This page contains information on Pit Bulls, the primary kennel registries that recognize the breeds, and the common myths associated with Pit Bulls.
The term "pit bull" is most commonly used to refer to the following dogs that originate from combining bulldogs with terriers:
- The American Pit Bull Terrier - recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Dog Breeders' Association (ADBA)
- The American Staffordshire Terrier - recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC)
- The Staffordshire Bull Terrier - recognized by both the UKC and the AKC
Other breeds commonly but incorrectly called "pit bulls" are Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and sometimes even Boxers, Mastiff breeds, and various mixed dogs with short coats.
The term "pit bull" when in lowercase can refer to any and all of the above. When Pit Bull is capitalized, it more correctly refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier. Elitists will say that Pit Bull only refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier as recognized by either the ADBA or the UKC.
The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and the American Staffordshire Terrier (AST) derived from the same breeding stock. The different registries gave the dogs different names, but a dog may be registered with both the UKC and the AKC.
A UKC American Pit Bull Terrier dog may also have papers from the AKC as an AST. That dog may even obtain a champion conformation title in both registries. As a rule, the UKC used to register any AKC AST as a UKC APBT (after an application, fee, and inspection), but the AKC has been a closed registry. (Note: the UKC recently closed its books and will no longer register dogs from other registries). If a dog is not born with AKC papers, a dog cannot obtain AKC papers (except for indefinite listing privilege and the AKC Canine Partners program for mixed breed dogs).
Pit Bulls should be medium-sized dogs weighing between 35 and 70 pounds. They have short coats and medium length muzzles. They are ideally balanced dogs that convey an image of strength and agility. They should not have heads that are too large for their bodies, elbows that point outward, or be "short and wide." Pit Bulls are athletic dogs with people-loving personalities. As a terrier-derived breed, they can be dog aggressive, like all of the terrier breeds. However, because Pit Bulls have both bulldog and terrier in their genetic heritage, they are a diverse group with a range of physical appearances and personalities.
Common myths associated with Pit Bulls are that they have locking jaws; once they taste blood, they turn vicious; they are unpredictable; they are more powerful than any other breed; their jaw strength rivals that of a Crocodile's, and they cannot be around other dogs.
Locking Jaws/Jaw Strength
Pit Bulls do not have locking jaws. Their jaws are anatomically similar to other canines. Further, their jaw strength is similar to other dogs their size. National Geographic did a bite force study of canines and dispelled the myth completely with concrete evidence. The study found that the domestic dog can produce about 320 pounds of pressure when it bites down on an object (compare that with humans at 120 pounds). In a test between a Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and Pit Bull, the Pit Bull bit down with the least amount of pressure of the three (it also happened to be the smallest of the three dogs).
Pit Bulls are a terrier-derived breed, however. Like many terriers, many Pit Bulls love to play games like tug of war. Many terriers naturally have a firm, solid grip, but that is a far cry from having an ultra-powerful or locking jaw!
Dogs do not become vicious just because they taste blood. Pit Bulls are no exception. Many people feed their dogs a diet based on raw food (i.e., raw meat and bone) without turning their dogs vicious. (You should do extensive research, however, before deciding to feed your dog a raw or home-made diet).
Pit Bulls are generally very stable, happy dogs that love people. They are dogs first and foremost. The only dogs that generally are unpredictable are dogs (of all breeds) that have a medical condition or have serious genetic-based behavior problems. Any dog, of any breed, that displays unpredictable behavior should be seen by a vet and a behaviorist and, if need be, humanely euthanized. However, no breed is inherently unpredictable, and certainly not Pit Bulls, which have often been nicknamed "Nanny Dogs" due to their stability and tolerance of young children. (All animals should be supervised when around children, and vice versa).
Pit Bulls are physically powerful dogs. That is very true. They often excel at weight pull, agility, flyball, and many other physically demanding sports. However, there are many strong breeds -- German Shepherds, Rottweilers, American Bulldogs, Malamutes, etc. Pit Bulls are just one among many breeds of dogs that tend to be athletic and powerful. They are not, however, unusually powerful for their size and bull-and-terrier lineage.
Pit Bulls and Other Dogs
Many terrier breeds can be aggressive toward other dogs or other animals. Pit Bulls are part terrier in their lineage, and like all other terrier and terrier-derived breeds, they can be aggressive toward other dogs and they can exhibit high prey drive to animals like cats and squirrels. However, many Pit Bulls get along extremely well with other animals. They live with other dogs and even peacefully reside with cats, birds, and sometimes bunnies and chickens. When having a two-dog household, it can often be easier to pair dogs of opposite genders together (spayed and neutered, of course, unless you're one of the few people who actively title your dogs and perform extensive and expensive health tests (hips, thyroid, cardiac, elbows, etc.).
Pit Bulls are a diverse group of dogs, and they have a wide range of personalities. It is impossible to apply any generalization to an individual dog. Each dog must be evaluated based on his or her individual personality and behavior characteristics. Savvy and Tauri, for example, are two Pit Bulls owned by Chako's founder, and they live in usually-happy harmony with a cat (when the cat isn't instigating surprise assaults on the unsuspecting canines, that is). Sweetie is another Pit Bull that demonstrates dogs are individuals first and foremost. She was attacked by four other dogs and did nothing to defend herself.
Key point: Pit Bulls often do well with other animals, especially when raised with them or when introduced properly, but it's important that all Pit Bull owners keep in mind the breed's terrier heritage.