Few dog breeds have garnered as much media attention as has the American Pit Bull Terrier. Unfortunately, much of what has been said and written about these amazing animals has been negative, and the facts have often been distorted. Let’s take a look past the myth and the hype and get to know the breed better.
History of the Pit Bull
The Pit Bull’s history dates back to early 18th century England, where breeders cross-bred various bully breeds with terriers. The result was a stout, tenacious, loyal dog that was used by farmers and butchers to keep livestock in check—hence the name bull terrier. While the UKC (the UK’s oldest and most established Kennel Club) recognized the breed in 1936, the AKC (American Kennel Club) stayed clear, instead legitimizing a version of the breed—the Staffordshire Terrier in 1972. Over the years, the breed has become a popular pet, both in Europe and the US.
Pit Bull Breed Characteristics
The Pit Bulls of the 19th century were smaller (weighing 30-40 pounds). Today’s Pits are somewhat larger, ranging between 40 and 85 pounds. Pits have broad heads, muscular shoulders and thick chests, giving them a solid, athletic build. Typically Pits have a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years and can come in many colors and patterns—including white, black and white, tan, red nose (red/tan), brindle, and blue (gray).
The Pitt Bull’s Personality
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a gregarious dog that bonds well with people. They are fiercely loyal to their human caregivers and were once used as the protectors of infants and children. The breed is intelligent, eager to please, and easily trained. Pits have a short coat that limits shedding and require only a weekly light brushing to keep their coats healthy and shiny.
While Pits are generally great with people, some are less accommodating about sharing their home with other pets. Pits love to play and are great outdoor companions for walks, hikes, camping, or just a game of Frisbee toss. They’re also problem-solvers, so you may want to dog-proof any areas you don’t want your curious pit to explore.
A Few Pit Bull Myths
Myth: Pit bulls are inherently aggressive and dangerous. Any dog can be trained to be aggressive. The Pit’s formidable strength and athleticism have unfortunately made it a favored breed for dog fighting—a cruel and illegal practice where dogs are fought for sport, but pits are not inherently more dangerous than other dogs their size.
Myth: Pit bulls can “lock” their jaws when they bite.The Pit Bull skull has a sagittal ridge along the crest, to which the jaw muscles are attached. This anatomic feature gives pit bulls a high bite strength—but they cannot lock their jaws.
Myth: Pit bulls eventually turn against their owners. Properly trained and humanely raised, Pit Bulls are no more likely to become aggressive than any other dog breed.
Health of the Pit Bull
While pits are generally robust, healthy animals, they remain vulnerable to several health conditions. Those conditions may include:
Hip Dysplasia. A congenital malformation of the hip’s ball-in-socket joints, dysplasia usually begins to show signs (such as an altered gait or transitory lameness) when the dog is still a young adult. Hip dysplasia is progressive and severe cases may require surgical intervention. Controlling your Pit’s weight can relieve strain on the hip joint.
Heart Disease. Pit Bulls are at increased risk for certain types of congenital heart disease, in particular a narrowing of the left ventricle and aorta, called aortic stenosis. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, weakness, and loss of appetite. The condition can often be treated medically.
Hypothyroidism. Some Pit Bulls experience a decrease in thyroid activity, which can manifest as sluggishness, aversion to the cold, hair loss, weight gain, and slow heart rate. See your vet if your pitty displays any of these symptoms.
Is an American Pit Bull the Right Pet for You?
The American Pit Bull Terrier is an intelligent, loyal, and loving pet that can be a great family companion. Pits are social, playful animals that enjoy spending time with their people. So, if you have an active lifestyle that involves running, hiking, camping, or swimming—take your Pitty along! Pits are prone to explore, so if you keep your penned animal outdoors and unsupervised, make sure all fences and gates are secure and that your pet has a warm dry place to escape the elements.
Many Pits prefer being the center of attention and would rather be the only pet in the home, though personal experience has shown them to be adaptable to living with multiple pets, even cats. Pits do well in almost any home or apartment, but regular exercise is highly recommended to burn off nervous energy.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.