We’ve all heard the myths over the years. And while it may seem crazy to most of us “pit bull parents,” there are still plenty of people out in the world that genuinely believe them. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they just don’t know the truth yet, and let’s take a look at some of the most common myths with a little more detail.
MYTH: Pit bulls bite more than any other breed.
FACT: There is no system in place to accurately track statistics on dog bites and attacks in the United States; not to mention, most incidents go completely unreported.
This myth is actually based on a study published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) of fatal dog attacks by breed over a 20 year period that was published back in 2000. The study uses news reports from the media involving fatal dog attacks, rather than owner identification and/or breed expert identification. This fact, in and of itself, should be enough to debunk this entire theory, however it is this very study that many lawmakers reference when rationalizing breed specific bans to this very day.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has even stepped in to explain one major flaw in this study was the inability to factor in total breed populations relative to breed-related fatalities and has since concluded that fatal attacks are so rare, they are statistically insignificant in addressing canine aggression.
MYTH: Pit Bulls attack without warning or provocation.
FACT: The classification of an attack as unprovoked is usually based on the declarations from owners who are unable to understand canine behavior, or missed the signals dogs typically display through body language and/or vocalization. Dogs always communicate their discomfort through stares, body stiffening, positioning of ears, tales and head, growling, etc. Pit bull breeds always give these signals as often as any other breed of dog.
Additionally, dog attacks tend to be a result of several factors that are statistically more dangerous than a simple breakdown of breed culpability. Some of the factors include socialization, poor breeding, training, overall health of a dog - ie. if a dog is in pain - whether or not a dog is spayed or neutered, just to name a few.
MYTH: Pit Bulls have locking jaws.
FACT: There is no factual research to support this claim. Pit bull jaws are the same as any other breed of dog.
Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia conducted research on the functional morphology of the jaws of various breeds and showed that… “there is no mechanical or morphological difference between the jaws of American Pit Bull Terriers and those of any of the other comparable breed of dogs which we studied. In addition, we found that the American Pit Bull Terrier did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws.”
Dr. Howard Evans (Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University and the author of “Miller’s Anatomy of the Dog”), in conjunction with Dr. de Lahunta, one of the foremost dog neurologists in the country, AND Dr. Houpt, a leading dog behaviorist, wrote the following statement about the supposed “locking jaw” in pit bulls: “We all agree that the power of the bite is proportional to the size of the jaws and the jaw muscles. There is no anatomical structure that could be a locking mechanism in any dog.”
MYTH: Pit bulls have more bite force in pounds per square inch than any other animal.
FACT: Again, there is no factual research to support this claim. However, there is research that refutes this myth. Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic conducted a study on animal bites. The force of bite (in pounds of bite pressure) in the test subjects were:
Crocodiles: 2,500 pounds
Hyenas: 1000 pounds
Lions: 600 pounds
White Sharks: 600 pounds
Domestic Dogs: 320 pounds (on average)
Humans: 120 pounds
A German Shepherd dog, American Pit Bull Terrier and a Rottweiler were tested using a bite sleeve equipped with a specialized computer instrument to measure the bite force. The American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of pressure of the three dogs tested.
MYTH: Pit Bulls have worse temperaments than other dogs.
FACT: In a recent study of 122 dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society, pit bulls had a passing rate of 83.9%. That was better than miniature poodles (76.6%), beagles (80.3%) and collies (79.4%)
MYTH: Pit bulls do not feel pain.
FACT: While most dogs do not respond to pain while in the frenzied state of a severe attack, pit bulls feel pain just like other breeds do. Pit bulls have the same nervous system as any other breed, and they do feel pain. Historically, dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the type of dogs breeders strove to produce. This is the trait of “gameness” that so many breed fanciers speak of, which may be defined as “The desire to continue on and/or complete a task despite pain and discomfort.”
And there you have it. These are just a handful of the myths most commonly heard when talking about bully breeds. And to date, there is no solid scientific data to back up any of these claims. As we work towards our continued education during National Pit Bull Awareness Month, we highly encourage you to get out and visit your local shelter. Spend some time with all the pitties you come across and maybe consider giving one his or her forever home!