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The Boston terrier, also called the Boston bull, has been dubbed "the American gentleman" because of his aristocratic, clean-cut appearance and gentle, well-mannered demeanor. As is expected of every true gentleman, the Boston terrier's history and family bloodlines are well-documented.
Boston Terrier 101
Boston terriers are well-balanced little dogs with sturdy, compact bodies. They're typically 15 to 17 inches high at the shoulder, and weigh between 10 and 25 pounds. Their smooth, sleek coats may be black, seal or brindle with white markings. Bostons carry themselves with ease and grace. Alert and highly intelligent, they learn eagerly and are profoundly sensitive to the feelings and preferences of their people. Of course, these spirited little aristocrats aren't perfect. Bostons can be stubborn, and some may bark too much or show aggression toward strange dogs.
Breeds believed to have influenced modern Boston bloodlines include the American pit bull terrier, English bull terrier, English bulldog, French bulldog and boxer. Various names for early Boston terriers were American bull terriers, round-headed bulls, round-headed terriers and bullet heads. A sour note in an otherwise distinguished bloodline, Bostons were originally bred to participate in various dog fighting sports popular in the 19th century. Fortunately, that notion for Bostons quickly disappeared as they morphed into fine companion dogs.
Early American History
According to the American Kennel Club, the ancestry of most modern Boston terriers can be traced back to a dog in Boston, Massachusetts. Circa 1870, Boston resident William O'Brien sold an imported English bulldog named Judge to Robert C. Hooper. This dog, called Hooper's Judge, was mated to a white English terrier named Kate, owned by Edward Burnett. An offspring of Judge and Kate, Wells' Eph, bred with a female named Tobin's Kate. These four dogs are considered the basic foundation for the Boston terrier we know today.
The Meteoric Rise
The rise of the Boston terrier from unknown mix to popular purebred took less than 25 years. By 1889, a group of Boston fanciers founded the American Bull Terrier Club and began showing dogs. Problems arose when bulldog and bull terrier fanciers opposed the name American bull terrier, arguing that it was too similar to their breed names and that the breeds were not enough alike. Determined to proceed, in 1891 enthusiasts of the new breed renamed their dogs Boston terriers and founded the Boston Terrier Club of America. The Boston terrier was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1893, and by the United Kennel Club in 1914.
Despite the Boston terrier's name and bloodlines, the American Kennel Club placed the Boston in its non-sporting group. The non-sporting group is considered a bit of a "catch all," containing dogs with diverse backgrounds, appearances and character traits that don't quite fit under some of the more well-defined AKC classifications. Similarly, the United Kennel Club placed the Boston in its companion group. The companion group contains breeds that originated in one of the other UKC groups, but are considered "miniaturized" versions of those breeds who have been adapted for human companionship.