History of the Boston Terrier

history of the boston terrier

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History of the Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier is a very popular breed. It’s easy to see why: they’re cute, friendly, and intelligent. Their small size means that they are just as happy in an apartment as in a villa, and they get on with just about everyone. You would never suspect that this charming little dog started out as a fearsome fighter!

Little but Fierce

The Boston Terrier is an all American dog. As the breed name indicates, they were bred on the East Coast of the United States. There is some disagreement about when the Boston Terrier first came to be. Most sources agree that they were first bred by the coachmen of wealthy families for pit fighting. It is said that English Bulldogs were crossed with the English White Terrier (now extinct) to create a new and improved fighting dog.

A Boston Judge

In 1870, Robert C. Hooper of Boston bought such a dog from Edward Burnett, though other stories say that he bought the dog from William O’Brian in Boston. This dog was named Judge, and he is thought to be the ancestor of nearly all of today’s Boston Terriers. Judge was well built, with a dark brindle coat and a white blaze on his square face. Judge’s descendants were bred with French Bulldogs, and the resulting pups were the forerunners of the modern Boston Terrier.

In the arms of the Stars

The breed was recognised by the AKC in 1893, and quickly became popular. The Boston Terrier was the top dog to have, and was often seen with the stars and starlets of Hollywood. Film star Pola Negri took her Boston Terrier everywhere with her, and gossip columnist Louella Parsons adored her own Boston Terrier. President Ford and President Harding both owned Boston Terriers, as did jazz musician Louis Armstrong, and author and political activist Helen Keller. Today, Boston Terriers can still be found in the arms of the stars: Jake Gyllenhall, Denise Richards, and Rose McGowen all own Boston Terriers.


Although the Boston Terrier is a small, this breed is usually well-muscled and sturdy. The head is square shaped with large ears (usually uprights but some dogs have floppy ears), and large rounded eyes. They have short muzzles but almost no wrinkles on their faces. Boston Terriers can have short, straight tails or curly, corkscrew tails.

Boston Terriers have short, smooth coats. Their fur can be black, brindle, or dark brown (called “seal”). They sometimes have white markings on the chest, face and legs. These dogs can look like they’re wearing a tuxedo – no wonder the breed is sometimes called the American Gentleman!


You would never guess that the Boston Terrier was originally bred for pit fighting! These are incredibly friendly and affectionate. Most Boston Terriers are playful, and often make great family dogs. They are likely to get on with dogs and other pets (be warned, Boston Terriers tend to make good ratters, so it’s wiser to keep them away from small animals such as hamsters), though they might be a bit too protective of their owners sometimes. Luckily they are intelligent and keen to learn, so you can teach them to be well behaved canine citizens.


While the Boston Terrier is generally a healthy dog, they are prone to a few health conditions. Boston Terriers can have problems with their eyes, such as cherry eye, corneal ulcers, and cataracts. They are also predisposed to deafness. The Boston Terrier is a brachycephalic dog, which means that it has a short muzzle. This short muzzle can cause breathing problems. Dogs with short muzzles often snore and “reverse sneeze”, and are more likely to suffer from heat stroke.