We have quite a few Pit bulls in Dogs Trust at the moment, which is lovely for the canine carers, as we are all big fans of bullies here (the dogs we mean. We're not fond human bullies), but as they are an often misunderstood breed, we thought we might use this week’s blog to shed a little light on the history and background of this beautiful and lively dog.
There is a rumour that if you stare into a Pit bulls eyes you will instantly fall in love
Unfortunately, when Pit bulls are brought up in conversation, many people will believe they are dangerous or aggressive dogs, however multiple control studies have shown that Pit bulls are no more likely to bite a human than any other type of dog. In fact, anyone who has ever worked with a Pit bull will know that they are affectionate and loving animals.
But still, there is a certain stigma attached to the breed.
Why? Well, it may have something to do with their history, or rather, mankind’s history with the breed, and as you may expect, it is humans that come off badly in this story, not Pit bulls.
A long time ago humans used to engage in a horrible activity called bear baiting. This horrific act (we refuse to call it a sport) involved acquiring a bear (as you do), chaining it to a post, and pitting it against several dogs.
A depiction of bear baiting by Dutch artisit Abraham Hondius, circa 1650
As you can imagine this did not end particularly well for many dogs, nor bears.
Bears however, are quite difficult to obtain, so often the dogs were pitted against bulls (hence the name) or each other in nasty dog fights. The Pit bulls that we know today come from breeders that wanted to combine the agility of the terrier with the strength of the bulldog . As you can imagine these practices were horrendous and are highly illegal today (though unfortunately dog fighting does still happen occasionally). The Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 banned all these nasty activities but somehow, despite it being humans that organised these events, and dogs being the ones injured in them, it was the Pit bulls that inherited the bad reputation, not the humans.
That doesn’t make much sense now does it?
In Dogs Trust, we have a saying that it is the deed, not the breed that is to blame, therefore we do not blame all other dogs of the same breed for the actions of one of their kind.
Look at that face!
There have been various attempts over the years to rename the breed so it wouldn’t be so discriminated against. Have you ever heard of a St. Francis Terrier? Or a New Yorkie? Neither had we until we researched for this blog post, but both names were attempts at “rebranding” the breed. But the education team at Dogs Trust don’t think the problem lies with the breed itself. The problem is education, or lack thereof, and it’s our job to teach children and families that we need to be safe around all dogs, no matter what breed they are.
Popsicle, the great doggy dectective
Pit bulls have loads of energy, and are intelligent dogs. These characteristics make them excellent police dogs, and one pit bull called Popsicle, who was abandoned by drug dealers, got revenge on his previous owners by becoming one of the most famous and successful police dogs in the US.
Sir Thomas was a wonderful companion to his inspirational owner
Helen Keller; the American author, political activist and lecturer was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She had a loyal service dog named Sir Thomas to help her achieve her goals, and can you guess what type of dog he was? A Pit bull, of course!
And then there is the heroic Weela. Weela was a well-loved family pet, but her name entered the history books when she saved an incredible 32 people, 29 dogs, 3 horses and one (presumably very cranky) cat in a colossal Californian flood in 1993.
A few years before her heroic deeds in the flood, Weela saved her owner from a rattlesnake bite. In doing so she suffered a nasty bite herself. What a dog!
Between Popsicle, Sir Thomas and Weela, I think we can safely say our point has been proven that Pit bulls are wonderful dogs that can make fantastic pets.
So…what about the Pit bulls we currently have in Dogs Trust? We’ve listed them below and attached links to their profiles on Dogs Trust’s main website
Who knows. Perhaps one of them will join their kin in the history books and help show the world what special dogs they are.
Will Ace be your number one?
Will Adam's family be yours?
Will you be part of Blaze's squad?
Butch is looking for his Sundance kid
Can you take Kenneth from Kennels?
Let us say "Bye'yo" to Kygo
Maybe Martha Mabel?
Your key for Porkie?
Have you gone Rogue?
Are you sorry for Sari?
Are you Scout's honour?
Down under with Sidney
Caleb, the Celeb (sorry, that's weak, but can you do better??? :):):) )