Pit bull

From Academic Kids

A pit bull is a member of any of a number of breeds of dogs developed from the English Bulldog. Breeds recognized as pit bulls include the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, although the name is also often used to refer to other breeds of similar characteristics, such as the American Bulldog and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and mixed breeds that include any of these breeds.

The  is one of several pit bull breeds.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is one of several pit bull breeds.
The pit bull is a descendant of bull- and bear-baiting dogs. The dogs left in Europe were bred along different lines developing into a smaller, stockier dog. The dogs brought to America are larger, with longer legs. In no way should the pit bull be confused with the Bull Terrier which is a cross between a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the extinct English White Terrier.

Pit bulls were long considered to be an ideal family pet and are recommended to this day by the American Kennel Club as an especially good dog for children. Famous members of this breed include Pete the Pup (or "Petey") from Our Gang, Nipper from the RCA logo, and Tige from Buster Brown shoe advertisements.

In the 1980s, a series of well-publicized attacks on humans by aggressive members of the breed occurred, making the ownership of pit bulls quite controversial.



Pit bulls are medium sized, solidly built, short coated dogs that require little grooming. They have a friendly temperament and are noted for their attachment to their masters as well as for their courage. Although they are short, they have extremely high muscle density and are generally capable of executing a standing four foot vertical jump. Pit bulls have been bred to have an extreme tolerance for pain. For example, the United States Postal Service, which equips its letter carriers with a "pepper spray", notes that many capsaicin-based dog-repellent sprays can have little or no effect on an attacking pit bull.

Pit bulls, like many dog breeds, can be defensive towards their territory. Like all dog breeds, some members may display an inherent distrust of other animals (including humans) not perceived as being part of their pack, and a propensity to attack any such animals who venture into their territory. Pit bulls also, because of their dog fight history, may show unprovoked aggression towards other dogs.

Pit bulls can make very good pets, but great care must be taken should one choose to care for one. They are not recommended as a first dog for a new owner, and like many breeds they require training and socialization to become well adjusted adult canines.

The American Canine Temperament Testing Association rates American Pit Bull Terriers in fourth place, with a 95% passing rate on temperament tests, as opposed to 77% for all breeds in general. Pit bull proponents claim that the aggressive personality traits present in some pit bulls (and many other dogs) can be subdued through proper training and owner supervision of the pit bull.

It is important to note that many breeds look similar to the pit bull breeds to inexperienced eyes, and therefore can be confused for them. A few of these breeds are the Argentine Dogo, the Patterdale Terrier, and the Boxer.


The ancestors of modern pit bulls, English and French bulldogs, and other related breeds were powerful mastiffs bred for farm work. Specifically, these dogs accompanied farmers into the fields to assist with bringing dangerous bulls in for breeding, castration, or slaughter. The dogs, known generally as bulldogs, protected the farmer by subduing the bull if it attempted to gore him. Typically a dog would do this by biting the bull on the nose and holding on until the bull submitted. Because of the nature of their job, bulldogs were bred to have powerful jaws, muscular bodies, and the resolve to hold onto a violently-struggling bull, even when injured.

Eventually these dogs' purpose inspired the widespread practice of the bloody sports of bull-baiting and bear-baiting. Bulldogs are believed to have been bred with terrier breeds in order to produce a more muscular, compact, and agile dog for these competitions. The resulting dogs are known as bull-and-terrier breeds, and modern examples include all pit bull-type dogs. In Elizabethan England, these spectacles were popular forms of entertainment. However, in 1835, bull-baiting and bear-baiting were abolished by Parliament as cruel, and the custom died out over the following years.
Missing image
United States propaganda poster used during World War I depicting a pit bull

In its place the sport of dog-fighting gained popularity. Dogs were bred for specific traits useful in the dog-fighting ring, refining the agility, gameness, and power already present in the bull-and-terrier breeds. They were also bred to be intelligent and level-headed during fights and unaggressive toward humans. Part of the standard for organized dog-fighting required that an owner be able to enter the ring, pick up his dog while it was engaged in a fight, and carry it out of the ring without being bitten. Dogs that bit their owners were culled. As a result, Victorian fighting dogs (Staffordshire Bull Terriers and, though less commonly used as fighters, English Bull Terriers) generally had stable temperaments and were commonly kept in the home by the gambling men who owned them.

