Dog History: The Pit Bull Terrier
Most modern Pit Bulls are believed to be descended from European bull dogs and different breeds of mastiffs that were once used in farm work. The mastiffs were known for their strength and power, so they were primarily used to help farmers with their bulls when it was time to bring them in from the fields.
The mastiff became known as the bulldog. The dog’s main purpose was to protect the farmer from being gored by an enraged bull. The dog usually accomplished this task by biting onto the bull and hanging on until the bull relented. Since these dogs were used for protection from angry bulls, they had to have tremendous strength in their jaws and bodies. They also had to be stubborn enough to hang onto a stampeding bull, no matter what the bull did to them, to protect the farmer they worked for.
As time passed, these dogs started being used in bull and bear baiting. During this time it is believed some bulldogs were also bred with terriers to help make them better suited for these sports. By mixing with the terrier breed, the dogs were smaller and a great deal more agile than the regular bulldog. They also had more muscular bodies, which helped to enhance their damage producing ability. These sports were most popular in England around the early nineteenth century. In the year 1835, English Parliament banned the sports of bull and bear baiting, stating that it was much too cruel to the animals involved. The sport lost popularity, and eventually died completely out after a few years.
Dog fighting soon took the place of the previously banned bull and bear baiting sports. Breeders began trying to produce dogs that were geared to be excellent fighters. They tried to enhance the dog’s agility, strength, and musculature to make them more formidable opponents. Breeders also tried to breed the most intelligent dogs, so they would be less likely to make mistakes in fighting, and also so they would only be aggressive toward other dogs, not humans they may encounter. One of the rules of dog fighting was that the owner of the dog had to be able to enter the ring during a fight, pick his dog up, and take it completely out of the fighting ring without the dog biting him. If the dog bit the owner during this time, the dog was immediately killed.
Also in the 1800’s Pit Bulls started becoming popular pets, not just for dog fighting and farming. The dog became a mascot during World War 1 and could be seen on many war posters, which helped to increase its popularity. They were popular because of their high intelligence and devotion to their masters. In the early 1900’s pit bulls began being used in movies as well.
The Pit Bull is a dog with a very detailed history, and is still quite popular today. The breed does receive a lot of negative criticism, but with the right owners, still make terrific pets.