A History of the "American Gentleman"

There are different versions of the History of the Boston Terrier, depending on which reference books you read, but all agree that the breed started with a dog recorded as HOOPER’S JUDGE.

All agree that Judge was owned by Mr Robert C Hooper but opinions differ as to whether Judge was imported from England by Mr Hooper or by a Mr William O’Brian who then sold him to Mr Hooper.

Mr Hooper was an admirer of the English Bulldog/English Terrier crosses that were very popular in Liverpool and the UK mining districts in the 1870’s. These dogs were very intelligent and inherited the best features of both breeds, being both good ratters and fighters.

These crosses between the Bulldog and the English White Terrier (now extinct) became the foundation of several breeds. Judge’s origins are though to be similar crosses of the Bulldog, the English White Terrier and the French Bulldog although at other times various crosses were used.

The Bulldog and the French Bulldog bore little resemblance to today’s dogs. The Bulldog was high on the leg with a longer tail, a more undershot jaw and lighter in build. The French Bulldog, then known as the Toy Bulldog was also lighter in build and higher on the leg.

In Boston in the 1880’s the upper classes lived in an area called Beacon Hill where most families owned pedigree dogs. These dogs would be in the care of the coachmen who mainly came from England, many with knowledge of breeding, which resulted in a lot of cross matings, probably without the knowledge or consent of their owners. As a more distinct smaller type of dog began to emerge the serious dog breeders started to take an interest.

Judge weighed 32lbs and was a dark brindle with white markings; he had the character of a Bulldog but the smaller size and lively nature of a terrier and this started the trend for the smaller type. His only known mate was BURNETT’S GYP, also known as BURNETT’S KATE. The ancestry of Kate was also Bulldog/Terrier cross.

One of Judge and Kate’s pups was WELL’S EPH who had none of the attractive quality of his parents, and was described as dark brindle and very ugly. However EPH produced an extremely handsome son called BARNARD’S TOM who was the first to exhibit the refinement that was to typify the later Boston Terriers.

When Tom was born he had a screw tail and according to Vincent Perry, unsuccessful attempts were made to straighten it. However the breeders of the day liked it and it started a craze for the screw tail. Tom was used extensively, to a variety of crosses.

The breeders knew it was dangerous to overly inbreed and so whenever they could locate a dog of Judges type in England, they imported it.

The first recorded time Boston’s were exhibited was at a show in 1888 in Boston, in a class for “Round Headed Bull Terriers of any colour”. The judge was Mr John P. Barnard jr. As a result of this class the breed became known as the Boston Round Head for a while.

Two years later in 1890 the American Bull Terrier Club was founded when Charles Leland, a long time dog fancier wanted recognition for the new breed. In 1891 a formal application was made to the American Kennel Club but there was strong opposition from the other Bull Terrier Clubs and this delayed proceedings. The AKC upheld their objection as they felt the breed was in sufficiently established and was not typical of a Bull Terrier.

To rectify the situation breeders now started keeping records and the use of out crosses was discouraged. There is some dispute as the whether it was Mr James Watson, a noted writer of his day, or Mr H. Lacey, a journalist, who suggested the name Boston Terrier but it was adopted and the club became The Boston Terrier Club of America.

In 1893 there were 75 of this new breed all with 3-generation pedigrees, once again application was made to the AKC and on this occasion it was accepted. Then in 1896 Ch Topsy became the first ever Boston Champion, she was a descendant of Barnard’s Tom.

Charles Leland then called a meeting of 40 breeders to try and formulate a standard. This proved far from easy; as every breeder wanted the standard to reflect the type of dogs they bred. Colour and markings were low on the list of priorities and a stockier build of dog preferred, as was a ‘rose’ ear later to be replaced by the erect ear we know today. In 1900 a standard was finally agreed upon but it wasn’t until it had been revised that it was adopted in 1914.

The smaller size of dog grew in popularity as these proved easier to sell. Luckily the stalwarts of the breed stopped this fad as dogs of up to 35lbs were still in demand. However with line and inbreeding the size gradually adjusted until it was unusual to see a dog above 25lbs and the really small dogs were sold as pets.

The renowned breeder Vincent Perry states that when he first became interested in the breed in 1912 it was unusual to see two puppies in a litter that looked alike. They could range from all white, one with a white head, no markings at all or one or more with long tails. Colour, markings and size were very varied in the early days.

As the fame of this new breed increased it gradually spread from the Boston area to all over the USA with 30 Clubs being listed. So popular was the breed that it was soon established in Canada and 1908 the BTC of Canada was formed.

Two descendants of Judge, Barnard’s Tom and Sport IV had now given the breed type, Sport really improved heads and especially the large round eye. From the progeny of Sport came Ch Hagerty King who is behind so many of the ‘greats’ in the breed. One dog who was much more refined was Heilborn’s Raffle who passed the quality on to his progeny including the famous Kid Boots Bostons.

It was in 1901 that the first Boston Terrier was registered in England she was Mr Smith’s Brindle Beauty,and it was another 4 years before a second was registered to Mr Hart.

When Eveline, Countess of Essex imported several Bostons some of their pedigrees went back to the Kids Boots line. It was along with her friend Mrs McCormick-Goodhart that she strove to increase the popularity of the breed in the UK. In 1935 Lady Essex and a group of supporters held a meeting and formed The Boston Terrier Club, she became the Clubs first President a position she held until her death in 1955.

Other Quick Facts

The Boston Terrier is at home in any situation and never meets a stranger; everyone is a potential new friend.

The Boston Terrier is dapper in his black and white tuxedo, but he can also come in brindle or seal with white markings. His short coat is simple to groom and sheds little.

Boston Terriers get along well with older children, as they can be too boisterous for smaller ones.

Boston Terriers get along with most other pets, as long as both parties are introduced and socialised in a sensible manner.

The Boston Terrier takes his name from Boston, Massachusetts where he was developed.

The Boston’s weight ranges from 10 to 25 pounds, with most weighing between 13 and 16 pounds, making them easily portable.

Bostons excel in dog sports, including agility, flyball, obedience and rally. They also make great therapy dogs.

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