Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pit Bull Problem: History of the Breed

It's probable that the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) can trace its roots to the ancient dogs of the Molossians. The Molossi tribe of ancient Greece was known for muscular war dogs perfect for intimidating their neighboring tribes. One of the oldest of Molosser breeds, and potentially a direct descendant of the proto-dog is the Tibetan Mastiff. TMs were described by Marco Polo as "large as a donkey" (it's believed that they have since been bred down in size) and then as now, they were kept to protect their towns from predators as large and dangerous as snow-leopards.

Molossers now include everything from the Pit Bull to Mastiff breeds, Rotweillers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Bulldogs and many other breeds.

From there, the ancestor of the Pit Bull moved from Rome, where they were used as fighting and war dogs and in the bloody battles of the Collesium. Then on to the rest of Europe and England. Here they became "butchers dogs," called Bullenbeissers and were used for handling bulls for slaughter. This led to the sport of bull-baiting, where the dogs excelled because of their fierceness, tenacity and because of their loose skin, which allowed them to twist and turn even when they were captured and held down. From here we get all the "Bully" breeds, from the English and American Bulldogs to Pit Bulls to Boxers, Bull Terriers and more.

Despite the fact that baiting was made illegal in 1835, folks continued to want their blood-sports. This led to "ratting" where the dogs were put into pits with rats, racing the clock to see which dogs could kill the most rats the fastest. The "pit" in Pit Bull comes from this practice. Naturally the blood-crazy also wanted to see dog-on-dog battles and in this the Pit Bull and its ancestors also excelled.

Coming to America, the Pit Bull was still used for fighting, but also became an all-around dog of the pioneers moving westward. Their tenacious loyalty and high intelligence made them perfect as guardians of children and the family, herd dogs and guardians of livestock.

One of the most amusing-but-sad truths about Pit Bulls - in contrast to all the negative publicity and stereotype is the fact that both in England and when they were brought to America, Pit Bulls were specifically bred for their capacity to love and care for their human owners. While dog-vs-dog aggession was often encouraged, dogs that showed human aggression were fiercely culled (killed). After all, these folks wanted fighting dogs they could control and who would harm only those they chose to "pit" them against. At this point in its history, the Pit Bull has been carefully bred to be intensely loyal to and caring of their people.

Pit Bulls are one of the few breeds that were created specifically for their loyalty to and gentleness toward humans.

So from here, lets talk about The Nanny Dog and Pit Bull Heroes

1 comment:

  1. I was blessed with a Pit Bull gifted to me by my son, I named her Lucy. Lucy came to me when she was only 5 weeks old. Far too soon to be taken from her mother & litter mates, but the Heroin Addict that own her mother was breeding & selling off Pit Bulls puppies as fast as he could for drug money. Due to the fact that she did not have that crucial 5 more weeks with her mother & litter mates Lucy was plagued with fears, insecurities and skin allergies for the remainder of her short life. She was sweet, funny, loyal and she got to know you she would physically overwhelm you with affection. Last year, when she was only 7 years old she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. The cancer spread so fast I had to have her euthanized because I could not bare to have her suffer. I miss her every single day. She was cremated and her ashes are held in a ceder box that sits on my bed. Lucy slept with me. When I was sick, when I was recovering from surgeries and when I was too depressed to get out of bed she stayed in bed right there beside me underneath they blankets where she felt safe so that's where she will stay. Lucy, with her warm brown eyes was 65 pounds of unconditional love.