History of the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT)

The APBT is a descendant of the original old English bulldog who was used for bull baiting, historically the breed was bred purely for working and performance. The exact origin of the APBT is often a hot topic of debate among breed enthusiasts, but it has been established that the breed’s roots can be traced back at least 150 years ago to England. During the late 18th and early 19th century, the sport of bull baiting was very popular, and dogs were bred to excel in this sport. The same type of dog was also used by hunters to take down large game as well as to work in the butchers’ yard and on farms to bring down difficult to control cattle.

At the time the term bulldog did not refer to any particular breed but to a type of dog who was a descendant of the old mastiff type dogs who were prized for their bull baiting abilities. The modern APBT closer resembles the old working bulldog bred for performance.

When the sport of bull baiting was banned in 1835, dog fighting arose to take its place. This involved matching dogs against each other in a battle to the death. The breed’s name is a misnomer as the breed did not in fact originate in America, but in fact in Ireland and England. The APBT’s ancestors were imported to the United States in the mid-19th century. Once the breed arrived in the USA it changed slightly from what was being bred in Ireland and in England. In America these dogs were not only used for pit fighting but also as catch dogs (dogs that are used to forcibly retrieve stray cattle and pigs) and family guardians. In 1898, Chauncy Bennet formed the United Kennel Club, its sole purpose was to register pit bull terriers, this was because the American Kennel Club wanted nothing to do with these dogs. In 1909 Guy McCord started another breed registry, the American Dog Breeders Association also known as the ADBA. Today the ADBA’s main focus is on the APBT. When fighting fell out of favour the ADBA introduced shows and today Confirmation Shows are used to judge dogs against what good sporting dog should look like. Although underground and illegal, dog fighting does continue still today.