What Were Pitbulls Bred For - A Brief Look at This Remarkable Breed
Pit Bulls originated in the United Kingdom. The breed descended from old English bulldogs that were famously bred for blood sports like bear or bull-baiting, ratting, and dog fighting.
The old English bulldogs that were used for these blood sports were strong enough, but they lacked the agility and speed to successfully down their opponents. So people started cross-breeding them with various terrier breeds, and so the Pit Bull Terrier was born.
Thankfully, those blood sports were banned in the UK in the 19th century.
The Pit Bull terrier was thereafter reimagined as an all-purpose dog, taking advantage of their muscular build and hard-working nature.
Rise of the American Pit Bull Terrier
When British immigrants fled to the United States due to the imminent threat of civil war, they brought along their pet dogs.
During that time, these dogs took on multi-purpose roles such as herding cattle and sheep and guarding livestock against wild animals and thieves. They also helped their owners to hunt and catch hogs.
Farmers saw the potential of this breed as herding dogs, and they became ever more popular as working and family dogs.
Unfortunately, dog fighting became popular once again, this time in the United States. During the 1970s and '80s, Pit Bulls were once again bred for dog fighting, earning a reputation for being dangerous dogs.
For fighting purposes, dog owners groomed their Pit Bulls to look more intimidating, and they even encouraged aggressive behavior.
Fearing public backlash, and because of the illegality of many of the dog fighting meet-ups, dog fighting was kept away from the public. Fights would often happen in the early mornings in the dark corners of the inner city.
This really cemented the breed's reputation as furious fighting dogs, and that reputation is still with them today.
Despite the ban on dog fighting in the United States since 1978, some owners today are still training their Pit Bulls for illegal fighting activities.
So, are Pit Bulls Naturally Aggressive?
According to the temperament tests conducted by the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), Pit Bulls are naturally gentle. These dogs have almost the same temperament rating as Golden Retrievers and even scored better than Chihuahuas. (1)
Unlike their ancestors, Pit Bulls nowadays are rather goofy, playful, lovable, and affectionate dogs. As long as you get your pup from a reputable breeder, these dogs pose little danger, making them preferred family pets.
Is the “Pit Bull” an Official Dog Breed?
Well, that's a bit of a loaded question, to be honest. The answer varies, depending on who you ask.
The American Kennel Club doesn't recognize the American Pit Bull terrier as an independent breed. Because of the breed's close association with dog fighting in the past.
The AKC took this stance because they wanted to send out a positive signal - that they were willing to wash their hands of the illegal blood sport that Pit bulls were bred for. Therefore, they have always distanced themselves from the fighting dogs and their dodgy owners.
Chauncy Bennet didn't like this very much.
He owned a Pit Bull and wanted it to be recognized as a purebred terrier. So he took charge and formed the United Kennel Club in 1989.
Mr. Bennet aimed to enhance the promotion of purebred dogs through UKC by emphasizing their performance aspect, while also recognizing the significance of meticulous record-keeping.
Additionally, he facilitated the safe cataloging of canine bloodlines by providing services to breeders.
Over the UKC grew to be the foremost competitor of the AKC, so much so that the AKC finally recognized Pit Bulls - well, sort of.
The AKC views Pit Bull as an umbrella term.
So if you're dog has a broad chest, smooth but short coat, almond-shaped eyes, muscular neck, and medium-length tail, it is considered a Pit Bull Terrier by the AKC.
Many breeds fit into this description - the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American bulldog to name a few.
Admittedly, there are many similarities between Pit Bulls and American Staffordshire Terriers. These dogs’ physical traits are very muscular, making them lively and active. They are also highly intelligent and curious. This is why early obedience training is very important for Pit Bull breeds.
Aside from their athletic prowess, American Pit Bull Terriers are loyal and loving dogs. They are always eager to please their owners.
Also, these dogs are too friendly to become guard dogs at home (unless trained to become aggressive toward someone they are not familiar with).
While they are usually gentle with people and children, it is still always best practice to have them leashed when outdoors or around people and pets that they don't know.
What are Pit Bulls Bred for in Modern Times?
Thankfully, dogfighting, bull-baiting, and any other blood sport that involves dogs are no longer allowed and are considered illegal sports.
In fact, dogfighting is now a felony in all 50 states. Through careful breeding, these dogs have become more friendly and affectionate compared to their ancestors.
Today these dogs are often featured on dog shows wearing stylish dog chains and hoodies.
Today, people breed Pit Bulls to become farm dogs or police dogs. Also, aside from dog shows, the American Pit Bull Terrier actively participates in canine sporting activities across the United States.
In fact, they remain undefeated in weight-pulling competitions and even continue to excel in the obedience category. And when it comes to law enforcement, Pit Bulls are a breed of choice as they're naturally protective. Their athletic build, stamina, and strong biting force make them perfect service dogs.
While most of them are bred to become multi-purpose dogs, herding livestock on farms or even therapy dogs, some lucky owners find them as a perfect addition to their family. Pit bull owners will testify to the fact that these dogs are extremely loyal. The more time you spend with them, the closer your bond will become.
Pit Bulls will give their loyalty and show their devotion. These dogs are great with children since they don’t easily get annoyed. In fact, you can see them constantly begging to cuddle with your little ones.
Pit bulls are also very gentle and playful dogs, getting along with other pets if raised in a loving family home.
Pit Bulls are not monsters or the villains that the media portrays them to be.
They are just unfortunate victims of mistreatment and human cruelty. With proper training, enough socialization, and lots of daily outdoor activities, Pit Bulls can become excellent family pets and companions.
1 - AATS Breed Temperament Guide