The history and development of the American Pit Bull Terrier


The American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed that is often misunderstood due to its past. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the origins of this breed, its uses in the past and present, and the efforts being made to improve its image.

The origin of the American Pit Bull Terrier

Crossbreed of English bulldog and terrier breeds

The American Pit Bull Terrier was created by crossing the Old English Bulldog with several terrier breeds, including the Black and Tan Terrier, the White English Terrier (now extinct), and the Fox Terrier. It is important to note that there have been many terrier breeds throughout history, some of which no longer exist today or have changed significantly. These terrier breeds may also have contributed to the development of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Bulldogge des alten Typen mit Terrier

Bull & Terrier: The Origins

By crossing the old type English bulldog and various terriers, a breed of dog called Bull & Terrier was created. The ancestor of the American Pi Bull Terrier. They all looked different, but had similar traits: strength, courage, endurance and tenacity. Because of their strength and endurance, they were used as working dogs on farms and in industry. They helped herd livestock, pull loads, and protect property. Their terrier characteristics made them excellent rat catchers and hunting dogs, used in pest control and hunting of small game.

Bull & Terrier
Bull & Terrier – ​​This is a sample photo of what he might have looked like back then.

The American Pit Bull Terrier and Dog Fighting

Bull and bear baiting

These characteristics led to a very bloody dog ​​sport, namely bull and bear baiting. Around 1835, bull and bear baiting was banned, and so there were fights against badgers, rats and other dogs in hidden fighting rings called “pits”. That's where the name comes from, American Pit Bull Terrier. In these pits the dogs had to fight to the death. Due to its characteristics, the Bull & Terrier was very successful during dog fights.

Bullen und Bärenhetze
Bull and bear baiting​​

Requirements for fighting dogs

At that time, fighting dogs were required to have impeccable temperaments. The owner or referee had to be able to intervene in the pits at any time. They had to be tame, obedient and responsive to people. If one of these dogs bit a human, it was selected from the breeding and killed.

Beispiel Foto für ein Hundekampf im 19. Jahrhundert
Example photo for a dog fight in the 19th century

The Origin of the American Pit Bull Terrier in America

Emigration and continuation of breeding

With the end of the American Civil War in the middle of the 18th century and the ban on dog fighting in England, many English people emigrated to America with their dogs. This brutal sport continued there because there were no bans there like in England. Breeding of the Bull & Terrier continued in America. Since they all looked different and there were no breeding standards, they also had different names such as Jenkie Terrier, Pitbull Terrier, American Pitbull Terrier or Bull Terrier.

John P. Colby and purposeful breeding

1889 was an important year for the American Pitbull Terrier as we know it today. At that time, the American Pitbull Terrier was specifically bred. John P. Colby was the breeder of the American Pitbull Terrier. He began breeding his American Pitbull Terrier breed in 1889 from the best dogs from England and Ireland brought to the United States by immigrants. These mixtures created two different breeds that we know very well today.

John P. Colby
John P. Colby​​

a. Der American Pitbull Terrier

The first dog breed is the American Pitbull Terrier, first registered by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1898 and later also by the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) in 1909, and was bred exclusively for dog fighting.

American Pit Bull Terrier Amalia
American Pit Bull Terrier Amalia​​

b. The American Staffordshire Terrier

The second dog created through Colby's breeding is the American Staffordshire Terrier, first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1936 and bred exclusively as a showline.

American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier​​

The Change of the American Pit Bull Terrier and the ADBA Top Dog Sports

Ralph Greenwood and the dawn of a new era

Ralph Greenwood was an important figure in the history of the American Pit Bull Terrier, ushering in the beginning of a new era for the breed. In 1972, Greenwood acquired the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA), an organization dedicated to the registration and protection of the American Pit Bull Terrier. With his passion for this dog breed, Greenwood was committed to making a positive change and ending the use of pit bulls in dog fighting.

Recognizing the true potential of the American Pit Bull Terrier as an athletic, intelligent and loyal companion, Greenwood was determined to nurture these dogs' abilities in a manner that respected their health and well-being. To achieve this goal, he worked closely with other breeders and animal lovers to draw attention to the positive qualities of the breed and to utilize its abilities in other, less harmful areas.

One of the most important initiatives Greenwood launched was the introduction of ADBA Top Dog Sports, a dog sport designed specifically for American Pit Bull Terriers. By creating a sport that met their natural urges and needs, Greenwood allowed these dogs to use their skills and energy in positive ways without being used in dog fighting.

Greenwood's work at the ADBA helped change the public's perception of the American Pit Bull Terrier and present the breed for what it truly is: a loving, intelligent, and capable family member capable of both To shine as a companion dog as well as an athlete. His dedication to the breed has helped provide a better life for many American Pit Bull Terriers and has had a long-term, positive impact on people's attitudes toward this impressive breed.

Paulina Coppola mit AmStaff Vito Hundetraining
Paulina Coppola with AmStaff Vito​​

ADBA Top Dog Sports: The new dog sport

And so, at the end of the 70s, a dog sport was created that was practiced exclusively by American Pit Bull Terriers: ADBA Top Dog Sports. This sport includes several competitive disciplines: 1. Treadmill Race, 2. Wall Climb, 3. Lure Coursing (sprint competition), 4. Weight Pull and 5. Long Jump.

These sports are performed to meet the drives and needs of the American Pit Bull Terrier. This way they can live out their urges without hurting themselves or other dogs.

Vitomalia's conclusion

The history of the American Pit Bull Terrier shows the changeability and adaptability of dog breeds over time. Originally created by crossing English Bulldogs and various terrier breeds, these dogs were initially used as working dogs and later abused for bloody dog ​​fights. Despite their dark past and the ongoing challenges associated with their reputation as fighting dogs, responsible breeders and animal lovers have made significant progress in improving the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier in recent decades.

The introduction of dog sports such as ADBA Top Dog Sports has created an alternative to dog fighting that meets the natural urges and needs of these dogs without putting other dogs or people in danger. These sports have helped show the American Pit Bull Terrier's true potential as an athletic, intelligent and loyal companion.

At the same time, breeders and organizations such as the ADBA and UKC have worked hard to develop clear breeding standards and ethical guidelines that promote the health and welfare of these dogs. By selecting dogs with good temperaments and using responsible breeding practices, they have created a new generation of American Pit Bull Terriers that are better suited to life as loving family members and companion dogs.

However, it is important to recognize that the challenges facing the American Pit Bull Terrier have not yet been completely overcome. The continued use of these dogs in illegal dog fighting and the stigmatization they experience in the public eye continue to require education and commitment from breeders, animal lovers and dog experts.

Overall, the story of the American Pit Bull Terrier shows how a dog breed can undergo a remarkable transformation despite its difficult past. Hopefully, with continued education, responsible breeding and the commitment of animal lovers, we can continue to improve the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier and promote appreciation for this impressive breed.