The Pit Bull
The pit bull, or pitbull, is one of the most misunderstood and misidentified dogs for many reasons – but did you know that a pit bull is not a breed at all? The name “pit bull” comes from the long-outlawed sport of bull baiting in the British Isles, where English Bulldogs, and later English Bulldog terrier mixes, were used to subdue purposefully enraged bulls for entertainment. The term is now loosely and incorrectly used to refer to a variety of breeds and mixes with common physical traits, including English and American Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, Boxers and American Staffordshire Terriers. Many dogs with broad chests, a muscular build and square head are mistakenly identified as pit bulls, when they are in fact, a mix of several breeds.
There are many myths and misconceptions about pit bulls that have left them with a long standing reputation as aggressive or ill-tempered pets. These myths have contributed to fear and harsh judgement of pit bull type dogs, and in some cases even city mandated “breed bans” preventing the ownership of any dog labelled as a pit bull or mix.
Myth: Pit bulls can lock their jaws.
A pit bull’s jaw structure is no different than any other dog breed, and there is no physical mechanism that would allow their jaws to lock in place. There is also no clinical scientific proof that a pit bull’s bite force is any higher than other breeds of the same size.
Myth: Pit bulls are inherently aggressive.
Aggression is not a personality trait associated with any breed, including pit bulls. Aggressive behavior is the result of a combination of factors in a dog’s environment and any breed is capable of aggression without proper socialization, training and care, or due to illness, fear, or resource guarding.
- During both World War I and II, pit bulls were featured on recruitment posters in the United States as symbols of loyalty, bravery and determination. Some even dutifully served their country, perhaps the most famous being Sergeant Stubby, who received 11 awards for his contributions during World War I.
- Pit bulls are intelligent, strong, energetic, and eager to please – the perfect mix of traits for a working dog! They are popular as drug and bomb sniffing dogs, as well as performing search and rescue work. In fact, the largest recorded drug find in Texas history is credited to a pit bull named Popsicle who found over 3,000lbs of cocaine!
- According to the American Temperament Test Society, Pit Bulls pass their temperament test—conducted by a trained handler—87% of the time. That ranks them as 4th best of 122 breeds tested, meaning they are one of the most affectionate and least aggressive dogs.