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Exp33-CopyThere is a strange movement happening in the world of Boston Terriers. I noticed it when I first began researching the breed around 2004. It was the “Colored Boston Terrier”. As a newby to the breed who was, at first, just looking for a family companion, I thought it was interesting to see an occasional red Boston advertised on the puppy sites. There were very few at that time, perhaps one in ten puppies at the most.


What I didn’t know was why there were so few, what their history was and I certainly didn’t know what the future would have in store. Fast forward ten years and breeders have cropped up all over the country, purposely breeding hundreds of “red”, “blue”, “cream”, “lilac”, “champagne”, “fawn”, and “splash” Boston Terriers.


 This is after those dedicated to the breed spent over a century trying to eliminate these colors through responsible breeding and spaying/neutering any accidental disqualifying colored dogs. iStockRed

For those who do not know, the BTCA and AKC accepts only black, seal and brindle Boston Terriers. AKC will register any purebred Boston Terrier and will even register under the disqualified color if photos are provided. This however does not change their status as a dog that is disqualified from the written standard and from the conformation show ring.


Since a disqualified colored Boston cannot be shown and goes against the breed standard as seen here on the AKC website "AKC Breed Standard" (effective March 30, 2011), producing them on purpose, in my opinion, clearly cannot be of benefit to the breed.


Unfortunately there are many puppy mills who “cash in” on the unusual colors by breeding them for profit. There are a handful of breeders who follow higher quality breeding practices by health testing their disqualified colored Bostons, however even those doing everything “by the book” are still just producing pets who cannot be of benefit to the breed either.


Many websites promoting the breeding of disqualified colored Bostons promote them as a “comeback” of colors accepted long ago. It’s true that there is mention of these colors when the breed was in its infancy. Reds were referred to as “liver” and blues referred to as “mouse”. However in 1900, only 7 years after the Boston Terrier was accepted into AKC, these colors were ruled out.


The breed standard allowed only brindle, then in 1932 black was added, then later, seal. Essentially, any Boston that was not black, seal or brindle was disqualified and has been since the year 1900. [Green, C.W., (1914) Green’s Book on Dogs and Axtel, E (Edward), (1910) The Boston Terrier and All About It.]


So, why were these colors eliminated? I still consider myself a newby to the breed, but I feel very strongly that it may have had to do with the expression of the Boston Terrier, which is so crucial to obtaining the overall ideal representative of the breed. The head, expression and overall appearance of the dog make up nearly half of all points given by a judge in the show ring.


Bostons are often referred to as a “head breed” and are known for their large dark eyes and intelligent expression. The standard states, and always has, that eyes are “dark and soft” and noses are “black and wide”. Now consider that many of the characteristics of a disqualified colored Boston Terrier, in relation to expression, were NEVER accepted by the BTCA or AKC standard. Pale, blue or red noses were never accepted, and neither were eyes that are gold, green, hazel or amber. With this in mind, it would appear that NO written standard would ever have allowed red, blue, lilac, champagne, albino, etc. due to not adhering to the requirements for nose and eye color. [Green, C.W., (1914) Green’s Book on Dogs and Axtel, E (Edward), (1910) The Boston Terrier and All About It.] 

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Don't misunderstand... all of these dogs who are disqualified from the Boston Terrier standard and the show ring are perfectly wonderful pets. Every one of them deserves to be treated just as well as any standard champion show dog. Unexpected things happen and occasionally a reputable show breeder will end up with a surprise red or blue or splash out of a litter. However its my feeling and the feeling of most show breeders that these dogs should be culled by spaying/neutering and placed in a pet home, not used in a breeding program that ignores the written standard.


This red female in the photo was pulled from a puppy mill with dead puppies still inside of her. She would have died of she had not been rescued. Thankfully she now has a great home with a show breeder in Canada who had the surgery done to save her life, spayed her, and now spoils her. Show breeders are not trying to exterminate Bostons of a

disqualifying color, many express concern about irresponsible breeding practices being promoted for the sake of puppy sales. 

Though many of these colors do occur naturally in the Boston breed and can crop up in a litter of two champion dogs from many generations of standard colored dogs, there are also some Bostons of disqualifying colors that have a little too much resemblance of another breed.


When something is promoted as "rare", puppy mills and profit breeders jump in with enthusiasm. What easier way to get a "rare" color than to toss another breed of that rare color into the mix? This is not to say that all Bostons of those colors are not purebred. I know for a fact there are many who are. However I have personally seen (and still find) photos of "Bostons" that clearly resemble Frenchies, Pit Bulls and even Chihuahuas. When a breeder is new to producing Bostons of these disqualified colors, how can they be certain that five generations back, one of those dogs wasn't a different breed, resulting in foundation stock that is not purebred?


Remember when I said in 2004, I saw red Boston puppies in about 1 out of 10 ads? As of the today as I write this article, the popular puppy sale site “Puppyfind”, often used by profit breeders, lists 561 Boston Terrier puppies. At least 224 of them are of various disqualified colors including blue, cream, fawn, splash, champagne, and lilac. That’s 40%! A 30% increase in about 10 years. Having seen this from its early stages to today has caused my personal opinion to go from, "Oh, that's interesting" to "What the heck is going in?" and now to, "I'm concerned". CHGumbo-eansCosmicStargazer2s  

 What does all of this mean for the future of the breed? I don’t want to guess, however what I do know is that since a disqualified colored Boston Terrier cannot be shown and bred to advance the breed itself, the purpose in breeding them is most often for pets. My personal feeling is that the world does not need anyone to purposely breed only pets, especially in such large quantities, since we have plenty of homeless pets right now who would appreciate the chance for a home. Ask shelters and rescues in your area if there is currently a “pet shortage” and see what kind of looks (and hand gestures?) you get.


When Boston Terriers were first established, there were many things that were not yet determined. Did they want a rose ear like French Bulldog? Did they want a straight tail? As with any breed in its beginning stages of development, the breed started out with some unknowns. However careful consideration has been given for over a century as to what a Boston should look like and it’s my personal feeling that those ideals that were established for the breed long before I was even born, should be respected. 

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(Jani Martin is a Boston Terrier breeder who has been involved with the breed since 2006 and started showing in 2008. She is a member of the Boston Terrier Club of America and the Boston Terrier Club of Western Washington. She can be reached for questions and comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)