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Known as the “American Gentleman,” the Boston Terrier is a friendly, intelligent breed that originates in the U.S.
Recognized as a non-sporting breed by the AKC, Boston Terriers are small, standing between 15 and 17 inches tall.
They have short tails, short coats, erect ears, and typically come in some combination of black, brindle, seal, and white markings. Boston Terriers are easily recognized by their distinctive square heads and short muzzles.
The Boston Terrier Tail
Boston Terriers typically have short or very short tails. Many people are under the impression that they are always born without tails. However, they not only have tails, but they also come in a variety of lengths and types.
5 Types of Boston Terrier Tails
- Curled or Corkscrew tail
- Crooked tail
- Straight tail
- Gay tail
- Bobbed tail
1. Curled or Corkscrew
A corkscrew tail is about 2 or 3 inches long and curled. It is often shaped like a corkscrew but sometimes is less curled than that. The AKC considers a corkscrew tail to be a breed standard.
However, it is actually a common deformity, the result of deformed vertebrae in the tail, and it can indicate problems elsewhere in the spine.
A dog with a corkscrew tail should be seen by a veterinarian to determine if it needs surgical intervention.
2. Crooked Tail
Crooked tails are essentially the same as corkscrew tails but without the corkscrew shape.
Instead, they are about 2 to 3 inches long and bent in one or more places. This kind of tail can also indicate potential deformation of the spine. Terriers with crooked tails should be examined by veterinarians to see if they need help.
3. Straight Tail
Straight tails are the rarest type of Boston Terrier tail.
They are usually just an inch or two long, set low, and point straight down. Some, however, are longer than this.
According to the AKC Boston Terrier breed standards, the tail cannot be held above the horizontal. Boston Terriers with straight tails have fewer tail-related health problems than those with other tail types.
4. Gay Tail
Technically, the gay tail is also a straight tail. However, instead of pointing straight down, it points straight up. It is also set relatively high up.
Some people think the upward-facing tail makes the dogs look happy, which is where the tail gets its name from.
Although many people like the look of the gay tail, terriers with these tails are not usually show dogs, because the AKC’s breed standards do not allow for high-set tails carried above the horizontal.
5. Bobbed Tail
The bobbed tail is the most common Boston Terrier tail type. It is also the reason why so many people think that Boston Terriers are tailless.
A bobbed tail is basically a tail stub. It looks something like a cotton ball growing in the place where the tail should be. This is also an AKC-accepted breed-standard tail type.
3 Boston Terrier Tail Health Problems
Boston Terriers are prone to these tail-related health problems:
- Tail pocket infections
Boston Terriers are prone to developing hemivertebrae. This is a genetic condition in which the vertebrae of the spine are fused, or shorter on one side than the other.
This causes the spine to develop in a twisted, sometimes corkscrew-like manner, which in turn causes all kinds of related health problems.
Hind limb weakness is a common result, and dogs with particularly bad hemivertebrae will have a noticeably difficult time walking because of it. Even dogs without such extreme symptoms can suffer from chronic pain because of it.
Urinary and fecal incontinence are other common symptoms.
A crooked, curled, or corkscrewed tail is a potential sign of hemivertebrae.
Tightly corkscrewed tails are particularly worrisome signs. While the vertebrae in the tail are unlikely to cause a big problem, they could be a sign that vertebrae further up the spine are also malformed, and that the dog is in pain.
Hemivertebrae frequently manifests signs during puppy-hood. Any puppy or adult terrier showing any of the symptoms should be brought to the vet.
If the vet thinks that further exploration is warranted, he or she will most likely use X-rays, possibly along with an injectable dye, to diagnose the condition. MRI and CT scans are sometimes used instead of X-rays, though.
2. Tail Pocket Infections
Boston Terriers frequently have tail pockets, which are folds or indentations of skin located just under the tail. Dogs with straight or corkscrew tails are particularly prone to them.
These tail pockets can often accumulate sweat, grime, and even feces, causing skin infections.
A tail pocket infection will get itchy, so the infected dog will constantly try to scratch or rub the area against something to alleviate the itch.
The infected skin will look red and, in cases of bad infections, also be accompanied by dead skin and pus. It may have a noticeable bad smell. The skin around the infected area should be gently cleaned with warm water and soap.
Because Boston Terriers are short-haired, they can be vulnerable to sunburn. The risk can be particularly bad around the muzzle, ears, and tail.
It’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time or use dog-safe sunscreen.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Boston Terriers have long tails?
Boston Terriers do not have long tails compared to many other dog breeds, but some do have long tails relative to most other Boston Terriers. In extreme cases, the tail may be as much as 1/3 of the body length.
Although some people take a long tail as a sign that a dog is not a purebred Boston Terrier, that is not necessarily a valid conclusion to draw.
Are Boston Terriers’ tails docked?
Because Boston Terriers are stereotypically very short-tailed animals, some people dock the tails of terriers born with long tails to make them shorter.
This is done for a variety of reasons.
Some people think it will help them win dog shows. Some do it to more easily sell them as purebreds… Others do it just to make them look more like “proper” Boston Terriers.
Docking is a bad idea, though. It is can lead to infection and necrosis. It is illegal in some states, and it is banned by the AKC.