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.
Happy Halloween! We recently surpassed 10,000 likes on our Facebook page - this is a wonderful show of support for our “pitbull-type” companions, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has liked our page! Did you know that the popularity of pitbull-type dogs in American households is growing? We estimate that up to 20% of dogs in the U.S. are "pitbull-type" dogs (and their mixes) based on the fact that they are the 3rd most popular adopted from shelters and the 5th most popular registered by veterinarians. Actually, pitbull-type dogs have always been popular - in the early 20th century, they were 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". So contrary to stereotypes, our “pitbull-type” companions are not "fringe" or uncommon dogs - they are, and have always been, mainstream and loved family members in millions of American households. Not a trick, but a treat :-)
Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue! Did you know that pitbull-type dogs were once considered "America's dogs" and were prominently featured as national mascots by the U.S. on recruitment posters for World Wars 1 & 2? On this July 4th, take a moment to read this great article about the history of pitbull-type dogs in the U.S., it's a quick read and definitely worth it: https://patch.com/virginia/lorton/what-happened-americas-dog-1
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Insight, news, and analysis on issues and topics relevant to pitbull-type dogs.