Here are some interesting facts about pit bulls who, as you know, are very misunderstood dogs. There are a lot of misconceptions about these wonderful animals so I hope to shed some light.
What are Pit Bulls?
Pit Bull is the common name for a dog descended from Bulldogs and Terriers. Breeders created them because people wanted a dog with the agility of a Terrier and the strength of a Bulldog.
Pit Bulls are not an actual breed. However, the breeds considered to be part of the Pit Bull type are the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bully and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. We sometimes include the American Bulldog in this group. There are also mixed breed dogs that have a physical resemblance these breeds.
They possess great physical strength. Also, they feature a brick-like head that is especially broad between the cheeks, powerful jaws and a thickly muscled neck. The neck then runs down to a wide, powerful chest. The hair is short, smooth, shiny, comes in several colors and will shed somewhat. If you ever pet one, you will notice that they seem like a solid mass of muscle!
There are an estimated 2 million Pit Bulls in the United States.
BTW: How can you resist these faces!
History of the Pit Bull – 1800’s
They were originally bred from Old English Bulldogs who became popular in the 1800s in the UK. Unfortunately, people used them in the early part of that century in a blood sport known as “bull baiting.” As you know, if people can find a way to exploit an animal they will and Pit Bulls were no exception. They tied a bull to an iron stake that gave him approximately 30 feet of movement and then they sicced the dogs on the restrained animal. This was a form of very sick public entertainment.
However, enlightenment prevailed and the UK outlawed blood sports in 1835. But the viciousness moved underground when “rat baiting” and dog fighting took over. Here, they released dogs into a pit to chase and kill rats and fight one another. People speculate that this is where the term “Pit Bull” originated. As you are aware, dog fighting continues underground to this day.
In early America many immigrants brought their Pit Bulls over as part of the family. Although people bred the dogs for fighting, they were incredibly intelligent and friendly. During this period, Pit Bulls performed a variety of jobs. These included farming, watching the children, protecting the family and providing companionship.
Furthermore, people considered them as trustworthy companions for children and called them nursemaid or nanny dogs. Although there is no substantial evidence to prove this, there are many vintage photos of children with Pit Bulls. However, the truth is that you should never leave any kind of dog alone with small children.
They grew in popularity and newspapers published stories about their exemplary deeds. What we need to remember is that aggression toward humans was undesirable and they were specifically bred not to be aggressive toward people.
History of the Pit Bull – 1900’s
Pit Bulls were popular mascots in the early 20th century and often appeared on Army recruiting posters. They also frequently appeared on the cover of Life magazine. At that time, Pit Bulls often were in films as trick dogs and comic sidekicks.
Luke, the Bull Terrier, performed tricks in movies with Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Fatty Arbuckle. A Pit Bull co-starred in the “Our Gang/Little Rascals films. Another Pit Bull starred in Buster Brown comic strips and appeared in the logo for Buster Brown shoes.
Unfortunately, today’s profiling of Pit Bulls is in sharp contrast to the popular image they carried in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There is a misconception that they are dangerous and people should fear them. This is no doubt fueled by our media which often features stories about dog fighting rings and the monstrous people who run and attend them. Pit Bulls constitute the large majority of dogs used in this manner. Unfortunately, we don’t hear about the gentle nature of this dog. This is one reason why Pit Bulls are misunderstood.
Pit Bull temperment
Pit bulls were actually bred and trained to be gentle with humans. People consider them as easy-going, loving, loyal clown dogs who are excellent companions. They also love to be with people and are included in family activities.
Pit Bulls require vigorous exercise and are happiest when active. When they are inactive they can be destructive. If they are not getting enough activity, they will let you know by chewing furniture and upsetting your flower beds. Unless you can get outside a lot, an apartment or condo may not be the best living situation for a Pit Bull.
A tip to people who leave their Pit Bull in a fenced yard: They are great climbers and may be able to make short order of your fortification. So, take precautions!
Separation anxiety often develops in Pit Bulls. Thus, it’s important that they have enough exercise and enough activities when left alone.
