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Hunting boar in the colonies. Primarily used as an animal which could pin and control large and dangerous beasts such as boar, bear and bull, dogfighting was never the original purpose of the bulldog. Dog fighters will argue this point, but the evidence is quite clear. The animals pictured here could enter the ring and win as representatives of the American pit bull today. 
The History of the American Pit Bull - without the nonsense!

There is SO MUCH nonsense out there about this breed. From "there is no such breed as pit bull" to "they are a recent breed". I am a serious student of this breed, and to the best of my ability, this is the history I have been able to document. Of course, none of us were there, so we must rely on historical info and common sense.

Fact: the dog called "English bulldog" today is a show only animal developed well AFTER baiting was banned.

 Dogs with the bracycephalic nose and short, wide, deformed body of the show bulldog never were typical of animals used for bullbaiting.

 Rather, the true bull-dog was a 40 to 65 pound dog, long of leg, with a strong, medium, working muzzle, and a long, thin tapering tail. The watercolor above is by Thomas Rowlandson [1756-1827], who sketched scenes of English life, and often drew butchers, baiters, dog fighters and their dogs. The above is entitled The Bull Bait and shows the riff raff typical of baiting sports and their bull-dogs; identical to today's American pit bull. 
Back in the 1980's, I was sitting in a Washington state legislative hearing concerning the possible statewide banning of all bulldog breeds. I was sitting next to the then vice-president of the American Kennel Club. When he stood to speak, his words burned into my memory as some of the most inaccurate, ignorant and snobbish I had ever heard.

 "There is," he told the lawmakers looking to him for accurate information, "absolutely no such breed as the 'pit bull'; it is not registered with the American Kennel Club."

 As I stared at him, dumbstruck really, I couldn't help but think of the 300 plus breeds which do not happen to grace the stud books of the American Kennel Club. This man certainly did not know his American Staffordshire history - that much was evident. From whence did he think the show-bred brother to the pit bull came from? Was he unaware that the AKC had opened its "pure" stud books to this "non-breed", the "pit bull", not once, but three times (the last time as late as the 1970's)? And yet now, like a Peter, this man was denying the breed which formed the basis for at least three AKC registered breeds, its very identity.

 Was it intentional, or truly ignorance? It certainly could have been either, for few breeds have such a straightforward history tangled into knots so fouled that many of its own fanciers can't unravel it.

MYTH: The "Pit Bull" is not a purebred breed.

FACT: Pit bulls are actually one of the oldest and certainly one of the purest of breeds. Pit bull pedigrees date into the late 1700's, something very few other breeds can boast of. Pit bulls have been a registered breed longer than most AKC breeds have been in existence. Louis Colby's father, John Colby, gave his son a handwritten pedigree of Colby's Blind Jack, an animal born in 1932. The pedigree stretches back more than 50 years, naming, in Louis Colby's words, "the best fighting dogs in England and America in the past fifty years." In the mid 1880's, the breed was already old. 

MYTH:  "Pit Bull" is not a single breed.  

Fact: The media lumps all bulldog breeds and several mastiff breeds together as "pit bulls" because "pit bulls" makes new more sexy. Unethical reporters and "scientists" will lump unrelated breeds as diverse as cane corso mastiffs, presa mastiffs and animals over 100 pounds as "pit bulls". There are many "knock off" breeds, but only ONE true "pit bull", and that breed is now called the American pit bull terrier, though, funny enough, it is neither American nor a terrier! (That's another story!)

MYTH: The term "Pit Bull" means all the bull and terrier breeds. 

Fact: The term "pit bull" is the shortened form of the name American Pit Bull Terrier, the name by which the breed is registered with the United Kennel Club and American Dog Breeders Association. The term "pit bull" is correctly applied only to dogs of pure American pit bull blood or registry; not to American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers,  so called "American bullies" and mixes of these breeds or any other breed. 

MYTH: Pit bulls are a terrier and are part English bulldog. 

Fact: Actually, the breed know as the "English" bulldog is a relatively recently developed animal designed strictly for the show ring. In fact, "bulldogs" were not even created until several years AFTER bull baiting (the purpose for which it was supposed to have been bred) was banned and discontinued in the United Kingdom. So, it is impossible for the pit bull to have been developed from a breed younger than itself. In fact, the show "bulldog" is developed from the original working bulldog - the pit bull. 

There is some terrier blood in the modern pit bull. Terrier blood was added, just as mastiff blood was also added. This explains why some lines of pit bulls are quite "bully" in build, and at the larger end of the standard, while others are quite "light" in build, and may weigh as little as 25 pounds. However, the pit bull is a "bulldog" in action and appearance. He is a gripping dog - not a terrier (which means "Earth dog" which pursues its quarry underground. 

When you see references to "bulldogs" from the middle ages, this is the animal they are talking about - a pit bull. This old painting is entitled "Bulldog" and shows an animal representative of the breed at that time. Notice long, straight legs, medium muzzle, and no undershot mouth. 
(LEFT) One use for the pit bull in the UK was hunting badgers. Here two boys prepare to let their eager dog go. This dog, from the early 1800s, shows that the "pit bull" appearance was already well set. Not many dogs have remained as close to original type as this breed. 
This early picture of a "bull-dog" (pit bull type) bitch again shows the features of today's pit bull; strong, medium muzzle, long athletic legs and medium build.