Many people think they know a thing or two about pitbull history, but some of what they think are facts are actually myths that have been perpetuated by media coverage that is slanted to make all pitbulls out to be vicious killers.
One of the most common myths is that pitbulls were originally bred for dog fighting.
This is not true.
Before dog fighting was a popular sport, and before laws started to try and put an end to the practice in this country around 1875, bulldogs were used for bear baiting and bull baiting.
Both events are despicable examples of animal cruelty and of man’s misuse of pitbull terriers.
Bear baiting and bull baiting became illegal in the United States in the 19th century, and it is rare for such events to take place in this country.
Unfortunately, both events still take place in other countries. It is disgusting “sport” where sadistic men and women gather to find pleasure in watching animals suffer.
One reason that dog fighting is still so closely associated with pitbulls is that it still goes on in the United States even to this day.
While laws have been on the books in most states since the 19th century that forbid dog fighting, until recently many law enforcement agencies did not seek to strictly enforce dog fighting laws.
With the publicity surrounding a famous football player dog fighting case and the subsequent public outcry about it, many locales throughout the country have sought new ways to crack down on dog fighting rings.
It’s unfortunate that dog fighting is one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about pitbull history.
It is true that once bull baiting was outlawed, breeders sought ways to cross breeds to create a dog that would make an excellent fighter.
That, however, speaks to the type of men those were rather than the type of dogs that pitbulls are today.
When pitbulls first came to this country in the early 1800’s, they were used as farm dogs, not fighting dogs. They guarded the frontier homes of early pioneers and proved to make loyal and gentle companions for the entire family.
Throughout pitbull history there have been those who abused the dogs by using them to fight, it wasn’t until recently that the public at large began to apply certain judgments to the entire breed of dogs based on the bad behavior of men.
It only takes a glance through some of the icons of American marketing and media to find several examples that serve as proof that pitbulls were not always feared and despised in our culture.
On the hugely popular TV series "Our Gang" , the children had a playmate named Petey. Petey was a lovable dog who was able to perform tricks and was a loyal companion to the group of kids on the show.
Petey was a pitbull.
Buster Brown shoes also used an American pitbull terrier as it’s mascot as did RCA, which featured a pitbull on its well-known logo.
Clearly, pitbull history has more to it than just fighting. There are some questions that must be answered by those who want to portray all pitbulls as killers.
Would Our Gang, Buster Brown or RCA have selected a mascot that was nothing but a vicious killer? The dogs have been in the country for nearly 200 years, so why is it that it’s only in the last 20-25 years that pitbulls seem to constantly make headlines for their aggressiveness?
Do pitbulls make good fighting dogs? Unfortunately, yes. When they have been taught that the way to please their master is to fight, then they will fight. But they also make good show dogs. They do wonderfully in agility competitions, as police dogs and as therapy dogs.
Pitbulls are pretty much good at anything they are trained to do.
One thing that pitbull history has taught us that pitbulls are loyal to a fault. They will do whatever it takes to please their master. It is up to today’s pitbull owners to make sure that the reputation of the breed is repaired. We cannot rewrite pitbull history, but we can all learn from the mistakes of the past.