The American Pit Bull Terrier was first recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in the late 19th century. The UKC was the first registry to do so, with U.K.C. founder C.Z. Bennett assigning U.K.C. registration number 1 to his own APBT, Bennett s Ring in 1898. It should be noted that the American Pit Bull Terrier was also the first breed to be registered by the organization.
Sometime during the nineteenth century, dog fanciers in England, Ireland, and Scotland began to experiment with crosses between Bulldogs and Terriers, looking for a dog that combined the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the Bulldog.
Immigrants brought these bull and terrier crosses to the United States. Farmers and ranchers used their APBTs for protection, as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as family companions.
Today, the American Pit Bull Terrier continues to demonstrate its versatility, competing successfully in Obedience, Tracking to include Search & Rescue (SAR), Agility, Protection, and Weight Pulls, as well as Conformation.
In recent years, the American Pit Bull Terrier s image has been compromised by frequent media coverage concerning dog-fighting rings and attacks on humans. Advocates of the breed argue that irresponsible or neglectful owners as well as media sensationalism are largely to blame for this reputation.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized dog, solidly built, with a short coat and smooth, well-defined muscle structure. The dog s appearance is powerful and athletic without being bulky or muscle bound. The length of the front leg is approximately half of the dog s height at the highest part of the back. The American Pit Bull Terrier s weight is roughly between 35 and 65 pounds. The dog s head is in proportion to the rest of its body with a triangular shape, a broad, flat skull and a wide, deep muzzle. The eyes are set well apart, sit low on the skull, and are round to almond shaped. The ears are small to medium in length and may be natural or cropped. The nose may be any color. The neck is muscular and moderate in length. Dogs forequarters have long, wide shoulder blades, are muscular, and well laid back. The hindquarters are strong and muscular, moderately broad and in balance with the forequarters. Females have slightly longer bodies than males, while males have slightly bigger limbs than females. The tail is thick and tapers to a point. The coat is glossy, smooth, short, and slightly coarse and can be any color with sometimes extremely large breast which show through like waistcoats.
The APBT is a strong-willed, sturdy companion. It is a breed that is loyal to friends and family, and friendly to strangers. Under a firm hand, APBTs are obedient and show a high desire to please. However, when left without direction they can become stubborn and may become aggressive.
A well bred APBT should have a stable and dependable temperament. The American Temperament Testing Society shows a pass percentage of 84.1% for American Pit Bull Terrier, almost the exact same passing rate as commonly considered family dogs such as Golden Retrievers. However, a firm, even hand and early obedience training are strongly recommended for this breed. They generally have a lot of energy and high prey drive; they need exercise and stimulation in order to channel their energy properly and not become frustrated, bored, and destructive.
APBTs often display dog aggression, especially towards unfamiliar dogs of the same sex or level of assertiveness. Early socialization and good training can mean that many individuals of the breed may not display this trait. However, with proper training and socialization, pit bulls are not aggressive and can even make excellent service animals. The top search and rescue dog team in the US is composed of APBTs. The dog credited with the largest drug bust is also an APBT. Pit bulls have been used for everything from cheering up hospital patients, search and rescue, and even sniffing drugs for the DEA.
When selecting an APBT puppy, it is paramount to find a breeder who selective breeds for sound temperament and good health. A quality breeder will know the breed standard as set by a reputable breed registry such as the UKC or the ADBA (the AKC does not recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier) and should both health and temperament test their breeding stock. A breeder who boasts about their dogs "guard dog" skills or "protective" behavior is an indicator that their dogs may be inappropriately bred for human aggression and very probably are not pure APBTs. It is a good idea for prospective APBT owners to research the breeder, ask for references and ask to see their facilities and the parents of the prospective puppy.
Adult pit bulls are frequently also available from animal shelters. Reputable shelters will temperament test their dogs before adoption, so that only dogs with stable temperaments are available for adoption. The advantage of obtaining an adult dog from a shelter is that the dog s temperament is already known, and a dog with low dog aggression or low prey drive can be selected if desired.
