The American Pitbull Terrier has been known as the Staffordshire Terrier, The American Staffordshire Terrier and The American Terrier depending on whatever the differing kennel clubs decided they would accept at the time. Throughout the 19th century they were known by many names, such as; 'Pitbulls', ‘Pit Terriers’, ‘Half and Half’s’,’ Old Family Dogs’ (Irish Name), ‘Yankee Terriers’ (Northern name) and Rebel Terriers (Southern name). Whatever the name, they all applied to the same dog. Up to and around the periods of the World Wars the American Pitbull Terrier was considered an ideal family pet. Due to it’s fun-loving, forgiving temperament the breed was an excellent dog for families with small children.
The exact history of the Pitbull is the subject of some debate but there is a general consensus, among those knowledgeable of canine development alongside humans, the Pitbull appears to be very similar to the utility dog of the original bulldog type. The original ‘bulldog’ is depicted in paintings and drawings dating back into the 1500s where it was a popular choice for boar hunting and guarding and protection. The ‘Bulldog’ name stuck much later when the barbaric sport of bull baiting became popular and this dog type was best suited for such a ‘sport’.
The painting (above) from 1817 shows the dog which by now the Bulldog name had become synonymous. It is a far cry from the Bulldogs we see today in the show rings.
The black and white photo (right) shows a Pitbull from the early 1900s.
These images show very similar dogs.
The Pitbull’s natural fighting ability put into context....
A common method of finding a dog who would become a successful fighting dog is by organising ‘scratch’ fights or a 'roll'. A scratch is when two dogs are made to fight to assess their ‘gameness’ or willingness to fight.
Officers of the law experienced in dog fighting investigations and cases in the USA estimate that 80% of Pitbulls fail at this stage as they refuse ‘scratch’. They simply refuse to fight even under coercion and in the hostile atmosphere scratch fights take place in! This even applies to dogs who were born and raised within a professional dog fighting operation where their whole existence is geared up towards dog fighting!
Even selective breeding struggled to overcome the Pitbull’s genuine nature and create bloodlines of consistent fighting dogs. This point was compounded by Louis Colby (a famous Pitbull breeder and reformed dog fighter), he claimed that if two champion (a champion has won 3 straight fights) fighting dogs mated and produced 12 pups 1 of those pups might go on to also become a champion.
Another disgusting aspect to this is the dog’s who show no inclination to fight are of no use to professional dog fighters so are simply killed.
So, even professional dog fighting organisations and trainers struggle to get the Pitbull breed to become reliable fighters even with a selective ‘fighting bloodline’ breeding program and raising the dogs in the hostile, aggression inducing fight training environment.
It can be concluded from this information that even in the face of severe adversity and put in potentially life threatening situations the vast amount of Pitbull Terriers refuse to fight. The sad fact is due to the vast amounts of money involved in dog fighting dog fighters will always strive to find those few dogs who will fight for their lives when forced into a life or death situation. These dogs will then have this aspect exploited for the owner’s financial gain, whilst all those dogs who don’t fight will be killed.
Sergeant Stubby the Pitbull died on March 16, 1926, as a hero, yet today remains relatively unknown. Sergeant Stubby is the most decorated dog in military history, and the only dog to have been promoted during battle. He fought for 18 months in the trenches of France during WW1 for 17 battles. Stubby warned his fellow soldiers of gas attacks (self taught, after being gassed in an attack himself), located wounded soldiers in No Man's Land and listened for distant incoming artillery rounds. He was solely responsible for the capture of a German spy at Argonne. There is also a legend that whilst in Paris with Corporal Conroy, Stubby saved a young girl from being hit by a car. At the end of the war Conroy smuggled Stubby back home. After the War Stubby met President Woodrow Wilson and was also made a life time member of the American Legion, the Red Cross and the YMCA.
A few famous Pitbull owners (past and present) include; Pink, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel (she has 3), Fred Astaire, Madonna, Michael J fox, Brad Pitt, Kaley Cuoco, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, Adrian Grenier, Channing Tatum, Alica Silverstone, Usher, Big Boi (outkast rapper), Steve Irwin, Shannon Elizabeth, Serena Williams, Roy Jones Jnr, several US Presidents, Thomas Edison, Humphrey Bogart, Helen Keller (as her guide dog and companion), John Steinbeck, Bill Berloni (Broadway show dog trainer who claimed, “the Pit is the breed of choice for training”).
Adrain Grenier and his Pit Honey
Kayley Cuoco has a few Pitbulls
Norman Reedus wanted his dog to be in Walking Dead!
