25 Facts about the highly misunderstood pit bull
Author: Norm Shriever, Rad N Bad Collars
- Before we get started, it’s important to note that “pit bull” is NOT a breed! However, it is used as a generic term to classify a wide variety of pit-mix breeds, including American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers.
- Despite the common misconception, pit bulls do not have “locking” jaws. In fact, a pit bull’s skull, bone structure and jaw mechanism is very similar to many other common breeds of dogs.
- While a pit bull’s bite may be significant with 235 pounds of pressure per square inch or 1,600 pounds of total force, their bite isn’t the strongest in the K9 world by any means. Rottweilers (325 PSI), German Shepherds (325 PSI), Dobermans and Mastiffs all bite harder than pit bulls.
- But “pits” are athletic, strong, playful, determined, and energetic until they mature. They’re also famous for being great leapers and some of the best fence-climbers in the dog world, often “breaking out” of fenced-in backyards in ways that leave their owners perplexed.
- While pit bulls now have a reputation as vicious and unstable attack dogs, that’s actually not natural to their temperament. Quite the opposite, pit bulls actually love people and crave human attention, displaying innate characteristics of affection and friendliness.
- They are so affable that throughout history, pit bulls were actually not considered good guard dogs because they might try to befriend, not attack, intruders!
- The sad reality is that in recent decades some despicable people have selectively bred and trained pit bulls for aggression and used them for dog fighting. But that’s not their natural state, and they will only be aggressive and volatile if humans abuse and mishandle them. However, their true nature couldn’t be farther from that negative reputation!
- In his 1999 book, The Essential Pit Bull Terrier, K9 and breed expert Ian Dunbar wrote, “Today, a properly bred Pit Bull is so exuberantly happy upon meeting her owner’s friends (or even friendly strangers) that new owners sometimes worry that their dog is too sweet and fun-loving to protect their home and family. In addition, the Pit Bull’s pleasant nature makes him an ideal candidate for therapy work with people.”
- It’s not only expert opinion but empirical research that proves pit bulls are naturally kind and gentle. The independent American Temperament Test Society tests and rates 122 canine breeds for their personality characteristics gives them a numerical grade, as well as a Pass or Fail designation. It rated Pit Bull Terriers an exemplary 86.8%, 4th best among all dogs and better than Collies, Beagles and even Golden Retrievers!
- In the 19th and 20th centuries in America, pit bulls were so trusted with children and families that they were often called “nursemaids” or “nanny dogs.”
- There are approximately 78.2 million dogs in the United States, with an estimated 3.91 million of them, or 5%, some sort of pit bull or pit-mix. Despite their prevalence, pit bulls end up in shelters and euthanized disproportionately, with 20% of dogs in animal shelters classified as pit bulls.
- People sometimes get confused between pit bulls and “Bully Breeds,” the loose grouping of various breeds that all have common lineage. Bully Breeds include Mastiffs, Bulldogs, Boxers, Pit Bulls, Great Danes, Pugs, Rottweilers, various terriers and others that trace back to the Molosser, a breed of K9 in Ancient Greece with a short snout, large bone structure and powerful frame
- The media has adopted a bias against pit bulls based on misinformation and sensationalism and responsible for spreading a lot of the fear around this breed (which isn’t really a breed, as we’ve pointed out.) This results in Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) that unfairly focuses on pit bulls. The media bias does cause a lot of harm, as the shelter are filled with pit bulls at a 20% rate and other Bully Breeds at a 40% rate.
- About 60% of all dogs that end up at shelters are euthanized each year, and it’s extremely difficult for shelters to place good pit bulls with adopted homes in part because of the fear around the breed.
- First called “Bull-and-Terriers,” they began breeding English Bulldogs with terriers in 19th century England to produce dogs with strength but also tenacity. These forefathers of the modern American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier were used on farms, for hunting and protecting livestock.
- So where does the name “pit bull” come from? These new Bull-and-Terriers were also used for “Bear Bating,” a cruel and barbarous form of entertainment where a bear would be set in a pit to be tortured and eventually killed. They used dogs to set upon the bears, but even then these dogs were not aggressive toward humans, as handlers and other trainers often had to be in the ring with them.
- Even when Bear Bating was outlawed in England (and ironically, pit bulls are now outlawed in the UK), they used these “pit bulls” for sport, filling the pits with rats and other dogs as a competition to see who could kill them the fastest.
- These pit bulls were brought over to the Americas in the 1860s and played an integral part in history. A pit bull named Sallie stood guard over wounded and dead soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg, and she was later immortalized in a Civil War monument in Pennsylvania.
- Pit Bulls also served in World War I to protect and comfort wounded soldiers, including a dog named Sargent Stubby that served in 17 battles in the Western Front.
- Pit Bulls were also used on Army recruitment posters and other advertisements in the early and mid 20th
- They’ve appeared on the cover of Life Magazine three times, more than any other dog breed, and Petey from the show Little Rascals was a pit bull!
- Today, there are two Reality TV shows about pit bulls (Pit Bulls and Parolees and Pit Boss) and celebrity pit bull owners and advocates include Jessica Biel, Alicia Silverstone, Linda Blair, Jessica Alba, Jamie Foxx, Rachael Ray, and Dr. Phil.
- Pit bulls have been around since the beginning of our nation’s history, and considered safe, stable and family-friendly breeds for the vast majority of that time. Their negative reputation only started in the 1980s, with the rise of popularity of fighting pit bulls, leading to a media scare. But other breeds were considered inherently bad and too dangerous for society at different times in our history, including German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and even Bloodhounds.
- One of the recent high profile cases about pit bull fighting involved the seizure of fighting dogs from star football player Michael Vick’s home in 2007, many of which were tortured or suffering from abuse. However, of the 51 dogs seized, more than 30 of them have been rehabilitated and adopted by loving families. Four of these dogs have even become therapy dogs, a testament to the gentle and friendly true nature of pit bulls.
- The best way to help these wonderful dogs is through educating the public about their true nature and characteristics, as well as advocate for shelters. There are some amazing organizations and non-profits that focus on rescuing and helping pit bulls, so feel free to contact us at Ra-n-Bad Collars if you’d like more information.
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