What Was the Boston Terrier Bred For

Boston Terriers have been a fantastic addition to my family since I was a child. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have one. While they make excellent companion animals today, many people wonder what was the Boston Terrier bred for.

The Boston Terrier was bred to be a pit fighter and rat hunter. Originally weighing much more than the breed does today, the dog was highly suited to the tasks. The breed also had a significantly higher level of aggression and was notably vicious, making it perfect for fighting and hunting.

You should continue reading if you are curious about the Boston Terrier’s dark history. I will also cover the breed’s original dog, how they changed to become companions of the elite and the origins of the American Gentleman. Finally, I will discuss what they are bred for today and a common breeding problem.

The Original Boston Terrier

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To provide you with a little history of the Boston Terrier breed, let’s go all the way back to the very first one. He was a cross between an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier, and his name was Judge. He was purchased from Liverpool, England, and brought back to Boston by William O’Brien, who later sold him to Robert C. Hooper.

Judge was bred only one time to a female named Gyp, owned by another Boston native. Historical descriptions label him as a brindle with a white stripe on his face, weighing in at a whopping 32 pounds due to his muscular frame. 

He is credited as being the first dog of the Boston Terrier breed, although other breeds were added to the mix in later years to make the smaller companion dogs we know and love today. 

So, what was the purpose of creating such a powerful and muscular breed? Let’s find out.

Boston Terriers Were Pit Fighters

Because of their larger original size, Boston Terriers were used and bred for pit fighting. While it may be hard to reconcile this with the sweet companion dogs we see them as now, this is how their breed started.

With their strong muscular bodies, they were the ideal form for fighting. They were also much more aggressive, with a fighting spirit. This combination made them fierce competitors in the ring.

Boston Terriers Were Vermin Hunters

In addition to prizefighting, Boston Terriers were well-known for their prowess at vermin hunting, a trait capitalized on through breeding practices. Their specialty was the hordes of vermin plaguing the New England garment factories in the early 1800s.

Because the rat populations were so bad in these factories, dogs were explicitly bred with a high prey drive to seek them out and destroy their populations to prevent further destruction of the merchandise they were constantly chewing up. 

The Boston Terrier was an excellent choice for the job because of its feisty nature, quick stride, good strength, and a streak of viciousness. They were definitely not the companions of today.

Boston Terriers Became Companions of the Elite

Breeding standards eventually changed to make the Boston Terrier a companion animal for the elite. Their size was considered versatile for city and country living. The dogs were small enough to live in a city apartment while being large enough to take care of themselves in the country. 

How the Boston Terrier Became the American Gentleman

Going back to Judge and Gyp, their single offspring was a male named Well’s Eph. He was mated to a female known as Tobin’s Kate. The resulting offspring became the foundation for the breed today. 

The Boston Terrier Club of America was founded in 1891, and then in 1893, the American Kennel Club recognized the Boston Terrier as its first non-sporting dog. Color and markings did not become AKC standards until the early 20th century. 

From this breed standard came the tuxedo appearance everyone associates with the Boston Terrier. These dogs always look dressed for a formal event, hence the nickname “The American Gentleman.”

image of a boston terrier with a crown

The Perfect Companion Breed

Today, reputable breeders carefully preserve the traits associated with the Boston Terrier breed. They uphold the AKC breed standard and provide dog owners with the perfect companion animal

A far cry from the dogs of old, the Boston Terrier is a lovable, cuddling machine. The breed is very devoted to its human family and easy to care for because of its short coats. These dogs are suited to both an active lifestyle and lounging around as needed. 

Today’s Breeding Concerns: The Teacup Boston Terrier

While the Boston Terrier is cute, putting it into an even more compact size should only increase that level of cuteness, right? Sure, but what does it mean for the dog’s health? While breeders out there strive to perfect the art of breeding teacup Boston Terriers, the methods aren’t exactly the greatest, and the results can be unhealthy for the dog.

One method is to introduce the dwarfism gene. This process results in a drastic reduction in growth and can lead to other health problems. The dog can experience spinal deviation and sideways bowing in the forelimbs. Once introduced, the gene can become hereditary.

Another method is repeatedly mating runts until the desired effect is achieved. This method can take the most time; if the dog is unhealthy due to being a runt, it can cause more complications than those commonly expected for the breed. 

Finally, some breeders choose to cross the Boston Terrier with another smaller breed. The problem with this method is that the end result is not a purebred Boston Terrier. There is a significant chance that the puppies will be born with the appearance and temperament of the other breed.

With all the problems Boston Terriers already face as brachycephalic dogs, adding questionable breeding practices may complicate things further. It’s important to always purchase your dogs from a reputable breeder with above-board methods.

Final Thoughts

boston terrier on a leash

Boston Terriers have evolved into the perfect dog to have by your side. They are lovable, caring, and devoted. While they still have bouts of high energy and speed, looking at the breed today, it’s incredible to think they could have such a dark history.

The Boston Terrier breed was originally a pit-fighting dog and vermin hunter. Once much larger, more aggressive, and quite vicious, these dogs were perfect for both tasks. Over time breeding has been modified to make them more suitable for being companions.

While many reputable breeders are available, some practice less than savory methods to create teacup Boston Terriers, which may have even more health problems than those of average size. When you choose your Boston Terrier, ensure you are buying from a reputable breeder with good practices to provide the best health for your dog.

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