Haggerty Spot: Unraveling the Unique Markings of Boston Terriers

Boston Terrier lying down with Haggerty spot visible on head

If you’re a Boston Terrier enthusiast, you might already be familiar with the unique marking known as the Haggerty Spot. Named after the prominent Haggerty family who were early breeders of the Boston Terrier, this distinctive feature is like a stamp of lineage. Often, you’ll find this spot perched on the top of the dog’s head, and it’s a trait that many Boston Terrier lovers seek out.

Boston Terriers are a breed known for their tuxedo-like black and white coat, but it’s the Haggerty Spot that adds that extra bit of personality. Though not all Boston Terriers have it, those that do carry a piece of the breed’s history. 

The Haggerty Spot represents a strong genetic marker passed down through generations, showing a connection to the original Haggerty bloodlines. When you see a Boston Terrier with this special mark, you’re looking at a pup with a traceable ancestry that adds to its charm. In fact, this marking is so distinctive, it’s mentioned in Vincent Perry’s 1928 book, “The Boston Terrier“, where it’s called the “kiss of god.” Many also call it the angel kiss.

So, What Is A Haggerty Spot On A Boston Terrier?

A Haggerty Spot is a distinctive mark often found on Boston Terriers, a breed known for their charming tuxedo-like black and white coat. This mark is basically a small dark spot on the dog’s head, usually located in the white area, between their ears or somewhere above the eyes. 

If you own a Boston Terrier or are considering getting one, spotting a Haggerty Spot is quite intriguing!

These spots are named after the prominent Haggerty family, who were early and influential breeders of Boston Terriers. It’s said that dogs with a Haggerty Spot are descendants from the Haggerty bloodline, which might make your little friend part of a heritage that’s a slice of American canine history!

In terms of genetics, the Haggerty Spot is linked to a gene for piebald coloring, which is responsible for the unique and appealing white patterns mixed with color seen in many Boston Terriers. While it’s purely a cosmetic feature, and has no known impact on the health or temperament of the dog, it’s considered by many enthusiasts a desirable trait, adding to the breed’s distinctiveness.

Keep in mind, the spot is linked to the piebald gene, which is linked to some issues, but we will discuss that further below.

Boston Terriers are sometimes referred to as the ‘American Gentleman’ due to their elegant appearance, and those bearing the Haggerty Spot might just have an extra dash of that gentlemanly charm. It’s a point of pride for many owners and breeders, symbolizing a connection to the early days of Boston Terrier breeding.

If you notice a small dark spot on your own dog, you’ve got a unique bit of the breed’s history right there with you — it’s a fun and charming part of what makes your pet special!

History and Origin of The Haggerty Spot

older Boston Terrier running with Haggerty spot on head

The Boston Terrier, a breed synonymous with its namesake city, is distinguished not just by its tuxedo-like markings but also by the storied Haggerty spot atop its head. This distinct feature has an enduring legacy tied to one of the early foundational kennels.

Haggerty’s Legacy

Substantial to the history of Boston Terriers is the notable breeding work by the Haggerty family in the early 1900s. Their kennels produced many Boston Terriers with a unique mark, a dot on the head, which became emblematic of their lineage. Today, many individuals bearing this signature spot trace their genetics back to the Haggerty’s dogs. This characteristic is affectionately known as the “Haggerty star,” ‘Haggerty dot,”or a “Haggerty dog.”

Founding Lines and the American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club (AKC), which provides standards for dog breeds, recognizes the Boston Terrier as one of its earliest members, first accepted in 1893. The breed’s development involved careful selection and the establishment of founding lines, of which the Haggertys were key contributors. Clubs like the Boston Terrier Club of America, founded in 1891, played a crucial role in defining breed standards. Renowned breeder Vincent Perry described the Haggerty spot as “the icing on the cake” for perfect markings, further cementing the Haggerty name’s influence on this American breed.

What Does A Haggerty Spot On A Boston Terrier Mean?

You might be curious about the distinctive mark known as a Haggerty Spot on some Boston Terriers. This unique feature is a small dot located on the top of the head, often found among the breed’s white markings.

History of the Name

The Haggerty Spot is named after the prominent Haggerty family, who were early and influential breeders of Boston Terriers. These spots were common in their dogs, which led to the term becoming a part of Boston Terrier lingo.

Genetics Behind It

The spot itself is a genetic trait, similar to the blaze marking that runs between the eyes and over the skull. It’s not a sign of any health problems, but rather a cosmetic feature that’s passed down from parent to puppy.

