What Were Boston Terriers Bred For?

Ok, I have heard a number of things Boston Terriers were bred for two of the most common I hear were to kill rates in homes and pit fighting. After owning Bella for 10 years, I don’t think I could see my lovable Boston doing either of those two things.

I decided to do some research into the questions of what Boston’s were bred for, and this is what I found out…

What Were Boston Terriers Bred For? Boston Terrier Society

What Were Boston Terriers Bred For?

Boston’s are believed to be bred for pit fighting and vermin killing. However, it’s likely this lovable breed was bred to be a dog of small stature, yet with strength, making it great for city living as well as on country estates. This appealed to the wealthy living in Boston, MA, in the late 1800s.

Read: Love Boston Terrier Puppies? Dog Breed Facts, Features, and Traits!


In my research, I found that Boston’s did come from two breeds. The Bulldog and the now-extinct White English Terrier. Both of these breeds have their own unique characteristics. As well as their own specific reasons for being bred. Bulldogs were bred for helping butchers with their livestock and bull baiting. The White English Terrier coming from Terriers, who were bred for vermin killing. Yet, in all the literature, I could not find the specific reason Boston Terrier was created. 

Yes, the Bulldog breed was for bull-baiting sport and the Terrier for vermin killing, but because a Boston shares this ancestry, it does not mean they were bred for this purpose.

Historic Book Excerpt

There were excerpts from a book written in 1910 titled “The Boston Terrier And All About It” by Edward Axtell that said this;

“The constant tendency among men of wealth today is to move from the city onto country estates, where they stay the greater part of the year, and in many cases all the time. They are looking for first-class watchdogs that can be kept in the house or stable, that are thoroughly reliable, that do not bring too much mud in on their coats, that do not cover the furniture with long hairs, that are vigorous enough to follow on a horseback ride, and which will not wander from home. 

I was in the company of a party of gentlemen the other day who had bought a number of estates in a town twenty miles from Boston, and the subject of a suitable breed of dogs for their residences was under discussion. All the fashionable breeds were gone over, some were objected to because they barked too much, others because of their propensity to rush out at teams; some that their coats were too long and they brought a great deal of mud, etc., in, and still others that their fighting disposition was too pronounced, but they all agreed that a good-sized, vigorous, good-natured Boston terrier just about filled the bill.” 

My basic understanding as to why Boston’s were created then was to be a multi-purpose dog. A breed that could be small enough for the wives of the wealthy elite, but big enough to take care of themselves. These dogs needed to be versatile living in Boston apartments as well as living on country estates. The older heavier version of Boston Terrier was just the dog.

Yes, this does not answer the question as to why the Boston originated. But this answer makes more sense for the origination of the Boston Terrier versus being raised to be pit fighters.

What Were Boston Terriers Bred For?
Me and Bella. Bella doesn’t look like a pit fighter, bull baiter, or vermin killer lol. Definitely a fart producer!

What Boston Terriers Are Known For Today

Boston Terriers today are known for their love and affectionate they show their owners. This breed is loyal to home and family, making it the perfect family dog. These dogs are excellent watchdogs, only barking when the time is right. 

While the ancestry of the Boston Terriers may be fighters and killers, the nature of the Boston today is pure love and kindness.

Final thoughts… 

I, please challenge anyone with primary sources to help with this question, What Were Boston’s Bred For? All the clubs and sites on line tell the same story of Boston Terriers being bred for pit fighting. I can not tell anywhere where this is true. 

I think Robert C. Hooper bred Judge to Burnett’s Gyp to be a dog for the wealthy elite of Boston, Machuesettes. Creating a dog of pride for the Bostonians as well as the practicality of apartment living and grand estate country living at the same time.

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Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

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