The Origin of the Boston Terrier

Learn all about the origin and history of the Boston Terrier dog breed in this 1923 DogWorld article.

Dog World March 1923From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the longest published dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

The city surrounding the harbor of Boston, the scene of the historic “Boston Tea Party” rightfully claims the honor of the American origin of the Boston Terrier dog breed.

The first dog, that was destined to become the ancestor of the breed was Hooper’s Judge, a cross between an English Bulldog and a Bull Terrier, imported from England and owned by R.C. Hooper.

Judge was a dark brindle with a white stripe on the face, nearly even mouth, of the bully type and weighing about 32 lbs. He was mated to a white stocky built, low stationed bitch with a short blocky head and a three-quarter tail, named Gyp and owned by Edward Burnett of Southboro.

A direct descendant of this breeding was Wells’ Eph, a low stationed dark brindle dog with even white marking, weighing 28 lbs. Eph was then mated to Tobin’s Kate, a golden brindle, strongheaded, 20 lb. bitch with a three-quarter tail. From this union came Barnard’s Tom a red brindle dog with white blaze on one side of his face, white collar, chest and feet, weighing 22 lbs. and possessing the first screw tail.

Barnard’s Boston Terrier Tom was then mated to Kelley’s Nell, a 22 lb. evenly mark dark brindle bitch with strong head and three-quarter tail. The result of this mating was Barnard’s Mike destined to make Boston Terrier history. He was a light brindle and white, even mouthed short tailed dog, about 25 lbs. Very typical and one of the first of this dog breed possessing a large full eye so desirous in the present day dog. The continued inbreeding of the most typical sons and daughters of the above mentioned dogs made the present type permanent.

The owner of Barnard’s Mike was J.P. Barnard Jr. oftimes called “the father of the breed”, who judged their first show in 1888. At this particular time the dog was known as the Boston bull, the round headed bull and the round headed terrier. Later however the dog breed was recognized by the parent A.K.C. In 1893 it became officially known as the Boston Terrier.

The popularity of the Boston Terrier today is due to its beautiful color and markings, it’s attractive shape, size and disposition. He inherits his lively disposition and the ability to defend himself when attacked from the bull terrier. From the English bull he inherits his affectionate nature.

The standard limits the weight at 25 lbs. but the preferred weight is from 12 to 17 lbs. The preferred colors are dark mahogany and dark seal brindle with perfect white markings which consist of a wide even blaze and nose band, full even collar, chest and white feet or stockings.

The Boston Terrier’s skull should be flat on top and free from wrinkles; cheeks flat; brow abrupt, stop well defined. The eyes wide apart, large, round, dark and expressive; the eyes should set square across brow and the outside corners should be on a line with the cheeks as viewed from the front. The muzzle should be short, square, wide and deep, free from wrinkles; shorter in length than in width and depth and in proportion to skull. Nose black and wide.

The jaws broad and square with short even teeth. The chops of good depth but not in pendulous, completely covering the teeth when closed. The ears should be small and thin, situated as near corners of skull as possible. The neck should be of fair length, slightly arched and without throatiness. The body should be deep with fair width of chest and well sprung, carried well back of loins; loins short and muscular, rump curving slightly to set-on of tail. Flank slightly cut up, The body should appear short but not too chunky. Elbows should stand neither in nor out. Forelegs should set fairly wide apart and on a line with the points of the shoulders; straight in bone and well muscled; pasterns short and strong. The hindlegs should be set true, bent at stifles; be short from hocks to feet; hocks turning neither in nor out; thighs strong and well muscled. The feet should be small, round and compact, and turned neither in nor out; toes well arched. The tail should set-on low; be short, fine and tapering; straight screw or kink; devioid of fringe or coarse hair and not carried above the horizontal. The coat should be short, smooth, glossy and fine in texture.

The breedings of the Boston Terrier of today appeals to a larger class of people than any other dog breed. Boston Terriers are bred in both the millionaire’s home, and in the tenement. The market for this dog breed will never become over-stocked as the demand is rapidly increasing and often exceeds the supply. The old adage “Every dog has his day” does not apply in this case as after more than thirty-five years popularity the Boston Terrier is going stronger than ever.


Excerpted from Dog World magazine, March 1923, Vol. VIII, No. 3. For back issues of Dog World, click here.

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