By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT
This week I want to explain, or should I say clarify, what is a pit bull. As mentioned last week in Pitbull: A Job Title, the now infamous dog breed is poorly misunderstood, and the media's fear-mongering tactics keep adding to the confusion. People have become witch hunters wanting to behead a dog breed without actually knowing or understanding it.
First and foremost, Pitbulls are not a CKC or AKC recognized breed. In reality, pitbull is a job description. Pitbulls are crosses between bulldogs and terriers. These mixed breeds were originally bred to fight in pits against bulls, bears, or other dogs. So why pitbull? In essence, a pit is an in-ground boxing rink and bull refers to either the source of the breed (bulldog) or job description (bullfighting). No one is exactly sure which came first.
What we do know, and people tend to forget, is that the ancestor of these mutts belongs to the Terrier group, and if you ask me, the wonderful thing about crossing terriers and bulldogs is the end result. When bread together, the outcome is a highly multi-functional all-terrain dog. Terriers have an endless supply of energy, motivation, are extremely intelligent and athletic. That being said, the only recognized breeds are the American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
If I were to pick an analogy to describe Staffordshires and Bull terriers, I would compare them to football players. NFL athletes are muscular, flexible, agile, highly motivated, extremely smart, good problem solvers, play with full-body contact, sprint, and are loyal to their team. It's not surprising to see the same characteristics in Staffies and Bullies.
Pitbulls, if you still want to call them by their job title, are fully functional MVPs - Most Valuable Pooch. Staffordshires always wait for group decisions and directions, so too, do football players. When the quarterback tells his wide receiver to catch the next pass, his teammate runs and jumps without regard to his own safety. If the coach asks for a Dallas or Zone Blitz defence, players huddle up and charge with full-body contact; Staffies and Bullies do the exact same.
Football players and Staffordshire breeds are one and the same; they play, adapt, respond, and problem-solve while interacting, moving, running, or jumping. Both human and dog players make decisions within a fraction of a second only to ask questions once the play is over. Injury is never on their minds as they catapult themselves into the air. No other breed in history has more airtime than the Staffordshire and Bull Terrier.
The characteristic I love most about Staffies and NFL players is their ability to move their bodies in ways that seem to defy gravity all the while catching a ball. Seriously, there's no other dog breed capable of such sportsmanship. To see an American Staffordshire Terrier leap a few meters in the air to catch a swinging tire is by no means short of a miracle. However, like other terriers, Staffordshires and Bull Terriers tend to dislike other dogs and are often highly prey-driven. There's nothing wrong with high prey drive if you know how to contain and direct it. I often say, if Jack Russells were thirty pounds bigger, they would be the BSL* target breed, not Staffies.
I think people have come to fear pit bulls not because they cause more bites than other breeds, but rather because they're fearless and highly motivated. Media propaganda contributes to mass fear by writing headlines like a vicious pit bull attack; conversely, reporters omit such words when a Golden Retriever is involved in a bite case. When other breeds bite, headlines often read dog bite or my favourite dog incident. One doesn't need to consult infinite amounts of data to see the media is biased towards Staffordshire and American Staffordshire terriers.
Maybe one day journalists will educate themselves and stop propagating breedism. Till then, I can only do what I do best, educate. A pit bull is not a recognized breed, it's a dog people originally created to fight. I'm totally against this practice, thus, when people cram breeds that directly or indirectly look like Staffordshire or American Staffordshire Terriers together, I cringe and bite my inner lip. Staffies are athletes, not murderers. Yes, they can be turned into killers, but so too can Greyhounds, Great Danes, Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, Yorkshires, and Chihuahuas.
The time has come for journalists to get educated, so I'm directly calling out to the media to do their homework, contact professionals, and report events without discrimination. When you report bite cases, use the same language. I'd love to see a headline with Golden Retriever viciously attacks neighbour's daughter. Obviously, I'm being sarcastic; I really don't want to read that headline. What I mean by my ludicrous statement is reporters report news equally or don't report it at all.
- AKC Terrier Group. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/groups/terrier/ 10-2015
- CKC Terrier Group. Retrieved from http://www.ckc.ca/en/Choosing-a-Dog/Choosing-a-Breed/Terriers 10-2015
- Cleveland Brown Football Jump. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfDS5C-jQ5A 10-2015
* Breed Specific Legislation