In the famous novel by Charles Dickens, the dog of Bill Sykes’ name is Bullseye. Bullseye is a bull terrier violent of nature but extremely loyal to his villainous master. So much so, that he jumps into the river after his dead master. There is a moral here for Bullseye was a predecessor to the Pit Bull.
Pit Bulls are a variant breed of bull terriers. But the word Pit Bull infamously conjures up the image of a ferocious dog whose sole ambition is in maim and decimation. For a dog who gained fame as a ‘Nanny Dog,’ this is mostly an unfair conclusion. They’re loyal and harmless towards their guardians.
The characteristical “American Dog,” has been given to Pit Bulls as they have proven to be favored by Americans. Pit Bull is the common name for this dog breed that’s descended from terriers and bulldogs. Sturdy of build and tenacious of nature they soon became associated with controversial topics. Pets of cheap gangsters, part of the illegal drug culture that symbolizes violence or pseudo machoism.
Breed-specific laws against Pit Bulls have been established to ban and regulate their existence. These laws were made to decrease dog bite incidents on other animals or human beings.
Origin of The Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is a classic purebred breed that found its way from the British Isles in and around 1860. The original Old English Terriers and Old English Bulldogs were bred together resulting in a Pit Bull Breed. The Pit Bull breed combines the playfulness of a terrier and the athleticism and strength of a bulldog.
It was decided to name them ‘Bull and Terrier’ dogs. The ‘Bull and Terrier’ breed quickly became popular and the dogs were being used in blood sports such as bear-baiting and bull-baiting.
There are three different traits in the American Pit Bull Terrier:
– The Colby dog trait is considered as one of the foundations of the APBT breed. Started by John Pritchard Colby, a man who collected the best fighting Bull and Terriers from Ireland and England. He would import and sell these dogs to owners who took part in dog baiting. The Colby’s Pincher was a notable dog breed of Colby’s bloodline.
– The Old Family Red Nose is another trait that originated in Ireland. The Old Family Red Nose was bred and then brought to the United States by immigrants. These dogs are unique for their red noses and high spiritedness.
– The third trait hidden in a Pit Bull’s bloodline was the Jeep. The dog was named the Crenshaw’s Jeep because it was specifically bred for fighting by James Crenshaw in 1976. The Crenshaw’s Jeep was a highly valued fighting dog with a muscular exterior and powerful jaw.
In 1835, blood sports were officially banned by animal welfare laws. Cruel individuals who got a taste of cruel sports like bear-baiting and bull-baiting wanted to continue the sport underground. An indulgence of gambling and baiting turned into Bull and Terriers pitted against each other.
As time moved on it became easier to arrange Bull and Terrier fights, now, more commonly known as Dog fights. In America, the United Kennel Club and also The American Dog Breeders Association took on the sport with open arms, in the later 1800s. The breeding of the Pit Bull continued and emerged cruel blood invested phenomena known as Dog Fighting.
In the early 1920s, the United Kennel Club stopped supporting Pit Bull fights. The sport was made illegal in most states by the 1960s. In 1976 dogfighting was completely outlawed in all states.
Since then, Pit Bull Terriers have been associated with these vicious illegal activities. Mainly being misunderstood and discriminated against by the general public who aren’t informed.
Characteristics of The Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized dog with a glossy coat that is smooth to the touch. Their eyes are round and almost almond-shaped. Pit Bulls have a well-defined muscular exterior and walk very sturdy on the ground. They have thick tails that narrow into a point.
A mature male weighs 25 kilograms and is usually 21 inches in height. Pit Bull’s Ears are small to medium in size – ears appear to be half pricked, set high but laid far back on the head.
Their coat’s color is usually a solid red-black, brown and buckskin. Some Pit Bulls have mixed colors of white and brown. A tuxedo Pit Bull has a black head-to-toe coat with a white patch on the chest and chin. The white patches have the appearance of a tuxedo shirt.
Common Misconceptions About Pit Bulls
Myth 1 – Pit Bull Is a Dog Breed
‘Pitbull’ is a generic term, and not a breed. They stand for an admixture of dogs such as the Dogo Argentino, American Staffordshire Terrier, Blue Blood Bulldog, and several hundreds of others.
According to the Animal Foundation: “Pitbulls or pit bulls” are not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The United Kennel Club does recognize a breed known as the American pit bull terrier, however, the term “pit bull” is commonly used to refer to mixed-breed dogs with certain physical traits, such as a muscular body and broadhead.
The name Pit Bull signifies an identical aspect to the American Pit Bull Terrier. The term Pit Bull is how a dog looks and not a breed and hence a larger degree of blame is imposed on them unfairly.
Groups like the Animal Foundation advocates animal rights in order to battle brutality and conclusions against Pit Bulls. The collective term pit bull is used to protect breeds that share a similar, ‘bully’-build appearance from unfair victimization.
Myth 2 – Pit Bulls are born to fight
Nothing could be further from the truth. Pit bulls were not certainly born to rip into other dogs or other animals. It is similar to saying that they were born with the natural characteristics of a wild animal like a tiger or bear.