During the mid-1800s, immigration to the United States from Ireland and England brought an influx of these dogs to America, where they were bred to be larger and stockier, working as farm dogs in the West as much as fighting dogs in the cities. The resulting breed, the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also called the American Pit Bull Terrier, became known as an "all-American" dog. Pit bull type dogs became popular as family pets for citizens who were not involved in dog-fighting or farming. In the early 1900s they began to appear in films, one of the more famous examples being Pete the Pup from the Our Gang shorts (later known as The Little Rascals).

During World War I the breed's widespread popularity led to its being featured on pro-U.S. propaganda posters.

Safety and legal issues

Of the 199 dog-attack fatalities in the USA between 1979 and 1996, dogs identified as pit bulls were responsible for 60 attacks—just under a third. The next most-dangerous group was Rottweilers, responsible for 29 attacks (statistics from the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00047723.htm)). These statistics are tainted by the fact that the breed recorded as responsible for the attack is obtained from the report of the person attacked, and many people incorrectly identify other kinds of dogs (such as boxers or Rottweilers) as pit bulls.

In response to a number of well-publicized incidents probably involving pit bulls, some jurisdictions began placing restrictions on the ownership of pit bulls, such as the Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK, an example of breed-specific legislation. On March 1, 2005, the Canadian province of Ontario enacted a law restricting the ownership of pit bulls, making Ontario the first jurisdicition in North America to do so [1] (http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/03/02/pit-bull-050302.html).

According to The Age, pit bull terriers have been responsible for four of the seven dog attacks in which Australians have died between 1991 and 2002. The Endangered Dog Breeds Association of Australia, however, denies these figures, and claims that pit bull terriers have caused no known fatalities, and that only 8 of 750 investigated bitings involved this breed. Most Australian state governments have introduced new legislation specific to pit bulls.

Many jurisdictions have outlawed the possession of pit bulls, either the pit bull breed specifically, or in addition to other breeds that are regarded as dangerous. The extent to which banning a particular breed is effective in reducing dog bite fatalities, however, is contested. Some maintain that pit bull attacks are directly attributable to irresponsible owners, rather than to any inherent property of the breed itself. Others maintain that pit bulls as a breed are more unpredictable and dangerous than other dogs, even when properly trained. Still others argue that banning particular types of dog will simply result in aggressive dog owners looking for similar characteristics in other breeds instead.

Because pit bull is an all-encompassing term used to describe several breeds of dogs, many times the issue of determining whether a dog, especially a stray or a mixed-breed dog, is a pit bull is left to inexperienced eyes. Often, a dog need only to look stockier, more muscular, broader muzzled, or have a shorter coat than usual for it to be considered a potential pit bull cross. This causes great difficulty in determining allowable or safe dogs, and people often err on the side of caution. A study[2] (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/dogbreeds.pdf) for the US Department of Health and Human Services discusses some reasons why fatalities might be overstated for pit bulls, in large part because most people (including experienced dog owners) often can't distinguish a pit bull from any other stocky, broad-faced, or muscular dog.

Dog fights

In the United States, pit bulls are the breed of choice for dog fights, due to their incredible strength and dog-aggressive tendencies. Although dog fighting, a sport that is usually accompanied by gambling, is illegal in the U.S., it is still practiced. People who train pit bulls usually prepare them for fighting by having them pull weighted sleds and run on specially designed treadmills. Often the codeword "game bred" is used to indicate that a pit bull has been bred especially to fight. Breeding aggressive pit bulls is sometimes associated with the hip hop culture, which considers it a status symbol to own the toughest dog. [3] (http://www.wftv.com/news/2163838/detail.html)[4] (http://www.fox5atlanta.com/iteam/bred.html)

The term game-bred may be used as a code for a fight dog, but sometimes referring to a dog that is game simply means a dog that is very determined to complete a task, be it a race, weight pull, or unfortunately even a fight.

Dog-fighters are the minority among pit bull owners. Most people who own these breeds direct their dogs' plentiful energy toward non-violent athletic tasks. Some people train their pit bulls for dog agility. Others involve their pit bulls in weight pulling competitions.

Positive Press

Although negative information about pit bulls is widespread, there are also many positive stories. Some work in hospitals and care facilities as therapy dogs (http://www.thisisruby.com/tdi.html), and some have saved people's lives (http://www.understand-a-bull.com/HeroicPitties/HeroicPitties.htm).


Pit Bull is the brand of 'hoverboard' used by Griff Tannen in Back to the Future Part II.


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