Boston Terrier Markings

  • Boston Terriers are recognized for their tuxedo patterning—they have white markings over the chest, which can also include the muzzle, between the eyes, and on the feet.
  • The Haggerty Spot can sometimes be a desirable trait in show dogs but isn’t a requirement.

In Conclusion

If your Boston Terrier has a Haggerty Spot, it’s a nod to their genetic lineage and an homage to one of the foundational breeders. It’s a charming little quirk that makes your pet unique but doesn’t affect their vibrant personality or health.

What Does A Haggerty Spot On A Boston Terrier Look Like?

When you see a Boston Terrier with a Haggerty Spot, you’re looking at a unique mark often connected to the breed’s lineage.

Distinctive Markings

Haggerty Spots are specific dots located on the top of a Boston Terrier’s head. These spots are part of what may be considered the ideal markings for the breed, often accompanied by a white blaze between the eyes and over the head, as well as a muzzle band. This distinct pattern is not merely aesthetic; it indicates a lineage that can be traced back to the breed’s ancestors.

  • Location and Pattern: Typically, the spot is found in the middle of the forelegs and hind legs, adding to a balanced pattern of white markings.

Color Variations

While black and white are the colors most commonly associated with the breed, Boston Terriers come in other coat colors, such as seal or red. Regardless of the coat color, the Haggerty Spot and other ideal markings should be clear and well-defined. The Boston Terrier Club of America provides detailed descriptions of acceptable coat colors and patterns.

  • Seal: A color that appears black but has a reddish cast when viewed in direct sunlight.
  • Black: A solid black without any brindle or brown tones.
  • Red: A less common coat color, presenting with a reddish hue.

Patterns and coloration play a significant role in the breed standard and help maintain the Boston Terrier’s distinctive look. These ideal markings and color variations are celebrated characteristics that make each Boston Terrier unique.

What Are The Perfect Markings For A Boston Terrier?

When you’re looking for the perfect markings on a Boston Terrier, you’re talking about a distinctive and sharp look that makes these dogs so charming. The classic markings you want to see include:

  • White muzzle band: This band should cover the nose and go up between the eyes.
  • White blaze between the eyes: It should be even and not too wide.
  • White chest: A white chest splash is ideal.

One special marking you might have heard about is the Haggerty spot. It’s a little mark on top of the head, sometimes called a thumbprint or Haggerty dot. It’s super cute and pretty unique. Named after the Haggerty family, who were early and prominent breeders of Boston Terriers, this spot has become a mark of ancestry linking back to their original dogs.

Boston Terriers also have a “tuxedo” look:

  • Black, brindle, or seal color: It should cover the body while wrapping around the neck and back.
  • Four white paws: Like little socks, the paws should have clear white markings.

Remember, these are breed standards, but the love and companionship of a Boston Terrier aren’t determined by how perfect their markings are.

Why Do Boston Terriers Get Spots?

You might be curious about those cute spots on Boston Terriers, especially the unique one often called the Haggerty spot. The spots are not just for looks; they have to do with genetics. The Haggerty spot, named after the prominent Haggerty family who bred Boston Terriers in the early 1900s, is a distinct mark often found on the top of the head.

  • Genetics: Boston Terriers have a gene that produces these spots. When two dogs with the spotting gene have puppies, some of the puppies might inherit this trait.
  • Color and Pattern: The spotting patterns are a result of genes affecting coat colors and patterns. The spots can range from white to brindle, or a combination of black and white.


  • Dominant gene: The gene for spots is considered a dominant trait, meaning it tends to show up even if there’s only one copy.
  • Variation: The size and shape can differ greatly from dog to dog.

It’s all pretty interesting once you dive into doggy DNA. When you see a Boston Terrier with a spot, you’re looking at a little piece of history, a trait passed down from generations before. Those spots are more than just cute; they’re a storybook of the breed’s genetics.

The Haggerty Spot And Piebald Gene

Boston Terrier lying down with Haggerty spot visible

When you’re examining Boston Terriers, a distinctive mark known as the Haggerty Spot can catch your eye. This singular spot, usually found on top of the head, holds a tie to color genetics, specifically the piebald gene.

What Gene Creates the Haggerty Spot?

The Haggerty Spot is a unique marker associated with the Boston Terrier breed and is linked to the piebald gene, specifically the S/S genotype where dogs have a lot of white patterns (and are sometimes completely white). This genetic trait is identified through a DNA test and can often appear alongside other piebald-patterned spots. It’s worth noting that this particular marking is not related to the breed’s brindle or blue colors.

