IS A CORRECT PIT BULL?
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.
SchH I, WDS (U-UD Baroness, SchH III x U-CDX Frasier) and "Sister"
orphan baby harbor seal. Grip is teaching Sis how to catch live
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.
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
of the breed.
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
boar in the colonies. Primarily used as an animal which could
control large and dangerous beasts such as boar, bear and bull,
was never the original purpose of the bulldog. Dog fighters will
point, but the evidence is quite clear.
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.
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
a badger, shows the breed as already very well established at
beginning of the 19th century.
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.
The bulldog. An animal indistinguishable from today's pit bull
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
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
and fox terriers.
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.
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
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
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
front ends in order to produce a "bully" looking dog.
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".
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.
"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.
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.
working bulldog becomes the "pit bull", and the pit
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.
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
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.]
photo from the 1880s showing the treasured place that the pit
shared in family life. Notice how little the breed type has changed
time - this is common in working dogs, rare in show breeds.
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
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.]
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"
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
the pit bull is often portrayed as a savage and indiscriminate
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
Pride, now owned by Heather Ringwood, is titled in agility.
She doesn't mind other dogs, loves people, and hates squirrels.
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
sorry I feel for those folks who do not have bulldogs in their
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.
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
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.
is Doc, flying low. Doc is owned and trained by Tom Eberhard and
recently earned his French ring "Brevet" title in fine
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.
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.