Many dog breeds are included in the Pit Bull group, but the Pit Bull dog breed particularly refers to the American Staffordshire Terrier dogs. These dogs share their lineage with the Staffordshire Terrier breed that resulted from the crossbreeding of Bulldogs with Terriers to get a new type of dog called the Bull Terrier.
They were originally developed for fighting in the pit when dog fighting was regarded a popular sport. They were later used as police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and even therapy dogs. Known for their highly protective nature, they make excellent guard dogs of the family and the property, as well as great companion dogs.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed was developed in England at a time when English Bulldogs were used in bull baiting, a barbaric sport in which several of these dogs were pitched against a tethered bull. These fighting dogs were pitted against one another too in a manner similar to cock-fighting. These stocky, muscular, dogs were strong fighters, and there were constant attempts at improving their performance in the pit by crossbreeding them with other aggressive breeds.
Bulldogs and Terriers were crossbred to get a dog that combined the strength and fighting power of Bulldogs with the agility and tenacity of terriers. The resultant Bull Terrier dogs became very popular in the pits until blood sports such as bull-baiting and pit fighting were made illegal. Many of these dogs were rehabilitated to police force later.
They were brought to the United States towards the end of the 19th century by immigrant workers who continued to pit them against one another as a form of entertainment at the end of a hard day’s work. Popularly known as American Bull Terriers, they were also used to round up wild cattle and for hunting. They were selectively bred for larger size and more aggressive behavior and were crossbred with the English Staffordshire Terriers to get the breed now officially known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, but commonly called Pit Bulls. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1936.
The Pit Bull dog breed measures 15 to 24 inches at the withers, but they may weigh anything from 30 pounds to 85 pounds. The ears are half folded and the tail is thin, long and tapering. The dogs have a stocky appearance with a large head, thick neck, and wide, very muscular chest. Their body is longer than their height on account of their short legs. Their short, stiff coat can be red, brown, grey, blue, black or brindle in combination with white.
The American Staffordshire Terrier or the Pit Bull dog breed still retains its fighting spirit. They are very loyal and devoted to their owners and would protect them and their property under any circumstance. They are known for their extremely aggressive behavior when on the defensive. While this makes them excellent guard dogs, they are often considered a public threat and many restrictions are imposed on their movement.
Early socialization and intensive training during puppyhood may help reduce their aggressiveness and make them get along with other pets. But the many incidents of children being attacked unprovoked, and cats in the household being killed, have placed them in the category of the most dangerous pet dogs, along with Rottweilers and German Shepherds.
Grooming and exercise
The short coat of Pit Bull dog breed is easily groomed with a weekly brushing and occasional wiping with a damp washcloth.
The American Staffordshire Terrier dogs have high-energy levels and require vigorous exercise to expend it. Long walks on the leash are a must, but they should ideally have opportunities to run fast in a safe area. These dogs should be exercised with proper precautions in place on account of the incidents of aggression involving them. They should have access to a yard to spend at least part of their time, but the enclosure should be well-protected.
Pit Bulls are capable of living in the yard round the year with reasonable protection from extreme temperatures, but most owners prefer to bring them in to spend the night with the family.
Common health issues of Pit Bull dog breed
The Pit Bull dog breed is known to have a number of health issues. Canine Hip Dysplasia is relatively common in this breed, as is cerebellar ataxia with characteristic loss of balance and control of movements. This condition is of hereditary nature in Pit Bulls. Progressive retinal atrophy that may render them blind is another genetic problem seen in these dogs.
Pit Bull dog breed is prone to heart disease and thyroid problems too. Elbow dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture occur occasionally. Average life expectancy of American Staffordshire Terriers/Pit Bull dog breed is 12 to 14 years.