Pit bulls are among the most hotly disputed animals in the world, spurning scorn from critics and infallible adoration from supporters. However, for every fear-mongering article about dog attacks there is a heartwarming tale of a loyal pet from someone who truly understands the nature of pit bulls. Older adults, especially those who have long considered themselves allies of a now-misunderstood dog breed, have found this sudden turn in negative publicity shocking. And why shouldn't they? After all, until the 1980s, pit bulls were viewed in the same neutral light as most other canine breeds.
While we always recommend proper training and safety around all dogs, here are some awwwsome facts you may not know about Pit Bulls:
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Although dog fighting has unfortunately played a role in America's sordid past since the early 1800s, the role of the pit bull in dog fighting was not well published until the late 1900s. Shining the light on an unsavory, illegal, and cruel method of entertainment. The 1970s and 1980s saw a rise in dog fighting, sending a new and misguided view of common fighting dogs into the mainstream. With this publicity came a stigma against the large, muscular dogs favored in fights, despite the fact that fighting dogs do not generally have a choice in the fate that awaits them. Articles about fighting, deadly bites, and severe injury only increased public perception, leading many jurisdictions to implement breed-specific legislation banning ownership.
When it comes to the large, lovable, and friendly dog many pet owners know and love, the term "pit bull" is commonly used but not entirely understood. There is no one true breed known as the pit bull; instead, the term encompasses multiple breeds derived from European dogs bred for baiting, a now-illegal practice involving the use of dogs to immobilize bulls and other large animals. Common dogs referred to as pit bulls include the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
In spite of public stereotypes and impressions, pit bulls have a rich, vibrant, and, most of all, important place in history. Modern pit bulls are believed to have originated from a cross between Old English Bulldogs and smaller terriers in British Isles the 1700s and 1800s, chosen as a carefully customized combination of traits designed to produce strong, trustworthy dogs. Due to the role of canines in physical labor before the advent of modern technology, owners required companions they could depend on to be loyal and diligent.
Pit bulls were used for a variety of purposes in England, from subduing large prey to performing manual labor. When European immigrants began to settle in the United States Colonies, they brought their companions with them. Instead of being used for fighting , the strong and capable dogs like pit bulls were used to protect families and help out on the farm. Pit bulls were also used to trap game while hunting and guarding children when their parents weren't around. In stark contrast to current perceptions, pit bulls were valued for centuries as trusted family pets.
As the U.S. transitioned from farm life to industrial life, pit bulls remained consistent family members. Chosen for their intelligence, loyalty, bravery, and strength, millions of families at the turn of the twentieth century continued the tradition of sharing their homes with pit bulls. Pit bulls were featured in advertisements, idolized in popular culture, and were even included in many a family photo. Among celebrities, Teddy Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and even the boys on "The Little Rascals" chose pit bulls as their beloved pets.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the pit bull began to wane in the late 1970s as dog fighting grew in both popularity and the frequency of using pit in these illegal rings. Through aggressive and cruel tactics, humans forced the same dogs once chosen as companions to fight each other to the death. In response to trained aggression, communities and families began to crack down on a pet that was once no different from any other.
Common stereotypes paint pit bulls as mean, aggressive dogs programmed for fighting and domination. While it is true that pit bulls were bred for strength and stamina, this does not mean that pit bull breeds are more likely to harm their owners than any other breed. Like most dogs, pit bulls that are socialized properly are unlikely to harm humans or other animals. Even dogs that were abused and trained to fight are not inherently cruel or bad-tempered; genetics do not exist in a vacuum and with the proper treatment, even former fighting dogs can make loyal life companions.
By nature, pit bulls are gentle, kind dogs that can be used for anything from nannying to outdoor work. Pit bull breeds vary in size, ranging from a foot to over two feet in height and weighing between 25 and 75 pounds. Due to their former utility as guard dogs and work dogs, pit bulls are smarter than average and are gentle with humans by nature. Once properly socialized, they are good with children and can easily cohabitate with smaller animals, including cats and other dog breeds. As puppies, they may favor rough and tumble play, but when trained with care they can do so safely with litter mates and other dogs.
Most pit bulls retain puppy-like characteristics as they age, continuing to play, run, and interact with humans even in later years. Frequently appreciated for their vitality and enthusiasm, many pit bulls are very friendly and eager to meet new people. As dogs with excessive energy, pit bulls require consistent contact and play, whether that means going for long walks or playing fetch at the park.
Despite the stigma and legal ordinances standing in the way of modern day pit bull ownership, individuals across the nation and around the world still prefer them to any other breed. With a longstanding history in the United States and beyond, these gentle dogs have shown their true colors for hundreds of years. When raised with love and care, pit bulls are terrific family pets that can accompany their owners on the job or around the house, showing adoration, loyalty, and affection to children and adults alike.
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