About The Pit Bull

Bandog Brittania, U-CD, SchH I, WDS. One helluva dog, I miss her. Colby breeding.

Click on the subject below:

*What is a correct pit bull?
*History of the breed
*The working bulldog becomes...
*What can you expect from a pit bull?





The correct pit bulldog is, like the majority of purpose bred breeds, not an animal you should get if you're goal is a casual pet for romps as the local dog park. Many pit bulls can and do behave like bassets, golden retrievers and other breeds bred specifically for generic, "pet-only" temperament traits, however it is unfair to expect EVERY pit bull (or any other member of a "purpose bred" breed) to do so. Pit bulls are tough and intelligent animals, historically bred for a willingness to test their mettle against larger and stronger animals and against each other. It is not uncommon for an adult pit bull to be very quarrelsome toward other dogs, and to expect him to be otherwise is unfair to the dog, to yourself and to the community in which you live. Good intentioned but ignorant owners who obtain a pit bull, convinced that the dog's temperament is ultimately influenced only by "how you raise them" do tremendous damage to our breed as well as being grossly unfair to their dog. Inter-species aggression is common in many breeds like the Akita, Rottweiler, Doberman, the terriers, Malamutes and malinois and dogs of these breeds can be expected to show little tolerance toward strange dogs. So dog aggression, responsibly handled, is not something which should stop you from enjoying many activities and sports with your dog. However, IT DOES require responsible ownership. If you are not willing to put the time, money, thought and effort into managing your animal, then do not get a dog.

Grip, SchH I, WDS (U-UD Baroness, SchH III x U-CDX Frasier) and "Sister" the
orphan baby harbor seal. Grip is teaching Sis how to catch live trout.

Do not, on the other hand, assume that because a dog can be quarrelsome with other dogs that he is "vicious", will attack children, or has to tied out with logging chains in the backyard and not treated as a pet. Many working breeds have antipathy towards other animals - coonhounds go mad at the sight of a raccoon, foxhounds will not hesitate to tear a dog-like fox to shreds, greyhounds live to chase and maul rabbits and even dog-like coyotes. Even the ever-friendly beagle will slaughter a rabbit, given the chance. And yet the greyhound, coon and foxhound and beagle are among the friendliest of breeds towards humans. And it is the same with the pit bulldog. His work through the years has been control of other animals - never humans. A correct pit bull is more often than not submissive toward all humans, and adores children. A pit bull that snarls, lunges or growls at non-threatening humans is NOT typical of the breed, and to keep such a dog endangers people, pets and the image of the breed we love. Nothing could be more wrong than for these people-loving dogs to be considered a vicious breed. A correct pit bull is NOT a good choice as a guard dog - only unsound pit bulls will react with aggression towards a stranger walking by. A normal pit bull looks upon all people as friends unless their actions prove otherwise. This happy-go-lucky attitude is a result of their confidence.

What is a correct pit bull like? Happy, confident, devil-may-care, always ready for a romp, humble (one could even say soft and cuddly!), never dominant with those he loves, gentle with children, ever ready to test his mettle with other dogs, silly, playful and incredible rough and tumble when need be. And that is why we love him.


History of the breed.

Back in the 1980's, I was sitting in a Washington state legislative hearing concerning the possible banning of all bulldog breeds. I was sitting next to the then vice-president of the American Kennel Club. When he stood to speak, his words burned into my memory as some of the most inaccurate, ignorant and snobbish I had ever heard. "There is," he told the lawmakers looking to him for accurate information, "absolutely no such breed as the 'pit bull'; it is not registered with the American Kennel Club." As I stared at him, dumbstruck really, I couldn't help but think of the 200 plus breeds which do not happen to grace the stud books of the American Kennel Club. This man certainly did not know his American Staffordshire history - that much was evident. From whence did he think the show-bred brother to the pit bull came from? Was he unaware that the AKC had opened its "pure" stud books to this "non-breed", the "pit bull", not once, but three times? And yet now, like a Peter, this man was denying the breed which formed the basis for at least three AKC registred breeds its very identity. Was it intentional, or truly ignorance? It certainly could have been either, for few breeds have such a straightforward history tangled into knots so fouled that many of its own fanciers can't unravel it.

