What Was a Boston Terrier Bred For?

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While Boston Terriers might resemble other dogs, yet they have different needs and unique characteristics. Being among the oldest breeds in the world, you may wonder: what was a Boston Terrier bred for? I’ll look into the breed’s history to know more about this and see the difference in present-day Boston Terriers. 

What Was a Boston Terrier Bred For? 

Boston Terriers were initially bred to be fighting dogs, mainly because they come from a family of hunters, fighters, and watchdogs.

With decades of breeding and cultural changes, Boston Terriers grew to be gentle, affectionate dogs, ending their reputation of being a killer breed.

Graphic image of a gray and white Boston Terrier with a text explaining how Boston Terriers were initially bred to be fighting dogs

To understand what was a Boston Terrier bred for, I’m going to look into their history of dogfighting and how they made the shift to become loving family and companion pets. 

Boston Terrier’s Breed History 

The ancestors of Boston Terriers served as fighting dogs, watchdogs, and rodent hunters because of their protective nature, excellent hearing, and loyal instincts.

Boston Terrier as a Fighting Dog

Back in the 1800s, blood sports were popular in England. This led to the craze of crossbreeding bull-type dogs and terriers. Among them was a tough, muscular dog named Judge, who was a cross between Bulldog and the now-extinct White English Terrier. 

Judge had a dark brindle with white stripes in his square and blocky head, much like how today’s Boston Terriers look like. However, the likes of Judge were trained to survive the violent practice of dogfighting.

While dogfighting is a felony in several American states today, there were about 5,000 victims of dogfighting and 400 rescues from 12 states alone. 

Boston Terrier as a Watchdog 

At such times, wealthy families want reliable watchdogs they can keep in the house or stable at night. However, they didn’t want long-coated dogs because they can bring mud inside homes and cover furniture with hair.

They found these necessary traits in Boston Terriers. In addition, the breed is vigorous enough to follow horseback rides and easily disciplined not to wander from home. 

Boston Terrier wearing a sweater while being taken out on a walk

Another thing is that the breed rarely barks, so owners would know something’s wrong as Boston Terriers would only bark whenever they sense danger or their owners are in trouble. Fortunately, this trait was passed on in today’s Boston Terriers. 

Boston Terrier as a Rodent Hunter

Several kinds of Terriers were considered ‘earth dogs’ because of their role in hunting rats and other small animals in fields and factories. Because of their small bodies, agility, and high levels of energy, they can dig holes quickly to catch their prey. 

Their short legs also allow Boston Terriers to snatch vermin on the ground as they run. The breed’s tenacity, cleverness to form strategies, and nature to please owners make them suitable working dogs. 

More than that, their sense of smell is immeasurably better than humans. With 10 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity, Boston Terriers can smell and locate vermins even as they move.  

Modern-Day Boston Terriers 

The good thing is that while Boston Terriers kept some of the traits that made their ancestors fighters and hunters, they evolved to become well-natured and people-friendly dogs. 

Boston Terrier as a Companion Dog

Due to the breed’s popularity, people eventually realized that Boston Terriers could also serve as companions. Because of the breed’s versatility, attentiveness, and loyalty, they started to take spots at homes and families.

Boston Terrier lounging around

Aside from being smaller and sweeter than their parent dogs, their ability to adapt to homes enabled them to live in estates and urban areas. Given the right food and best dog toys, they can easily adjust to homes.

Boston Terrier as an Elite Lapdog

Lapdogs are dogs that are small enough to lie comfortably on your lap. Their temperament is also predisposed to behave well even when you hold them in your arms. While this is not a particular breed, Boston Terriers are excellent lapdogs because of their small size and friendliness toward humans.

There was a time when fashionable breeds became a fad because they barked too much, and some have long hairs. Boston Terriers became ideal lapdogs for some people because of their short coat and short stature.

Boston Terrier as a Competitive Dog

A healthy Boston Terrier can use its energy, cleverness, and eagerness to amuse people to win competitions. 

While their dogfighting days are gone, Boston Terriers continue to excel in these canine sports, with some events recognizing the breed’s ancestral roots.  

  • Conformation 
  • Dog agility
  • Obedience training
  • Rally obedience
  • Dock diving
  • Tracking
  • Weight-pulling
  • Flyball
  • Herding 
  • Lure coursing
  • Barn hunting 

Boston Terrier as a Service Dog

Pet owner wondering what was Boston Terrier bred for

Boston Terriers are sensitive toward a human’s voice and feelings, making them suitable therapy dogs. They are also great with children and senior citizens as they can adjust their energy depending on the person.

You can register your Boston Terrier as a service dog because the breed is easily trained and has a protective nature. Because of their vigilance and discipline, they can stay focused on their work, even in public spaces.

Related Questions 

Before I end, let’s dive into some related queries about the Boston Terrier. 

What Is the Personality of a Boston Terrier?

Boston Terriers are generally loving, intelligent, and sociable dogs. While they can be stubborn and hyper at times, you can manage this through training, playtimes, and exercise routines. Additionally, they can adapt to most living environments.  

What’s Bad About the Boston Terrier?

Boston Terriers have genetic conditions that affect their facial bone structures, causing them to have restricted airways, and consequently, breathing problems. Like other breeds, Bostons can suffer from canine disorders, although you can prevent this through a proper diet and regular checkups. 

Do Boston Terriers Love to Cuddle?

Yes, Boston Terriers love to cuddle with their owners, as this is how they get a sense of belonging. Aside from warmth, they cuddle to show affection and bond with humans. 



Even if a Boston Terrier was originally bred for dog fighting and hunting, evolution made them become companion and family dogs. While they inherit some traits from their ancestors, Boston Terriers nowadays aren’t aggressive, as they turn out to be charming, lively, and affectionate dogs.

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