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History of Dog Fighting Breeds

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The history of dog fighting breeds is difficult to track because dog fighting undoubtedly started before written history.


Modern History

As with all domesticated dogs, the ancestors of the large breeds of fighting dog were wolves. The foundation breed of the fighting dog was, in its outward appearance, a large, low slung, heavy breed with a powerful build and strongly developed head.

Scholars speculate that large scale human migrations, the development of trade, and gifts between royal courts of valuable fighting dogs facilitated the spread of fighting dog breeds. There are many accounts of military campaigns which utilised fighting dogs, as well as royal gifts in the form of large dogs.


Dog breeding in its earliest stages was carried out systematically, with the desire for specialization. It is believed that the development of individual breeds took place in narrow geographic areas, corresponding to the performance required in these regions. The selection for performance, complemented by the breeding for suitable body forms, leads to the formation of breeds. The task of the fighting dog demanded specific basic anatomical traits and temperamental features. The anatomy of the fighting dog requires an imposing outward form to instil fear and terror, with the foundation breed naturally large, low-slung, heavy, powerfully built, strongly developed head, powerful biting apparatus and a tremendously threatening voice. However, we must not consider only giant's among dog breeds, but rather all breeds with a character suitable for protecting humans and fighting wild animals. We can consider the following breeds developed over the millennia as the foundation forms of the contemporary fighting dog breeds:

  1. Tibetan Mastiff
  2. Molossus
  3. Bull Biter
  4. Great Dane
  5. Mastiff
  6. Bulldog
  7. Bull and Terrier

Hunting of dangerous game

Over many centuries man has hunted dangerous game, such as the bison, stag, wild boar and bear. The men opposed their quarry with spear in hand with the fighting dog's job to position the game so that the hunter could kill it with the spear. The game involved required specialized breed types. To track down the prey would require long legged tracking dogs; the pack that followed would include large powerful fighting dogs to deal with the cornered quarry.

Baiting sports

This bloodsport of baiting animals has occurred since antiquity, most famously during those times in the Roman Colosseum; however, in contemporary times, it is most associated with the English, who pursued it with utmost earnestness, which was barely known elsewhere in the world. For over six hundred years the pastime flourished, reaching the peak of its popularity during the sixteenth century. The various animal types involved in the bait allowed for the breed specialization and basic anatomical forms of fighting dogs, which we see today.

Old English bulldog

We find the first historical traces of Bull-baiting in the time of the regency of King John. Specially bred and enraged steers, with their aggressive nature were used to test the keenness of their dogs. A collar around the bulls neck fastened to a thick rope about three to five metres long, attached to a hook then fastened to an embedded stake that will turn around allowing the bull to watch its antagonizer. The dog's goal in the attack was to pin and mercilessly hold onto the bull's nose, which is its most sensitive spot. If the dog grips tightly here, the bull is virtually helpless. To avoid this attack, experienced fighting bulls lowered their heads as much as possible in the direction of the attacking dog, protecting their nose and meeting the attacker with only its horns and tossing the dog into the air. The dog reciprocated by staying low to the ground as it crept along its path to the bull. These tactics allowed for a specialized breed in the form of the now extinct original Old English Bulldog. This new breed was extremely compact, broad and muscular. A particular characteristic of the breed was the lower jaw that projected considerably in front of the upper jaw, which made possible the strong, vice like grip. The nose was deeply set, which allowed the dog to get enough air as it gripped the bull. The contemporary recreation of the breed is recognized called the Olde Englishe Bulldogge.

External links

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