Hunting boar in the colonies. Primarily used as an animal which could pin and
control large and dangerous beasts such as boar, bear and bull, dogfighting
was never the original purpose of the bulldog. Dog fighters will argue this
point, but the evidence is quite clear.

How often have you heard well intentioned pit bull owners make false statements such as "pit bulls are a relatively new breed", "they're a mixture of several breeds", "pit bull is a name given to all members of the bull and terrier group", and "they're half bulldog and half terrier"? At first glance it can seem confusing yet the history of the working bulldog is straight forward enough. The "tangle" comes about by the advent of kennel club politics. Pit bulls themselves are easily traced, as a recognizable type, for many hundreds of years.

This dog is very obviously a very pure, very typey pit bull. He could win in the
show ring today. This painting which depicts some boys about to set their pit
on a badger, shows the breed as already very well established at the
beginning of the 19th century.

Hundreds if not thousands of years before the development of kennel clubs, registrations, and the mania for "pure breeds", dog breeding was done with a great deal of skill and selection. How else to explain the obvious care which went into the very development of the ancient mastiff or greyhound? Different necessities, however, guided the breeders of past history. They bred dogs to "type" - not worrying so much about the finer points of specific "breeds". Only in the past 100 years have dog breeders generally ceased outcrossing for the betterment of the dogs, and concentrated instead on narrowing the gene pool until all members conformed to a written, and very narrow, physical criteria. Appearance became the standard by which dogs were selected - nothing else - and that is the sad legacy of the kennel club and the dog show.

(Top) The bulldog. An animal indistinguishable from today's pit bull (and some
American bulldogs) this dog was prized for its ability to grip the bull's nose and
HANG ON! (Bottom) The terrier. Small, quick, with an inbred tendency to grab,
shake and drop as quickly as possible, some terrier blood was infused into bulldogs
once bullbaiting was banned. Not much though - for the pit bull is still known for
his grip. The terriers used were the forerunner of today's Jack Russells, Patterdales,
and fox terriers.

To trace the pit bulldog with precision from the always murky past, it is necessary to begin around the time of the Roman conquest of the UK. There is no conclusive evidence of how smooth coated, broad headed, gripping dogs came to be in the UK, but this much is sure - they were there. Some were very large, and became the direct descendants of today's English mastiff and bullmastiff. Some were smaller, and became the direct descendants of the working bulldog, today known as the pit bulldog.

From these working bulldogs, indistinguishable from today's "American" pit bull and some "American" bulldogs, came a variety of breeds developed after the advent of selection for show traits. The Boston bull, the boxer (developed in Germany from imported English dogs), the show bulldog, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and the bull terrier, to name a few. The Boston bull was developed toward the end of the nineteenth century in the Boston area (a Mecca for dog fighters at that time) from pit dogs bred to small terriers - with a dash of the then extremely popular pug which gave the breed its screw tail. The boxer was developed at the same time, on the continent, by infusions of European baiting breeds with the English show-type bulldog. The show bulldog was just being developed at that time, and it was very popular with show folks both in the UK and on the continent. Show bulldog blood gave the boxer its deformed nose - a nose never found on real working bulldogs.

When you hear references to "bulldogs" from the middle ages, this is the
animal they are talking about - a pit bull. This painting is entitled "Bulldog".

The breed known to show ring folks today as "bulldog" was manufactured beginning around 1850. The history of the show bulldog is also the history of the show ring - and its awful effect on dog breeds. As early as 1894, Englishman Rawdon Lee, an authority on bulldogs, stated "It is known that time plays grim jokes on historical monuments. There has probably never been a dirtier joke, however, than the one played on our national symbol, the English Bulldog." He further adds, "The lunacy of breeding for extreme exaggeration, for extreme foreheads and huge skulls, for totally exaggerated low-slung front legs, for shoulders pointing outwards at almost a right angle, for Bulldogs with a front wider than that of the opposing bull. None of this used to be the case and only recently came into fashion."

The above criticism should certainly be aimed also at some of today's strains of American Bulldog and even some show bred pit bulls. Those who advertise "huge heads", "wide chests" and other deformities show plainly that they have no concept of working dogs. They breed only for fad and do no favors to the breed. They make money - sure, but at what cost to the breed? Bulldogs deserve so much more respect than that!

