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Staffordshire Bull Terrier History

The Staffordshire Bull Terriers of today derived from a cross between the old Bull Dog and the English White Terrier (now extinct). From this cross the original 'Bull and Terrer' rose to fame in the bloodsporting world. These early Bull and Terriers, which no longer exist as a breed today, were bred for their eagerness to fight despite the threat of substantial injury. This inbred gameness gave fighting breeds the ability to maintain the attack through extreme injury and exhaustion, even until death. Before the 19th century these bloodsports where dogs were pitted against other animals such as bulls and bears, were often staged as entertainment for both Royals and Commoners.

In 1835 bloodsports were officially outlawed in Britain as animal welfare laws were implemented. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull or bear baits, bloodsport proponents turned to pitting their dogs one against another instead. Dog fighting was used as both a bloodsport (often involving gambling) and as an effort to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterwards, dog fighting clandestinely took place in pockets of working-class Britain and America. Dogs were released in a pit, and the last dog still fighting (or occasionally, the last dog surviving) was recognized as the winner. The quality of pluckiness or "gameness" was still highly prized, and dogs that gave up during a fight were reviled as "curs". As an important aside, fighting dogs were often handled in the pit during fights, by both their owners and the judge, so were bred to be as trustworthy with humans as they were aggressive towards other dog.

Our Staffordshire Bull Terriers of today gain their celebrated temperament from their coloured history. It was not uncommon for a dog to be fighting in the pits one day and sleeping with the children the next, thus eplaining how they are commonly referred to as the 'Nanny Dog', reflecting the breeds gentle disposition towards children. The American Kennel Club states in the breed standard for the dogs character: "from the past history of the Staffordshire Terrier, the modern dog draws its character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends, and children in particular, its off-duty quietness and trustworthy stability, makes it a foremost all-purpose dog."

Much of the credit for the breed gaining purebred status in Britain can be attributed to Joseph Dunn and Joe Mallan. Dunn and Mallan invited friends to a Stafford fanciers meeting at the Cross Guns Hotel, Cradley Heath, South Staffordshire (a hotel owned and managed by Mallan). About fifty breeders met at the hotel and formed the Original Staffordshire Terrier Club. The name was shortly changed to Staffordshire Terrier Club due to the Bull Terrier Club objecting the use of the word 'original'. Since that time the breed has grown to be one of the most popular breeds of family dogs also being one of the breeds with largest entries at breed shows (that applies equally in NZ) with a large representation at the prestigous Crufts Dog Show in the UK. The first Club show for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier took place August 1935 at Cradley Heath in the west midlands, where there were 60 dogs and bitches entered.The first two Champions of the breed were CH Gentleman Jim and Ch Lady Eve.

Popularity of the breed has spread abroad with now well established clubs in many countries including Australia, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland, Spain the USA and of here in New Zealand.

In the USA early on, many were imported by pit fighters and used in their breeding programs to produce the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier. Many were imported by British nationals who brought their dogs with them or U.S. expatriates who fell in love with the breed in England and brought it home. Eventually through the campaign of many people the purebred Stafford was recognized in the U.S. in 1976, and again has a loyal following

The following Youtube link takes you to a video showing the true Stafford nanny dog...

(there is a short advert before the video which i could not bypass, sorry)

History of the Stafford Knot

The Stafford Knot (not the Staffordshire Knot!) is the symbol for the county of Staffordshire. It appears everywhere from road signs and army berets to local pottery and football club crests. The origin of the three-looped knot has long been shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Some people say it is a bloody means of multiple execution while others insist it represents the joining of three geographical areas.

Death by Stafford Knot

One of the most popular stories of the knot originated following the sentencing of three criminals to death by hanging in Stafford. However, when the executioner arrived to commit the grisly task, he came across a problem. He only had one piece of rope. He could not just hang one of the criminals. It would be unfair to the other two to give precedence to only one of the condemned. He therefore tied his single rope into three loops and dispatched of all three criminals at the same time. A variation of this story was that one of the criminals invented the knot, and this ultimately saved him from his execution.

'The Knot Unites'

Another story of the knot stems from its motto: "The Knot Unites".

The knot was said to symbolically bind three different local areas which joined to form what is now known as Staffordshire. A more detailed account tells us of Ethelfleda, eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, who, more than a thousand years ago, defended a stronghold at Stafford. She symbolically took off her girdle and said to the local lords: "With this girdle, I bind us all as one", and the three areas became Staffordshire. The anniversary of this event was celebrated in 1913, a thousand years after it was said to have happened.

Double 'S' theory

Another theory on the origin of the knot is that it forms the shape of a double 'S' which represents "Staffordshire".

In fact, the Stafford Knot has been the proud insignia of many coats of arms, police helmets and army regiments in the Staffordshire region for many years. Some believe its first appearance to be on the heraldic shield of the Stafford family in 1583. Others believe its first appearance was on the family seal of Joan Stafford, Lady of Wake, who died childless in 1443, and which can be seen in the British Museum. As well as being the symbol for Staffordshire, the Stafford Knot has evolved into a dance. The dancers move in formation to the shape of the knot.