A pit bull is a member of any of a number of
dogs developed from the
Old English Bulldog. Breeds recognized as pit bulls include the
American Pit Bull Terrier and the
American Staffordshire Terrier, although the name is also often used
to refer to other breeds of similar characteristics, such as the
American Bulldog and
Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and mixed breeds that include any of
American Pit Bull Terrier is one of several bull terrier breeds.
The pit bull is a descendant of bull- and bear-baiting dogs. The dogs left in
Europe were bred along different lines, developing into a smaller, stockier dog.
The dogs brought to America are larger, with longer legs. In no way should the
pit bull be confused with the
Terrier, which is a cross between a
Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the extinct
English White Terrier.
Pit bulls were long considered, by some, to be an ideal family pet and are
recommended to this day by the
American Kennel Club as an especially good dog for children. But, since the
early 1990s, a series of well-publicized attacks on humans by aggressive members
of the breed occurred, making the ownership of pit bulls controversial. This
breed may be very aggressive towards other animals or dogs of the other sex(the
problem is worse in male dogs) but very human-friendly. As a result,it is
difficult to keep more than a pair wihout segregation.
Pit bulls are medium-sized (males
females 30-80lbs), solidly built, short-coated dogs that require little
grooming. They have an affectionate disposition, and are noted for their
attachment to their masters as well as for their confident and intelligent
Pit Bulls are extremely athletic and energetic dogs, and require a great deal
of exercise if they are not to become destructive. Although they can be short,
they have extremely high muscle density and are generally capable of executing a
standing four-foot-vertical jump. Pit bulls have also been bred to have a very
high tolerance for pain.
Pit bulls were historically bred to display dominance aggression toward other
dogs—a relic of the breed's
fighting past. A pit bull displaying the correct breed temperament is
friendly towards humans, and is generally a poor choice as a guard dog
Supporters of pit bulls argue they can make good pets. Good breeding
practices may help to minimize agressive behavior. Most pit bull advocates
recommend getting a pitbull as a
puppy so the
owner has more control over the
process, and can more easily train it away from unacceptable behaviors.
American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (ATTS) breed statistics as of
December 2004 show an 83.4% passing rate for the American Pit Bull Terrier and a
93.2% passing rate for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, as compared to an 81%
average pass rate for all dog breeds. The testing process is not a direct
measure of aggression. Some of the tests used by ATTS may give a passing grade
to aggression toward humans considered appropriate for the situation, such as a
stranger advancing toward the dog and handler in an threatening manner. Other
parts of the ATTS test battery gauge response to unfamiliar situations such as
walking on slippery surfaces or hearing nearby gunshots. Many veterenarians
claim that Pitbulls and
Labrador retrievers are the easiest breeds to handle as they are least
likely to snap during the worst situations.
Many other common breeds look similar to the pit bull breeds to inexperienced
eyes, and can be confused for them. A few of these breeds are the
Argentine Dogo, the
Bull Terrier, the
American Bulldog, and the
Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the
American Staffordshire Terrier are considered to be seperate breeds in most
countries (including England, Australia and New Zealand), but in the U.S.A are
considered to be pit bulls.Pitbulls come in a range of colors from fawn to
brindle to red.Bluetick,harlequin and tricolor pitbulls are very rare but not
The Pitbull is larger than its forebearer,the Staffordshire terrier and is
taller and more athletic than the lean Scottish staffordshire terrier. This is
mainly because dogfighting was banned earlier in the UK and smaller dogs became
favourable for ratting,in the Us,however,larger dogs became more popular in the
dogfighting ring.Only in 1972 were American Pitbulls and Staffies considered
seperate breeds from English Staffordshires.
The exact origin of this breed is uncertain,although it has its root in the
British,Irish Staffordshire Terriers and possibly the now-extinct Blue-Paul
(Scottish Staffordshire terrier). The ancestors of modern pit bulls, English and
and other related breeds were powerful
for farm work. Specifically, these dogs accompanied farmers into the fields to
assist with bringing
bulls in for
slaughter. The dogs, known generally as
protected the farmer by subduing the bull if it attempted to
gore him. Typically
a dog would do this by biting the bull on the nose and holding on until the bull
submitted. Because of the nature of their job, bulldogs were bred to have
powerful jaws, muscular bodies, and the resolve to hold onto a
violently-struggling bull, even when injured.
Eventually these dogs' purpose inspired the widespread practice of the bloody
bear-baiting. Bulldogs are believed to have been bred with
breeds to produce a more muscular, compact, and agile dog for these
competitions. The resulting dogs are known as
bull-and-terrier breeds, and modern examples include all pit bull-type dogs.
England, these spectacles were popular forms of entertainment. However, in
and bear-baiting were abolished by Parliament as cruel, and the custom died out
over the following years.
United States propaganda poster used during
I depicting a pit bull
In its place the sport of
dog-fighting gained popularity. Dogs were bred for specific traits useful in
the dog-fighting ring, refining the agility, gameness, and power already present
in the bull-and-terrier breeds. They were also bred to be intelligent and
level-headed during fights and unaggressive toward humans. Part of the standard
for organized dog-fighting required that the match referee who is unacquainted
with the dog be able to enter the ring, pick up a dog while it was engaged in a
fight, andget the respective owner to carry it out of the ring without being
bitten. Dogs that bit the referee were culled.After a match,if an injured dog
snapped at any passers-by thay were killed on the spot in an effort to remove
human-aggressive dogs from the gene-pool.
As a result, Victorian fighting dogs (Staffordshire
Bull Terriers and, though less commonly used as fighters,
Bull Terriers) generally had stable temperaments and were commonly kept in
the home by the gambling men who owned them.
During the mid-1800s,
immigration to the
United States from
brought an influx of these dogs to America,mainly Boston where they were bred to
be larger and stockier, working as farm dogs in the West as much as fighting
dogs in the cities. The resulting breed, the
American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also called the
American Pit Bull Terrier, became known as an "all-American" dog. Pit bull
type dogs became popular as family pets for citizens who were not involved in
dog-fighting or farming. In the early
1900s they began
to appear in films, one of the more famous examples being
the Pup from the
shorts (later known as The Little Rascals).
World War I the breed's widespread popularity led to its being featured on
Safety and legal issues
Dog bite statistics
Of the 199 dog-attack fatalities in the USA between 1979 and 1996, dogs
identified as pit bulls were responsible for 60 attacks—just under a third. The
next most-dangerous group was
responsible for 29 attacks (statistics from the
CDC). These statistics are tainted by the fact that the breed recorded as
responsible is taken from the reports of witnesses and is rarely confirmed by
dog experts or registration papers.
Because pit bull is an all-encompassing term used to describe several
breeds of dogs, determining whether a dog is a pit bull is often particularly
difficult. A study
for the US Department of Health and Human Services discusses some reasons why
fatalities might be overstated for pit bulls, in large part because most people
(including experienced dog owners) often can't distinguish a pit bull from any
other stocky, broad-faced, or muscular dog. For additional discussions on this
and dog-human aggression in general, see
The Age, pit bull terriers have been responsible for four of the seven dog
attacks in which Australians have died between 1991 and 2002. The Endangered Dog
Breeds Association of Australia denies these figures, claiming that registered,
purebred pit bull terriers have caused no known fatalities in Australia. Most
Australian state governments have introduced new legislation specific to pit
bulls, requiring pit bull owners to muzzle and leash their dogs at all times
when in public.
Some people contend that pit bulls are especially likely to cause fatalities
when they do attack, due to their strong jaws and their tendency to clamp on to
their victim when attacking. However although pit bull terriers are indisputably
powerful dogs, there is no scientific evidence showing them to have a stronger
bite than other large dog breed. In fact, when Dr. Brady Barr of National
Geographic (Dangerous Encounters: Bite Force, 8/18/2005) measured the bite
forces of three dog breeds using a computerised bite sleeve. The American Pit
Bull Terrier generated the least amount of pressure of the 3 dogs tested (the
other two dogs were a
German Shepherd Dog and a
There are many urban legends surrounding the pitbull terrier, mostly based on
the idea that the dogs are somehow physiologically different to other breeds of
Many websites propagate the myth that pit bulls have a "locking jaw"
mechanism, and that the dog cannot let go once it has bitten. However, as stated
by Dr. I. Brisbin (University of Georgia) "The few studies which have been
conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show
that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred
functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is
absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of 'locking mechanism'
unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull
Terrier." Furthermore, the pit bulls that compete successfully in protection
sports such as Schutzhund obviously do not display an inability to release their
grips after biting, as releasing the decoy's sleeve on command is an integral
part of scoring the competition
Another urban myth surrounding this breed states that pitbulls are the only
type of dog that are not affected by
dog-repellent sprays. In fact, many other dog breeds also display this
resistance to pepper spray when they are attacking. Documented cases include
Bull Mastiffs, Rotweillers and many German Shepherds (including Police K9s).
