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A tough pup with a soft heart

Updated on October 6, 2015
Wiggles
Wiggles | Source
Ginger
Ginger | Source

A rather sad beginning

We humans have a thousands of years old history in finding cruelty and brutality entertaining. From the cruel games of the Romans and their Gladiators to the wide variety of animals used to fight each other for entertainment, we really have figured out almost any way to enjoy ourselves by seeing others hurt.
The Pitbull was created for that entertainment, but as always, a lot of 'humane' creatures overlook their other 'uses'.
Sadly the best article I found is covered by so many copyright restrictions that it seems even mentioning it could be punished with the death penalty. It's sad since it is a great account of information that paint a much different light on their history. And it puts the blame where the blame is deserved: in human hands, not the dog's!

Pitbulls have been linked to the so-called molossoid dogs used for fighting, hunting and war. Molosser dogs are a group of several large and solid built dog breeds such as the Mastiff. It comes from the word 'Molossia', which was a subregion of ancient Epirus in ancient Greece. Others belief that it this type of dog found world wide with similar looks and functions actually originated from one main ancestor somewhere in China. But between all the articles I found, the molossoid theory seems the most common one.

In 50 AD Roman Emperor Claudius defeated British Chief Caractacus. Impressed with the fierce fighting dogs the Romans had encountered when landing in Britain, they brought some of them home. With their taste for fights, these dogs soon found themselves in the Great Arena; facing all kinds of opponents. These dogs spread further and made their way into France and Spain; the last a country who itself has a history of using animals in different 'sports'.

Eventually some of these dogs found their way back to Britain and very likely helped create the 'Bulldog' that is said to be the Pitbull's ancestor.

Edmond de Langley, Duke of York, published a document called "The Mayster of the Game and of Hawks" in 1406. He described a dog called 'Alaunt' or 'Allen' that was very popular as bait dog. A picture from 1585 showing this dog was very similar to today's Pitbull. It was larger and was shown hunting the wild hogs.

'Bulldog' appeared first in printed documents around 1631. In 1632, in a letter written between two friends, one of them asked the other for "a good mastiff dog and two bulldogs', indicating that there already were two separate breeds. Other documents from the 1700's show two primary breeds used for bull baiting; the Alunt from Ireland and the Blue Poll from Scotland. The Alunt, larger than the Pitbull and showing some Dane characteristics too, may have been used for creating the Alono from Spain, that also had very Pitbull like features.
Dogs were bred for specific used, explaining the different directions the breed(s) took.

The view that the use of dogs would tenderize the meat may have started the 'Bulldog'. It has also been said that dogs were used to control bulls on the way to the market and butchers started to proudly show of the skills of their dogs by showing them wrestle bulls. This led to the use of these dogs in fighting rings to face bulls for entertainment. Eventually the bull baiting got boring and other animals such as bears and even monkeys were used.
One of the

The sport of bull baiting became outlawed in 1835, leading to the begins ratting; which could be done in smaller arenas and was easier to hide. A number of rats was placed in a 'Pit' and the dog who killed the most won. The idea of this sport may also be based on the issue with rats in the cities. The fleas also carried by the rats were carriers of the infection that caused the Bubonic Plague that killed millions world wide; thus making the rats those held responsible. A good dog that held the rat problem in check could mean surviving the plague!
In order to achieve the best results hunting and killing the rats, Terriers such as the now extinct White Terriers were bred into these dogs. Terriers are known for their drive and focus, making them excellent 'tools' in the war against the 'deadly' rats!
Believing that the origins of this trend started in Staffordshire, England, the name 'Staffordshire Bull and Terrier' was born!
The breed's origins is sadly based on a lot of speculations; some questioning the use of these 'Bull-Dogs', others supporting it.
When colonists settled in America, they brought their dogs with them. While dog-fighting was a favorite 'sport' in America, these dogs soon once again had a lot of other 'uses' too. The origins of their breed made them perfect hunting dogs and their faithfulness could be a life-saver in Indian 'territories'.
Eventually the Pitbull Terrier was born as the attempt to create the ultimate canine gladiator. But their soft, amiable and gentle temperament towards their humans also made them perfect family dogs. The 'Gameness' bred into them, defined as the will to finish a task no matter what, would make them great protectors.
This 'Gameness' also led to another quality that went way beyond something vital in a dog fight:
A dog that has the tenacity to hold on to a wild bull or else and a extremely high tolerance for pain, is less likely to bite out of pain or fear!

