You have likely heard us refer to our pit bull friends as “pit bull-type” dogs, rather than just pit bulls. But why? And what exactly is the difference?
Generally speaking, the term “pit bull” is an all-encompassing term - used by the media and within pop-culture references - that does not represent one particular breed, rather it lumps together a group of dog breeds (and mixes) that share similar physical characteristics - a medium build, broad chest/shoulders, muscular bodies and square, block-like heads.
The only true “pit bull” is the American Pit Bull Terrier, however other dog breeds that fall under the pit bull umbrella because of shared physical features are...
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- American Bully
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- American Bulldog
- Dogo Argentino
- Bull Mastiff
- Cane Corso
- Bull Terrier
- and any mix of the breeds above
All of the above-mentioned breeds share some resemblances and are often confused with one another because over the last several decades, the distinct lines between them have been blurred by the media and were simplistically labeled as “pit bulls.”
But it hasn’t been a simple or easy road for them at all. It is no secret how damaged the reputation of the “pit bull” has become. It has been a kind of evolution over many decades, where the American Pit Bull Terrier was once regarded as “America’s Dog.” Yet as their popularity began to fizzle, a small sector of the population took their most enticing qualities - strength, intelligence, and loyalty - and exploited them for their own gain through underground dogfighting rings. These powerful animals would tear each other apart after being tortured by humans to invoke aggression, and this once highly beloved animal became synonymous with fear, peril and poverty.
Even though dogfighting is vastly inhumane, is a felony charge in all 50 states and is also a felony under federal law, it is still a lucrative underground business; a bloodsport where dogs are improperly bred at dangerous rates to produce more dogs, to then condition and train them to fight for spectator entertainment and profit. This illegal enterprise is at the very root of what has given the “pit bull” its negative reputation and continue to further perpetuate the stigma that they are dangerous.
The reality is that no dog or entire breed is inherently dangerous. Aggression is taught or becomes a result of some trauma. Can poor breeding cause behavioral issues? Absolutely, just as poor breeding can cause a myriad of health issues within a dog as well. But aggression itself is not a trait that can be bred into a dog.
So why the phrase “pit bull-type dogs?”
While most of us “pittie” parents are proud to say we own “pit bulls,” and wear the title as a badge of honor, the truth is most are not American Pit Bull Terriers. Most “pit bulls” are a mix of dog breeds from the list above. And as we have learned, the term carries weight and not in a good way. Referring to all dogs that look a similar way as “pit bulls” alone is detrimental to their safety and well-being because of the fear associated with them.
This fear is what has led to breed bans and breed discriminatory laws. It is what has led to the mistreatment, abuse and neglect of these beautiful animals. It has led to an overpopulation because people are afraid to bring them into their homes, which in turn causes higher euthanasia rates within shelters, etc. It is a ripple effect.
We use the phrase “pit bull-type dogs” to create and force the dialogue that the generalization of all of these different breeds is dangerous to their existence. When you say “pit bull-type dogs” it opens the mind to the idea that there must be multiple “types” of dogs that fall under the pit bull umbrella and the hope is that it peaks enough interest to want to learn more about each of these individual breeds.
None of the breeds listed above are born dangerous. Can they become dangerous? Yes, if they fall into the wrong hands and are lacking in proper training and socialization; or worse if they are abused and neglected. But that is true of any dog, of any size, of any breed. So when you hear us or anyone else refer to dogs as “pit bull-type dogs” it is typically an educational moment and an opportunity to learn more about what makes each of them so wonderful.
Have a question about anything mentioned above? We are not experts, but advocating for these beauties is our passion so send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or a message on Instagram to chat! Happy National Pit Bull Awareness Month and check back next week for more educational content!