The term "pit bull" is not a breed. Historically, it was an informal and slang term that was used to describe any dog that was used for the cruel sport of "bull baiting" (using dogs to seize tethered animals such as bulls within an enclosed area called a "pit"). While many different breeds were used for this sport, dogs that resemble today's bully breeds were commonly used - it was not an activity limited to today's "pitbull-type" breeds. Furthermore, baiting is not an inherent trait for any breed, it is an activity that must be taught and honed (no different than teaching a dog to sit or fetch). Today, the term "pit bull" is a generic term used to describe a type (or category) of dog based only on its physical appearance (not on genetics or lineage) - just like a German Shepherd is one breed of many unique "shepherds" or "shepherd-type" breeds. The American Pit Bull Terrier is the only formal breed with the term "pit bull" in its name, but it is only one of several breeds that make up the pitbull-type category. Below, we provide a short summary of the history of pitbull-type dogs and list the four AKC/UKC breeds that are widely recognized as pitbull-type breeds.
The history of pitbull-type dogs:
Pitbull-type dogs are a crossbreed between a bulldog and a terrier originally bred in England in the early 19th century (then called "Bull and Terriers") to be working dogs on farms to herd, protect, and manage livestock. While their early history is complex and includes herding cattle and protecting homesteads, it also unfortunately includes the cruel sports of "bull baiting" and dog fighting. However, these "sports" were not specific to today's pitbull-type breeds - many different breeds were subjected to these activities which are now illegal almost everywhere. During the 20th century, pitbull-type dogs quickly became one of America's most popular family dogs to the extent that they became national mascots and were used on recruitment posters for World Wars 1 & 2 and were called "America's dog". More recently, their popularity has continued to grow to an estimated 20% of the total dog population in the U.S. (all pitbull-type breeds and mixes combined) and are successful as service dogs, as therapy dogs, as K9 police dogs, as family pets, and consistently achieve excellent temperament scores.
The 4 AKC/UKC breeds that are widely recognized as the "pitbull-type" breeds:
The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is the tallest and most athletic of the four pitbull-type breeds. The American Staffordshire Terrier is slightly shorter and stockier than the APBT. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is easily the smallest of the four. The American Bully is the most unique of the group as it is the most stout and resembles the classic Bulldog breed. Our Breeds & Pictures page has more pictures and information about the pitbull-type breeds.
In only the first half of 2018, eleven U.S. cities and towns have successfully repealed breed specific legislation (BSL) that targeted and discriminated against "pitbull-type" dogs and their owners. Almost always, ineffective BSL is replaced with stronger and more equitable breed-neutral regulations which are more effective because they address all irresponsible owners and all dangerous dogs - regardless of a dog's breed. All around the country and across different political spectrums the trend is clear - BSL and breed bans are being challenged and of those challenged, many are being successfully repealed. Below, we list the 11 cities and towns that have repealed BSL so far this year followed by a few key reasons for why BSL continues to be defeated.
U.S. cities and towns that have repealed BSL in 2018 (January-June):
Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed.
BSL is being challenged and repealed for a number of reasons including:
Regardless of any personal opinions about specific breeds (or types) of dogs, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that BSL is ineffective and that pitbull-type dogs are not "more dangerous" than other strong breed dogs. Furthermore, the risk rates for pitbull-type dogs are fully in-line with other strong breeds given their growing population size. So it's really no surprise that when BSL is challenged by informed citizens and public officials, BSL is often repealed and replaced with stronger breed-neutral regulations that address all dangerous dogs, all bad owners, and all risky dog-related situations - regardless of breed. A big congratulations to the 11 cities and towns that have repealed BSL in the first half of this year!
Shattering stereotypes: Meet Aladdin, a pitbull-type dog who suffered abuse and neglect but went on to become a certified therapy dog after his new mom showed him a little love. In this short video, watch how Aladdin undergoes an amazing transformation from his abusive beginnings to winning the Therapy Dog of the Year award by the American Humane Association - yet another example of the exceptional temperament and goodness inherent in pitbull-type dogs. A big thanks to Pittie Nation for sharing Aladdin's story and American Humane for recognizing his potential.
Blog & News
Insight, news, and analysis on issues and topics relevant to pitbull-type dogs.