Health Issues Related to Color Genetics

Certain color-related genetic traits, including those associated with the Haggerty Spot, may correlate with higher instances of congenital deafness. The piebald gene, responsible for such pigmentation, can also impact health. For instance, dogs with extreme white patterns may be prone to inherited deafness. This connection is further explained in literature focusing on the genetics of deafness in dogs.

Nutrition and Exercise

While nutrition and exercise don’t direct the expression of the Haggerty Spot, they are vital for the health of a Boston Terrier, regardless of coat color. As a brachycephalic breed, Boston Terriers require a balanced diet and regular exercise suited to their respiratory system. It’s also important for these dogs to maintain a healthy weight to ease the stress on their breathing.

Breed Standards and Breeding

When it comes to the Boston Terrier, breeding aligns with specific standards that ensure the integrity of the breed. This includes the distinctive Haggerty spot, a characteristic directly connected to lineage.

AKC and Breed Standards

The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides detailed guidelines for how a purebred Boston Terrier should look and behave. These breed standards are essential for maintaining the breed’s unique traits, including its tuxedo markings, square skull, and kind disposition. If you’re considering adding a Boston Terrier to your family, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Boston Terrier Dog Breed Information, including the official breed standard.

The Role of Breeders

Reputable breeders play a crucial role in preserving the genetic health of the Boston Terrier. They follow AKC standards closely and choose to mate dogs that enhance the breed’s best features. As a breeder, it’s your responsibility to ensure that each Boston Terrier exhibits the traditional characteristics, like the Haggerty spot, which signals a purebred lineage.

Genetic Testing and Pedigree

Lastly, responsible breeding involves genetic testing to screen for inheritable conditions and maintaining impeccable pedigree records. These practices help reduce the likelihood of health issues being passed on to puppies. As a potential owner, you should seek out a breeder who provides transparent access to a Boston Terrier’s pedigree, verifying its purebred status.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The distinctive Haggerty spot is a unique mark found on some Boston Terriers, and you may have questions about its significance and genetics. Let’s explore some of the most common inquiries.

How can you identify a Haggerty spot on a Boston Terrier puppy?

You can spot a Haggerty spot as a distinct dot or mark on top of the head. It’s often found between the ears and can vary in size.

What causes Boston Terriers to have spots?

Boston Terriers have spots due to their genetics. These markings are part of the breed’s standard and can be traced back to specific ancestors.

Are certain colors of Boston Terriers considered rare?

Yes, some colors, like the liver, blue, or solid black without the required white markings, are rare and not accepted by major kennel clubs as standard for the breed.

How do breeders determine the value of Boston Terriers with Haggerty spots?

Breeders may place a higher value on Boston Terriers with Haggerty spots due to their link to the breed’s original bloodline, although value ultimately depends on adherence to breed standards.

Can other dog breeds, like French Bulldogs, have Haggerty spots too?

No, the Haggerty spot is specific to Boston Terriers and is not a recognized marking in French Bulldogs or other breeds.

Final Thoughts

When looking at the charismatic Boston Terrier, the Haggerty spot stands out as a unique feature. This little mark of distinction is named after the well-known Haggerty family, who were early and influential breeders of Boston Terriers. If your Boston Terrier has a distinct spot on its head, it’s a nod to the lineage that the Haggerty’s so carefully developed.

Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what makes your Boston Terrier special goes beyond the physical trait of a Haggerty spot. These dogs are known for their friendly disposition, sharp intelligence, and affectionate nature.

If you’re curious, look at photos of purebred Boston Terriers and try to spot these marks. It’s like a fun game identifying a piece of breed history. The Boston Terrier offers an inside view into this world.

Whether your Boston Terrier has such a spot or not, cherish their individuality, and enjoy the moments you have together. Your pup’s spot — or their lack of one — doesn’t define your relationship.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Haggerty spot: A special mark linking back to historic breeders.
  • Boston Terrier traits: Friendly, intelligent, affectionate.
  • Your dog’s individuality: Priceless.

And remember, in the end, it’s not just about spots. It’s about the connection you share with your playful and loving companion.

Dr. Sara Kim, DVM

Dr. Sarah Kim combines her veterinary expertise with her passion for Boston Terriers in a warm, engaging manner. Alongside her own Boston Terrier, she offers heartfelt advice and insights drawn from personal experience. In her book, she welcomes readers into the Boston Terrier Hub world, sharing her professional knowledge with the warmth of a friend to both pets and their owners.

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