The American "pitbull" terrier history
Originally bred from a variety of bulldogs and terriers, American breeders increased his weight and gave him a more powerful head. A forbearer to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, they were originally bred to be a fighting dog. Bull baiting was banned in England in 1835 and these dogs are no longer being bred to fight. There is some complication in registries of this breed. The AKC considers the American Staffordshire Terrier as separate and distinct from the American Pit Bull Terrier, yet the UKC will register both as American Pit Bull Terriers (APBTs).
Photo from 1930’s
In America, the Pit Bull flourished. It was one of the most popular breeds, highly prized by a wide variety of people. The Pit Bull was used to represent the US in WW1 artwork; popular companies like RCA and the Buster Brown Shoe Company used the breed as their mascots. A Pit Bull named Petie starred in the popular children’s television series, Our Gang; a Pit Bull mix named Stubby became a decorated WWI hero. Pit Bulls accompanied pioneer familes on their explorations. Laura Ingalls Wilder of the popular Little House books owned a working Pit Bulldog named Jack. Famous individuals like Theodore Roosevelt and Helen Keller owned the breed. It was during this time that the Pit Bull truly became America’s sweetheart breed, admired, respected and loved.
Stubby, a decorated WWI hero
In 1898 the United Kennel Club was formed with the express intent of providing registration and fighting guidelines for the now officially-named American Pit Bull Terrier. Later, those who wished to distance themselves from the fighting aspect of the breed petitioned the American Kennel Club for recognition of the Pit Bull so that it would be eligible for dog shows and other performance events. The AKC conceded in 1936 but only under the stipulation that the dogs registered with them be called "Staffordshire Terriers", the name of the province in England the breed supposedly originated in. Upon acceptance of the breed, many people dual-registered their dogs with both the AKC and the UKC. Lucenay’s Peter (the dog that starred in the Our Gang series) was the first dual-registered Pit Bull/Staffordshire Terrier. The UKC evolved, eventually beginning to register other working-type breeds, and later holding shows similar to those of the AKC. Currently, the UKC is the second largest purebred dog registry in the United States, complete with strict bylaws that ban anyone who is convicted of dog fighting. The American Dog Breeders Association was formed in 1909 because of certain fanciers’ opinions that the UKC was not doing it’s job protecting and preserving the Pit Bull breed as they felt it should be preserved. The ADBA’s goal is the same now is at was then: to register, promote and preserve the original American Pit Bull Terrier fighting-type dog.
The AKC eventually closed it’s studbooks to American Pit Bull Terriers. They allowed registration only to those dogs with parents registered as Staffordshire Terriers. For a short period in the 1970’s, the AKC reopened its studbooks to American Pit Bull Terriers. In 1973 the AKC added the prefix "American" to the breed’s name in an effort to distinguish it from the newly recognized Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Today, only those dogs with AmStaff parents are eligible for registration. Both the UKC and the ADBA allow registration of AmStaffs, but in these organizations the dogs carry the original name, "American Pit Bull Terrier."
Today the Pit Bull has evolved into a marvelous working and companion dog, used for purposes as varied as those it originally performed. Pit Bulls are employed as police/armed services dogs, search and rescuers, therapy animals, and livestock workers. They compete in all manner of organized dog sports, from herding to agility to conformation to obedience and the bite sports like Schutzhund and French Ring. They make loving pets for children and seniors, and everyone in between. The are indeed one of the most versatile breeds on the planet. Much of this is owed to the activities it once performed. The harshness and physical demands of the activities molded a strong, healthy, stable animal, one anyone should be proud to own.