Interesting Facts About Pit Bulls: The Things You May Not Know

There are a lot of interesting facts about Pit Bulls, a dog breed that has recently become very underrated. Let’s be honest, a lot of people have a negative perception about Pit Bulls. In fact, Pit Bulls have such a bad reputation that they are completely banned in the United Kingdom!

 In reality, however, they are awesome dogs! Don’t believe me? Check out this great video that illustrates a social experiment about Pit Bulls and how people perceive them (in the video, a Chihuahua is more aggressive than the Pit Bull!): 

Sadly, the bad reputation that Pit Bulls have is due to humans and how we used them throughout history. Pit Bulls originate from Great Britain where in the 1200s they were specifically bred for baiting bears and bulls. That is actually how they got their name, as they would be put into a pit with a bull to fight the large animal. After the baiting of bears and bulls became illegal, Pit Bulls were turned on each other and used for illegal dog fighting.

So to help dispel the myth that PitBulls are naturally vicious dogs that should be avoided, I want to tell you about some interesting facts about the Pit Bull that you perhaps did not even know about.

Overview of the Pit Bull

pit bulls are actually staffordshire bull terriers

Most of the time, when people talk about Pit Bulls, they are referring to the American Staffordshire Terrier – an AKC recognized breed – specifically. The American Staffordshire Terrier is strong, muscular, and stocky, with a broad head and full cheeks. Its “rose” ears (in which the top folds over and back) are sometimes cropped short. It stands 43 to 48 cm (17 to 19 inches) tall and weighs roughly 23 to 36 kg (50 to 80 pounds). 

Its stiff glossy coat may occur in any colour, with or without patches of contrasting colour, and many dogs have some white on the head, throat, and chest. The American Staffordshire Terrier is affectionate, loyal, and good with children, making it an outstanding family pet. Many authorities note, however, that the breed possesses some level of aggression, especially toward other animals, and they also note that properly bred and socialized dogs do not display innate aggression against humans.

American Pit Bull Terriers, which are not a member of the American Kennel Club, were once an iconic American breed. They were American military mascots, advertising stars, and popular farm and family dogs. But when dog fighters criminally exploited the breed’s loyalty, tenacity and bold nature, the Pittie’s reputation took a hit from which it hasn’t yet recovered.  Unfortunately, he comes with societal baggage. People who have Pit Bulls may face restrictions on where they can live or which homeowner’s insurance they can purchase, and there have even been large Pit Bull bans in some areas.


History of the Pit Bull

Before the early part of the 19th century, the Bulldog was bred with great care in England for the purpose of baiting bulls.pit bull history

The Bulldog of that day was vastly different from our present-day "sourmug." Pictures from as late as 1870 represent the Bulldog as agile and as standing straight on his legs-his front legs in particular. 

In some cases he was even possessed of a muzzle, and long rat tails were not uncommon.

The Bulldog of that day, with the exception of the head, looked more like the present-day American Staffordshire Terrier than like the present-day Bulldog.

When it comes to the bull-type terrier breeds, all can agree that the common component in their makeup was the Bulldog. (Note that the Bulldog of 200 years ago was a vastly different, more ferocious creature than the lovable “sourmugs” of today.)

Argument begins when breed experts try to nail down which preexisting terrier breeds reside in the American Pit Bull Terrier’s genetic background. Some suggest that such extinct breeds as the White English Terrier and Black-and-Tan Terrier were part of the genetic mix that led to the creation of the Staffordshire Terrier, forerunner of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Some writers contend it was the white English Terrier, or the Black-and-Tan Terrier, that was used as a cross with the Bulldog to perfect the Staffordshire Terrier. It seems easier to believe that any game terrier, such as the Fox Terrier of the early 1800s, was used in this cross, since some of the foremost authorities on dogs of that time state that the Black-and-Tan and the white English Terrier were none too game, but these same authorities go on to stress the gameness of the Fox Terrier.

It is reasonable to believe that breeders who were attempting to perfect a dog that would combine the spirit and agility of the terrier with the courage and tenacity of the Bulldog, would not use a terrier that was not a game. In analyzing the three above-mentioned terriers at that time, we find that there was not a great deal of difference in body conformation, the greatest differences being in color, aggressiveness, and spirit.

adult pit bullIn any event, it was a cross between the Bulldog and the terrier that resulted in the Staffordshire Terrier, which was originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half, and at times Pit Dog or Pit Builterrier. Later, it assumed the name in England of Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

These dogs began to find their way into America as early as 1870, where they became known as Pit Dog, Pit Bull Terrier, later American Bull Terrier, and still later as Yankee Terrier.

