For decades dog lovers have read headline after headline positioning one breed or another as “dangerous.” Most recently the newest is the Pit Bull. But is this dog as dangerous as the media and society make them out to be? Or are they really just cuddly, playful companions?
- Basic Stats
- Pit Bull vs Bully Breed
- Mischaracterization Of Pit Bulls
- Are They A Good Breed?
- Are Fatal Attacks Common?
- How Can I Help?
- Don’t Minimize Pit Incidences
An American Pit Bull Terrier generally weighs in around 30-65 pounds and measures 17-21 inches in height. They are medium-sized dogs with a solid build, known for their intelligence. Their average ages is between 8 and 15 years.
Another dog that is commonly referred to as a “pit bull” is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It is a lighter weight dog at 24-37 pounds and a height of 14-16 inches tall.
As of 2017, there were approximately 89.7 million total dogs throughout the United States1. 5-10 million of those dogs were estimated to be “pit bulls” (the reported number varies widely by how each vet, breeder, organization, owner, vet, etc. defines the term)2.
When you look at data from U.S. city shelters, you will find that “pit bull” type dogs make up about 40% of the dogs that are killed2.
After much research, it is our opinion that the “bully breeds” include a wide range of dog breeds (see list below), but the only dog that is a true Pit Bull is the American Pit Bull Terrier, which is recognized by the United Kennel Club and American Dog Breeders Association. We know this is widely discussed and disagreed upon, but for the purposes of this article, that is our position.
The term “bully breed” is used to refer to a large group of various breeds of dog that hail from the same root breed. Dogs that belong to a bully breed are all derived from one particular type of dog known as the Molosser. The Molosser is an Ancient Greek breed that was characterized by a short muzzle, large bones, large frame and pendant shaped ears.
Originally, Molossers were bred with a range of other dogs that resulted in the characteristics found today in the various bully-type breeds. These dogs were bred as guardians of both property and livestock. Some owners would also use their dogs in sports like bull-baiting which many believe is how the term “bully breed” came about. Unfortunately, many owners have recognized their potential as fighting dogs and, in turn, have created an unfortunate alternate use of the term “bully breed.”
There is a dog breed called American Pit Bull Terrier, but the broader name of “Pit Bull” is often used to categorize many breeds under the bully breed label. All the following breeds actually make up the bully breed category:
- Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
- Ambullneo Mastiff
- American Bulldog
- American Mastiff
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier (the most popular mixed breed dog, according to a Wisdom Panel survey)
- Anatolian Mastiff
- Australian Bulldog
- Bantam Bulldogge
- Banter Bulldogge
- Belgian Mastiff
- Boston Terrier
- Buldogue Campeiro
- Bull Terrier
- Ca De Bou
- Cane Corso
- Catahoula Bulldog
- Dogo Argentino
- Dogue De Bordeaux
- Dorset Olde Tyme Bulldogge
- English Bulldog
- Fila Brasileiro
- French Bulldog
- Great Dane
- Miniature Bull Terrier
- Neopolitan Mastiff
- Olde Boston Bulldogge
- Olde English Bulldog
- Pyrenean Mastiff
- Renascence Bulldogge
- Spanish Mastiff
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Standard Bull Terrier
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Valley Bulldog
- Victorian Bulldogge
As you can see from this extensive list, the American Pit Bull Terrier is just one of many breeds. In fact, more than a handful of the breeds on this list surprise even the most anti-bully breed proponents.
Looking over the list of bully breeds above many of these breeds are unknown to general dog lovers which is perhaps one reason why so many dogs are mischaracterized as Pit Bulls. While these breeds all share a common ancestry and have similar features such as the flatter, shorter snout, being able to distinguish between different bully breeds is important.
Without being able to separate one bully breed from another, it is easy for Pit Bulls to be pinned as the “breed that bit that kid.” That is not to say that bully breeds, in general, are bad dogs, they just happen to be most frequently selected by bad owners.