Unfortunately, their fighting background was inflicted by human owners. They would use various inhumane training methods that encompass ill-treatment, solitary confinement, and starvation. These training methods would twist the dog’s will and temperament from loving to mean, aggressive, and vicious antics.
All this, for the appeal of profitable income during dog baiting. They are forced into the ring and in many cases fight to death. If wounded and unable to go on, they would be shot, electrocuted or killed heinously.
Myth 3 – Pit Bulls are Naturally Violent and Very Dangerous
Another huge misconception about Pit Bulls is that they are naturally violent. Any violence or aggression shown in any dog breed is an example of bad training. When owners show their dogs a lack of attention, inflict abuse or irresponsible rearing chances are that the dog will have an aggressive or anxious temperament. A pet Poodle will also exhibit some belligerence if treated similarly.
One study conducted by the American Temperament Test Society for dog temperaments states that American Pit Bull Terriers have a very high passing rate of 83%. Their temperament passing rate is higher than even gentle breeds like Collies and Chihuahuas. Many Pit Bull owners will vouch for this.
Because some Pit Bulls have been trained, since puppy stage, by dogfighting enthusiasts to be vicious in nature. The misconception has been made that they are.
Truth is – Pit Bull’s natural instincts are not to attack, be aggressive or fight. When treated well and trained properly Pit Bulls are gentle and playful by nature.
Myth 4 – Pit Bulls Have Jaws That Lock
An anatomic impossibility. If this was true, Pit Bull’s jaws should lock every time they took a hard bite on a delicious bone. The SPCA and leading veterinary professionals have verified that: “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.”
True a pit bull’s style of self-defense is to grab and shake. But that it cannot or will not let go is gross deceit.
Myth 5 – Pit Bulls Have A High Bite Rate
The American Veterinary Medical Association has denied ever calculating such a figure, nor is it possible. Dog bite incidents are skewed towards Pit Bulls, because of the uninformed knowledge of the general population. This prejudice takes rise from fear.
Tabloids, in the so-called public interest, are narrated in a fashion that demonizes Pit Bulls to create a sensationalizing story. Often, on examination, the act was one arising from provocation.
Facts About Pit Bulls
- Pit Bulls are not native to the United States of America. They were brought to the United States by immigrants from England and Ireland. Their physical capabilities were improved by injecting new bloodline traits through cross-breeding.
- A combination of physical strength and fearlessness has made them ideal to be used in dog fighting battles.
- Their aggressiveness towards human beings was an unwanted trait due to inhumane training methods. This has become an issue especially as the handler had to be in the dog fighting ring when dog baiting was still legal.
- Bloodsports employed Pit Bulls. Bear baiting and Bull baiting were much in demand for a crowd’s entertainment. The sport involved gambling and made owners of winning Bears and Bulls extremely rich and famous. Once Bear and Bull baiting were banned, Pit Bulls became the alternative wrestlers.
- After the banning of bear-baiting an alternative sport was created named Ratting. Ratting was a so-called sport where a Pit Bull would be released into a pit full of rats. The dog, that in the shortest span of time, could decimate all of the rats was the winner. It is suspected that their name ‘Pit’ came from there.
- Before they were used in fighting, Pit Bulls were used on farms to guard livestock. They were good hunting dogs and made great guard dogs for protection.
- Pit Bulls found employment as mascots for the United States Army, often appearing on recruitment posters and other advertisements.
- Despite popular belief – Pit Bulls are very reliable with children and can also be named Nanny dogs.
- More than any other dog type – Life Magazine has featured them three times on their cover.
- An estimated 3.6 million Pit Bulls are in existence in the United States alone.
- Pit Bull puppies have wrinkled foreheads that stretch out and become tighter as they grow older.
- In a test run by the American Temperament Test Society, they outscored many likely contenders including the Border Collie.
- Because of their superb athleticism, they can jump over very high fences. A 10-12 feet fence is an easy feat for Pit Bulls.
- That they do not feel pain is patently false. They focus so intently that they can block completely out the pain.
- Their reputation as savage dogs takes a beating as they may greet intruders as a friend.
- Blue Nose Pit Bulls are very highly favored because of their unique coloration.
- They have a life span of 10-12 years.
- Another highly prized dog is the Razor’s Edge Pit Bull. Its bulky stature and tender nature are distinctive. A Razor Edge puppy can set you back thousands of dollars – due to their scarcity.
- Guarding wounded Union soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg, stood Sallie, a Pit Bull, now commemorated in a Civil War monument in Pennsylvania.
- The most celebrated dog of World War 1 was Sargeant Stubby,
a short brindle bull terrier mutt, who survived 17 campaigns on the Western Front. He steadfastly remained on the battlefield comforting wounded soldiers.
- The movie ‘The Little Rascals’ features Petey, a Pit Bull.
Proven Statistics About Pit Bulls
- Pit Bulls have a temperament rating of 86.7%. The temperament rating is conducted by the American Temperament Test Society. According to the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), “Pit Bulls have a naturally gentle temperament and scored within the same ranks as Golden Retrievers. ATTS tested 804 American Pit Bull Terriers from 2010-2011. Of these 804, 695 passed the temperament test with flying colors” The percentile rating of a dog’s temperament calculates ranging behavior from aggressive to shy.
