10 Friendly Facts About American Pit Bull Terriers

1. They come from violent beginnings.

Pit bulls were bred for a brutal lifestyle in Great Britain. The bulldog was crossed with either the white English terrier or the black-and-tan terrier to create powerfully-built dogs for fighting. Blood sports such as bull and bear baiting were popular in England as early as the 1200s. Dogs would enter pits and fight the giant animals for entertainment (hence the name). When baiting became illegal in England in the 1800s, pit bulls were turned on each other and illegal dog fighting became prevalent.

These dogs were bred to be strong and fearsome, and as a result, have a reputation for being dangerous. The type of dog is banned from Denver, parts of Florida, and even whole countries like Great Britain and New Zealand.

Fortunately, the tide is changing for the misunderstood breed, and many cities are reconsidering their ban.

3. American pit bull terriers fall under the “pit bull” umbrella.

Pit bull is a type of dog, but the American pit bull terrier is a breed. Other breeds that fall under the term pit bull include the American Staffordshire terrier, the American bulldog, and the Staffordshire bull terrier. All of these breeds derive from the dogs originally bred to fight in the pits in England.

4. The American pit bull terrier is not an accepted breed by the AKC.

American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Kennel Club does not recognize the American pit bull terrier, but it does acknowledge an extremely similar breed called the Staffordshire terrier. This name distinction was created in an effort to separate the breed from its negative past.

5. The breed has been through a number of name changes.

The AKC wasn’t the only group to attempt a rebranding. In the ’90s, San Francisco tried to change the dogs’ name to St. Francis terriers.

In 2004, the New York City Animal Care and Control tried to rename the dogs “New Yorkies.” According to director Ed Boks, “New Yorkers, like pit bulls, are sometimes perceived as a standoffish and mean breed—but are actually some of the most generous and open-hearted people I’ve ever met.” Sadly, the plan was a flop.

American pit bull terriers may need some PR help nowadays, but there was a time when the breed was America’s favorite. Petey, the canine companion of the Little Rascals, was a pit, as well as Nipper, the RCA dog, and Tige, the Buster Brown shoe mascot.

7. Snoop Dogg loves them.

The famous rapper loves the breed so much, he once had a kennel of 20 pit bulls while living in Claremont, California.

8. One photographer aimed to put them in a better light—with flowers.

Sophie Gamand

To showcase the softer side of pit bulls, photographer Sophie Gamand photographed a number of dogs with soft pastel colors and floral crowns. The combination of doe-eyed dogs and beautiful flowers make the pups impossible to resist.