The Coloured
Bull Terrier Club
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Coloured Bull Terrier Club

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CBTC AGM History Judges Show Results Rules Ethics Downloads Forum A brief history - The Coloureds

The origins of the Bull Terrier can be traced back to the crossing of old style Bulldogs and various terriers around 1800. These crosses varied in both size and colour. Smaller ones gained notoriety for the feats in the rat pits, while the larger ones displayed their unparalleled tenacity and courage as fighting dogs. But society’s attitude towards dogs and animals in general changed dramatically during Queen Victoria’s long reign. By the 1860s the wealthy middle classes began owning dogs as symbols of their social status; what sociologists refer to as “pet and prize” animals.

Meanwhile dog shows gained rapidly in popularity. In response to this scenario James Hinks, a dog dealer from Birmingham – well known for his Bulldogs, developed a more refined and uniform version of these crosses that today we know as the Bull Terrier. Hinks’ dogs were noted for the cleaner longer heads and their hallmark pure white coats. His “White Cavaliers” soon ousted the old style Bull-and-Terriers, many of which were coloured, from the show ring. Today the descendents of these old style dogs are known as Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Returning from India, where he had used old-style coloured Bull-and-Terriers for hunting jackals, Edward Lyon found the White Cavaliers too soft for his liking. So about 1907 he set about improving their gameness by backcrossing them with brindle Staffordshires. Gameness was his goal, coloured coats were the result. In fact we now know that all Bull Terriers are genetically coloured, but in whites the colour is inhibited except for markings on the head and occasionally on the body. Be that as may, Ted Lyon (affix Sher) with the help in particular of Walter Tumner set about breeding coloured Bull Terriers. Later Richard Glyn wrote an article entitled “The Seven Sources of Colour in Bull-terriers” arguing that coloureds can be traced back to seven brindle Staffordshires. But this is probably an oversimplification. Indeed one important source – Jock of the Bushveldt – was in fact a Bulldog/Manchester Terrier cross. A dedicated cadre of breeders, quite simply, was trying to put a coloured jacket on the typical white Bull Terrier of the day.

The task proved enormously more difficult than anticipated. The root cause of their challenge was head and expression; the broad head, distinct stop and round, open eyes of the Staffordshire by now differed greatly from the longer, down-faced head and small, sunken eyes of the White Cavalier. Ears were also quite different. Progress on head and expression was painfully slow. In 1919 the brindle Bing Boy became the first coloured Bull Terrier to be awarded a Challenge Certificate (CC). The decision by the judge, Count Hollender, caused uproar among supporters of white Bull Terriers. Continuing success, however, was elusive. During the 1920’s  Mrs. Violet Ellis kept the coloureds before the public eye, guaranteeing classes for them at most shows. William Dockerill’s Lady Winifred, born in 1927, garnered her first CC in 1929. Meanwhile Mrs. Ellis bred Hunting Blondi, who for a coloured in those days sported a sensational head. A flash point for the coloureds came at the National Terrier Club show in 1931, when Hollender awarded the CCs to Lady Winifred and Hunting Blondi; again highly controversial judgments. Both Lady Winifred and Hunting Blondi were brindle/white and sired by white dogs out of brindle bitches. Lady Winifred soon became the first coloured champion. Tragically, however, Hunting Blondi died shortly after winning his second CC.

These successes placed coloureds in the limelight. But they were still considered second class citizens and breeders of whites were horrified at the possibility of coloured blood tainting their beautiful “pure” white Bull Terriers. Members of the Bull Terrier Club (BTC), who bred coloureds, were required to euthanize the white puppies that inevitably resulted from their breeding programs. J. Symes’ brindle Nelstan Cotton was a consistent winner in the early 1930s and it was his grandson Boko’s Brock, who in 1935 became the first coloured male champion. Three coloureds gained their titles in 1936, but none could match the best whites, especially in head. Meanwhile Miss D Montague Johnstone (Romany) had purchased her first Bull Terrier from Lyon, the brindle Sher Fustian, in 1927, betting the then BTC secretary that she would breed a coloured champion within ten years. This she did. After enjoying success with Romany Radium, born in 1931, she doubled up on Radium in breeding the red Romany Rhinestone, crowned in 1937 – the first of many Romany champions. Most significantly Rhinestone matched the whites in head, expression and substance.

The other coloured champion that year was the lovely brindle bitch Jane of Petworth.The worst fears of the “white” fraternity were confirmed in 1936 when the colour-bred white (cbw) Rebel of Blighty gained his championship. Rebel was soon dispatched to America, but the BTC recognized that this was the thin end of the wedge. The Club could not keep cbw Bull Terriers from being bred and shown. In response the BTC introduced their own white-bred stud book, limited to Bull Terriers with at least four generations of pure white breeding.