The myth of the show-bulldog as the model of a working bulldog persists to this day.
Some breeders produce American Bulldogs (and pit bulls) with faulty and weakened
front ends in order to produce a "bully" looking dog.

Such words as Lee's, speaking to us with authority from the past, also put to question those efforts to "recreate" the "originalbulldog" by adding show bulldog blood to pit bulldogs in quest of larger, heavier, more "bully" looking dogs. Why do this when the experts who knew the real bulldog say it was an agile creature with none of the modern bulldogs deformities? One need only look at a well built 50 to 60 pound pit bulldog to see a true "bulldog".

A bullterrier from the turn of the last century. Notice the extreme
"downface" bred for today had not developed yet. The dog looks like
what it is - a cross between a pit bull and a terrier.

The "bull terrier", that humorous white dog (though they come other colors) with the slanty eyes and deformed nose, is often confusedly called a "pit bull", and yet he carries only a portion of pit bull blood. The bull terrier was developed to perfection by a Birmingham man named James Hinks. In the words of his son, James Hinks II, his father "My father owned dogs from the bravest of the old breeds and had experimented in their breeding. He had also crossed in the white English terrier and the Dalmatian. In this way he produced a pure-white dog, which he named the bull terrier." The idea, again, was predominantly to develop a "stylish" dog, bred for its good looks. The original bullterrier cross looked much like a thinly built pit bulldog, as the characteristic "down-face" wasn't developed until a specific stud dog imparted that characteristic in the breed and it became the fad. Several years after the development of the white show bull terrier, pure pit bulldogs were bred back into some lines, for added mental and physical hardiness. The breeders of the pure white dogs, despite their increasing issues with deafness and other degenerate problems, fought tooth and nail to keep the pit bull-bull terrier crosses from the registry. These crosses were, however, admitted after a struggle.


Pit Bull, around 1910. A very popular family pet at that time. This dog would have been
known as a "pit bull" or "bull terrer" . The name "Staffordshire terrier" had not been
invented yet. Image courtesy of the Animal Farm Foundation.


The working bulldog becomes the "pit bull", and the pit bull becomes...

With all those show breeds to work with, the working bulldog was lucky enough to escape the notice of the show ring set until the turn of the century. How quickly the snobbish attitude became set - if a breed of dog is not "registered" with the kennel club, then it simply does not exist! The true bulldog was forsaken and its history grafted onto the pug/bulldog cross now named "English Bulldog". For those who do not believe that the pug played a significant part in the makeup of the show bulldog, please bear in mind that at the turn of the century dog show classes for "bulldogs" were divided into "Under 20 pounds" and "Over 20 pounds"! If further proof is needed, from whence did the screw tail come? The true bulldog has a short, straight tail. The pug, a tightly curled one.

In comparison with modern show breeds, the pedigrees of working bulldogs had been cherished for centuries. The pit bull actually has one of the most significant claims to purity of line of any breed. When breeds such as the German shepherd, Doberman, Rottweiler, English, Irish and Gordon Setters, Labrador and Golden retrievers were just beginning their genesis, the pit bull was already an established breed.

While the pit bull is thoroughly English and Irish in its origin, it was in America that the dog first was officially "registered". The pit bull soon had two single-breed registries, the UKC and the forerunner of the ADBA. These registries exist to this day, and, for the most part, continue to register pure pit bulldogs. [The UKC allows American Staffordshires to be registered as "pit bulls" which, in recent years, has had a tremendous impact of the breed as registered by the UKC. For the most part, UKC and AKC registered dogs cannot be differentiated, as they carry primarily the same blood. UKC dogs are now bred almost exclusively for show and pet purposes with little thought given to form, function or working soundness. The ADBA up until very recently has registered "anything", including obvious mastiff-pit bull mixes as a result of the craze for "large" pit bulls. Registries are driven by puppy registrations - and private registries are profit orientated businesses.]

A photo from the 1880s showing the treasured place that the pit bulldog
shared in family life. Notice how little the breed type has changed through
time - this is common in working dogs, rare in show breeds.

