Pit bull facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Pit bull
Pit bull sampler.jpg
A selection of pit bull-type dogs. Clockwise from top left: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Nicknames Bully
Country of origin Britain (England / Scotland)
Ireland
United States

Pit bull is the common name for a type of dog descended from bulldogs and terriers. The pit bull-type is particularly ambiguous, as it encompasses a range of pedigree breeds, informal types and appearances that cannot be reliably identified. Formal breeds often considered to be of the pit bull-type include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Bulldog is also sometimes included. Mixed-breed dogs which physically resemble these breeds often get labelled as "pit bulls" by shelters. Many of these breeds were originally developed as fighting dogs from crossbreeding bull-baiting dogs (used to hold the faces and heads of larger animals such as bulls) and terriers. After the use of dogs in blood sports was banned, such dogs were used as catch dogs in the United States for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt and drive livestock, and as family companions. Despite dog fighting now being illegal in the United States, it still exists as an underground activity, and pit bulls are a common type used.

Owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma; however, controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous. Because owners of stigmatized breeds are more likely to have involvement in criminal or violent acts, breed correlations may have the owner's behavior as the underlying causal factor. Some jurisdictions have enacted legislation banning the group of breeds, and some insurance companies do not cover liability from pit bull bites. Among other roles, pit bulls have served as police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and several have appeared on film.

History

Bull and Bear Baiting arenas shown on the Agas Map of London of 1560
Bull- and bear-baiting arenas shown on the "Woodcut" map of London of c.1561 (the dogs are shown coming out of pens on each side)
American Pit Bull Terrier Puppy
An American Pit Bull Terrier puppy

Pit bulls were created by crossbreeding bulldogs and terriers to produce a dog that combined the strength of the bulldog with the gameness and agility of the terrier. In the United Kingdom, these dogs were used in blood sports such as bull-baiting and bear-baiting. These blood sports were officially eliminated in 1835, as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull- or bear-baits, blood sport proponents turned to pitting their dogs against each other instead. Dog fighting was used as both a blood sport (often involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterwards, dog fighting took place clandestinely in small areas of Britain and America. In the early 20th century, pit bulls were used as catch dogs in America for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt and drive livestock, and as family companions. Some have been selectively bred for their fighting prowess.

Pit bulls also constitute the majority of dogs used for illegal dog fighting in America. In addition, law enforcement organisations report these dogs are used for other nefarious purposes, such as guarding illegal narcotics operations, use against police, and as attack dogs. On the other side of the law, pit bulls have been used as police dogs.

In an effort to counter the fighting reputation of pit bull-type dogs, in 1996 the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals renamed pit bull terriers "St. Francis Terriers", so that people might be more likely to adopt them. 60 temperament-screened dogs were adopted until the program was halted, after several of the newly adopted pit bulls killed cats. The New York City Center for Animal Care and Control tried a similar approach in 2004, relabeling their pit bulls as "New Yorkies", but dropped the idea in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Blue nose pit bull puppy
A blue-nosed pit bull puppy

Currently, there are a number of breeds that are recognized by different associations which fall under the term "pit bull". The Federation Cynologique Internationale currently only recognizes three breeds: the Bull Terrier, the Miniature Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The Canadian Kennel Club also recognizes these breeds, as well as the American Staffordshire Terrier. The American Kennel Club recognizes the Bull Terrier, the Miniature Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier as breeds also.

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