- A human bite – 120 pounds, on average a domestic dog – 320 pounds, a White shark – 600 pounds. Pit Bulls have the smallest bite force compared to other dog breeds. German Shepherds and Rottweilers actually have the strongest bite force, according to The National Geographic,
- Pit Bulls occupy the number one slot of dogs brought to shelters. An estimated 1.2 million of 3.6 million Pit Bulls in the US, will end up in a shelter.
- 389 is the number of reported deaths from dogs between 1982 – 2017. Dogs that inflicted these deaths are from 12 different breeds including Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Akita, Boxers, and others. Not only Pit Bulls.
According to Dog Bite statistics of America in 2018, “Of the total adults killed by dogs in 2018, pit bulls were responsible for 81% (17). Victims 50-years and older accounted for 71% (15) of the adults killed by canines. Fatalities by adult age groups show: 19-29 years, 5% (1) death; 30-49 years, 24% (5) deaths; 50-69 years, 43% (9) deaths and 70+ years, 29% (6) deaths.”
- In the United States of America owners of Pit Bulls need to pay an additional homeowners’ insurance fee
What It’s Like Owning A Pit Bull- 13 Tips
- Obedience training – Pit Bulls enjoy praise, when training your Pit Bull should be the star in all situations.
- Neuter your Pit Bull. This curbs territorial aggression, the urge to go wandering around as they are great escape artists. Most importantly, be part of the solution to Pit Bull overpopulation as well as over-crowding in shelters by neutering your Pit Bull. In general, a dog who is neutered is not as territorial and fun to be around with.
- Socializing is a must. Teach and encourage your Pit Bull to socialize widely with different kind of individuals.
- Socializing with other dogs, up to a point, is great for interacting development and manners. Remember Pit Bulls have a natural distaste for other dogs and may pick a fight when put in a situation where they dislike the other dog.
- Be a committed student of ‘dog body language’. Be aware of your Pit Bull’s body language and behavior. Be very watchful when a play session is turning into a conflict. When owners are informed about Pit Bull’s behavior, they will be able to stop any unwanted fights. Playing can turn into raised-excitement and because of their physical strength, they can overpower weaker breeds of dogs.
- Use a leash whenever you go walking with your dog, especially in a public park or area. Other dogs may be trying to provoke your dog to a fight and being able to control them by using a leash will be a great prevention tool.
- Pit Bulls were bred to be highly patient with human beings. Any signs of aggression towards an owner should be dealt with by consulting a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist expert.
- The mantra of keeping a Pit Bull happy should be exercise and more exercise. They have loads of energy and are intelligent athletes. Pit Bulls need to stay active and have enough space to run around freely. Letting go of some of their extra energy will prevent them from being too playful towards children and other dogs.
- Many people are genuinely scared of dogs either from previous bad experiences or by lending their ears out to over-exaggerated stories. Unfortunately, Pit Bulls carry that additional label of being violent and dangerous. Pit Bull owners need to rise above the call of duty. Reassure anyone who might get in contact with your pet, but at all times be vigilant towards your guest’s feelings and your pet’s behavior.
- Learn to be thick-skinned around your pet. He will invite snide remarks from passersby who aren’t informed.
- Stay calm when dealing with unwanted encounters. Other dogs might provoke your Pit Bull and make sure you stay calm and deal with the situation as soon as possible. A great way to deal with unwanted encounters is to take your Pit Bull to the same park or running area.
- Make sure to get your Pit Bull a microchip and license – to ensure their safety and protection.
- Have fun with your Pit Bull by giving them loads of attention, game-play, activities, toys, and treats.
Why Should I adopt A Pit Bull?
- They are wonderful, affectionate pets that are caring and great with other family members. Despite the disrepute forced on them by uninformed individuals. They are sweet, loyal pets and truly enjoy human companionship.
- The ‘Don Juan’ of the dog kingdom. The Pit Bull is handsome and attractive. A short and neat coat, different colorations, and a smile that will look perfect on a family Christmas card.
- Although a tad stubborn, they are extremely playful. They love the outdoors and playing fetch, frisbee and running.
- Pit Bulls are low maintenance dogs and very easy to take care of. Their smooth coats only need brushing once or twice a week. They aren’t scared of water and enjoy a lukewarm bath with a lot of petting and physical contact.
- They love to be cuddled, petted and enjoy sitting on the couch with you.
So many untruths have been said and written about Pit Bulls. But once you are informed about their origin and true kind nature – you can’t help but to feel strangely sad for a dog of this bloodline.
Classic TV shows and movies like ‘Spanky and our Gang’ depict these dogs, and possibly rightly so, as trustworthy with young children. But all the same, responsible adults should supervise their children with any breed of dog. Pit Bulls are exemplary pets, even famous mute, Hellen Keller had a Pit Bull Terrier as a guardian dog.
Animal shelters can’t cope with the number of these dogs surrendered into adoption. It is important that we are informed about the Pit Bull bloodline and that we share our knowledge with others.
The misconceptions about these wonderfully kind creatures should stop. When cared for and understood, Pit Bulls will form part of a loving household adorned by all.