Like all purpose bred dogs, the purebred pit bull can come in a variety of colors, sizes and builds. Some strains show a touch more terrier infusion; thin and racy, with narrow heads, they may weigh as little as 25 pounds. Others are small, but very stocky, showing a clear connection with the smaller, stockier strain known today as Staffordshire bull terriers. And there have always been large, more bullmastiff orientated strains. Some of these dogs can, in a pure state, reach into the nineties in weight. In the 1970's a small group of fanciers began a breeding program dedicated to not only saving these large pit bulls, but also of distancing themselves from the politically troubled name "pit bull". These dogs were the foundation for a breed now called "American bulldog".

Three expressions of the same standard: (L) Overdone, (M) Underdone (R) Just right!

Then a small group of pit bull fanciers decided that their "Grand Old Breed" needed full American Kennel Club recognition in order to distance itself from its baiting/fighting heritage. A standard was drawn up and application made to the AKC. [John Colby's dog "Primo" was one of the dogs used to formulate the AKC standard, and Primo's picture illustrated the idea of perfection for many years. Those wanting to know what a real American Staffordshire is supposed to look like should study a picture of Primo.]

The dogs were accepted, but the AKC would not allow the word "pit" in the name, and so the rather dubious designation of Staffordshire "terrier" was chosen. Only the AKC could come up with a name like that! Staffordshire was a place in England noted for its harsh way of life and its fighting animals, however, it could hardly claim to be the place of origin. And placing this bulldog in the terrier group was simply ludicrous. Terriers, named for the Latin "terra" meaning earth, are smallish dogs which "go to ground" after small prey. They are noted for their quick tempers and sharp intelligence. True terriers are "hand spannable", meaning a man can grasp the dog behind its shoulders and have his fingers touch. Dogs larger than this are of doubtful use in ground work. To consider a breed which has always worked above ground, whose original purpose was the gripping of large wild game, then later wayward bulls, and then later still combat with a variety of animals, a "terrier" defies explanation.

The word "American" was added to the name of this very British breed in the 1970's when pit bulls began being imported to the US under the name Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Most registries simply lumped the two dogs together, since they were the same breed. The AKC and UKC did for many years. Yet the two lines of the same breed had changed in some important physical ways. The pit bulls developed in the UK after the turn of the century had been bred strictly for show and pet. Emphasis had been put on a stocky, "bully" look and small size. Top weight for the breed was 35 pounds - in reality the bottom weight for most pit bulls. Because of these differences, the AKC created two breeds where before their had been one (this has been done several times, as with the Norwich and Norfolk terrier to name one example). Because of this division of the same dog, there were now three distinct "breeds" all originating from the good ol' pit bulldog. The American pit bull terrier as registered by the ADBA and UKC, the American Staffordshire as registered by the American Kennel Club (and by the UKC, but as an American pit bull terrier) and the Staffordshire bull terrier as registered by the AKC and now the UKC. For further clarification on these three lines of dog, click here.

While the pit bull is often portrayed as a savage and indiscriminate killer; this
image is false. Bulldogs are no different from any other breed in their ability to
live in peaceful coexsistance with all members of a family. When a dog harms a
child - look to the parents to most often see where the real fault lies.



Bandog Pride, now owned by Heather Ringwood, is titled in agility.
She doesn't mind other dogs, loves people, and hates squirrels. Pretty typical!

From his history as a hunter's gripping dog, butcher's bull-baiter and gambler's dog fighter, the pit bull has inherited a strong desire to test his mettle against other animals. Many pit bulls are friendly with other dogs, and many live with cats and livestock, but it is not unusual for some pit bulls to be intolerant of other dogs. Despite the good intentioned advice of dog trainers who have little experience with bulldogs, or who fail to understand the dynamic nature of the breed, training and early socialization has only a minor effect on how dog aggressive a specific pit bull will become once it matures. Genetics play a much larger role. I recently had the opportunity to raise an entire litter of eight pit bull pups from birth to their present age of four years. These dogs were raised in the same environment, exposed to the same experiences and heavily socialized. The scale of dog aggression within this litter runs from a completely passive dog which will not show aggression to any animal even when attacked, to a dog which will grab any strange animal on sight - and everything in between. This is genetic expression at work - not the effects of socialization. It is important, therefore, that a person wishing to purchase a pit bull have a good understanding of the genetic background of the dogs from which their puppy will be bred. Understand also, that with a "scatterbred" dog, that is a dog which blends different bloodlines in its pedigree, you will be unable to guess which genetic expression will come to the forefront.

