ADBA American Pit Bull Terrier

The history and development of the American Pit Bull Terrier


The American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed that is often misunderstood because of its past. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the origins of this breed, its past and present uses, 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 various 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 dog breed called the Bull & Terrier was born. The ancestor of the American Pi Bull Terrier. They all looked different, but had similar personality 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 cattle, pull loads, and protect property. Their terrier characteristics made them excellent pied pipers and hunting dogs used in pest control and small game hunting.

Bull & Terrier
Bull & Terrier - This is an example photo of how he might have dated 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 the baiting of bulls and bears was banned, and so there were fights against badgers, rats and other dogs in hidden fighting rings called "pits". Hence the name 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 it was required of fighting dogs that they had an impeccable temperament. The owner or the referee had to be able to intervene in the pits at any time. They had to be tame, obedient and responsive to humans. If one of these dogs bit into a human, it was selected from 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 around 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 was continued there, since there were no bans like in England. Bull & Terrier breeding continued in America. Since they all looked different and there were no breed standards, they also had different names like 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 purposefully bred. John P. Colby was the breeder of the American Pitbull Terrier. He began breeding his American Pitbull Terrier breed in 1889 from the finest dogs from England and Ireland brought to the United States by the 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 bred solely for dog fighting.

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

b. The American Staffordshire Terrier

The second dog created by 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 in the American Pit Bull Terrier and 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 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 keen to make a positive change and end the use of pit bulls in dog fights.

Greenwood recognized the American Pit Bull Terrier's true potential as an athletic, intelligent, and loyal companion, and was determined to nurture these dogs' skills in a way 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 breed's positive traits and utilize its abilities in other, less damaging areas.

One of the major initiatives Greenwood created was the introduction of ADBA Top Dog Sports, a canine sport developed specifically for American Pit Bull Terriers. By creating a sport that catered to their natural drives and needs, Greenwood enabled these dogs to use their skills and energy in positive ways without being used in dogfights.

Greenwood's work at the ADBA helped transform public perceptions of the American Pit Bull Terrier, presenting the breed for what it truly is: a loving, intelligent, and capable family member capable of both being a to shine as a companion dog as well as an athlete. His dedication to the breed has helped create better lives for numerous American Pit Bull Terriers and had a lasting, positive impact on people's attitudes towards this amazing 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 1970s, a dog sport was created that was only practiced 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 undertaken to accommodate the American Pit Bull Terrier's drives and needs. This allows them to live out their urges without hurting themselves or other dogs.

Vitomalia's conclusion

The history of the American Pit Bull Terrier demonstrates the mutability and adaptability of dog breeds over time. Originally created by crossing English bulldogs and various terrier breeds, these dogs were first used as working dogs and later abused for bloody dog ​​fights. Despite their murky past and the enduring challenges associated with their reputation as fighting dogs, responsible breeders and pet lovers have made significant strides in improving the American Pit Bull Terrier's image over the past several decades.

The introduction of dog sports such as the ADBA Top Dog Sports has created an alternative to dog fighting that caters to the natural drives and needs of these dogs without putting other dogs or humans at risk. These sports 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 the UKC have worked hard to develop clear breed 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 produced 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 acknowledge that the challenges faced by the American Pit Bull Terrier are not yet fully overcome. The continued use of these dogs in illegal dog fights, and the stigma they experience in the public eye, continues to require awareness and commitment from breeders, pet lovers, and canine experts.

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