The Pit Bull

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Pit Bull Background

Oct 25th is National Pit Bull Day


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Today is National Pit Bull Day, and I felt that this is the perfect time to provide some information about the most “misunderstood breed” of dog.

This is the first article in a four part series on the American Pit Bull Terrier.

While Pit Bulls are not actually a breed in and of itself, they are considered by the AKC to be either an American Staffordshire Terrier, or an American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT).

The dogs we call “pit bulls” are in the terrier breed. If you know anything about terriers they are a tenacious bunch, energetic, determined, playful, and independent.

I believe if I start by giving you a little history, and background on this breed, and some of the essential characteristics you can expect to see in them, we can see why they have the underserved reputation they have today.

Knowing this information you can begin to see where things can go very wrong, or very right. The behavior of this dog, good or bad, is completely dependant on their owner.

The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please, and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBT’s make excellent family companions, and have always been noted for their love of children.

Some fun facts about the Pit Bull Terrier:

1. The Buster Brown Shoe Company, and RCA used this breed as their mascot.

2. Petey, a pit bull terrier, was one of the stars in “Our Gang” aka “The Little Rascals” a popular children’s show in 1955 (I believe it was ’55 –  before my time).

3. Jack was a working pit bulldog that was owned by Laura Wilder of “Little House on the Prairie”.

4. Helen Keller, and US President Theodore Roosevelt owned this variety of K9.

A Brief History

The ancestors of APBT arrive in the United States in the mid-1800’s with Irish-Boston migrants. Like the Staffordshire Terrier, they were initially bred from terriers and bulldogs. Because APBT was a forerunner to the Staffie, it was likewise evolved to be a fighting canine. The Americans made their variety much heavier with a much more powerful head.

The APBT was first bred to bait bulls, and bears. This was banned in England during the 1800’s, because it was found to be inhumane. When bull baiting was ban, rat baiting, and dog fighting became the popular activity. The APBT was used in both sports, and its prevalence in being put in pits with rats, or other dogs. This is how “pit” was added to its name.

The breeds most commonly used in fighting tend to be Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and APBT’s.

If you would like additional information on pit bull fighting the website http://www.animal-rights-action.com/dog-fighting.html is an excellent resource Please be aware that some of the information is graphic, difficult, and horrifying to read.

In 1898, the United Kennel Club or UKC was structured to supply battling standards and registration for APBT as a combating dog. Later on, dog breeders that stayed away from breeding dog for fighting, asked the AKC to identify their pits for registration so they would be suitable for confirmation, agility, and canine shows.
In 1935, the AKC approved of their requests, but the dogs were registered as Staffordshire Terriers, after the little district in England where the breed was probably developed. Consequently, many breeders may have dogs with dual registry – APBT, and Staffordshire Terrier.

This brings us back to Petey, one of the stars in the, Our Gang TV series and, the first dual-registered as Staffordshire Terrier/Pit Bull. The UKC later began registering other performing-type varieties, and also started holding dog shows equivalent to those of the American Kennel Club.


“Petey” Photo courtesy Ingrid Fromm

The AKC quickly closed its studbooks to APBT registration. They would only provide to those pit types with lineages as Staffies. For a short while throughout the 1970s, the AKC allowed American pits to register in their studbooks.

In 1973, the American Kennel Club added the word “American” to the pits name to differentiate it from a Staffie. Currently, UKC as well as the American Dog Breeders Association recognize those dogs with mixed APTB-Staffie parents as American pits or American pit bull terriers.

Nowadays, the pit has been used as search and rescuers, police/armed service dogs, livestock herder, and as therapy pets because they are excellent companions.

Moreover, the variety can also compete in dog sporting activities such as conformation, obedience, and herding, French Ring, as well as Schutzhund. (Schutzhund is a sport for these dogs, which tests three specific areas of a dog’s training and behavior).


“Nala” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Breeds of this kind; with proper socialization, and training can be a loving dog. The physical demands, and harshness of various activities, developed a healthy, sturdy, and a stable pet.

I hope I was able to give you some insight to this breed’s history, and, with the follow-on articles will help you understand the breed and its challenges.

In the articles to follow, we will look at the training, and socialization this dog requires, who should and should not own an APBT, and overall BSL (Breed Selective Legislation).

This article series is written exclusively for PGAA.com and for their use only
Written By Suzanne Dean, ABCDT http://www.thedogtraininglady.com