Pit Bulls the misunderstood breed


The origin of the Pit Bull is not known exactly but it can be reliably traced back 150 years or so to England. In the late 1800’s and early 19 century the sport of bull baiting was very much alive and dogs were breed for this type of entertainment. The breed was also used for hunting, to catch game as well as used by butchers and farmers to bring down unruly cattle. This breed was called bulldogs. It wasn’t so much a standard look that put the dogs in this category but rather a dog that exceled in the task of bull baiting. They were descendants of the ancient Mastiff type dogs. In 1835 England out lawed bull baiting and the sport of dog fighting rose in popularity. They believe the breed started as a mix of the bull dog (not the bull dogs we know today) and an extinct breed called the White English Terrier. The problem of proof for all early breed origins is documentation of pedigrees and more so with the documentation of Pit dogs, breeders were afraid to document the pedigree in fear of rivals being able to replicate the breed.

The immediate ancestors of the Pit bull were imported to America in the mid-19 century coming from England and Ireland they were called Pit dogs not because of the dog fighting pits but another form of entertainment at the time putting the dog in a pit with rats and betting on how many rats the dog would killed in a certain allotment of time.

Americans started breeding a slightly different version of the Pit dogs from England and Ireland a slightly larger and leggier dog so it could be more agile to forcibly retrieve hogs and cattle as well as family guardians and companions.

Throughout the 19 century these dogs had various names Pit terriers, Pit bull terriers, Staffordshire fighting dogs, Yankee terriers and Rebel terriers. In 1898 a man named Chauncy Bennet formed the United Kennel Club for the purpose of registering Pit bull terriers because the American kennel club wanted nothing to do with the breed, his dog “Bennett’s ring” was registration number 1.

During WW1 the Pit Bull grew in popularity, the Military used them during war time and for a propaganda poster that represented the rival European nations with their national dogs dressed in military uniforms with the caption below “I’m neutral, but not afraid of any of them.”  The most famous Pit Bulls were Petey from “little Rascals”, Tige from the “Buster Brown” ads as well as the famous RCA dog. Due to the growing popularity the AKC decided to recognize the breed in 1936 As Staffordshire Terriers and in 1972 they were renamed American Staffordshire Terriers to separate them from the lighter Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England.

The Pit Bull was considered a great companion dog and was bred to be friendly with people. It was important for a dog in the ring to allow the handler to separate the fighting dogs without the dog showing any aggression towards the human, if they did the human would destroy the dog. For years responsible breeding of Pit Bulls lead to the the reputation of a great family dog.  Their popularity declined after World War 2 until 1980.

Unfortunately the breed became popular with nefarious individuals and they started breeding for more aggression towards humans without adhering to the traditional breed goals. The breed was being mass produced by backyard breeders for financial profit. The dog fighting community started growing again.

Pit Bulls were not even in the top ten dog bites that required medical attention until mid-1990’s. The Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman Pincher, Great Dane and Saint Bernard’s have been in the top ten since we started tracking dog bites that caused medical attention in the 1970’s. However they do not have this demon dog reputation that the Pit Bull has, I believe it is due to a prejudice media, You never hear the stories of the Pit Bull that saved the family from a fire or the Pit Bull that was honored by the police department, I can go on and on with those stories. All these breeds are very good companion dogs when bred and socialized responsibly and can be very dangerous in the hands of irresponsible breeders and owners.

The American Canine Temperament Testing Association, which sponsors tests for temperament titles, reported that 95% of all Pit Bulls tested passed their test compared with a 77% passing rate for all breeds on the average. The Pit Bull passing rate was the fourth highest of all breeds tested.

The Pit Bull terrier bred responsibly is a wonderful fun loving family dog and socialized properly will be a very animal friendly dog as well. If you are interested in a Pit Bull terrier find a breeder with a national reputation, you can find them through the American Pit Bull Gazette and through the UKC or if you would like to adopt a Pit Bull adopt through a shelter that temperament tests it’s dogs or a responsible Pit Bull rescue, If you’re not sure you can always bring in a trainer of your choice to temperament test the dog you would like to adopt.

In closing, I feel breeding should be left to the professionals in order to keep the true characteristics of the breeds and we can all help with breed standards and over population by spaying and neutering our pets.


Valerie Masi

Best Paw Forward