For those wanting an attractive, good natured family pet, it is possible to find breeders who specialize in large, oversized dogs which are often quite phlegmatic in character. These are often beautiful, blocky, wonderful dogs, though they are not really typical of the performance bred pit bull. These big dogs are very suitable for the first time pit bull owner who wants an even tempered family dog and the look of a "big, blocky" pit bull. True pit bulls are not big, nor terribly blocky, but the stocky, large dogs are very popular with novice owners. Some people feel they want only a "game-bred" dog, not even knowing what that really entails. If you live in a neighborhood, do you really want a dog which may spend its waking hours trying to grab every dog it sees? If your kid leaves the front door open just once, and the dog gets out, do you really want the law suits and hassle if it kills the neighbors poodle? When many of these "game-bred" fans ends up with the type of dog they thought they wanted, they decide pit bulls are "dangerous" after all. This is a case of foolish people - not dangerous dogs... Many people also equate "game bred" with dogs which will make good guard dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth. More often than not, "game bred" dogs are softer with people than show bred dogs.

How sorry I feel for those folks who do not have bulldogs in their lives...

Confidence is the key word to bulldog temperament. A swaggering, happy-go-lucky Irish type of confidence which makes him meet every person as friend unless proven otherwise. Not for him is the wary suspicion of the guardian breeds who view strangers as potential threats to their safety. The only thing "fierce" about his greeting of friend or stranger alike is the wagging of his tail. Will he guard his car or property? Sometimes, but best not to count on it. He sees the world as his friend. Will he protect his owner if that person is actually assaulted? The pit bull of sound temperament who does not rally under this circumstance is rare indeed. He loves children most of all - and a pleased, relaxed look crosses his face when they approach. He can be rough and tumble in his play, but if the kids are old enough to handle it, no better companion can be found.

Contrary to popular opinion he is not "hardheaded". He is sometimes made dull and unresponsive by means of a dull and unresponsive owner, but even then he remains an extremely sensitive dog, not slavish but with a fierce desire to please those he respects. Generally those who consider this dog "hardheaded" either know very little about the breed; sometimes their mental capacity may or may not even be equal to that of the dogs in question. The bulldog is never a "dominant" dog, needing to be shown 'who is boss'. His intelligence ranges from the "frankly not too bright" to dogs of startling sharpness. Pit bulls have earned every advanced training title available, often with top honors.




What can you expect from a pit bull?

You can expect a medium sized, active, intelligent and faithful dog. You can expect a dog who will need hard daily exercise, EVERY DAY (rain or shine). You can expect a dog which will probably not get along well with other dogs, especially of the same sex. Do not buy a pit bull "to keep my other dog company". Many foolish people have come home to dead or injured dogs when they have left two pit bulls, or a pit bull and another breed together unattended. DO NOT leave pit bulls (or members of other strong, capable breeds) together unattended, no matter how well they seem to get along.

This is Doc, flying low. Doc is owned and trained by Tom Eberhard and
recently earned his French ring "Brevet" title in fine style.

You can expect a well bred, stable and sound pit bull to not be much of an area guard dog. While some dogs may protect you if the need arises, it is NOT a breed trait to be defensive of your car or home. They love people, and are glad to see them. Most pit bulls greet strangers like long lost friends. If you want a snapping, snarling guard dog, don't get a pit bull. I suggest a cane corso or fila instead; they will snap and snarl and do a much better job of guarding your property. I have cane corso and Dobermans for just that purpose.

Pit bulls are healthy dogs. They can easily live ten to fifteen years. Make sure you are ready for that kind of a commitment before you get one. The average age of a pit bull being "given away" is between 9 months and 18 months.

What can you expect from a pit bull? The best friend you ever had - IF you are willing to understand what your dog needs and give it to him or her.



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