So while some wanted a fierce, unstoppable fighter, others used those trades for a wide variety of purposes. But in colonial America where needs directed the play, the lines between fighting or non-fighting dogs were never clear. Dogs had to be able to multi-task to meet their owner's needs!

Arguments continue about the relations between the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Pitbull Terrier. While the link in between both is wage or somewhat lost, one could say that they have never been 'brothers', but are in fact 'cousins'. The 'split' between the two breeds was extended when the AKC recognized the Pitbull as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and thus led to the two separate breeds. The Pitbull is not recognized by the AKC, but was one of the first to be recognized by the UKC!

Fact is that these intended canine gladiators have much wider uses than the barbaric and primitive use of dog-fighting.

By WWI the Pitbull was a popular and widely loved family pet. But the breed can also show many heroes in their history.

Sgt. Stubby was a 1917 war hero that had started out as a mascot and became a hero for rescuing several of his fellow soldiers. He even captured a German Spy during the trench war in France while he was assigned to the 26th Yankee Division. His bust was donated to the Smithsonian for historical purposes.
They appeared in both TV advertisements and some of our favorite TV shows; such as Pete from the 'Our Gang' show and Laura Ingalls' (Little House in the Prairie) Jack.
President Theodore Roosevelt and other famous people like Helen Keller owned a Pitbull.
It was also the first dog to cross America in a car (a Pitbull named Bud with his 'driver' Horatio Jackson and their assistant/'bicycle' mechanic Sewall Crocker)! Bud's goggles were later also donated to the Smithsonian.

Pitbulls are an amazing breed. They have a great variety of talents and character trades that can be shaped in anything you want them to be.
Their stamina can make them a great athlete and exercise partner for marathon runners or experienced hikers; a sport also in their league due to their courage.
Their agility makes them great for sports that require such trade; their stamina helping the 'issue'.
Their loyalty and gentleness makes them a perfect family pet. The 'Gameness' bred into them will make them protect you with their last drop of blood!
Their intelligence allows them to be easily trained by somebody who has the will to meet their strong will in kind!

I have experienced Pitbulls in all kinds of sports and jobs. I know of at least two that are working as therapy dogs; easily capable of adjusting to the needs and moods of those they encounter. I have seen them do well as search dogs for both Rescue and Police work.
For my children they are simply some of their best friends; leading to many pictures of my youngest daughter peacefully and trustingly sleeping on them or with them in their dog beds.

Any dog will become what we make out of them; intended or not! Until we outlaw the barbaric and primitive entertainment of dog-fighting, make it illegal for criminals to own any breed, and place standards and taxes on any kind of dog breeding activity, we will continue to put ourselves in danger; not by a dog, but by the irresponsible person that will misuse it. And this is not limited to any breed!

Any breed of dog can become a danger when bred or treated wrong! Any breed of dog can become a beloved, save and valued family pet if bred and treated correctly!

The gun doesn't kill, its the person that holds it!

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    • Cat R profile imageAUTHOR

      Cat R 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      I think the biggest part is to keep an intelligent pup busy. Like Labs and other working dogs, they get bored and creative. My kids are the same. If you don't challenge them, they will challenge themselves.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      I've known both sweet and aggressive Pits -- a marvelous breed that requires extra attention to their heritage and habits. I totally agree with you that humans often make the difference in animal behaviors. Great Hub and voted up. Best, Sis

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I had a female pit for a couple of years, and I dearly loved her, but I have to admit that she was very aggressive and dangerous to other people and other dogs.

      She finally died of a lung disease.

    • picklesandrufus profile image

      picklesandrufus 

      6 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      great hub!! Good historical background info. on the this breed. I agree, it is usually a human problem and not a dog problem.

    • Cat R profile imageAUTHOR

      Cat R 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      It's really just my experience. For a while I had to keep the girls outside because they hated my cats; despite being raised with them. But when Ginger hurt herself and came inside, she learned to get along with cats because I asked her to. It amazes me what a dog will do to make you love them!

    • profile image

      BettyJeen 

      6 years ago from Uninted States of America, State of Alabama

      You are Completely right "Any breed of dog can become a danger when bred or treated wrong! Any breed of dog can become a beloved, save and valued family pet if bred and treated correctly!"

      I have had great experiences training pit bulls and other bull dogs. From my experiences with dogs I believe pit bulls may actually have more empathy than other dog breeds. They are very intelligent and easy to train which is why I believe it is so easy to make one mean. You really get what you want out of a Pit Bull. Great Hub! I hope lots of people read this.

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