The American Pit Bull Terrier began its accepted formation in the mid to late 1800's and was first recognized as a breed under registration in 1898. Before this time in history both bully/molosser and terrier ancestral breeds were common in various forms but lacked breed recognition due to the undeveloped Registration industry at the time.
One of the common terriers that was regularly accepted as a breed at the time was one known as the White Terrier, which is now extinct. This terrier is a common ancestor also in the foundation of the American Pit Bull Terrier breed.
The White'Terrier was often bred with larger rangier bull types to bring their size down for the initial purpose of ratting. Ratting was a gambling sport that often took place in holes or Pits dug in the center of pubs where a certain number of rats were released and then a dog released in the Pit for a certain period of time. At the end of the allotted time the number of rats killed was added up and the dog with the most kills was the winner. This sport was perpetuated due in part to Bull baiting being made illegal. Because space was limited in most pubs the Bully breeds that took part in the sport needed to be bred down in size for this new sporting and gambling activity. Adding terrier to the mix was a natural conclusion as terriers were known for their natural inclination for small game hunting. This is where the American Pit Bull Terrier got the name Pit added to its name. Many people who are uneducated or mis-educated on the Pit Bull make the mistake that the breed got its name first from fighting other dogs.
The American Pit Bull Terrier ( APBT ) or Pit Bull for short is one of the most misunderstood dog breeds in the world. Due to the ignorance or many politicians, misguided interest of many in the so called humane community, and internal politics of some registries the claim is often made that the Pit Bull is not a breed but a type that many breeds and mixes fall under. This idea could be no further from the truth and has caused more harm to the breed than just about any of the other myths that surround it.
The reason this is a false belief is that the American Pit Bull Terrier is one of the oldest recognized breeds in history and has been recognized a purebred since 1898, which is longer than most other breeds have been officially recognized and registered as such.
The reason this myth is dangerous to the breed is that it allows wayward, self-interested politicians to develop what is known as breed specific legislation ( BSL ) that defines the breed in a way that includes all level of bully mixes thus giving the breed unfair credit when another dog that has even a modicum of bully look then bites someone and thus perpetuating the misguided belief by some that such laws are needed against the breed.
Unfortunately many in the humane care community have adopted this idea as a way to try and avoid the stigma of BSL and thus classify what they know to be purebred Pit Bulls as not so in an attempt to have a better chance at their adoption. In this myopic view however they have not realized that they have gotten in bed with the enemy per se and are thus helping to perpetuate BSL through false reporting of bites and thus acting as a catalyst of the breeds unfair stigma it often has by an otherwise ignorant public.
This majestic breed has however had a significant influence on the development of many of the newer era bully breed types most notably today being the American Staffordshire Terrier (which is just another name for the same breed), the recent evolution of the American Bully, American Bulldog, Catahoula Bulldog, Alapha Blue Blood Bulldog and several others. While this should speak to the high esteem many have of the breed this also can add to the confusion and to the less educated can seem to validate the idea of it not being its own breed but a type instead.
Statistically the American Pit Bull Terrier is the most popular purebred dog in the world with an estimated 6 million at any one time in existence. At this number it is over 10 times more popular than the second most popular breed the Labrador Retriever. Because many in the public are not aware of different registries beyond the American Kennel Club the Labrador Retriever is often misquoted as being the most popular breed, when the truth is it is only the most popular breed in the AKC.
It is important to recognize the sheer numbers of Pit Bulls out there as without an estimate of the true size of the population it is unfair to show relatable dog bite data, which is also skewed by misidentification of the Pit Bull as a type and not a breed in and of itself. Based on the numbers alone or it being over ten times more popular honest statistics should show that if bite percentages are proportional and that it should also theoretically be responsible for over 10 times the amount of dog bite reports. Even with the "type" misclassification however such reports do not come anywhere near such a level but in fact the opposite shows to be true. Based on the estimated population divided by the number of bite reports, the American Pit Bull Terrier proves to be one of the most trustworthy breeds in existence. This however should not give owners a false sense of confidence as the breed is often the product of its upbringing and can reflect the nature of both its responsible and irresponsible owners alike.
