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American Pit Bull Terrier

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American Pit Bull Terrier
A pure-bred APBT
A pure-bred APBT
Alternative names
Pit Bull
Country of origin
United States
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
UKC: Terriers  
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct
Many AKC registered ASTs can also be registered with the UKC as APBTs.

The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is a breed of dog in the terrier group, one of several breeds loosely classified as pit bulls. These dogs are known for their strength, loyalty, and “gameness,” or tenacity.

Many young owners purchase them on the grounds of wanting a 'tough dog', which often ends up maltrained and in poor health. Due to bad publicity caused by these irresponsible owners, people unfamilar with the dogs often consider them a scary dog and may even avoid walking near them. However, it is widely acknowledged that the problems that people associate with the breed, mainly aggression, are most likely due to many people having bred them specifically for fighting, having abused them, or both.


The APBT is the midsized breed of the three generally referred to as pit bulls (see also American Staffordshire Terrier (AST) and Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT)). Males should weigh 35 to 65 pounds (16 to 29 kg), females 30 to 60 pounds (16 to 27 kg), with height being proportional. The coat is short, single layered, and stiff but glossy. Any color is accepted and dogs may either have patches or be solid. All eye colors are accepted except blue. Ears are rose or semipricked, and may be cropped, although uncropped is preferred. The tail is short and tapering. The body is solidly built and muscular, with a wide chest. The head is wedge shaped with some slight forehead wrinkles.

Confusion among Pit Bull breeds

The three “pit bull” breeds all have nearly identical standards, with only the acceptable sizes and colors varying. Also, the AST and the APBT have the same heritage. Many people still consider them to be simply different types of the same breed. Dogs registered with the AKC as an AST are often dual registered with the UKC as an APBT. Adding to the muddle is the fact that many people refer to any dog of these breeds, as well as American Bulldogs, as “pit bulls.”

Temperament and/or characteristics

APBT (fawn) APBT (fawn)

APBTs can be very sweet, curious, and clownish. As typical with many in the terrier family, they can also be stubborn and pushy. They are noted for their outgoing, affectionate, and playful disposition and their fondness for people, even children, and can make a wonderful family pet. The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. breed statistics as of December 2004 show an 83.4% passing rate for the APBT as compared to an 81% overall pass rate. However, a firm, even hand and early obedience training are musts for this breed. They are strong dogs for their size and will walk their owners rather than the other way around when on lead and so absolutely must be taught to heel from a young age. APBTs often display some level of dog aggression, especially towards dogs of the same sex or level of assertiveness; because APBT's do not reach maturity until late (at about 2 1/2 years) these tendencies may not always be readily apparent. However, with early socialization and knowing each individual dog's limits, their aggression towards other dogs can be quite easily controlled. (Unbridled aggression towards man is actually a serious and perilous fault.) APBTs are extremely attached to their owners and families and are known for their eagerness to please their masters; once they understand their master's wishes they will do their best to obey. However, inexperienced owners tend to find them to be too much to handle—they are the Tigger of the dog world. Pit bulls typically have a lot of physical and mental energy to expend; they need exercise and stimulation or else they may find a way to occupy themselves. As a breed they are fairly bright.

It is paramount to find a breeder who selects puppies for their good temperament and not for their aggression. Also research the breeder, ask for references and ask to see their facilities and other dogs they have raised. It is also a good practice for dogs to receive microchip implants where possible as this breed is often stolen in and near urban areas for ill uses. If a breeder is not readily accessible, there are many rescue organizations that do specialize in pit bulls and most of them do test the temperament of the individual dog.

As athletic dogs, American Pit Bull Terriers excel in many activities, including weight pulling, search and rescue, dog agility trials, and in the Southern United States have even been used for hunting as catch dogs. They do well in some advanced obedience training. In America they have been also used as police dogs for patrol duty and scent dogs because of their tenacity, high energy drive, and versatility. In the home, their favorite place is wherever the family is; they can do nicely in a family with children and can easily handle a small child tugging on its ear and tail or an older child's horseplay.


