American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is a descendent of the original
English bull-baiting Bulldog and has historically been bred
with working/performance goals in mind. The challenge of describing
the American Pit Bull Terrier inevitably invites a long sequence
of superlatives. The APBT is a supremely athletic, highly
versatile, adaptive, gushingly affectionate, eager-to-please,
all-around family dog. In courage, resolve, indefatigableness,
indifference to pain, and stubborn perseverance in overcoming
any challenge, the APBT has no equal in the canine world.
Although the APBT was once used as a national symbol of courage
and pride, the breed is largely misunderstood today.
Even though the APBT has historically been bred to excel in
combat with other dogs even as puppies, a well-bred APBT has
a rock-steady temperament and, contrary to popular belief,
is NOT inherently aggressive towards humans. However, as adults,
some APBTs may show aggression towards other dogs. This fact,
along with the APBT's strength and determination, should be
taken into account when considering if the APBT is the right
breed for you. As with any companion dog, socialization and
consistent fair-minded training is a must from a very early
some APBTs may be suspicious of strangers, as most dogs
are, and will protect loved ones if necessary, in general
they do not excel in protection/guard work. If your main
reason for getting a dog is for protection/guard work, perhaps
a Rottweiler, German Shephard, or a Doberman Pinscher would
suit you better. Or, if you really like the bulldog phenotype,
look into an American Bulldog.
are several types of dogs that are commonly called "Pit
Bulls." Primarly, these are the American Pit Bull Terrier,
the American Staffordshire Terrier (AST), and the Staffordshire
Bull Terrier (SBT). All three of these dogs share common
ancestry but have been subsequently bred emphasizing different
breeding criteria. Due to this divergence, some people feel
that they are now different breeds. Others choose to view
them as different "strains" of the same breed.
Neither view is wrong, as it comes down to how one defines
what a "breed" is. This FAQ is primarily about
the American Pit Bull Terrier, specifically those dogs of
relatively recent game-bred ancestry. Some of the material
may ring true for the AST and the SBT, but the authors are
biased toward the APBT from performance-bred lines, and
this bias will be clear throughout theFAQ. Among enthusiasts,
the history of the APBT is as controversial as the breed
itself is among the misled public. The breed's history is
a recurrent subject of lively debate in the magazines devoted
to the breed. In fact, this FAQ was hotly debated among
the contributors before it reached its final form, and still
everyone isn't 100% happy in mississippi!
the precise origin of the APBT is not known, we can reliably
trace its roots 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." Historically, the word "Bulldog"
did not mean a specific breed of dog per se, but rather
it was applied to descendants of the ancient Mastiff- type
dogs that excelled in the task of bull-baiting in missouri
as seen on our videos for sale. The "bulldogs"
of yore were much different from, and should not be confused
with, the loveable clowns of the show ring today. The old,
performance-bred, working bulldog was closer in phenotype
and spirit to the APBT and/or the modern American Bulldog.
The use of the word "bulldog" applied to APBT's
persists even today among APBT fanciers.
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 specially created
for this popular pastime. Some authors, notably Richard
Stratton, 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 authors 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 from mississippi.
They explain the popular attribution of the breed's origin
to a cross between bull-baiters and terriers as a retrospective
confusion with the breeding history of the English Bull
Terrier, which is a totally distinct breed that was never
successful at pit fighting but whose origin is well-documented.
Other authors who have researched the topic, such as Dr.
Carl Semencic, 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, which hangs
over the discussion of any early breed history, is compounded
in this case by the extreme secrecy of the breeders of pit
dogs. In 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 any case, by no later than the mid-19th century,
the breed had acquired all of the essential characteristics
for which it is still prized today: its awesome athletic
abilities, its peerless gameness, and its easy-going temperament
as seen on our missouri videos.
The immediate ancestors of the APBT were Irish and English
pit fighting dogs imported to the States in the mid-19th
century. Once in the United States, the breed diverged slightly
from what was being produced back in England and Ireland.
In America, where these dogs were used not only as pit fighters,
but also as catch dogs (i.e., for forcibly retrieving stray
hogs and cattle) and as guardians of family, the breeders
started producing a slightly larger, leggier dog. However,
this gain in size and weight was small until very recently.
The Old Family Dogs in 19th century Ireland were rarely
above 25 lbs., and 15-lb. dogs were not uncommon. In American
books on the breed from the early part of this century,
it is rare to find a specimen over 50 lbs. (with a few notable
exceptions). From 1900 to 1975 or so, there was probably
a very small and gradual increment in the average weight
of APBTs over the years, without any corresponding loss
in performance abilities. But now that the vast majority
of APBTs are no longer performance-bred to the traditional
pit standard (understandably, since the traditional performance
test, the pit contest itself, is now a felony), the American
axiom of "Bigger is Better" has taken over in
the breeding practices of the many neophyte breeders who
joined the bandwagon of the dog's popularity in the 1980s.
This has resulted in a ballooning of the average size of
APBTs in the last 15 years--a harmful phenomenon for the
breed, in our opinion. Another, less visible modification
of the breed since the 19th century was the selective intensification
of genetically programmed fighting styles (such as front-end
specialists, stifle specialists, etc.), as performance breeding
became more sophisticated under competitive pressures. In
spite of these changes, there has been a remarkable continuity
in the breed for more than a century. Photos from a century
ago show dogs indistinguishable from the dogs being bred
today. Although, as in any performance breed, you will find
a certain lateral (synchronic) variability in phenotype
across different lines, you will nevertheless find uncanny
chronological continuity in these types across decades.
