We want to know everything about dogs. Everything! But there are countless breeds of dog out there, and each one is a unique animal with its own history. That's why every week, we shine a spotlight on a different breed. This week, learn some fun facts about Boston Terriers.
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THE BOSTON TERRIER IS THE FIRST DOG BREED DEVELOPED IN AMERICA.
Some dog breeds are so ancient that their exact origins are lost to history, but not the Boston Terrier. We know that in Boston, around 1870, Robert C. Hooper bought an English Bulldog/English Terrier mix named Judge. Judge was bred with a bitch named Gyp, and they had a puppy named Eph. Eph and his offspring are the original ancestors of the breed that evolved into what we now call the Boston Terrier.
BOSTON TERRIERS WERE BRED TO FIGHT.
Like their English Bulldogs relatives, early Boston Terriers were bred for pit fighting, and were much larger and heavier than they are today, weighing up to 44 pounds. (Modern Boston Terriers typically weigh about half that much.) As dog fighting fell out of fashion and legality, the breed morphed into the smaller companion animal we know today.
THE BOSTON TERRIER IS THE STATE DOG OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Not every state in the U.S. has an official dog. Perhaps that’s because only a few recognized breeds were developed in America. As the first state to claim itself as the birthplace of an original breed, it’s no wonder Massachusetts named the Boston Terrier its official state dog in 1979. We’re just surprised it took them so long to do it.
THE BOSTON TERRIER IS NICKNAMED “THE AMERICAN GENTLEMAN.”
The Boston Terrier’s size and shape aren’t its only attributes that have changed since its early years. As pit fighters, early Boston Terriers were tough and ferocious, a far cry from today’s sweet-natured, cheerful version of the breed. The Boston Terrier’s temperament is so pleasant now that the breed has earned the nickname “The American Gentleman.” The characteristic black-and-white Boston Terrier coats that look like permanent tuxedos may have had something to do with it too.
BOSTON TERRIERS ARE OFTEN CONFUSED WITH FRENCH BULLDOGS.
Sharing common ancestors, Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs bear enough of a resemblance that the uninitiated sometimes have trouble distinguishing between a Boston Terrier and a black-and-white French Bulldog. Boston Terriers are typically a bit taller and lighter than the shorter, thicker French Bulldog. Also, Boston Terriers have pointed ears, as opposed to the round-eared French Bulldog.
Top: Boston Terrier. Bottom: French Bulldog.
MOST BOSTON TERRIER PUPPIES ARE DELIVERED VIA C-SECTION.
One of the physical traits that Boston Terriers inherited from their English Bulldog forebears is a head size that’s proportionally larger for their body size than average. As a result, Boston Terrier heads are too big for natural birth to be possible. In almost all cases, Boston Terrier puppies must be delivered via C-section to ensure their safety and that of their mothers.
TWO U.S. PRESIDENTS OWNED BOSTON TERRIERS.
Two American presidents owned Boston Terriers, although not during their presidential terms in either case. Gerald Ford’s boyhood dogs were Boston Terriers named Fleck and Spot. Warren G. Harding had a Boston Terrier named Hub whom he described as, “a grateful and devoted dog, with a dozen lovable attributes.” Hub died in 1913.
Pictured: Young Gerald Ford with either Fleck or Spot.
HELEN KELLER WAS A BOSTON TERRIER OWNER.
In the autumn of 1901, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan visited Presto Kennels in Newton, Massachusetts, where Keller met Sir Thomas, a Boston Terrier. Known for his independent streak, Sir Thomas did not make friends easily, but he seemed to form an instant bond with Keller. Several months later, to celebrate the end of midterm exams, Keller’s classmates at Radcliffe College presented her with Sir Thomas as a surprise gift. "Is it really mine?" Keller asked as she burst into tears. "Oh, I am so happy."
A BOSTON TERRIER NAMED SERGEANT STUBBY WAS A WWI HERO.
Stubby must have had an extra dose of the toughness left over from when Boston Terriers were still bred to fight. He became America’s first war dog, a hero of World War I who, serving as a member of the 26th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, detected poison gas attacks, saved wounded American soldiers stranded in no-man’s land, and even engaged in one-on-one combat with a German soldier. Stubby achieved the rank of Sergeant, and was celebrated as a national hero.
Next: Cool Facts About Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
TOTO FROM 'THE WIZARD OF OZ' WAS A BOSTON TERRIER. IN THE BOOKS. SOME OF THEM.
Toto, Dorothy Gale’s dog in L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz books and their variation adaptations, is one of the most famous fictional dogs of any breed. Baum never specified Toto’s breed, but in the books’ illustrations, he appears to be a Cairn Terrier, and was depicted as such in the famous 1939 “Wizard of Oz” movie. For some unexplained reason, though, Toto’s appearance in the books changed midway through the series, and he was illustrated instead as a Boston Terrier. Later, the illustrations in the books reverted to Toto’s original appearance.