American Pit Bull Terrier
Main article: American Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier is the product of interbreeding between old english terriers and english bulldogs to produce a dog that combined the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the bulldog. These dogs were initially bred in England and arrived in the United States with the founders. In the United States, these dogs were used as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as family companions. Some have b
een selectively bred for their fighting prowess. The United Kennel Club (UKC) was the first registry to recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier. UKC founder C. Z. Bennett assigned UKC registration number 1 to his own dog, “Bennett’s Ring”, as an American Pit Bull Terrier in 1898.
American Pit Bull Terriers successfully fill the role of companion dog, police dog and therapy dog. American Pit Bull Terriers constitute the majority of dogs used for illegal dog fighting in the United States. In addition, law enforcement organizations report these dogs are used for other nefarious purposes, such as guarding illegal narcotics operations, use against the police, and as attack dogs.
The fighting reputation of pit bull-type dogs led the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1996 to relabel pit bull terriers as “St. Francis Terriers” (not associated with the “terrier” mascot of St. Francis College in New York) so that they might be more readily adopted; 60 temperament-screened dogs were adopted until the program was halted after several of the newly adopted dogs killed cats. The New York City Center for Animal Care and Control tried a similar approach in 2004 by relabeling their pit bull terriers as “New Yorkies”, but dropped the idea in the face of overwhelming public opposition.
American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier was the product of 19th century interbreeding between bulldogs and terriers that produced the “bull-and-terrier dog,” “Half and Half,” and at times “pit dog” or “pit bullterrier,” the last named becoming the “Staffordshire Bull Terrier” in England. The bulldog of that time differed from the modern Bulldog, having a full muzzle and a long, tapering tail. There is some debate whether the White English Terrier, the Black and Tan Terrier, the Fox Terrier or some combination thereof were used. These dogs began to find their way into America as early as 1870 where they became known as Pit Dog, Pit Bull Terrier, later American Bull Terrier, and still later as a Yankee terrier. They were imported primarily, but not exclusively, for pit fighting.
In 1936, they were accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as “Staffordshire Terriers.” Breeders started creating exemplars heavier in weight. Since January 1, 1972, it was renamed to “American Staffordshire Terrier” to make a separate breed from the lighter Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England.
Famous Pit Bulls
Pit Bull breeds have become famous for their roles as soldiers, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, actors, television personalities, seeing eye dogs and celebrity pets. Historically, the bull terrier mixNipper and Petey from the Little Rascals, are the most well known. Lesser known, but still historically notable pit bulls include Helen Keller‘s family dog “Sir Thomas”, Buster Brown‘s dog “Tige”,Horatio Jackson’s dog “Bud”, President Theodore Roosevelt‘s Pit Bull terrier “Pete”, “Jack Brutus” who served for Company K, the First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry during the civil war and Sir Walter Scott’s beloved “Wasp”.
Modernly significant pit bulls are: “Weela”, who saved 31 people, 29 dogs, 3 horses and even one cat. “Popsicle”, a five-month-old puppy originally found nearly dead in a freezer, who grew to become one of the nation’s most important police dogs. Norton, who was placed in the Purina Animal Hall of Fame after he rescued his owner from a severe reaction to a spider bite. “Titan”, who rescued his owner’s wife, who would have died from an aneurysm and “D-Boy”, who took three bullets to save his family from an intruder with a gun.
Notable movies and television shows that have starred pit bulls have been Flashdance, Our Gang, Cheaper by the Dozen, the Dog Whisperer, Pit Boss and Pit Bulls and Parolees.