In 1936, they were accepted for registration in the AKC Stud Book as Staffordshire Terriers. The name of the breed was revised effective January 1, 1972 to American Staffordshire Terrier. Breeders in this country had developed a type which is heavier in weight than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England and the name change was to distinguish them as separate breeds.

Now, the Pit Bull is one of the most loved and respected of the bully breeds. It has appeared throughout literature and pop-culture as an icon among the bully breeds. Ownership has grown and the distribution of the American Staffordshire Terrier is widespread. You may own one.


Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Pit Bulls:

The Pit Bull Is Not A Breedthe pit bull is actually not a breed

Wait, what?!

Pit Bull is actually an umbrella term that refers to several different breeds. Pit bull is a type of dog, but the American pit bull terrier is a breed.

Other breeds that fall under the umbrella of Pit Bull Dogs include the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American bulldog, and the Staffordshire bull terrier.

All of these breeds derive from the dogs originally bred to fight in the pits in England.

These breeds are generally grouped together as Pit Bulls, as they have similar physical characteristics. They are in fact so similar that often even experts can't tell them apart. In the US, the most common breed to be referred to as a Pit Bull is the American Pit Bull Terrier.

The American Kennel Club does not recognize the American pit bull terrier, but it does acknowledge an extremely similar breed called the Staffordshire terrier. This name distinction was created in an effort to separate the breed from its negative past.

In addition to the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, other breeds sometimes identified as Pit Bulls include the Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Japenese Tosa, Dogue de Bordeaux, and the Bulldog.

While it’s tough to estimate dog breed numbers, it’s believed that there are at least two million Pit Bulls in the United States.


Pit Bulls Are Older Than You Think

pit bulls descend from bulldogsPit bulls descend from bulldogs. Bulldogs were used as early as the 1600s for bull and bear baiting (their name descends from their use as bull baiters). In the mid-1800s, some very observant people determined such blood sports were very cruel and made bull baiting illegal. 

For those who this decision was less obviously a very good one replaced bull baiting with dog fighting. To make it more entertaining, they crossbred bulldogs with terriers. The result was the animal that we know and love today.


Pit Bulls Were an Immigrant Dog

Pit bulls made their way to America on ships alongside immigrants looking for a new lease on life. Of course, early America was a tad more rustic than it is now, and survival was often a daily struggle. Because of their protective attributes, pit bulls were considered very valuable.

Pit Bulls helped their owners by protecting them. They also defended livestock from predators and intruders.pit bulls are great for defending livestock

The dogs abetted hunts by acting as hog catchers.

Lastly, they served as companions to young children, which is the start of how they evolved into family pets.

So, without pit bulls, some early American families and communities may have suffered for lack of food or protection.


Attempts Have Been Made To Rebrand Their Name

pit bull brandsThe American Pit Bull Terrier was not recognized by the American Kennel Club, who rather recognized the dogs as Staffordshire Terriers.

The AKC wasn't the only group to attempt a rebranding. In the '90s, San Francisco tried to change the dogs' name to St. Francis terriers.

In 2004, the New York City Animal Care and Control tried to rename the dogs “New Yorkies.” According to director Ed Boks, "New Yorkers, like pit bulls, are sometimes perceived as a standoffish and mean breed—but are actually some of the most generous and open-hearted people I've ever met." Sadly, the plan was a flop.

All this was to try and get the dogs away from the bad reputation and negative past. Sadly, these efforts failed.


Pit Bulls Are Easy to Groom

Taking care of the Pit Bull’s short, stiff coat is remarkably easy. A quick once-over with a soft bristle brush every week is usually enough to remove any dirt or other foreign matter.

What’s more, a good brushing distributes skin oils throughout the coat to help keep it healthy.

If an Am Staff gets into something particularly messy, a bath will probably be called for. Otherwise, bathing can wait until when and if he develops a “doggy” smell.

As with all breeds, the Pit Bull‘s nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can be painful and cause the dog problems while walking and running.


Pit Bulls Inspire Art!

Sophie Gamand, a famous photographer, created a series of photographs to show off Pit Bulls’ softer side and challenge how society sees Pit Bulls.

She used the cute pups with beautiful pastel colored flowers to create amazing pictures that show how irresistibly cute these dogs really are. You can see more about the series here.


Pit Bulls Were Used As Bait

Pit Bulls were often used in bear baiting, a blood sport in which bears were publicly tortured for the “entertainment” of onlookers.

After bear baiting was outlawed in England, the sport of ratting became popular.

A pit was filled with rats and dogs competed to see who could kill all of them in the shortest time. Some believe that this is where the pit in Pit Bull comes from.


