Terrier and its relationship to the other members of the group.
It is difficult to separate the American Staffordshire Terrier from the American Pit Bull Terrier, but there are some general differences, most of which apply to the breeds as a whole rather than individual dogs. The American Staffordshire Terrier is the youngest of the three Bully Breeds, and is generally the most medium sized. This dog also probably has the most standardized appearance of the three breeds, as well as being the most intermediate in appearance between a Bulldog and a Terrier. Most purebred American Staffordshire Terriers stand between 17 and 19 inches tall at the shoulder, with females tending to stand about an inch shorter than males. This dog is considerably more muscular than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and many are built like a canine tank. Although breed standards do not give ideal weights, most American Staffordshire Terriers weigh between 40 and 70 pounds. This dog is generally significantly longer than it is tall, but not anywhere near the extent of a Dachshund or Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The tail of the American Staffordshire Terrier is relatively short and low-set, and is generally carried straight and slightly downwards.
This dog has a truly powerful and intimidating head. Although large for body size, the head is generally not massive. The head of this breed is quite square and distinct from the muzzle. The muzzle of the American Staffordshire Terrier is quite wide, but is usually narrower than either of the other bully breeds. The jaws of this breed are quite well-muscled and should look intimidating. Inside of the muzzle are teeth that are large for the size of the dog. The ears of the American Staffordshire Terrier are traditionally pricked so that they are quite narrow and stand straight up. Such ears are preferred in the show ring. The unaltered ears of this dog are small and rose-shaped, and are often held backwards. Most American Staffordshire Terriers have a serious and intense expression.
The coat of the American Staffordshire Terrier is short, smooth, stiff to the touch, and glossy. The early breeders of this dog did not care about the color, and as a result the American Staffordshire Terrier exhibits a greater variety of coat colors than almost any other breed. Any color or pattern is acceptable for American Staffordshire Terriers, although black and tan, solid white, more than 80% white, and liver are disfavored in the show ring.
All three of these dogs are among the easiest to groom. Their coats never require professional grooming, only an occasional brushing. These dogs do shed, although the amount varies from dog to dog. Some are only average shedders who will leave some hair but not an excessive amount while others, especially some American Pit Bull Terriers, shed almost constantly.
The American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier are regarded as being among the healthiest of all pure-bred dogs. Similar to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, they have strongly benefitted from being bred primarily for working ability and from a gene pool that is larger than perhaps any other breed of dog. These dogs are definitely not immune from genetically inherited conditions, but do suffer from fewer of them and lower rates than many other breeds. These dogs are among the longest lived of any breed of this size, with a life expectancy of between 12 and 16 years. Much like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the pain tolerance of these dogs requires owners to be extra-vigilant in order to catch illness or injury before they become severe. Also like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, it is highly recommended that owners get their dogs tested by the OFA and CERF, especially if they intend to breed.
The two most common health problems experienced by these breeds are hip dysplasia and demodicosis, better known as demodectic or demodex mange. Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joint. This causes the bones to connect to each other improperly. Over time, the result is discomfort, pain, difficulty walking, and in extreme cases even lameness. There is no universally accepted cure for hip dysplasia, but some possibilities are being experimented with. Although the disease is genetic, the timing and severity of symptoms can be influenced by environmental factors. Demodicosis is caused by a species of mite that is present on the skin of almost all dogs. The mite transfers from the mother dog to her puppies while she is nursing. These mites cause no problems at all for the vast majority of dogs, but cause an autoimmune reaction in others. This reaction causes the hair loss commonly known as mange. Demodicosis can impact either a very small patch of skin or the entire dog, depending on its severity. There are a multitude of treatment options available, although some cases require no treatment at all.
A full list of health problems experienced by American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers would have to include: