The term pit bull is often used to describe dogs as though it’s a particular breed. The truth is, it’s more of an umbrella term. Often, it doesn’t even refer to simply a certain group of breeds, but instead refers to a certain type of appearance. Pit bull breeds demand a little more definition than this.
The name pit bull is actually pretty self-explanatory, when you think about it. Back in the day, in 18th century Britain, bull-baiting was a very popular sport. This brutal pastime was simply locking a bull in a pit, and having dogs fight and bait and pin it down. Therefore, any dog of any breed would be referred to as a pit bull, at the time. The fact that most breeds used turned out to be muscular and fierce, with a strong jaw and slight underbite, was on purpose. They were bred for this particular activity, and became pretty physically perfect at it. The behavioral tendencies for this have since been carefully bred out of these breeds, however. Nowadays, most pit bulls are friendly, happy, well-suited family dogs.
There are about 20 breeds that kind of fit the description people have in their heads about what defines a pit bull. Despite this, people will often refer to any dog who fits the visual criteria, as a pit bull. Traits included are square head and a stocky build. In other words, pit bull could refer to a whole bunch of different breeds. This means that breeds who didn’t originate as a cross between bulldogs and terriers, are often called pit bulls, as well. Breeds such as Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, and Bullmastiff. Another common occurrence is people, often mistakenly, assuming a pit bull identity in mixed breeds, simply based on these general physical characteristics.
But really, when you talk about pit bulls, you’re talking about breeds like American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and American Bully. Other breeds are the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. They’re not all even the same size; pit bull breeds can range from 16 to 23 inches tall.
The big and the small
The American Pit Bull Terrier is the tallest of the bunch, at up to 23 inches tall. Athletic and strong, they’re confident dogs, but still eager to please and happy to learn. They’re known for their love of children, and actually don’t make for great guard dogs, since they’re simply too friendly toward humans. They may have a tendency to be hostile toward other dogs, but this can be handled with a firm hand and patient training. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the smallest pit bull breed, at only 16 inches tall. They’re heavy, though, with a lot of dog in a small package.
The Bull Terrier is also on the smaller side, though the Miniature Bull Terrier is as little as 14 inches tall. Known for its distinctive shark head shape, the skull of a Bull Terrier is almost entirely flat, giving it a very unique appearance. Their personality is generally described as fun-loving, friendly, and courageous. Like many other breeds, the Bull Terrier was first developed for pest control, as well as bull-baiting. This makes it quick and strong, with lots of muscle.
The American Staffordshire Terrier, also known as the Amstaff, is a medium-sized dog among the pit bull breeds. Much like the rest of them, it’s playful and friendly, but requires a firm and patient hand when trained. Any intelligent, active breed requires this, but when you’ve got this much strength packed into a dog, especially so. When socialized, the Amstaff is a loyal, family-oriented companion.
The American Bully kind of resembles the English Bulldog more than the other pit bull breeds, with its wide body and bow-legged gait. It comes in four size variations; standard, pocket, XL, and classic. Regardless of size, though, this dog is all muscle, smiles, and affection.
Reputation of pit bull breeds
There is definitely some differing opinions, and general confusion, about what exactly defines a pit bull. The most important thing to remember, as mentioned, is that it’s not a single breed. Pit bull may not even be the right term for this described group of breeds, but rather bully, depending on who you ask. And while they may all look similar, they are actually quite easy to tell apart when put side by side.
The trademark grin of a pit bull is hard to resist, we all know this. But to those afraid or wary of this type of dog, this grin has a nasty side-effect; it also shows off all those big, sharp teeth. And while the bite of a pit bull can be devastating, it’s not even the breed with the strongest bite. That honor belongs to the Doberman, followed by the Great Dane, and the German Shepherd. In other words, even aside from temperament, pit bull breeds aren’t more prone to harming humans than most other breeds.
Pit bull breeds are misunderstood, to the point of being generally perceived as dangerous dogs, overall. These views are slowly changing, as more and more people speak out on behalf of these wonderful dogs, but it’s still an issue. Pit bulls deserve just as much love and recognition as any other type of breed, and if you bring one into your life, your life will change for the better.