Channing Tatum with his Pit mix Lulu
The only reason a Pitbull would make a poor family pet is if it isn’t correctly raised and owned, and yes, this applies to all dogs! Raised and owned correctly, a Pitbull can make a fantastic family pet, and yes, this also applies to all dogs!
The Michael Vick Story
One example which truly demonstrates this breed’s adaptability, resolve and quality of temperament when oppressed by the worst of Humans is the story of the NFL American Football star Michael Vick’s fighting dogs.
In July 2007, Vick and three other men were charged by federal authorities with felony charges of operating an unlawful interstate dog fighting venture known as "Bad Newz Kennels". Vick was accused of financing the operation, directly participating in dog fights, executions and personally handling thousands of dollars in related gambling activities. In August 2007, he pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months in prison, followed by two months in home confinement. With the loss of his NFL salary and product endorsement deals, combined with previous financial mismanagement, Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2008.
51 Pitbull dogs were rescued from the Bad Newz Kennels.
Many of the dogs were taken in by rescue groups – Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah and BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About PitBulls) in San Francisco. Other dog rescue groups that took in some of Vick’s 51 pit bulls include the Georgia SPCA, All or Nothing Rescue, Our Pack, Richmond Animal League, Recycled Love, the Animal Farm Foundation, the SPCA for Monterey, Out of the Pits, and Animal Rescue of Tidewater.
Of the 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz kennels, many of them now reside in families with children and other dogs. Only one of these fighting dogs had to be put down for aggressive behaviour.
One out of 51. One!
(this multi-scarred former champion dog had been so forcibly overbred she was in shocking physical condition and showed violence towards anything that approached her).
This incredible tale is the subject of the book, "The Lost Dogs" by Jim Gorant. An extremely emotional read but ultimately a testament to both the hard work of the rescue workers and the eternal optimism man's best friend possesses even when only knowing abuse at the hands of men.
Here is what became of some of those former fighting dogs, many still bear the physical scars of their horrific past........
Handsome Dan - After Handsome Dan was able to bond with people as well as with dogs, he found a forever home with Heather and Mark, along with their two pups, Ocean and Story, and their 13-year old son. Dan bonded with the son immediately. The two dogs get along extremely well with Handsome Dan, who loves to snuggle with his other furry friends. Cherry (another ex Bad Newz resident) is even still in Handsome Dan’s life, and has been over for a couple of play dates. Handsome Dan’s family recently welcomed a new addition: a human baby. He was nervous at first but Handsome Dan now loves the baby.
Lucas - One of Michael Vick’s champions, Lucas is under court order to spend the rest of his life in a sanctuary. Lucas is often sick with babesia, a blood-borne parasite common in fighting dogs, Lucas is in Canine Good Citizen training and has even had a girlfriend, a female pit bull who would lick his face through the fence.
Bonita - Bonita liked to sit in a warm lap and her sideways grin was probably from nerve damage. She suffered from babesia, a blood-borne parasite common in fighting dogs. She had scars and broken, worn-down teeth and ran away from other dogs. Her handlers thought she might have been a bait dog. In 2008, she went for dental surgery and never woke up from the anaesthesia. She’s buried at the Best Friends cemetery.
Meryl - Meryl arrived with a history of being aggressive with people and by a court order, she must remain at Best Friends for life. At first, the staff limited her contact to only a few people and she was always friendly with other dogs. So far she can deal with strangers as long as someone she trusts is closeby.
Mel - Mel loved being with other dogs so his handlers used that to warm him up to people. Once his people fears subsided, there was another problem. Mel liked to chew. At his foster home, he loved playing with the three other dogs, but he did destroy a brand-new couch among other things. In time, Mel became so people-friendly that he was adopted and now lives happily in a full-time home.
Harriet - Believed to be Vick’s personal dog, Harriet was probably never fought. Taken in by a Baltimore lawyer who had two other pit bulls, Harriet lives on a farm in rural Maryland.
So next time you see a Pitbull, a German Shepherd, a Doberman, a Rottweilier, a Labrador, a Jack Russel, a Collie, a Staffie or any breed of dog, judge it on it's own merits and don't judge it by presumptions and what you think you know. In human terms, this is simply classed as racism. Any dog can behave any way if they are shown how to do it. The Vicks ex fighting dogs have proved this by being able to behave at either ends of the spectrum, treated horrifically they became aggressive dog fighters, treated with love and respect they have become great pets and can even go on to help troubled or sick children!