Last updated: 2/1/2011
Presented here is a thorough document on the history of the American
Pit Bull Terrier (Pit Bull), along with bibliography to enable easy
research for the interested reader.
All Pit Bull parents and enthusiasts are encouraged to further study
the history of this most fascinating breed, for in its history lies the
essence of the animal - an understanding of its history will give one
an understanding of the breed.
As far back as one cares to go in recorded history, one will find reference
in both word and art of molossoid dogs that were used for fighting,
hunting, and war. There were different "types" of molossi, spread about
the world, used for similar functions and these dogs evolved into our
modern day mastiff and bulldog breeds. It is unknown if these types
sprang up individually, or from one main ancestor. Some believe that this
type of dog originally came from an area close to China.
British Chief Caractacus was defeated by Emperor Claudius of the Roman
Empire in 50 AD. The Romans were so impressed by the fierce fighting
dogs they met when they landed in Britain that they began importing the
dogs back to Rome for use in the great arena, alongside the other dogs
they already possessed for such uses. It seems reasonable to assume
that the British dogs were at some points crossed into the Roman dogs.
Ancestors of these dogs were exported to all parts of the continent,
including France and to Spain where they became renowned fighting
dogs. Later some of these dogs found their way back to Britain. A variety
of breeds of mastiff and bulldog-type were scattered about, and most
likely contributed to the creation of the bulldog that was to be one of the
main ingredients used in the development of the Pit Bull.
Circa 1406 Edmond de Langley, Duke of York, wrote a treatise entitled
"The Mayster of the Game and of Hawks" in which he described the
"Alaunt" or "Allen" dog (a descendant of the ancient molossoid dogs),
which was the popular baiting dog of the time because of its
tenaciousness and strength. In a 1585 painting, dogs described as
Alaunts that look very similar to modern day Pit Bulls, only of a larger
size, are shown hunting wild hogs.
The name "bulldog" was first mentioned in print in 1631. Later, dogs
described as bulldogs were used to bait bull and bear. These bulldogs
are most assuredly the descendants of the Alaunt. A letter written in
Spain in 1632 by an Englishman named Prestwich Eaton to his friend
George Wellingham who was in London, asked for a "good mastiff dog
and two bulldogs." This gives indication that a split had occurred and the
bulldog had already formed into a distinct type by this time.
By viewing art, we can see two distinct types of bulldog-like dogs. Some
are more low-slung, with undershot jaws, heavier-boned, and broader. It
is to be assumed that this is the prototype from which the modern-day
AKC Bulldog was drawn upon, having been created by the crossing of the
Alaunt with a Chinese brachycephalic breed Pai Dog. However, also to be
noted are bulldogs in art that are strikingly similar to modern day Pit
Bulls, with less-exaggerated features and longer legs. Might these be the
main ancestors of the current day Pit Bull? It would seem likely. It must
be noted that "bulldogs" at this time were not dogs of any particular
strain or breed, but rather a type of dog with certain traits that was used
for certain things. Dogs which possessed more Pit Bull-like features went
on to become the Pit Bull breed after being mixed with terriers, while the
more "bulldoggy" bulldogs were used in creation of the brachycephalic
breeds (Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, etc).
Bulldogs were used for all manner of work including baiting, fighting,
stock work, and farm dog, as well as companion animal. They were an
agreeable dog, capable of extreme ferociousness towards other animals
but unwavering loyalty and gentleness towards humans. They were a
breed which was required to demonstrate a certain level of aggression
directed towards other animals, but were routinely used in pairs to bait
animals, so overt aggression towards others of their same species was
not an extreme trait.
Continue on to part 2--->
From Homan's A
of Fighting with a
molossoid with a
molossoid dog, an
Here is a depiction
of a bulldog doing
what this type of
dog was created to
do - bait bulls.
Bulldogs were one
of the breeds used
to create the
Bulldog history is
applied to Pit Bulls.
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