The year is 1835. The every-day hustle and bustle of England’s streets quiets a little; the popular sport called ‘Bull Baiting’ has finally been deemed cruel and outlawed. Profit has now become a scarce commodity for promoters of such violent games.
Thus a new breed of gambling and entertainment was conceived- pit fighting. What species better suited to the task then the fiercely loyal, vastly intelligent and highly trainable dog? No other animal conceivable was better suited to the ‘game’. Fiercer and stronger beasts undoubtedly existed at the time, but none that wouldn’t turn on handler just the same as opponent with deathly ferocity.
Dogs held another valuable trait to these ‘spectators’- they could be biologically ‘molded’ into an ever more effective killer through careful, selective breeding and thus genetic enhancement of certain desired personality traits, and the degradation of others undesired. Only the strongest, fiercest, most agile gladiators were allowed to breed together, thus producing offspring hopefully prone to strength and aggression. What progenitors better suited to begin the line then the already tough and popular Bulldogs, no longer able to entertain via violent slaughter of bulls? Thus the Pit-Bull was born.
One name existed, a name known to nearly every American living today. One person who attempted this same theory with people. That name was Adolf Hitler.
What Most People Don’t Know
Breeders sought another trait, one often held in even higher esteem than all others- a fierce yet peaceful loyalty toward humans. Handlers wanted the ability to enter a ring and treat their injured combatants without worry of injury themselves. They sought a fighter with a natural, unmatched violence toward it’s own species, yet ever peaceful and loving nature toward human owner.
In other words- these early dogs, and all those hence, were specifically bred with natural tenderness toward people, not the violent one much of today’s culture would have you believe. The current Pit-bull is no different.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century and immigration that this breed came to America, of course bringing ‘pit- fighting’ with it. A mixture of English and Irish stock became known as the ‘American Pit- Bull Terrier’.
A Peaceful Nature
It was no surprise that by 1900 these guys earned a reputation as a courageous and loyal companion to both adults and children, even acquiring the nickname ‘nanny dogs’.
During the first half of the 20th’ century, Pit-Bulls were the dog of choice, extremely popular and very well-liked, a solid reputation. This was the first breed to earn military medals; one particular- Sgt. Stubby, having saved his entire platoon from a poison gas attack during WW1. However, all this fame all but faded completely after WW2, replaced with a vision of violence and destruction.
By the 1980s, the companion history of the pit bull was forgotten, and the myth of the dangerous fighting dog took hold. It is uncertain exactly why this decade saw the pit bull suddenly rise to a new, less pleasant sort of fame, but many trace the entire trend to a single, ultra-sensationalistic Sports Illustrated cover article (pitbull.org).
Half-Truths and Ignorance
You can view that particular article from the link above. Like so many fierce advocates against the breed, this article is both a half-truth and piece of trash, selectively leaving out certain facts to promote the ‘vicious animal’ ideology.
These dogs have a natural tenderness toward humans, a desire to co-exist with us peacefully rather than pointless violence. However, any animal can become aggressive and ultimately dangerous if either provoked or raised to believe they should be by human owners.
Of course any dog is going to lash out in defense if it perceives a mortal threat- and is right to do so; you can’t expect any creature, animal or human, to not react if the other option is believed to lead to it’s own death. Dogs are not people, and can’t understand why we may do or say certain things; simply aren’t capable of understanding our diverse nature. People, however, are leagues more intelligent than any animal and easily capable of understanding dogs- if they bothered to try. It should be our responsibility to account for them, not theirs to account for us.
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