Pit Bulls » Why Are Pitbulls Called Pitbulls?

Why Are Pitbulls Called Pitbulls?

Pitbulls are a term commonly used to describe a specific type of dog that has captured the attention of many dog enthusiasts across the globe. The origin of the name “Pitbull” is deeply rooted in their history and the activities they were once involved in, which has led to the development of the breed’s strong reputation today.

As the breed’s popularity spread to the United States, the term “American Pitbull Terrier” was adopted to distinguish these dogs from their British counterparts. Today, Pitbulls are still associated with this unique part of their history, despite the fact that many of them have become beloved family pets and service animals.

So, when discussing Pitbulls, it is essential to acknowledge the history behind their name and to recognize their journey from fighting dogs to cherished companions.

Why Are Pitbulls Called Pitbulls?

The term “Pitbull” is derived from the dog breed that was utilized for bull-baiting, which took place in a “pit.” This violent sport involved pitting dogs against bulls, and the dogs were specifically bred for their strength, tenacity, and determination. This is why the name “Pitbull” became associated with these dogs.

Bull-baiting was a popular blood sport in the 19th century, particularly in the United Kingdom. The purpose was to test the dog’s ability to restrain and subdue a bull, which earned them a reputation as powerful and aggressive animals. Although bull-baiting was later outlawed, the association between Pitbulls and their historical past persisted.

Why Are Pitbulls Called Pitbulls

Pitbulls encompass several breeds, like the American Pitbull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. As time progressed, breeders and dog owners have worked hard to move past the Pitbull’s dark history and promote them as gentle and loving companions. This has played a significant role in changing the negative perceptions surrounding these dogs.

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Pitbull Type Breeds Recognize By The AKC/UKC

When it comes to identifying pitbull-type dogs, it is crucial to recognize that the term “Pitbull” does not refer to a single breed; rather, it encompasses a group of breeds with similar characteristics. Both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) have specific breed categories that share these traits.

Within the AKC, you won’t find a breed officially recognized as a “Pitbull.” However, some AKC-recognized breeds are often referred to as Pitbulls due to their appearance and body structure, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier. This breed, also known as the AmStaff, has a muscular build, short coat, and broad chest that are characteristic of pitbull-type dogs.

On the other hand, the UKC does acknowledge the American Pitbull Terrier as a breed; this is the only breed with “Pitbull” in its official name. Like the AmStaff, the American Pitbull Terrier has a strong and sturdy appearance, which contributes to it being classified under the broader pitbull-type.

American Staffordshire Terrier

It is also essential to note that there are other breeds, such as the English Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Boxer, which are sometimes mistaken for pitbull-type dogs. These breeds may have similar physical traits but should not be confused with the aforementioned AKC- or UKC-recognized breeds.

Overall, when discussing pitbull-type dogs, it is important to differentiate between the specific breeds recognized by the AKC and UKC. Keep in mind that the term “Pitbull” refers to a group of breeds rather than a single breed, and individuals from those breeds might have different temperaments and physical traits.

Old English Bulldog And The Old English Terrier

When talking about Pitbulls, it’s essential to know that the term “Pitbull” refers to a group of breeds rather than a specific breed. Pitbulls are derived from two main breeds: the Old English Bulldog and the Old English Terrier. These two breeds were crossed to create the Bull and Terrier breed, which eventually led to the development of the four main breeds commonly referred to as Pitbulls today: the American Bulldog, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Pitbull Terrier.

The Old English Bulldog was a powerful and muscular dog, known for its strength and tenacity. This breed was primarily used for bull-baiting and other blood sports, which required raw power and aggression. On the other hand, the Old English Terrier was a smaller, agile, and energetic breed with high prey drive, primarily utilized for ratting and hunting small game.

Breeding these two dogs, the Bull and Terrier inherited the strength and tenacity of the bulldog, coupled with the agility and prey drive of the terrier. As a result, these dogs were highly sought after in England for their working abilities, such as controlling semi-feral livestock and participating in blood sports.

Old English Bulldog And The Old English Terrier

After their arrival in America in the 1870s, the Bull and Terriers were selectively bred to develop the characteristics that we now associate with Pitbulls. Their roles expanded beyond blood sports to include guarding livestock, hunting, protecting families, and most importantly, providing companionship. Through careful handling and breeding, Pitbulls have become much more people-friendly than their predecessors, with a strong emphasis on socialization and training.

Final Thoughts

The term “Pitbull” stems from the breed’s connection to a cruel sport known as bull-baiting, which took place primarily in the British Isles during the 19th century. These dogs were referred to as “bull dogs” because they were considered to be the best suited for this gruesome activity. When bull-baiting became outlawed in England in 1835, promoters of the sport shifted their focus to dog fighting and ratting. Pitbulls were often placed in pits during these events, giving the breed its iconic name.

The modern-day Pitbull breeds are the result of the crossbreeding between the Old English Bulldog and the Old English Terrier, culminating in the Bull and Terriers. Continued selective breeding and responsible ownership have led to the development of the affectionate and loyal companions that we have come to know and love today.

In conclusion, Pitbulls are called so because of their historical involvement in bull-baiting events that took place in pits. This past has contributed to their reputation, but efforts are being made to showcase the true nature of Pitbulls as loyal and affectionate family pets.


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Author: Matthias

Hey all! I’m Matthias and I love Pit Bulls (as you probably can guess lol). Until a couple years ago I had Blaze next to me while writing the articles for this blog and he was my inspiration, he still is but - hopefully - from a better life 🙂

I am not a veterinarian or veterinary health care specialist, so nothing in this blog should be taken or used as a substitute for professional help. Use our content as information to have a basic understanding about Pit Bulls but always look for expert advice, specifically when treating or diagnosing your Pittie.

Hope my articles are of any help to you, your family and especially your Pit Bull. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy!

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