Although the precise origin of the APBT is not known, its roots can be traced back at least one hundred and fifty years or so to England. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries the sport of bull-baiting was very much alive and dogs were bred to excel in this endeavor. The same type of dog was also used by hunters to catch game and by butchers and farmers to bring down unruly cattle. These dogs were called "bulldogs." When bull-baiting was outlawed in England in 1835 the sport of matching two dogs against one another in combat rose in popularity to fill the void.
One point of contention about the history of the APBT is whether these pit fighting dogs were essentially a new breed of dog specifically created for this popular pastime. Some people have theorized that the APBT is essentially the same breed as the Renaissiance bull-baiting dogs, largely unmixed with any other kind of dog, specifically terriers. These people consider the present name, American Pit Bull Terrier, a double misnomer, since, in their view, the breed is not of American origin and is not a terrier. Other people who argue that the APBT is indeed the product of a cross between bull-baiting dogs and terriers and that the breed simply did not exist in its current form during the Renaissance. They would argue that when we think of the terriers in the APBT's ancestry, we should not envision modern-day show dogs like Yorkshire Terriers, but instead working terriers (probably now extinct) that were bred for great tenacity in hunting. The problem of proof is compounded in this case by the extreme secrecy of the breeders of pit dogs. The 19th century pedigrees, if committed to paper at all, were not divulged, since every breeder feared letting his rivals in on the secrets of his success and replicating it.
In 1936, thanks to "Pete the Pup" in the "Lil Rascals" and "Our Gang" who familiarized a wider audience with the APBT, the AKC jumped on the bandwagon and registered the breed as the "Staffordshire Terrier". This name was changed to "American Staffordshire Terrier" (AST) in 1972 to distinguish it from its smaller, "froggier", English cousin the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. During this time period, and the years that preceded it, the APBT was a well-liked dog in America. At this time the APBT was considered an ideal family pet. Because of his fun-loving, forgiving temperament, the breed was rightly considered an excellent dog for families with small children. Even if most of them couldn't identify the breed by name, kids of the Lil Rascals generation wanted a companion just like "Pete the Pup". During the First World War, there was an American propaganda poster that represented the rival European nations with their national dogs dressed in military uniforms; and in the center representing the United States was an APBT declaring in a caption below: "I'm neutral, but not afraid of any of them."
When APBTs became popular with the public around 1980, people with little or no knowledge of the breed started to own and breed them and problems started to crop up. Many of these newcomers did not adhere to the traditional breeding goals of the old-time APBT breeders. Some unscrupulous breeders during this time period started selecting dogs for exactly the opposite criteria that had prevailed up to then: they began selectively breeding dogs for the trait of human aggressiveness. This, coupled with massive media attention, gave rise to the anti-"Pit Bull" hysteria that continues to this day. It should go without saying that, especially with this breed, you should avoid backyard breeders.
In spite of the introduction of some bad breeding practices in the last 15 years or so, the vast majority of APBTs remain very human-friendly. The American Canine Temperament Testing Association, which sponsors tests for temperament titles for dogs, reported that 95% of all APBTs that take the test pass, compared with a 77% passing rate for all breeds on average. The APBT's passing rate was the fourth highest of all the breeds tested.
Some famous people who own or have owned an APBT: Hellen Keller, Fred Astaire, President Theodore Roosevelt, General George Patton, Michael J. Fox, Stephany Kramer, Jan Michael Vincent, and Jeremy Miller.
Known for their intelligence and loyalty American Pit Bull Terriers make excellent, loving and protective companion despite the unfair press they receive. They range in height from 18 - 22 inches and in weight from 30 – 80 pounds. Their coat is thick, short, and shiny. They are courageous, loyal, and full of energy. They need a substantial amount of vigorous exercise, training and socialization. The two most common health issues in APBT are mange and heart murmurs. (2)
APBTs are generally inclined to be extremely friendly and trusting around people. This is usually true even with dogs that have not been properly socialized around people. Still, you will want to take no chances. Socialization with people and with other dogs is key.
With APBTs, a much more common problem than human-aggressiveness is dog-aggressiveness. Early socialization is not a guarantee against the eventual development of dog-aggressiveness, but it is often effective in countering the breed's aggressive tendency and permitting your APBT to enjoy the company of other dogs throughout its life. (3)
In the past several years, an alarming number of local jurisdictions throughout the United States, and indeed the world, have passed "breed specific" laws pertaining to "Pit Bulls" or "Dogs that are found to be of Pit Bull type". These laws are written in vague language and range from requiring the dog to be muzzled in public and forcing owner to take out a special insurance policy, to the outright banning of "Pit Bulls". While these laws fail to address the real problems of truly vicious dogs of any breed and irresponsible owners, they are a reality. Any current or prospective APBT owner should be aware of any special breed related laws in his or her local jurisdiction. (3)
· 1 decade ago