American Pit Bull Terriers – A Little History

Despite their reputation and all of the bad press that they receive, American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT) are surprisingly very loyal, intelligent, energetic and caring. Contrary to how they’re often portrayed, APBTs make great companions, and they are noted for their outgoing, affectionate, eager-to-please disposition and their fondness for people; they love attention and relish the company of humans. The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. breed statistics as of December 2005 show an 83.5% passing rate for the APBT as compared to an 81.2% overall pass rate for all the different breeds they test, showing that many of these dogs have stable and dependable temperaments.

Always portrayed as an evil, vicious breed, I’d just like to go on record stating: It’s not the dog (or the breed), it’s the owner.

History (taken from Wikipedia)

Originally bred from bull-and-terrier crosses brought to America from England and Ireland in the 1800s, they were popular in emerging cities for the sport of dog fighting. As the country grew, many dogs traveled with settlers to new homesteads where they were sometimes used as working dogs on farms. When bred for fighting, the breeder would look for strength, and gameness: from its bulldog and terrier ancestors it inherited the instincts to never give up and to bite down and never let go. A breeder also knew that a dog like this could be dangerous to people if it was a man-biter, so he would look for the crucial trait of non-agression towards humans. Any fighting dog that showed aggression towards its owner or handler would be culled immediately. This created a line of strong dogs that, while being dog aggressive, would not turn on their owners. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeder’s Association. After dog fighting was made illegal in the United States, many dog owners wanted to legitimize the breed and distance it from its fighting roots. The name “Staffordshire Terrier” was adopted by some owners and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936. Later, the word “American” was added to reduce confusion with its smaller cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not all breeders, however, agreed with the standard adopted by the AKC, and continued to use the name APBT for their lines. Much confusion still remains in regards to the APBT, the AST, and the SBT.

Once an extremely popular family dog in the United States, the American Pit Bull Terrier’s popularity began to decline in the United States following World War II in favor of other breeds. Though still overwhelmingly kept by families with children in its homeland, it has come under fire in the past thirty years for its association with inner city crime and drugs. Many people of ill-repute mistakenly breed this dog for human aggression. They exploit its awesome willingness to please its master by teaching it to aggressively guard property against humans or leave it to roam the streets. However, this breed of dog does not have natural watch dog tendencies. If not trained to be wary or bark at intruders, they would sooner lick a burglar to death than bite or attack. (The majority of home raised pit bulls only attack if they feel a family member or friend is in grave danger.) They also may be kept for purposes of illegal gambling and dogfighting.

Unfortunately, this breed is also often the most common target of dog abuse in urban areas. Outside of dog fighting and guarding property, the APBTs have been found beaten, starved, burned, mutilated, and mistreated to make them particularly aggressive. After the owner no longer has any use for the dog, the dog is left for dead, turned loose to die, or finds its way into animal control services, where it will most likely have to be destroyed. A large percentage of dogs euthanized in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are pit bull type breeds, despite the fact that in all three cities this particular instance of animal cruelty is a serious felony.

In jurisdictions where breed-specific legislation threatens ownership of American Pit Bull Terriers, owners are often advised by their peers to refer to their Pit Bulls, Pit Bull crosses, or even “pit bull looking” dogs as ‘Staffys’ or ‘Amstaffs’, which may be exempt from such regulations. Purists among American Staffordshire and Staffordshire Bull Terrier owners find this unethical, and resent it, perhaps fearing that the ultimate result of the subterfuge will be restrictions on their breed as well.

In the United Kingdom, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits the sale or breeding of “any dog of the type known as pit bull terrier”. Some jurisdictions in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales, and the United States have similar breed-specific legislation, varying from a total ban on ownership to muzzling in public.

The United Kennel Club was founded with an American Pit Bull Terrier. It was also the first registry to recognize them.

Some text and passages were taken from the sources below:

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