In This Chapter
- Interesting historical facts about Boston Terriers
- The rise and fall — and rise again — of Boston popularity
- Bostons making their mark
Part of the fun of owning a Boston Terrier — or any purebred dog, for that matter — is to acquaint yourself with fascinating facts about the breed.
In this chapter, I list ten little-known bits of trivia about Boston Terriers that you can use to impress friends and family members.
J.P. Barnard, known as the father of the Boston Terrier, used his dogs Tom and Mike at stud more than any other dogs at that time through his kennels on Myrtle Street in Boston. Many consider Mike to be the first to portray the 20th-century Boston Terrier look. He was the sire (father) of Punch, one of the first Bostons registered by the American Kennel Club.
An American Original
Boston Terriers join the American Water Spaniel, Toy Fox Terrier, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever as one of the few dog breeds native to the United States. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Bostons are such relative newcomers, in fact, that their ancestry can be traced back to the beginning of the breed.
It all started with Hooper’s Judge, a bulldog-terrier blend, imported from England in 1865 by Robert C. Hooper. Judge, with his dark brindle-and-white coat, was bred to Burnett’s Gyp, a stockier, blockier dog. They produced Well’s Eph, who was bred to Tobin’s Kate and resulted in Barnard’s Tom, owned by J.P. Barnard. That dog was considered to be the first true representative of the Boston Terrier breed.
What’s in a Name?
On February 27, 1893, the Boston Terrier was recognized by the AKC. But the breed wasn’t always known by that name. Before 1889, fanciers and breeders of this bulldog-terrier blend referred to their dogs as the “round-headed bulldog,” “Boston bulldog,” “toy bulldog,” and “bullet head.” Fitting names, indeed!
In 1889, a group of 40 breeders led by Charles F. Leland gathered and began to keep breeding records of these bulldog-terrier blends. They called themselves the American Bull Terrier Club and actively sought AKC approval of the breed.
In 1891, the group applied for admission into the AKC stud book. Bulldog and Bull Terrier fanciers, however, lobbied against acceptance of the breed, citing concerns about the inconsistent breeding program and the confusing name “American Bull Terrier.”
After two years of discussions between the AKC committee and the Boston breeders, they decided that only one cross to a Bulldog or a Bull Terrier would be allowed, and that it could only be in the third generation. They also decided that because the dog originated in Boston, he should be called the Boston Terrier.
As dapper and well-mannered as any four-legged companion, Boston Terriers have earned the nickname “American Gentleman” for their polite and amiable personalities. With a subdued terrier temperament, most Bostons are alert, loving, intelligent, and devoted: traits embodied by any true “gentleman.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, Boston Terriers’ popularity soared. The Boston Terrier Club of America’s records show that between 1905 and 1935, Bostons held one of the top two spots among the AKC’s registered breeds. Between 1921 and 1934, 90,000 Bostons were listed with the registry.
From 1920 through 1964, Bostons remained among the top-ten most popular dogs registered with the AKC. Today, Bostons still rank relatively high, typically falling within the top-20 registered breeds. They ranked the 15th most popular breed in 2006.
Little Men on Campus
Boston University’s Rhett became the college’s official mascot on November 15, 1922. Named after a character from Gone with the Wind, Rhett attends soccer, basketball, and lacrosse games. He performs on the ice during hockey game intermissions. He even makes special appearances on the BU campus, at area hospitals, and at local schools for holiday events. Rhett has become a national celebrity, being named an All-American mascot in 1996 and placing fourth in the National Mascot Championships in 2002.
Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, boasts three Boston Terrier mascots in its athletic program. Boss the Terrier has entertained Wofford fans since 2001 at football, basketball, and baseball games. Lil’ Ruff, a pint-size version of Boss, entertains kids at sporting events and graces the cover of “Terrier Tales,” a reading program started in 2006 at the Spartanburg County Library. Blitz, a real-live Boston Terrier, was named the official mascot of the Wofford Athletic Department in 2003. Owned by Chris and Jean Williams, Blitz patrols the sidelines at every home football game.
Popular beyond Boston
Understandably, Boston Terriers enjoy a huge popularity in Boston, but not as much as they once did. AKC statistics show a steady decline in Boston registration in the city, from ranking 8th in 2004 to 10th in 2005, and slipping to 11th in 2006.
Other cities, however, have embraced the Boston. Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; and Seattle, Washington, for example, welcomed the Boston on their lists of top-ten registered dog breeds in 2006.
The Incredible Shrinking Dog
The Boston Terrier’s breed standard states that the dog should weigh between 10 and 25 pounds. In the early days, however, Bostons weighed anywhere from a petite 7 pounds to a hefty 35 pounds.
After the AKC acknowledged Bostons as an official breed in 1893, breeders and fanciers began to standardize the dog. Its color markings became symmetrical, its “American Gentleman” demeanor was developed, and its body shape evolved from that of a blocky bulldog to a wiry terrier.
State of the Boston
As a testament to the Boston’s popularity in its home state, Massachusetts Boston fanciers started a movement to have the Boston Terrier named the state dog. In 1979, Gov. Edward Joseph King made it official. Boston Terriers now join wild turkeys, the Morgan horse, and the tabby cat as the official dog, bird, horse, and cat of Massachusetts.
Odds ’n’ Ends
Boston Terriers have enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame. Here are some celebrity Bostons and their owners:
– In the original book version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Toto is believed to be a Yorkshire Terrier, being described as a “little black dog with long silky hair.” Most people recognize Toto as a Cairn Terrier from the 1939 film version. But in later books in the Oz series, Toto transforms into a Boston Terrier.
– Helen Keller’s classmates from Radcliffe College gave her a Boston Terrier named Sir Thomas Belvedere. He became one of her canine companions during her life.
– Badger the Boston Terrier starred in a trilogy of MasterCard commercials in 2004. In the ads, his family accidentally leaves him behind in the Redwoods, but Badger makes it home, encountering various acts of kindness from strangers along the way.
– Hollywood celebrity Joan Rivers shares her life with Lulu, a Boston Terrier. Denise Richards, former Bond girl, also owns two Bostons: Lucy and Stella.
by Wendy Bedwell-Wilson