The American Pit Bull Terrier originated from the early Bulldogs of Europe that were bred for bull baiting — dating back to the early Roman as they worshiped Mithras.
Bull baiting became a sport to the European lower class to take out their aggression and frustrations.
By the 1700s, butchers began using bull baiting dogs to attack the bull while it was tied up to tenderize the meat.
In 1835, the public began to cry out about bull baiting, so the British Parliament banned bull baiting and sporting events using dogs.
The bull baiting ban did not stop gamblers, and they began fighting dogs using the Staffordshire Bull and Terrier. Fighting dogs was easier to hide from the public than dogs fighting bulls. The dogs and the sport began to gain its reputation in the ring.
The dogs were put through rigorous training, depriving them of normal human dog contact and instilling them with the desire to attack other dogs. It was not uncommon for these fighting dogs to be kept in the dark except when they trained with their handlers.
During the course of the fight, the dogs were expected to fight fearlessly without hesitation. If a dog turned away, it was thought of as weak. It was not uncommon for weak dogs or dogs who were thought of as unreliable to be put down by their handlers.
Rules and regulations were created around the sport. The dogs could not show signs of human aggression, and if they even so much as raised their hackles at a human would be disqualified from the fight.
Fighting dogs were family pets with a job. Those dogs who were able to retire from fighting, were allowed to live in the home with the handlers family for the remainder of its life.
When English immigrants moved to America, they brought their dogs with them. Dog fighting became common and spread throughout America during the 19th century, and the dogs became known as Pit Dogs, Pit Bull Terriers and later the American Bull Terrier.
As the immigrants moved further West, Pit Bulls were used for more humane purposes, such as herding cattle and sheep, protecting families and guarding livestock from predators and thieves.
Pit Bulls were becoming an all purpose dog, especially as dog fighting became illegal.
AKC or UKC
The only way to compete and test a purebred dog was to compete him in the function to which he was bred. Because dog fighting is illegal, the American Kennel Club could not register a breed that was formed around dog fighting.
The United Kennel Club (UKC) was created in 1898 in response to the AKC’s restrictions on certain dog breeds. The registry’s first member was the American Pit Bull Terrier.
In 1936, the AKC decided to recognize the Pit Bull if it underwent a name change eliminating ‘Pit.’ Fifty Staffordshire Terriers were accepted into the AKC; in 1972, the name was changed to the American Staffordshire Terrier in order to distinguish the breed from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Those 50 Pit Bulls were originally UKC registered, but re-registered as American Staffordshire Terriers with the AKC, creating dogs that had dual registered registries. Once in a while, you can still find dogs with pedigrees that are dual registered.
Over time, the American Staffordshire Terrier has become its own breed distinct from the Pit Bull.
Modern Pit Bull
Today Pit Bulls are still used in fighting rings, but that does not eliminate the fact that they are still great family pets.
The most important ideal to remember is that animal aggression, to which the breed was bred for, and human aggression are two different types of aggression that should not be confused.
Pit Bulls are by nature very good with people. They are actually one of the most loyal, friendly, loving, and dedicated dogs, and unless they have been poorly bred or trained to attacked humans, they generally maintain this temperament.
The breed is not for everyone, but for those willing to work a little harder in training and socializing, Pit Bulls make excellent pets.