Other myths that have been falsely perpetuated on the breed are that it has a locking jaw and that it has been historically bred to fight.
While it is undeniable that the breed has proven itself in the arena many times over the truth is that even when dog fighting was legal that less than 10% were ever used for such tasks. Even the most notable dog man in history John Colby said that less than 10% would ever meet the criteria needed for being used for such tasks. So, while it is true that SOME have historically bred the breed to fight it is a misrepresentation to blanket the entire breed with this stigma. If this is the criteria in which we judge things - where the minority taints the perception of the majority - that is equivalent to saying humans have historically bred to be rapists, murderers and child molesters. Those who perpetuate this ideology are either ignorant to the facts, are seeking to perpetuate such myths for their own personal gain, are dog fighters themselves, or are using the idea as a crutch against their own personal insecurities to support a false bravado. For the breeds well-being anyone interested in acquiring a Pit Bull should avoid at all costs those who irresponsibly misrepresent the breed in such a way. The truth is the breed has historically been bred – based on its majority use – to be a farming, hunting, guarding and family dog.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is known for its drive, determination, loyalty and game nature. These can all be great qualities in a dog but like many things in life some have chosen to use the best qualities for the worst purposes.
Over the past years the breed standard in some registries has undergone much change. These changes are made in response to their own personal bias, as a means of cover-up of their own irresponsible activities and the internal politics of the industry itself. This is unfortunate as it perpetuates an unclear standard and supports the actions of those who promote breed specific legislation. At the American Bully Association ( ABA ), we believe that the first standard of a breed, which a registry develops should remain the original standard of the breed without change or modification. We believe if a standard cannot be trusted and is subject to change on a whim then it really is not a standard at all.
Deafness has been reported in the purebred Merle Pit Bull as well as other breeds that contain the Merle gene. In most cases this can be attributed to specimens that are primarily white as this is an indication of lack of melanin that also contributes to the auditory development of a dog. Other significant factors that lead to deafness are lack of genetic diversity perpetuated by irresponsible inbreeding. It is important to understand the effects genetics have when breeding especially when it comes to Merle genetics. While the Merle genetic trait at one time had been reported to have been found this has later proven to be false and as of yet there still remains no test that can accurately identify it. Because of the known links to deafness that high levels of white and inbreeding has however those who do choose to breed Merle should take precaution and breed in such a way the limits inbreeding effect and also breed to darker specimens to insure higher levels of melanin. When properly bred this and other breeds that are affected by Merle genetics have not proven to have any higher risk of deafness of other negative health impacts than any other breed. As of this time all associated negative impacts discussed in possible relation to Merle are merely conjecture.
It is also often theorized that breeding Merle to Merle can cause increase risk of negative health impact. Specimens that have been bred this way and do show negative health effects have not been properly researched enough to determine if it has been the Merle to Merle breeding or if other factors such as high degrees of inbreeding or high levels of white are more directly attributed to the negative health impacts. In our own research when inbreeding has been limited and primary whites excluded in breeding then there has been no increase in the level of deafness or other negative health effects often theorized about Merle breedings. Some believe it is unethical to breed in such a manner, but others claim that they have had great success in such breeding when they did control other factors such as insuring proper genetic diversity and only breeding to darker colors. While no conclusive well reviewed evidence has been developed against such breedings anyone considering such should take great care and first take their time to understand the Merle trait in greater detail. If one does decide to move forward with such breeding they should seek to eliminate or reduce other risk factors as much as possible. In the end this is a breeder beware scenario as a bad litter can lead to the need to cull pups in order for them not to add to an unwanted pet population.
A standard is a goby and in and of itself does not prove purity. There are always going to be examples of dogs that are outliers that are just beyond the fringe of the standard itself. This does not make them any less pure and should not alone be considered a reason to disallow their registration or even showing.