The American Staffordshire Terrier is a very muscular, stocky, yet agile dog that is extremely strong for his size. He has a broad, powerful head with highly pronounced cheek muscles and very strong jaws. The ears are generally cropped, though this is optional. Uncropped is preferred in the AKC standard. If the ears are not cropped, they should be either rose or half prick, not pendulous. The eyes are round and dark, and set far apart. Pink eyelids are considered a fault in conformation. The nose is black and the teeth should form a scissors bite. The chest is broad, with straight forelegs, and the topline slopes slightly from the withers to the rump. The relatively short tail tapers to a point and is not docked. The short, sleek coat comes in many colors and color combinations, though all white, more than 80% white, black-and-tan, and liver are discouraged.
The roots of the American Staffordshire Terrier can be traced through early Mastiff warriors to the original bulldogs in England, which were used in the bloody sport of bullbaiting. As bear and bullbaiting declined in popularity, interest in dog fighting increased. Breeders wanted to create more agile fighting dogs for this sport, so they crossed their bulldogs with game terriers to create what was then known as the Bull and Terrier Dog, Half and Half, Pit Bull, or Pit Bullterrier. Actual breeding records were closely kept secrets, so much of the Bull and Terrier's early history is a mystery. The Bull and Terrier later became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England.
When British settlers came to America, they brought their dogs of various sorts with them, including Bull and Terrier types. These energetic, intelligent animals helped out as general farm dogs, guardians, stock dogs, and even as bear and wild-pig hunters, in addition to continuing their role as pit fighters. In the U.S., the breed has been called Pit Dog, Pit Bull Terrier, American Bull Terrier, Yankee Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier. Over the years, the American breed became generally larger and taller than his British cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. With its great spirit, energy, and affection for their family, the American Staffordshire Terrier has been described as the "All American Dog."
In 1936, the American version was accepted into the AKC under the name “Staffordshire Terrier” (though foundation stock for the breed included American Pit Bull Terriers before the stud book was closed). However, some American Pit Bull Terrier breeders were concerned that joining the AKC would move the breed too much toward conformation showing, and away from its working roots, so they remained outside the AKC and kept the name “American Pit Bull Terrier.” At this point, the Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier began more strongly to diverge. In 1972, the Staffordshire Terrier was renamed the American Staffordshire Terrier to better distinguish it from its English cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. There are still some dogs dual registered and even triple registered in the AKC as American Staffordshire Terriers, and in the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) as American Pit Bull Terriers.
Today's American Staffordshire Terrier is primarily a show dog and family companion. His working abilities and athleticism also help him excel at many sports, including obedience, agility, and weight pulling. Because of the breed's affection for people, some American Staffordshires have become therapy dogs.