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What Is a Boston Terrier?

The Boston Terrier was originally a cross between an English terrier and an English bulldog.
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  • Written By: S. N. Smith
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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The Boston Terrier, or Boston bull, was given official breed status by the American Kennel Club in 1893. A cross between the now extinct white English terrier and the English bulldog, the Boston terrier, originally bred sometime in the 1880s, is one of the few dog breeds originating in the United States.

A nonsporting dog, the Boston terrier was originally bred for pit fighting. This version, known as the Olde Boston Bulldogge, was considerably larger, weighing about 44 pounds (20 kg). Over the years, offspring of the original cross were bred down, probably with the smaller French bulldog, to produce a more petite version of the Boston terrier, better suited to companionship than carnage.

Today’s Boston terrier may weigh from 13 to 25 pounds (5.9 to 11.3 kg), averaging 15 pounds (7 kg). Typically, they reach a shoulder height of 15 to 17 inches (38 to 43.2 cm). The coat of the Boston terrier is short, sleek, and smooth, with distinctive markings. The body, ears, and eye areas should be black, brindle, or seal. White should cover the forechest and muzzle, and there should be a white blaze between the eyes. Ideally, there should be a white band around the neck, white hind feet, and white reaching halfway up the forelegs.

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The ears of the Boston terrier are erect and should be well proportioned in relation to the size of its head. The muzzle is short and the face is square. The tail is short or nonexistent.

Personality-wise, the Boston terrier is known for its intelligence, independence, and alertness. It can be socialized to get along quite well with children and other pets, and is typically gentle and well behaved. As a breed, it can be willful, and housebreaking issues are sometimes a concern.

Although Boston terriers, on the whole, are a relatively easy-to-maintain breed, they are prone to certain health complaints. Because Boston terriers have large eyes that bulge slightly, they are prone to eye injury. Injuries to the eye may develop into corneal ulcers, which are painful and difficult to treat, and may result in impaired vision or even loss of the eye. Therefore, care must be taken to protect the eyes.

In addition to injury, there are a number of diseases of the eye that the Boston terrier is predisposed to. These include cherry eye, glaucoma, corneal dystrophy, and keratitis sicca, among others. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) recommends an annual eye exam for dogs. The best way to prevent many of these conditions is to eliminate them through breeding them out of the gene pool.

Due to its short muzzle, the Boston terrier is sensitive to extremes in temperature and therefore cannot tolerate much activity in either very hot or very cold weather. Their short muzzle also results in a great deal of snorting and loud snoring, and the swallowing of excess air while the dog is eating. The latter causes no discomfort to the dog, though anyone sharing the room shortly thereafter will be less than delighted with the escape of that excess air.

Although they do enjoy a certain amount of activity, Boston terriers do not require a great deal of exercise, making them ideal apartment dwellers. Their average life expectancy is 13 years.

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