Long before there were breeds of dogs like the Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, there were types of dogs named for the jobs they did. Retrievers fetched the hunters’ game and shepherds guarded the herds. As people became more interested in specialized types of dogs, they would breed to highlight the traits they were looking for. Slowly, individualized breeds were developed.
Pit bulls are descended from Mastiffs, Bulldogs, and Terriers. These dogs did not have a job like the shepherds. They were placed in a ring to fight bulls and were called Bull and Terriers. The ring was called a pit, and the dogs became known as pit bulls. When large protests resulted in banning bull baiting, the dogs were bred to fight each other. Breeders sought to create agile dogs, so bulldogs were bred with terriers and the pit bull as we know it was created.
It is important to note that even though the dogs were bred to fight each other, aggression towards humans was not tolerated. Owners and handlers were able to reach in to the “pit” without harm. Any dog that showed human aggression was destroyed. These dogs were so loyal to their humans that they became known as the “nanny dog” because of their great temperament and affection toward children.
During the early 1900’s the Pit Bull Terrier was the most respected dog in the United States!
- They were so highly regarded that they represented the United States in World War I on our war posters.
- They are also the only breed to have graced the cover of LIFE magazine three times.
- The first Pit Bull movie star was born, Petey of the Little Rascals.
- Sgt. Stubby, the first WWI Canine Hero who was a decorated soldier was also an American Pit Bull Terrier!
- President Roosevelt owned a Pit Bull Terrier and so did Helen Keller.
Unfortunately, the Pit Bull terrier doesn’t receive the same respect they once did in America. There are many reasons for this: irresponsible ownership; back yard breeding (the breeding of dogs by unlicensed, inexperienced, or irresponsible people); media misrepresentation and stereotyping; and more.
Pit Bull is a common term used to describe a type of dog; there are actually three breeds that can be easily confused. The correct designations are:
- The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) - Recognized by the American Dog Breeders Association and United Kennel Club
- The American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff or AST) - Recognized by the American Kennel Club
- The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT) - Recognized by the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club
They are essentially the same dogs but have been bred for a different purpose and/or size standard since the mid 1930's. How can we tell the difference? We can't really. We can only try to guess the breed based on some very subtle factors that may differentiate them. Note that even experts can't always tell if a Pit Bull is an APBT, AST or a SBT.
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