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Pit bull

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A pit bull is a member of any of a number of breeds of dogs developed from the English Bulldog. Breeds recognized as pit bulls include the American Bulldog, American Pit Bull Terrier, and American Staffordshire Terrier, although the name is also often used to refer to crossbreeds and other breeds of similar characteristics.

The pit bull is an American creation, and should not be confused with the English Bull Terrier or the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Pit bulls have long been considered to be an ideal family pet, and are recommended to this day by the American Kennel Club as an especially good dog for children. Famous members of this breed include Petey from Our Gang, Nipper from the RCA logo, and Tige from Buster Brown[?] shoe advertisements.

In the 1980s, a series of well-publicized attacks on humans by aggressive members of the breed occurred. Some jurisdictions responded by placing restrictions on the ownership of pit bulls, such as the Dangerous Dogs Act[?] in the UK.

Characteristics

Pit bulls are medium sized, solidly built, short coated dogs that require little grooming. They have a friendly temperament and are noted for their attachment to their masters as well as for their courage. Although they are short, they have extremely high muscle density and are generally capable of executing a standing four foot vertical jump. Pit bulls have been bred to have an extreme tolerance for pain.

Pit bulls, like many dog breeds, can be defensive towards their territory. Like all dog breeds, some members may display an inherent distrust of other animals (including humans) not perceived as being part of their pack, and a propensity to attack any such animals who venture into their territory.

Pit bulls can make very good pets, but great care must be taken should one choose to care for one. They are not recommended as a first dog for a new owner, and like many breeds they require training and socialization to become well adjusted adult canines.

The American Canine Temperament Testing Association rates Pit bulls as having a 95% passing rate on temperament tests, as opposed to 77% for all breeds in general. Pit bull proponents claim that the aggressive personality traits present in some pit bulls (and many other dogs) can be subdued through proper training and owner supervision of the pit bull.

History

In Elizabethan England, the sport of bullbaiting[?] was a popular form of entertainment. Trained mastiffs[?], a type of dog then used to hunt oxen and boar, would be set upon a tethered bull for the amusement of a paying audience. These dogs became known as bulldogs, and were the ancestors of many related modern breeds.

In 1835, bullbaiting was abolished by Parliament as cruel, and the custom died out over the following years. In its place the sport of dog fighting took hold, and it is commonly believed that breeders crossed bulldog and terrier blood to produce a better fighter.

During the mid-1800s, immigration to the United States from Ireland and England brought an influx of these dogs to America, where the strain diverged once again as new traits were selected for by breeders.

Safety and legal issues

Of the 199 dog attack fatalities in the USA between 1979 and 1996, pit bulls were responsible for 60 attacks - just under a third. The next most dangerous group were rottweilers[?], responsible for 29 attacks (statistics from the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00047723.htm)) .

According to The Age, pit bull terriers have been responsible for four of the seven dog attacks in which Australians have died between 1991 and 2002. The Endangered Dog Breeds Association of Australia, however, denies these figures, and claims that pit bull terriers have caused no known fatalities, and that only 8 of 750 investigated bitings involved this breed. Most Australian state governments have introduced new legislation specific to pit bulls.

Many jurisdictions have outlawed possession of pit bulls, either the pit bull breed specifically, or in addition to other breeds that are regarded as dangerous. The extent to which banning a particular breed is effective in reducing dog bite fatalities, however, is contested. Some maintain that pit bull attacks are directly attributable to irresponsible owners, rather than to any inherent property of the breed itself. Others maintain that pit bulls as a breed are more unpredictable and dangerous than other dogs, even when properly trained. Still others argue that that banning particular types of dog will simply result in aggressive dog owners looking for similar characteristics in other breeds instead.



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