When bullbaiting became illegal in England in 1835, clandestine and public matches between dogs filled the void. Originally pure bulldogs were used, however, it was soon realized that crossings bulldogs to terriers created a finer product for fighting. While the bulldog was powerful and courageous he lacked the lytheness and agility of the terrier. Furthermore, bulldogs, whose history was in droving and catching bulls, was not designed for killing the bulls and bears it baited. While the death of either animal was not considered unfortunate, the purpose was not specifically to kill the beast. Terriers, however, had always been bred for exterminating vermin. This trait was enhanced by breeders for the rat pits (which were also very popular at that time in England). By combining the terrier's killer instinct, a gamier and more focused, albeit smaller dog emerged. The two terriers that were most sought after were the now extinct English White Terrier and English Black-and-Tan Terrier.

The bull-and-terrier cross was know by many names and was a generic cross rather than a specific breed. The breeding scheme was most popular in Staffordshire, England, among the miners of that county. Today that name Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bullterrier have stuck with two Bull-terrier breeds. In actuality, all Bull-terrier breeds are progeny of the dogs bred in that region. The bull-and-terrier became popular throughout the British Isles with regional dogs emerging. One of the most famous strains emerged in south western Ireland, in counties Cork and Kerry. A particularly game and spirited bull-and-terrier whose lineage was a protected secret by local dog-men became notable for its red coat, golden eyes and red nose. Commonly called Old Family Red's, this was one of the most successful strains to be introduced into America. Even before his introduction to America, the American Pit Bull Terrier was being desgined in England and Ireland, but took off in the port cities of his new homeland when that country entered into the peak of its industrial might.

When bred for fighting, the breeder would look for strength, gameness, and lack of aggression towards people. Any fighting dog that showed aggression towards its owner or handler would be killed on the spot. This created a line of strong dogs that, while being dog aggressive, would not turn on their owners. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeder's Association. After dog fighting was made illegal in the United States, many dog owners wanted to legitimize the breed and distance it from its fighting roots. The name "Staffordshire Terrier" was adopted by some owners and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936. Later, the word "American" was added to reduce confusion with its smaller cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not all breeders, however, agreed with the standard adopted by the AKC, and continued to use the name APBT for their lines. Much confusion still remains in regard to the APBT, the AST, and the SBT.

Once an extremely popular family dog in the United States, the American Pit Bull Terrier's popularity began to decline in the United States following World War II in favor of other breeds. Though still by far largely found in homes with families, it has come under fire in the past thirty years for its association with inner city crime and drugs; many people of ill repute mistakenly breed this dog for its fighting heritage and exploit its incredible willingness to please its master (when not refusing to give up its spot on a soft bed.) However, it is of note that this breed is also often the most common target of abuse in urban areas. Outside of dog fighting and guarding a drug dealer's property, the APBT is often beaten, starved, burned, tortured, and generally mistreated to make it particularly aggressive. After the owner no longer has any use for the dog (that is, after it loses a fight or refuses to fight,), the dog is left for dead or turned loose to find its way into animal control services, where it most likely will need to be destroyed because nobody wants it because of its horrendous reputation. (A large percentage of dogs destroyed in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are pit bull type breeds.)

In jurisdictions where breed-specific legislation threatens ownership of Pit Bulls, owners are often advised by their peers to refer to their Pit Bulls and Pit bull crosses as 'Staffys' or 'Amstaffs', which are generally exempt from such regulations. Purists among American Staffordshire owners find this unethical, and resent it, perhaps fearing that the ultimate result of the subterfuge will be restrictions on their breed as well.

In the United Kingdom, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits the sale or breeding of "any dog of the type known as pit bull terrier". Some jurisdictions in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales, the Canadian province of Ontario, and some areas of the United States have similar breed-specific legislation.

Famous APBTs

  • Stubby, most decorated dog to serve in World War II.
  • Pete the Pup, from Hal Roach's Our Gang comedy short films of the 1920s and 30s, later known as The Little Rascals. An APBT was again used for the 1994 Little Rascals film remake as well.
  • Dakota and Tahoe are search and rescue dogs active in finding missing people. Dakota has assisted in many high profile cases including the search for the astronauts who perished in the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
  • Popsicle, ironically famous for sniffing out one of the biggest drug busts in FDA history after being found near dead in a crystal meth lab himself.
  • Bandog Dread, most titled dog ever with multiple titles in nearly every category.
  • Tige, in original Buster Brown ads.

See also

External links


  • Popular Dogs Series: Bully Breeds magazine

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