Pit Bull Terrier - History and Health

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
American Pit Bull Terrier


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was developed in England from a cross between old-style English Bulldogs and assorted terriers. The exact terrier breeds used to create this cross are the subject of much debate, but current opinion suggests that some combination of the White English Terrier, the Black-and-Tan Terrier and/or the Fox Terrier contributed to the mix. The combination became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which originally were used by butchers to manage bulls and by hunters to help hold wild boar and other game. Eventually, the breed was used for the blood-sports of bull- and bear-baiting. After these “sports” were outlawed in England in the mid-1800s, dog fighting took their place. Dogs were forced to fight one another to the death in hidden arenas called “pits.” The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was highly successful in the fighting ring because of its tenacity, courage, stamina, strength and intelligence. Equally important was its loyal, non-aggressive and responsive nature with people; fighting dogs were expected to be obedient, trustworthy and easily handled by their owners at all times.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers came to the United States in the mid-1800’s, and became known as the Pit Bull Terrier, the American Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and later the Yankee Terrier. The breed was the first to be recognized by the United Kennel Club, in 1898. The same breed – with a different name - was accepted for registration into the American Kennel Club in 1936 as the Staffordshire Terrier. The name of the breed was revised effective January 1, 1972, to the American Staffordshire Terrier. By this time, American breeders had developed a much larger and heavier animal than the original Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England, and many wanted to distinguish their dog as a separate breed from the AKC’s newly-recognized Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Other breeders preferred to keep the original name of American Pit Bull Terrier, and the breed essentially split in two, with the Pit Bull being recognized by the United Kennel Club and the Am Staff being recognized by the AKC. Pit Bulls have been bred independently from the American Staffordshire Terrier for more than 50 years.

Today’s Pit Bulls, like their close Am Staff cousins, are docile and intelligent and make excellent guardians as well as wonderful family pets. They have a keen knack for quickly discriminating between people who mean well and those who do not. The current reputation of the “Pit Bull” in the United States reflects upon the Am Staff as well, since they share a common history and in this country are only known by separate names because they are accepted by separate purebred dog registries. Flamed by poorly-researched, inflammatory media reports, the Pit Bull’s (and thus the Am Staff’s) reputation as a vicious, unmanageable and dangerous breed is undeserved. Well-bred and well-raised Pit Bulls are bright, kind, highly trainable and exceptionally gentle with children, family and other animals. The occasional dog that harms people probably was poorly bred, poorly socialized and poorly trained; it also probably was chained, illegally fought or otherwise abused by an unscrupulous owner.


The average life span of the American Pit Bull Terrier ranges from 10 to 12 years. Health concerns associated with this breed include actinic keratosis (solar keratosis), allergies, bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), cancer, cataractsM,congenital heart disease (particularly subaortic stenosis), cranial crutiate ligament rupture, cutaneous hemangioma, cutaneous histiocytoma, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism and von Willebrand’s disease.

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