Although human aggression is uncommon, animal aggression isn’t. Even if you raise them with other dogs and cats there is no guarantee they won’t go after them. Pit Bulls will never back down from a challenge so if another animal provokes them they may go after that animal.
Do not isolate a Pit Bull. Socialize her from an early age so that she is accepting of new people and situations.
By the way, both the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier get high scores on the test by the American Temperament Test Society.
I have met several Pit Bulls and I can say that in each case, they were friendly, outgoing and lovely dogs!
Pit Bull training
Always train her in an assertive and calm manner. She will not respond to a harsh tone. Pit Bulls have a short attention span so training is most effective with short sessions or they will become bored. As a result, you need patience! Also, keep in mind that these dogs might like to test their boundaries just to see what they can get away with.
Do you need a leash for training? Take a look here.
Pit Bull discimination – Why are people afraid of Pit Bulls?
Are Pit Bulls more dangerous than other dogs? Attacks from them are frequently in the media. However, controlled studies show that Pit Bulls are not more dangerous than other breeds.
By 1986, over 30 communities were considering anti-Pit Bull legislation. What changed? Why had this dog gone from loving protector of the family and companion to a feared monster?
To begin with, dog fighting made a comeback in the 1980s despite it’s illegality in all 50 states. Pit Bulls were, of course, the dog of choice in this horrific blood sport. The Pit Bull was also the preferred dog for drug dealers and gangs. Tying in with this was the hugely publicized 1987 attack by a Pit Bull guarding a marijuana crop in which a two-year-old boy was killed.
In that same year, every proposed ban on Pit Bulls became law. However, this was not always with the blessings of animal professionals who didn’t think a ban was necessary. But, their concerns fell on deaf ears. In Tijeras, New Mexico they put into effect a ban that gave animal control officers the permission to seize and destroy Pit Bulls on sight without compensation to the owner.
Some animal control officials decried these bans as “animal racism.” They put the blame squarely on the shoulders of humans and rightfully so. A quote from them says “The Pit Bull attacks are due to a skyrocketing number of poorly bred and badly trained dogs raised by backyard breeders, who are trying to cash in on the Pit Bull’s growing reputation as a cheap, but deadly effective guard dog, particularly in urban areas.”
Currently (this post is written in 2018) we see a turn in the tide in favor of these dogs although a step forward is often countered with a step back. Florida is attempting to overturn all breed-specific legislation while Fond du Lac, Wisconsin is considering a new ban.
However, it only takes a brief look at history and some insight to know that Pit Bulls aren’t the problem. Remember, for a very long time they were a cherished and trusted part of the family. The problem lies in people. A mean and vicious person can produce a mean and vicious dog, no matter the breed. A kind and gentle person will produce a kind and gentle dog.
What this shows is that aggression toward humans is not the nature of the Pit Bull. Just as with any other dog, it all comes down to the owner and that person’s attitude toward their pet.
Also, we tend to run quickly with our prejudices, whether they are against people or animals. There is a tendency among some to automatically attribute certain negative characteristics to ethnic groups, religions, nationalities or sexual preferences. We call this bigotry and it applies equally in the realm of animals.
To read an interesting interview go to https://www.npr.org/2016/05/10/477350069/friend-or-fiend-pit-bull-explores-the-history-of-americas-most-feared-dog. Here you will see an interview with Bronwen Dickey, author of the book, “Pit Bull.” This is a history of Pit Bulls and our changing preconceptions of them. She says that a lot of the popular beliefs about Pit Bulls as predators are based on myth and misinformation.
As I always say “it’s not the dog, it’s the human.” I believe that is true with any kind of dog, including Pit Bulls. There is too much hysteria and misinformation that builds up over controversial subjects and blows out of proportion. Before people make a knee-jerk assessment, they need to have the facts!
If you are looking for a new companion, I hope you will consider one of these lovely animals.
Are you looking for quality food for your friend. Take a look here.
We hope you have enjoyed these interesting facts about Pit Bulls. We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. Do you have a Pit Bull? Do you know anyone who does? We’d love to hear your story!