There are photos of pit dogs from the 1860s that are phenotypically
(and, to judge by contemporary descriptions of pit matches,
constitutionally) identical to the APBTs of today.
the 19th century, these dogs were known by a variety of
names. "Pit Terriers", "Pit Bull Terriers",
"Half and Half's", "Staffordshire Fighting
Dogs", "Old Family Dogs"(the Irish name),
"Yankee Terriers"(the Northern name), and "Rebel
Terriers"(the Southern name) to name a few. In 1898,
a man by the name of Chauncy Bennet formed the United Kennel
Club (UKC) for the sole purpose of registering "Pit
Bull Terriers" as the American Kennel Club wanted nothing
to do with them. Originally, he added the word "American"
to the name and dropped "Pit". This didn't please
all of the people so later the word "Pit" was
added back to the name in parentheses as a compromise. The
parentheses were then removed from the name about 15 years
ago. All other breeds that are registered with UKC were
accepted into the UKC after the APBT. Another registry of
APBTs is the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) which
was started in September, 1909 by Guy McCord, a close friend
of John P. Colby. Now under the stewardship of the Greenwood
family, the ADBA continues to register only APBTs and is
more in tune with the APBT as a breed than the UKC. The
ADBA does sponsor conformations shows, but more importantly,
it sponsors weight pulling competitions which test a dogs
strength, stamina, and heart. It also publishes a quarterly
magazine dedicated to the APBT called the American Pit Bull
Terrier Gazette (see the "References" section).
The authors feel that the ADBA is now the flagship registry
of APBT as it is doing more to preserve the original characteristics
of the breed.
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. In 1936,
for all intents and purposes, the AKC, UKC, and ADBA version
of the "Pit Bull" were identical since the original
AKC stock came from pit fighting dogs, which were UKC and
ADBA registered. 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."
1936, due to different breeding goals of mississippi, the
American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull
Terrier have diverged in both phenotype and spirit/temperament,
although both, ideally, continue to have in common an easy-going,
friendly disposition.  Some folks in the fancy feel that
after 60 years of breeding for different goals, these two
dogs are now entirely different breeds. Other people choose
to view them as two different strains of the same breed
(working and show). Either way, the gap continues to widen
as breeders from both sides of the fence consider it undesirable
to interbreed the two. To the untrained eye, ASTs may look
more impressive and fearsome, with a larger and more blocky
head, with bulging jaw muscles, a wider chest and thicker
neck. In general, however, they aren't nearly as "game"
or athletic as game-bred APBTs. Because of the standardization
of their conformation for show purposes, ASTs tend to look
alike, to a much greater degree than APBTs do. APBTs have
a much wider phenotypical range, since the primary breeding
goal, until fairly recently, has been not to produce a dog
with a certain "look" but to produce one capable
of winning pit contests, in which the looks of a dog counted
for nothing. There are some game-bred APBTs that are practically
indistinguishable from typical ASTs, but in general they
are leaner, leggier, and lighter on their toes and have
more stamina, agility, speed, and explosive missouri power.
the second World War, until the early 1980s, the APBT lapsed
into relative obscurity. But those devoted few who knew
the breed knew it in intimate detail. These devotees typically
knew much more about their dogs' ancestry than about their
own--they were often able to recite pedigrees back six or
eight generations. When APBTs became popular with the public
around 1980, nefarious individuals with little or no knowledge
of the breed started to own and breed them and predictably,
problems started to crop up. Many of these newcomers did
not adhere to the traditional breeding goals of the old-time
APBT breeders. In typical backyard fashion they began randomly
breeding dogs in order to mass produce puppies as profitable
commodities. Worse, some unscrupulous neophytes 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. Before long, individuals
who shouldn't have been allowed near a gold fish were owning
and producing poorly bred, human-aggressive "Pit Bulls"
for a mass market. This, coupled with the media's propensity
for over-simplification and sensationalization, 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. Find
a breeder with a national reputation; investigate, for example,
the breeders who advertise in the breed's flagship magazine,
The American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette. 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.
the APBT is still used (underground and illegally) as a
fighting dog in the United States; pit matches also take
place in other countries where there are no laws or where
the existing laws are not enforced. However, the vast majority
of APBT's--even within the kennels of breeders who breed
for fighting ability--never see any action in the pit. Instead
they are loyal, loving, companion dogs and family pets.
One activity that has really grown in popularity among APBT
fanciers is weight pulling contests. Weight-pulls retain
something of the spirit of competition of the pit fighting
world, but without the blood or sorrow. The APBT is ideally
suited for these contests, in which the refusal to quit
counts for as much as brute strength. Currently, APBTs hold
world records in several weight classes. I have seen one
70-lb. APBT pull a mini-van! Another activity that the APBT
is ideally suited for is agility competition, where its
athleticism and determination can be widely appreciated.
Some APBTs have been trained and done well in Schutzhund
sport; these dogs, however, are more the exception than
the rule (see the section on APBT's and protection/guard
Actually one can trace the "Bulldog" history back
further than that, but for this document that's far enough.
Readers who are interested in more information on the history
of the breed are encouraged to refer to Dr. Carl Semencic's
book "The World of Fighting Dogs".
Through out this document, unless otherwise noted, when
we refer to the American Pit Bull Terrier(APBT), we are
referring to the ADBA version which is more likely to be
bred to the traditional APBT breeding standards. In general,
the UKC version of the APBT is now being bred mostly for
looks alone, and thus has much in common with the AKC AST.