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Myths and Facts about the Pit Bull.
Whether you love them, fear them or are on the fence about them, pit bull terriers are extremely popular and part of just about every community in the U.S. And while the dogs enjoy increasing popularity, many people who still aren’t sure about them buy the many myths and hysteria that surrounds them, and here at LoveCare4Pets we want to spread the truth about pit bull terriers. In this article you can learn all about pit bulls, including why millions of people choose to share their homes with the dog everyone seems to be talking about.
The history of the Pit Bull
The history of the Pit Bull can be traced back to the early 1800’s in the United Kingdom. Pit Bulls were originally bred from Old English Bulldogs (these dogs are similar in appearance to today’s American Bulldog) who gained their popularity on the British Isles in a cruel bloodsport known as “bull baiting”. One to two Bulldogs were set to harass a bull for hours until the animal collapsed from fatigue, injuries or both. These matches were held for the entertainment of the struggling classes; a source of relief from the tedium of hardship.
However, in 1835 the British Parliament enacted the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835, which prohibited the baiting of some animals such as the bull and bear. Once bull and bear baiting was outlawed, the public turned their attention to “ratting”. This practice pitted dogs against rats in which they were timed to see whose dog would kill the most rats in the least amount of time. The “pit” in Pit Bull comes from ratting as the rats were placed into a pit so that they could not escape. Ultimately, the public turned their eyes upon dog fighting as it was more easily hidden from view and thus the law. Ratting and dog fighting both required more agility and speed on the part of the dog, so Bulldogs were crossed with Terriers “Bull and Terriers”, more commonly known as the first Pit Bull Terrier. Despite their tenacity and determination in battle, commoners actually bred pit bull terriers with some of the same qualities and traits that we still love about them to this day. Through selective breeding and culling, biting humans was greatly discouraged. Gamblers had to be sure that they could enter a pit and handle their dogs in close proximity without the danger of being bit themselves.
Shortly before the Civil War, immigrants from the British Isles came to the United States, but along with them came their Pit Bulls. It was during this time that the Pit Bull Terrier breed was named the “American” Pit Bull Terrier. Though these dogs had been specifically bred for fighting, they soon became a much larger and invaluable fixture in a developing nation. In early America, these frontier dogs took on an all-purpose role. They were responsible for herding cattle, herding sheep, guarding livestock and families from thieves and wild animals, helping on the hunts and as hog catchers. Their loyal and loving demeanor with humans, especially children (this is where the “Nanny Dog” myth originated from), earned them a prominent place not only as a working dog, but as a companion.
During the first half of the American century, Pit Bulls remained a prominent part of culture. Public attention turned away from fighting dogs and they began to see them as working class companions. The USA admired this breed for qualities that it likened in itself; friendly, brave, hardworking, worthy of respect and they became, the “All American Dog”. During WWI and WWII, Pit Bulls were used as the nation’s mascot. Their image of bravery and loyalty was displayed throughout advertisements during war time. The more notable of the first war-dogs was Sergeant Stubby. Sergeant Stubby has been called the most decorated war dog of WWI and the only dog to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat. He served 18 months on the front lines in 17 battles and 4 different campaigns. Sergeant Stubby is just one example of the many other Pit Bulls that have served their country in war time.
In addition to their war time contributions, the Pit Bull became America’s sweetheart. Frequently being used for commercial advertisements and products, in company logos and in popular television shows. Perhaps the most famous Pit Bull was Petey, the adorable ring-eyed, featured on Little Rascals.
After WWII, Pit Bulls began to be seen more as “regular dogs”. They were given attention neither more or less than any other breed. Surely, underground fighting must have taken place, but it seemed this was a rather small percentage. The vast majority of American Pit Bull Terriers were used for herding, hunting or guardian purposes, but most were bred and kept primarily as companions.
“Pitbull breeds: Is there such a thing?”
One of the most challenging aspects in the conversation about pit bulls is that not only are they one of the most misidentified types of dogs, there’s a lack of agreement about exactly what breed or breeds of dogs are pit bulls, and what are not.
The term “pit bull” or “pitbull” refers to a type of dog, rather than one breed everyone is in agreement on. “Pit bulls” are not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), though some recognized AKC breeds, like the American Staffordshire terrier, are often called pit bulls by the general public. The United Kennel Club (UKC) does recognize the American pit bull terrier as a breed. Meanwhile, the term has come to be used interchangeably to refer to a number of breeds, or even mixed breeds with unknown parentage.
Breed enthusiasts and detractors alike can have strong opinions about what a pit bull is — and isn’t.
Pit bulls were America’s darling dogs for many years. Famous and influential people had them, and due to their loving and loyal nature, pit bulls were featured in ad campaigns. But in the 1980s, after pit bull terrier–type dogs became popular with irresponsible dog owners, the dogs fell prey to sensationalized stories in the media, which led to panic policy making. That media bias still clouds how some misinformed Americans view the dogs today.
Throughout history, dog breed trends have changed, with different breeds topping the charts for popularity, as well as perceived danger. Breeds tend to fall in and out of favor, and either end of the spectrum can be bad news for the dogs themselves.
Over the years, pit bull–like dogs have endeared themselves to some well-known people, from presidents to television stars. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson lived with pit bull terrier companions. Other notable people in history who loved and had pit bulls include Helen Keller, John Steinbeck, Billie Holiday, Thomas Edison, Dr. Seuss, Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire.
In recent years, famous pit bull fans include Jon Stewart, Ira Glass, Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Rachael Ray, Serena Williams, and many more
One of the great myths is that pit bull terriers have locking jaws that make their bites more dangerous.
The truth is that pit bull terriers are physiologically no different from any other dog out there. There are no locking jaws; it just doesn’t exist.
Another myth is that pit bull terriers are not family dogs. Only bad people have them.
In reality according to Vetstreet.com, the American pit bull terrier is one of the top three favorite breeds in 28 states. So, the idea that they’re reserved for certain types of people is false. There are millions of these dogs in our country, and they’re family pets, therapy dogs and service animals, just like other dogs. Any kind of dog can make a great pet.
In October,26 2019 we celebrate one of our favorite breeds on National Pit Bull Awareness Day. The annual event was started by Bless the Bullys in 2007 to bring positive media attention to these special, and misunderstood, dogs.
The NPBAD was started in 2007 by Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a pit bull rescue and education group in Middle Tennessee.
The ultimate goal of NPBAD is to promote the truth about pit bulls. This is a stereotype that is biased toward generalizing and condemning an entire breed based on the actions of a few bad people. The truth is that each dog should be evaluated by his own merits and not by his breed. The truth is that there truly are no bad dogs, only bad people.
Dog-aggression and people-aggression are two distinctive traits and should not be confused. Unless a Pit Bull has been poorly bred or purposefully trained to attack humans, they generally love people. They are, in fact, one of the most loving, loyal, friendly and dedicated companions you can have.
Knowledge is power, and with education and advocacy, the truth will save lives in terms of negating the fear and bias generated by the media, circumvent knee-jerk reactions such as breed bans, and the truth will result in fewer pit bulls ending up in animal shelters.