Being intelligent, athletic dogs, American Pit Bull Terriers excel in many dog sports, including weight pulling, dog agility, flyball, lure coursing and advanced obedience competition. Some pit bulls have been known to do well in schutzhund as well. Out of the 25 dogs who have earned UKC "superdog" status (by gaining championship titles in conformation, obedience, agility, and weightpull), fourteen have been pit bulls.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a working dog and is suitable for a wide range of working disciplines due to their intelligence, high energy and endurance. In the United States they have been used as search and rescue dogs that save lives, police dogs performing narcotics and explosives detection, Border Patrol dogs, hearing dogs to provide services to the deaf, as well as general service dogs.
American Pit Bull Terriers and the law
American Pit Bull Terriers have historically been and are still commonly used for dog fighting. Although dog fighting is illegal in the United States and many other countries, it is still practiced, and is usually accompanied by gambling. In the United States participating in dog fighting is a felony in 49 states, and United States federal law prohibits interstate transport of dogs for fighting purposes.
Due to the nature of dog fighting and the image of the Pit Bull as a "tough" dog, American Pit Bull Terriers can be subjected to severe abuse and often end up in the custody of animal control services, where they are routinely euthanized. A large percentage of dogs euthanized in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles are pit bull type breeds.
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, Victoria and the United States have similar breed-specific legislation, varying from a total ban on ownership to muzzling in public. Similarly, in Ontario, Canada, the ownership of APBTs has been banned in the Dog Owners Liability Act.
As of August 29, 2005, the "owning, breeding, transferring, importing or abandoning" of APBTs is illegal in Ontario, Canada, given that it was found that the APBT breed "poses a danger to the public".
Beginning in 1993, after three serious incidents, it was forbidden in The Netherlands to breed pit bulls or pit bull like dogs. Pitbulls and pitbull like dogs without a FCI pedigree could be impounded by authorities and put to sleep. However, in June 2008, the Dutch government said it would lift the breed specific ban on pit bulls because of it s ineffectiveness at reducing bite incidents.
Although the exact history of the breed of dog known as the American Pit Bull Terrier is unknown it is generally agreed that they are descended from bull-and-terrier crosses brought to America from England and Ireland in the 1800s. The Bull and Terrier type dogs were created by crossing the English working Bulldog with English hunting Terriers. The Bulldog that is the ancestor of the APBT was used for many types of work including baiting, fighting, stock work, hunting, and as a farm dog. When bull-baiting was outlawed in England by the Cruelty to Animals act in 1835 along with dogfighting, illegal dogfighting gained popularity since it is much easier to organize and conceal than a bull-baiting contest.
Fighting dogs were bred for strength, speed and gameness, or the willingness to see a task through to its conclusion regardless of serious threat of injury or death. While fighting dogs in England were not necessarily a singular breed of dog but rather a type of dog bred for gameness from different stock, in the USA the breed solidified and was named the American Pit Bull Terrier. Breeders knew that a dog like this could be dangerous to people and difficult to control if it were aggressive toward people, so breeders would look for the crucial trait of nonaggression towards humans. Fighting dogs that showed aggression towards its owner or handler were routinely killed and thus removed from the gene pool. This resulted a line of strong dogs that, while aggressive towards dogs and other animals, would be much gentler with people.
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. The United Kennel Club was founded with the registration of an American Pit Bull Terrier and was the first registry to recognize the breed.
As dog fighting declined in popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, 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 British cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not all breeders, however, agreed with the standard adopted by the AKC, and continued to use the name American Pit Bull Terrier 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 (in fact, the dog in the Our Gang aka The Little Rascals movies and in Buster Brown was an APBT), the American Pit Bull Terrier s popularity began to decline in the United States following World War II in favor of other breeds.Source: Wikipedia