The History of a Boston Terrier

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When it comes to good quality dog breeds, I often wonder how they came to be. What were they a result of? What did the first of its kind look like? How far back can you trace their existence? These are some of the questions that I often ask. In this article, I answer those questions as I examine the history of a Boston Terrier.

The History of a Boston Terrier

Before it became known as “The American Gentleman,” Boston Terriers have come a long way to become what they are known for today.

A black and white Boston terrier with a pink collar standing on a grass field in the park


The journey of this dog breed started in Boston when Robert Hooper bought a dog from William O’Brien. The dog’s name was Judge; later, it was referred to as Hooper’s Judge. Judge was a cross between a white English Terrier and an English Bulldog and was imported into the United States from  England by William O’Brien.

Judge weighed about 32 pounds and was powerfully built. He had a square, blocky head, and his coat was dark brindle. His face also had a white stripe. A bitch owned by Edward Burnett, Gyp, and Judge bred. Gyp was white and weighed about 20 pounds. Her head was also short and blocky, while her tail was low stationed.

Their offspring was a dog of about 28 pounds of a strong build and had the coat color of its father, Judge, including white markings and a similar mouth. Breeding continued, and at some point, French Bulldogs were included to help reduce the terriers’ temperament.


The name they have today is not the name they had initially. They were first called Round-Headed Bull or Roundheads and then American Bull Terriers before it was Boston Bull Terrier. In 1981, after the organization of the Boston Terrier Club of America, there was a name change to Boston Terrier.


The American Kennel Club formally recognized this breed in 1893. It had taken the fanciers of this breed two years to do this as AKC was curious if they could keep breeding true breeds. The breed was finally admitted to the club when they proved they could.

It is crucial to note that during this time, the breed was not as it is right now. Much research and careful breeding had to be done to get to what the breed is today. Over the years, its popularity has spread in the United States and worldwide.

Official Standard

Official dog standards are put in place to ensure that all dogs of that breed have the same characteristics. They are also meant to ensure that breeders have a clear definition of what the dogs they breed are supposed to look and behave like. When these goals are met, it means that the dog is in line with the official standards of the dog breed.


Three weight categories have been set for Boston Terrier. They are:

  • Under 15 pounds
  • 15 pounds to under 20 pounds
  • 20 pounds to under 25 pounds

This translates to no dog of this breed that is above 25 pounds meet the set criteria for the breed. The length of the body and that of the dog should also balance to give a square appearance. If the body appears to be chunky or blocky, it means that it is faulty.

Their average height is between 13 to 17 inches tall, with the males being taller than most females.

Two Boston terriers with black and white coats wearing body harnesses playing on the grass filed with a woman


The head of The American Gentleman is square and flat at the top and should not have any wrinkles. Its brow should be abrupt and the cheeks flat. Their eyes are large, round, and dark in color, and they are set wide apart. Dogs with blue eyes or shades of blue or those that show too much white are said to be faulty and do not meet the breed’s standards.

From the front, you will notice that the outside corners of the eyes will form a line that goes up to the cheeks. Its ears are small, and they stand erect. They are found near the skull’s corners, and in situations where they do not naturally conform to the head’s shape, some breeders prefer to crop them.

Its muzzle is short, square, and free from wrinkles. It should not be more than one-third of the skull’s length. Its nose is black and should have a defined line between its nostrils that is well defined. If it has a Dudley’s nose, it does not qualify. Its jaw should be broad and have short regular teeth with chops that completely cover the teeth when it closes its mouth.


Its neck should be slightly arched and long enough to indicate balance between the head and the rest of the body. Its back should be short, so it gives the body its square appearance. A deep chest with well-sprung ribs also helps give the body a square appearance.

Boston Terrier tail is low and short and should not be raised above its horizontal body. The tail should not be more than a quarter the length of the set-on to hock. Other body features that can cause the dog to be disqualified include:

  • Sway back
  • Roach back
  • Gaily carried tail
  • Slab-sided


Its forelegs should have strong pasterns and be straight and short. Legs that lack substance can cause a dog to be disqualified. You can keep the declaws or have them removed. Its thighs are well-muscled and strong. Its hock joint should be well defined, and has short nails and small feet.


The journey of the Boston terrier started hundreds of years ago. From that journey, you can see how it has shaped this dog breed to be what it is known for and loved for today. Knowing the history of this and other dog breeds is crucial as a great conversation starter and also for your knowledge.

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