The mischaracterization of all bully breeds as Pit Bulls is not the only area where Pit Bulls get the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, as public opinion of this breed declines and the banning of bully breeds builds momentum, many more facts are turned around.
Myth: Pits Bite Harder Than Other Dogs
The Pit Bull is said to exert through their bite is actually just like many other breeds – around 235 pounds per square inch. Of strongest breeds’ bite according to force, the Pit Bull is not even in the top 12 list.
Which dog has the highest pounds per square inch bite force? The Kangal which measures in at 743 pounds per square inch of bite force. Even with this figure in mind though, does this mean that the Kangal is a dangerous breed? Not necessarily: It means that if a Kangal were to bite someone or something, it could be capable of exerting 743 pounds per square inch of bite force. It does not mean that this dog will bite or that it will use that much force with a bite.
What this data could mean also is that if a dog does exert that much bite force, the resulting bite could be much more severe than a bite from a less powerful dog. And that means that bites from this type of dog are more likely to be reported than bites from smaller, less powerful dogs leading to a news reporting bias.
Pit Bulls Are Cute
No question these pit puppies are adorable! Just watch this video if you don’t believe us.
Asking the question of whether Pit Bulls are good dogs is in our opinion the same as asking whether misbehaved kids are good children. A dog’s temperament depends on a variety of factors including breeding and upbringing (much like our offspring).
What we do know from statistical analysis3 is that as of December 2017, 87.4% of American Pit Bull Terriers had passed their temperament testing, according to the American Temperament Test Society, Inc.
This is a higher number to pass these tests than Collies (80.8%), Beagles (79.7%) and even Golden Retrievers (85.6%). Of 931 American Pit Bull Terriers tested, 814 of them passed the 8-12 minute behavior test which measures 10 criteria, including a dog’s reaction, its aggressive behavior and more.
When you turn on the news, it seems like the only dog attacks that ever make headlines are attacks by Pit Bulls and attacks that result in death or serious injury. Few people take the time to learn the facts behind this type of dog, they simply take what they are fed by media news outlets.
If more people were familiar with the array of dog breeds within the bully breed category, perhaps they would be less inclined to judge one particular bully type as a “bad dog” — whoever heard of someone banning Boston Terriers from an apartment complex because they were a bully breed? Judging a dog’s temperament by its appearance is like judging a person’s personality by the color of their skin, something one would hope humankind had learned from in its history.
Advocate For Pit Bulls And Spread The Word
One of the best things that can be done to advocate for Pit Bulls and bully breeds is to spread the word about just how expansive the bully breed category is. Share with your friends about how the Boston Terrier and Pug come from the same origin as the Neopolitan Mastiff and the Pit Bull Terrier.
Encourage people not only to educate themselves about the difference between individual breeds (see our comprehensive list of breeds where you can learn more) but also about the sheer ridiculousness of judging an entire classification of dog based on a select few incidences that receive sensationalized media coverage. Ask people to stop and think when the last time they heard of a mixed breed dog bite fatality was?
With all of these statistics under your belt, it is important not to minimize Pit Bull bite incidences, but it is crucial to also draw attention to the fact that there are some mitigating circumstances in these bite statistics. The truth is that people do get bitten by Pit Bulls, just as they get bitten by Huskies and German Shepherds. It is possible however to become a proponent for Pit Bull Terriers while also respecting incidences of Pit Bull bites.
Encourage individuals with reservations about Pit Bulls to understand that not all dogs within a certain classification are bred to fight, that upbringing and good breeding can result in a wide range of dispositions. Many people have experiences that have colored their opinion of one dog breed or another, but as a proponent for fair treatment of the Pit Bull it is important to make others aware of the fact that not all Pit Bulls are like “the one that bit that kid.”
Dog Liability Insurance May Save You Money And Your Dog’s Life
If you do want to better understand how you can protect yourself and your Pit from potentially risky situations, we recommend that you contact a dog liability insurance expert to gain some perspective on your options.
What do you love about Pit Bulls and other bully breed dogs?