Pit Bulls Have Been Symbols in American Culture

American pit bull terriers may need some PR help nowadays, but there was a time when the breed was America’s favorite. Petey, the canine companion of the Little Rascals, was a pit, as well as Nipper, the RCA dog, and Tige, the Buster Brown shoe mascot.


They Have Great Temperaments

The American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier scored really well on a test run by the American Temperament Test Society that tested dogs’ temperaments.

You can see the full test results here. In fact, they even outscored Golden Retrievers! Don’t believe me? Here are the results for Golden Retrievers.

Despite their reputation for fearsome dog bites, Pit Bulls aren’t considered great guard dogs by those in the know. They’re too trusting of humans, and may greet an intruder as a new friend.

They aren’t vicious creatures.

This is a stereotype that is biased toward generalizing and condemning an entire breed based on the actions of a few bad people.

The truth is that each dog should be evaluated by his own merits and not by his breed. 

A corollary truth is that there truly are no bad dogs, only bad people. In his essay Troublemakers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses what Pit Bull stereotypes can teach us about the wrongness of racial profiling of both humans and dogs.


Pit Bull Puppies Aren’t Necessarily Better Than Adults

It’s a fact that puppies are adorable! But the thing about puppies is, well, they grow up. And as they mature, their personality develops and that’s when you really find out whether your Pit Bull is dominant or submissive with people, or whether she is aggressive toward some, none or all dogs. 

Dog-intolerance and dog-aggression are traits that do not develop in some dogs until they are fully mature. It is possible that the cute little puppy you adopt who is friendly with all other dogs may not like other dogs at all later in life, even dogs she has grown up with and lived with for her entire life. Both nurture (environment) and nature (genetics) play a role in determining a dog’s mature personality. 

This doesn’t mean that Pit Bull puppies should not be adopted, but if you want to know how big your dog will ultimately be and how she will act around humans and other animals, you may want to consider adopting an adult.

Ultimately, the decision to adopt any dog requires much thought on what is the right fit for your family, and your ability to commit to the dog for his or her lifetime.


Pit Bulls Were America’s Mascot In WW1

During World War 1, propaganda efforts hit fever pitch, with countries on both sides using propaganda extensively. One technique that was popular was to use certain dog breeds as mascots to try and convey specific characteristics that should be associated with each country.

Britain was represented by the Bulldog and Germany by the Dachshund. Guess which dog represented the US?

That’s right, the Pit Bull! The Pit Bull was selected as Pit Bulls signified loyalty, bravery and determination.

If you want to see more about Pit Bulls in the military, check out this article here.

The article also tells us the story about a Pit Bull called Sergeant Stubby, which was the most decorated dog of WW1. It was also the only dog to be nominated for rank and promoted to Sergeant through combat!

His life was so interesting, that a movie based on his life is in the works.


Pit Bulls Don’t Have Locking Jaws

Pit Bulls do not have any special physical mechanism or enzyme that allows them to “lock” their jaws. If you compare a Pit Bull skull to a skull of any other dog breed, you can see with the naked eye that both skulls share the same characteristics and general bone structure. However, one personality trait of the Pit Bull breed is determination. Whatever Pit Bulls do, they do it with a great deal of enthusiasm, and it is this trait that can make it seem like they have a locking jaw when they bite down on something and are determined not to release it.


October is not only National Pit Bull Dogs Awareness Month, but October 28 is also National Pit Bull Awareness Day.


Wrapping Up – Pit Bulls Are Awesome Dogs!

Pit Bulls got a bad reputation, but unfairly so. Pit Bulls are in fact some of the friendliest dogs you will come across. As with any dog breed you need to train them, teach them social skills, keep them physically fit, and feed them proper dog food in order for them to be happy and healthy animals. It is our responsibility to treat them well and teach them correct behaviours.

I hope reading these facts about Pit Bulls has helped to show the more positive side of Pit Bulls and that they are not the vicious monsters that society sometimes tells us they are. Pit Bulls are in fact awesome dogs!


This article was contributed by Andy from, which is a blog dedicated to promoting responsible dog ownership and helping to tell the world how awesome dogs are.


Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. carolyn Fincher says:

    Am I suppose to notify the county in anyway that I have a pit bull staying with me temporarily?


  2. Donald Wiley says:

    Great article and a great read for anyone interested in learning more about these wonderful dogs.


  3. Sherri A Kessler says:

    Awesome article. Thanks for including the information about Seargent Stubby he was a true hero as much as any human was. We own two pit bulls that we love like family. They are big gentle babies who spend their days being loved by everyone including my 18 month old granddaughter.
    I’m looking forward to getting your program as soon as I’ve saved up the money. I have read all the emails about the program and am very excited to start using it on our dogs including the Chihuahua.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *