Staffordshire bull terriers and pit bull terriers have a lot in common with one another, both physically and in terms of personality. Each is stocky, strong, with a distinctive "boxy" head and loving personality. Despite the various similarities, the two breeds have some key distinctions to consider before acquiring either. But that doesn’t mean one is more suitable than the other as a pet for your family.
History and Background
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It’s probable that the Staffordshire bull terrier is an ancestor of the pit bull. Both originated in England in the 19th century. The pit bull is the result of various crossbreeding between bull terriers and bulldogs. The breed we recognize today as the pit bull was first registered with the United Kennel Club in 1898. The Staffordshire bull terrier is the result of crossbreeding between Manchester terriers and bulldogs in the 19th century. The pit bull was used as a farmhand, guard, fighting dog and hunter. The Staffordshire bull terrier was mainly used for catching and killing vermin and as a British Army mascot by the Staffordshire Regiment.
Size and Strength
The clear winner in the size and strength category is the pit bull, who is famed for his hulking frame and raw power. Males stand between 18 and 21 inches tall at the withers and females stand between 17 and 20 inches. Males weigh between 35 and 60 pounds, while females weigh 30 to 50 pounds. Staffordshire bull terriers, while stocky and stout, are much smaller and lighter. The average height for a Staffordshire bull terrier of any sex is between 14 and 16 inches tall at the withers. Males typically weigh 28 and 34 pounds, while females weigh between 24 and 34.
Characteristics and Personality
Both dogs are friendly, fun-loving, playful and loyal. Both are alert and react quickly to perceived danger, making them useful watchdogs. The pit bull is less gregarious than the Staffordshire bull terrier. While a Staffordshire will happily bound over to greet a stranger, the pit bull will watch and wait to see what his master does. Neither breed is inherently aggressive when well-socialized and trained, although both are confident and will stand their ground if threatened.
As a Pet
Due to their short coats, neither breed requires much in the way of grooming. Pit bulls require a little more exercise than Staffordshire bull terriers. They are bigger and more athletic and thrive in an environment that challenges them physically. They are ideal candidates for agility training. Staffordshire bull terriers are no slouches, but they are more content to spend the day in the house than the pit bull, although they do enjoy an active lifestyle.
As a Watchdog
Both breeds are watchful, confident and alert, making them useful as watchdogs. People looking for a guard dog would be better advised to consider a herding breed like a German shepherd instead of a pit bull or Staffie. Despite the power, strength and formidable appearance of the pit bull, he is an average guard dog at best, his fondness of people will let him down. The Staffie too may be a great watchdog, but the average specimen is too small to reliably take on an intruder by himself.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.