In the words of two Police Officers, it is "not unusual for pepper spray not to
work on dogs"
and "just as OC spray doesn't work on all humans, it won't work on all canines".
It is also untrue that the pitbull is the only dog that will keep attacking
after being sub-lethally shot. Rotweillers, Mastiffs and German Shepherds have
all exhibited this capacity - as, of course, have many humans
Some more extreme myths hold that Bullets bounce off a pitbulls body which
stray to far from the truth. The strength of a pitbull is also greatly
exaggerated in many myths.
Many homeowner's insurance companies in the U.S. are reluctant to insure
owners of dogs that are considered to be a dangerous breed. The CDC estimates
that 368,245 persons were treated in U.S. hospitals for nonfatal dog bites in
2001, and that fully 2% of the U.S. population are attacked by dogs per year.
These attacks most often occur on the owner's property. While breed-specific
statistics were not collected in this particular study, the Pit Bull Terrier and
in particular are often considered to contribute the most to the serious
injuries caused by dog attacks and are the most common breeds that insurance
companies will refuse to insure.
Some insurance companies have taken a compromise position, and will only
insure Pit bull owners if their dogs have achieved a
Canine Good Citizen award
In response to a number of well-publicized incidents involving pit bulls,
some jurisdictions began placing restrictions on the ownership of pit bulls,
such as the
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in the UK, an example of
breed-specific legislation. Many jurisdictions have outlawed the
of pit bulls, either the pit bull breed specifically, or in addition to other
breeds that are regarded as dangerous.
Recent pit bull mauling cases include the June 2005 attack on 11-year old
Nicholas Faibish, who was killed by his family's dog in San Francisco while his
mother was away running errands. This case, and others occurring shortly
afterwards in the Bay Area, has led local and state politicians to consider ways
to control pit bulls.
Canadian province province of
2005 enacted a ban
on pit bulls. It was the first province or state in
America to do so.
The breed can no longer be sold, bred, or imported and all pit bull owners must
leash and muzzle
their pit bulls in public. A 60 day grace period has been put in place to allow
for owners to have their pit bulls
spayed or neutered
. Also it left a period to allow municipalities to adjust to the new
law. Prior to the bills passage, the Ontario government cited what it deemed the
success of a pit bull bylaw passed by
One American city to follow this lead is Denver, which recently passed
legislation prohibiting citizens from keeping "pit bull type" dogs after May 9,
2005. Over 260 pit bull type dogs have been collected from their homes and
euthanised since this date, resulting in widespread protest from dog owners and
animal rights lobby groups
The extent to which banning a particular breed is effective in reducing dog
bite fatalities is contested. Some people maintain that pit bull attacks are
directly attributable to irresponsible owners, rather than to any inherent
defect in the breed itself. Other people believe that the pit bull terrier is a
breed that, although not inherently dangerous, needs a particularly
knowledgeable and committed handler and should not be freely available to novice
owners. Still others maintain that pit bulls as a breed are invariably more
unpredictable and dangerous than other dogs even when properly trained, and have
no place in society.
Pit bull terriers are said to be popular with irresponsible owners, who see
these dogs as a symbol of status or machismo. This type of owner may be less
likely to socialize, train, or desex their pet. These are all factors that have
been shown to contribute to increased likelihood of dog aggression, and may
partially explain why pit bulls feature so heavily in dog attack statistics.
