Are Boston Terrier Tails Naturally Short?

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Boston Terriers have a tuxedo-like coat, round eyes, perky ears, and short tails. Seeing other kinds of dogs with long tails wagging, you begin to think: are Boston Terrier tails naturally short? The answer comes from a combination of things, including genes and health conditions.

Are Boston Terrier Tails Naturally Short?

Boston Terriers’ tails are naturally short tails — either screwed or straight — because of a mutated gene that causes the tail to grow short or not at all. A Boston Terrier’s tail typically doesn’t go beyond two inches and shouldn’t exceed more than one-quarter of the distance from the body. 

Man with Boston Terrier

Reasons Why Boston Terriers Have Short Tails 

Puppies inherit two-tail genes, from the mother and another from the father. If a puppy gets at least one short-tail gene, then it’s likely to have a short tail. When a puppy receives two short-tail genes, this normally causes spinal abnormalities, like in the case of Boston Terriers. 

The tail is a dog’s most posterior or caudal terminal appendage of the vertebral column. A dog’s spine is similar to a long cylindrical tube with a hole in the middle where the spinal cord passes through. 

While the tail extends beyond the trunk or the body’s main part, it shouldn’t exceed two inches in length from its setting place or the tail base. However, 75% of exhibited Bulldogs have kinky or screw tails. These are instances where a dog’s nervous system comes with genetic mutations that result in short tails.

  • Dishevelled 2: Recent studies show that the genetic basis for a Terrier’s tail relates to Dishevelled 2, which is a rare syndrome in humans that causes anatomical changes or deformities in the spine, limbs, and face. In the case of Terriers, the syndrome prevents the tail bones from growing longer, giving Terriers stub-like tails. 
  • Brachyury gene mutation: A mutation in the Brachyury results in a short tail because the gene is important to the notochord’s development. The notochord is necessary for the growth of the tissues in the brain and spinal cord. A Terrier that carries one or two copies of the mutation will have a naturally short tail. 
  • Hemivertebra: This is a condition where dogs have congenitally deformed vertebra. The spine twists or bends when two or more vertebral bodies fuse or develop asymmetrically, creating a screwed or bobbed tail for Terriers.  

Are Short Tails Docked? 

It’s vital that I don’t confuse short tails and docked tails. Boston Terriers can have short tails without docking due to their genes. You can check this by looking at the tail base or hock located at your dog’s back leg right below the knee. 

Smiling dog

Docking involves cutting a dog’s tail or the tip of the tail, whereas short tails often come from gene mutations or spinal deformities. Dogs that undergo tail docking would have shorter than standard tails or no tail at all. Some breeders do docking for Terriers with long tails so that they can preserve the standard tail length for Boston Terriers. 

Breeders and owners consider docking for week-old Terriers because puppies still have undeveloped nervous systems. However, it may be impractical to pursue this procedure unless a veterinarian deems it appropriate for your pet’s health.

Is Short Tail An Infection? 

Terriers can live with short tails without problems, as this is normal for their genes. However, this also implies that they are susceptible to tail infections. 

Itching and redness in the area are often the first signs of infection. When the folds of the skin harbor dirt or other matter, the tail suffers from irritation, and eventually, tail infection. A distinct smell due to dead skin or pus is another sign of infection. 

When this happens, you need to assess the infection’s severity. In general, you should start cleaning the area using antiseptic soap and warm water to remove any dirt. 

After that, put a clean gauze to dry the area. You can also apply a soothing cream to reduce skin irritation and encourage healing. If you notice the tail is affecting your pet’s health, it would be best to consult a veterinarian. 

Can Boston Terriers Have Long Tails?

Although rare, a Terrier can have long and straight tails. Long tails are less common since a Boston Terrier is genetically prone to have a bobbed tail. However, some types of Boston Terriers can have unusually long tails, especially if the other parent’s genes become dominant. 

Boston Terrier standing in the grassfield with his naturally short tails

Aside from that, there are Terriers that can have tails longer than the standard length, resulting in them having curved or corkscrew tails. This type of canine tail features a two-inch tail that generally sticks tightly against the dog’s bottom.

Even so, this doesn’t imply that purebred Terriers should only have short tails. Terriers can inherit a full-length tail, which is about six inches, depending on the parent genes. 

Related Questions

Does Breeding Result in Short Tails? 

This occurrence depends on the genetic mutations of the parents. When breeding dogs with hereditary malformations, I risk having a new litter with a congenital predisposition that would have the same problems. This is why it’s beneficial to mate a Terrier with another standard breed or with a dog that has a straight tail. 

Is It Important to Keep the Tail?

It’s essential to keep a Boston Terrier’s tail because tail muscles stabilize the vertebral column and support the back muscles. The tail is a crucial part of a dog’s body as it provides balance for walking or leaping. Dogs typically run at incredible speeds, and they need the tail to balance their bodies when making turns.

Does Tail Length Matter?

This depends on why you want the tail to be short or long, whether for appearance or working conditions. Nevertheless, the length shouldn’t be a big deal as long as the tail helps your Terrier communicate, ensure balance, and maintain a healthy life.   

Boston Terrier Dogs 101: Boston Terrier Facts and Information


Terriers feature a short tail that can either be straight or screwed.  Still, every Boston Terrier comes with a distinctive or unique feature I must treasure. Whether your Terrier has a short or long tail, what matters most is that you understand its body to provide the best care.

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