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The Continuity of Breed Heritage

The Continuity of Breed Heritage

Chain makers in Staffordshire
Chain makers in Staffordshire

Staffords were originally bred by unlettered men, mostly coal miners and chainmakers, from the English Midlands for the purpose of fighting in the pit. These men did not even know the word "genetics" but they did know blood sports, so they bred winner to winner for generations and eventually produced a canine that out-matched any other - pound for pound - in the universe: quick, powerful, tenacious.

For all those many canine generations, the dogs had to live with the workers' families in the close confinement of what we would call shanties. The dog, already blessed with the Bulldog's fabled love for children, had to get along with every family member (and there were usually many) under any circumstance. Any dog that was even remotely unreliable with people in any way was put under the ax - literally - and no second chances. An unreliable dog of such quickness and power could be a REAL menace if not dispatched. The coal miners and chainmakers did indeed love their dogs, but they loved their families more.

I guess that could be called genetic selection by the elimination method.

The "Bozzer" that I use is Mallen's.The upshot was that the old-timers produced a dog that differed radically from other canines which fight for three things and three things only: 1) food 2) territory and 3) sex. The difference was and is that Staffords fought for the love of fighting itself. When fighting, they were neither upset nor angry but perfectly calm for they were enjoying themselves enormously. In practical terms, a dog that could not be handled in the pit was a menace to its owner.  As a result one could put his hands on or between their heads during combat in perfect safety whereas if one were to try that with, say, Cocker Spaniels one would end up with one's extremities in shreds.

Portos at the Cow Palace with kids.

Thus, the Stafford was bred to have and indeed does have a complete and permanent disconnect between his view of other canines and his view of people.  Since I started the Breed in Finland in 1964 and in the States in 1967, the only incident I know of regarding improper Stafford behavior toward a person was a case in Illinois where a male Stafford I had sold as pup to be a guard on a Thoroughbred farm snapped at a child. Didn't lay a tooth on the child, just snapped (under some provocation I am told). I immediately sent a free replacement to the owner on the proviso that the Stafford in question be humanely destroyed.

A Stafford can be forgiven almost anything: oversize, undershot, gay tail - even, God forbid, reluctance to face other canines. But not bad temperament with people. Not once, not ever.

There is, indeed, one area in which I am perfectly willing to see the Stafford's strength, agility, and intensity put to use against a person: protection of my family. If someone were to attack a family member (foolish person!), I want my Stafford to exercise his heritage in our defense for such an attack constitutes "extreme provocation," utterly exculpating the dog. Further, if such a thing were to occur I would be at the scene, unhurt, able to disengage him while the intruder was still begging for mercy.

Steve Stone

(Note: the photo above right is from Phil Drabble's book "Staffordshire" and is captioned "The 'boozer' that I use is Mallen's." and the dog in the photo appears to be a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The photo at the top is also from the same book and captioned "A Craftsman forging heavy chain." The final photo above is of SA Ch. Niccyn Portos of Sylon surrounded by children at a Cow Palace all breed dog show.)

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