Some people argue that banning the pit bull will simply result in
irresponsible dog owners seeking to own other large breeds with similar
temperaments (such as the
German Shepherd Dog), resulting in an increased occurrence of dog bites from
these breeds. It is possible that the Pit Bull has a particular appeal to many
irresponsible dog owners because of its smaller size. An unruly pit bull can be
restrained on a leash by an average adult, where a larger dog breed would easily
overpower the owner's restraint.
The Centers for Disease Control, which maintains the nation's database on
fatal wounds inflicted by dog bites, does not advocate breed-specific
legislation, instead encouraging "Dangerous Dog" laws that focus on individual
dogs of any breed that have exhibited aggressive behavior.
In November 2002, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that there was no genetic
evidence that one individual dog is more dangerous than another, simply because
of its breed.
American Airlines banned "Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, American
Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, and any mixed
breeds containing one or more of those breeds" in August of 2002 following an
incident involving an American Pit Bull Terrier puppy that escaped from luggage
into the cargo hold of an airliner, causing damage to the cargo hold. The
American Kennel Club lobbied the airline to lift the restriction, arguing that
the incident was merely one of improper restrain, and could have involved any
dog breed. The restriction was lifted in May of 2003 after a compromise was
reached that requires portable dog carriers in the cargo hold to employ
releasable cable ties on four corners of the door of the carrier.
In the United States, pit bulls are the breed of choice for
fights, due to their strength, courage and dog-aggressive tendencies.
Although dog fighting is illegal in the U.S., it is still practiced, and is
usually accompanied by gambling. Pit bulls are often brutalised and abused to
make them "mean", and may be terribly maimed or killed during the fight
. In the state of Virginia,it is illegal to be a spectator in a
People who train pit bulls to fight usually prepare them for fighting by
having them pull weighted sleds and run on specially designed treadmills. The
term "game-bred" may be used as a code for a fight dog, but sometimes merely
refers to a dog that is very determined to complete a task - be it a race,
weight pull, or unfortunately even a fight.
Breeding human or dog aggressive pit bulls is sometimes associated with the
hip hop culture, which consider it a status symbol to own the toughest dog
Dog-fighters are the minority among pit bull owners. Most people who own
these breeds direct their dogs' plentiful energy toward nonviolent
tasks. Some people train their pit bulls for
agility. Others involve their pit bulls in
weight pulling competitions, obedience competitions or
The pit bull often excels at these sports. Out of the 17 dogs who have earned
UKC "superdog" status (by gaining championship titles in conformation,
obedience, agility, and weightpull), nine have been pit bulls. Unfortunately pit
bulls are increasingly being prevented from participating in these events, due
to the introduction of local legislation requiring the breed to be muzzled and
on leash at all times when in public - with no exceptions for dog sports or
Often much money is confiscated during a dogfight,often drugs are also
A few centuries ago,it was common to Pit these dogs against Pumas and wolves.
Pitting them against boars is still carried out in some places.
Although negative information about pit bulls is widespread, there are also
many positive stories. Some work in hospitals and care facilities as certified
therapy dogs, many are well-loved family pets, and some have even
saved people's lives. There are many incidences of pit bull terriers being
productively employed by U.S. Customs
, as police K9s
 and as tracking K9s in various
Search and Rescue organisations
Famous pit bulls
Pete the Pup (or "Petey") from
- Tige from
Buster Brown shoe advertisements
- The dog in
Snatch (film) is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Pit bull advocacy sites
Home | Up | List of Dog Fighting Breeds | History of Dog Fighting Breeds | Akita Inu | Alano Español | American Bulldog | American Pit Bull Terrier | American Staffordshire Terrier | Argentine Dogo | Bandog | Bedlington Terrier | Blue Paul Terrier | Boston Terrier | Boxer | Bull Terrier | Bull and Terrier | Bullmastiff | Bully Kutta | Cordoba Fighting Dog | Dogue de Bordeaux | English Mastiff | English White Terrier | Fila Brasileiro | Irish Terrier | Kerry Blue Terrier | Manchester Terrier | Neapolitan Mastiff | Old English Bulldog | Perro de Presa Canario | Pit Bull | Shar Pei | Staffordshire Bull Terrier | Tibetan Mastiff | Tosa
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