There’s a lot of confusion out there these days as to what kinds of dogs are actually Pit Bulls, and a lot of BSL (breed-specific legislation) that’s designed to eliminate breeds that fit the profile, whether or not they’re really Pit Bulls or Pit Bull types. I talked about this in some detail in Breed Stereotyping – Why It’s Harmful, and Why We Need to Fight It. I have to say, though, when I started looking even deeper into the topic, I was beyond shocked by how many dogs are identified, often incorrectly, as belonging to the catch-all “Pit Bull” category.
Why is it that people can’t seem to come to any agreement as to what exactly constitutes a Pit Bull? I mean, if you’re so hell-bent on having a type of dog banned, shouldn’t you at least know what you’re talking about? What really hit me was the fact that Boxers – yes, my Janice and Leroy, the sweetest, most gentle dogs in the world – are among the breeds that are so often misidentified, and could end up being euthanized in certain jurisdictions. Honestly, right now, I’m just shaking my head in disbelief. So, let’s talk about certain breeds of dogs, whether or not they’re actually “Pit Bulls”, and what might earn them the name.
What Is a Pit Bull?
There are very few breeds that actually legitimately fall under the category of “Pit Bull.” The American Pit Bull Terrier is one such breed. The trouble is that the breed also very much resembles several other types of dogs, and people can end up losing their pets due to breed bans simply because of resemblance and misidentification. A great book by Bronwen Dickey covers its history quiet well. A great read on the history of the American Pit Bull.
So, is it a Pit Bull, or not? The American Pit Bull Terrier is actually a very friendly dog, weighs no more than 60 pounds, and is good with kids. Many larger breeds, cross-breeds and mixed breeds also resemble the American Pit Bull Terrier except when it comes to size. There are people out there breeding absolute brutes, often for criminal purposes, and they don’t even resemble American Pit Bulls all that much except when it comes to markings.
Just as an example, if you were to take a look at the Vicktory Dogs, the dogs that were owned for fighting by that piece of human scum and lousy quarterback, Michael Vick, you would not see too many that actually have the characteristics of the true American Pit Bull Terrier. They’re just big dogs.
The media doesn’t help either. If it’s big, and has a large snout, and ideally docked ears, then it’s a Pit Bull. Except that it isn’t. So, let’s take a look at the breeds that are most often misidentified as Pit Bulls.
1. Presa Canario
The Presa Canario is large dog that can weigh up to 150 pounds, and has a mastiff-like appearance. This type of dog is usually employed guarding or herding livestock, can be aggressive, and is best only handled by an experienced owners. Unlike many large breeds, the Presa Canario actually knows that he is big. He can be aggressive.
The Pit Bull, on the other hand, is smaller and friendlier. If you see a very large “Pit Bull” and it appears to be aggressive, there’s a good chance that it’s actually a Pit Bull crossed with a larger, more aggressive breed like the Presa Canario. A great book by Jack Allan covers all the activities and tricks that you can implement to keep your Presa Canario in shape and agile.
2. American Bulldog
The American Bulldog is bigger than the Pit Bull, by a good 40 pounds, usually. This is a working dog and ideal family pet. There are two types of American Bulldogs: the standard and bully. The bully has a shorter muzzle than the standard, and is stockier. Author Mark Manfield covers the American Bulldog in his latest book. A definite must read for American Bulldog lovers.
The Pit Bull does have traits in common with the American Bulldog but is considerably smaller.
3. Bull Terrier
You might remember the Bull Terrier as Spuds McKenzie from the Budweiser commercials. This dog is also frequently confused with the American Pit Bull, but he is smaller. He’s also considerably less gentle, as he has a very high prey drive which makes him dangerous around smaller animals. He’s not a good choice for novice dog owners. Jane Killion is a professional trainer and breeds and shows bull terriers. She covers her training methodology in her latest book When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs. A definite must read.
Why anyone would confuse the Bull Terrier with an American Pit Bull is open to question, as his head is very distinctively shaped and his eyes are considerably more triangular. But hey, if we say it’s a Pit Bull, then it’s a Pit Bull and we should ban it.
4. Cane Corso
A lot of people mispronounce this dog’s name, pronouncing the first part the same way they would in “candy cane.” It’s actually “kah nay.” But hey, potayto, potahto, right? Whatever way you want to pronounce it, this dog is a lot bigger than the American Pit Bull. The Pit weighs in at 60 pounds tops, but the Cane Corso is 70 at minimum. Author Mark Manfield covers the Cane Corso in his latest book the Cane Corso Bible. A definite must read for Cane Corso lovers.
The Cane Corso actually has a bad reputation almost equivalent to that of the Pit Bull. People believe that these dogs were bred for fighting, but they actually originated as guard dogs and are not generally known to be aggressive. Because of their size, though, they are best left to experienced handlers.
Yup, my babies. This breed is very popular, and intelligent, and good with children. So why are Boxers confused with Pit Bulls? It might have something to do with the color. Boxers can be fawn, multi-colored, brindle and even white. Boxers are high-energy dogs and can be very protective. They also need a lot of exercise.
In temperament, the Boxer and the American Pit Bull are similar, but in appearance, the Pit Bull is smaller and not at all shaped like a Boxer. Author Karla Spitzer in her book: “The Everything Boxer Book” writes about everything you need to know in raising, training, and caring for your Boxer.
6. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
This dog actually does resemble the American Pit Bull to a greater extent than most of the dogs we’re talking about. In fact, some people believe that the breeds are essentially the same. They do share characteristics in common, in that the “Staffy” is great with kids and other animals.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier also has a very low aggression level, and typically responds well to strangers. If you want to learn and read more Jane Hogg Frome is the author of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Comprehensive Owner’s Guide).
7. Dogo Argentino
This dog is large and well-muscled, and usually white. The breed originated in Argentina, and is still not all that common outside that country. The Dogo Argentino is a very active breed that needs a lot of exercise, and it is also possessed of a high level of loyalty toward its humans.
This breed is often misidentified as being bred for fighting, and it is true that they are prized for pit fighting. However, the breed was originally used for hunting. The Dogo Argentino is often misidentified as a Pit Bull even though it typically weighs about 40 pounds more and has a very different appearance. Michael Morris author of “Dogo Argentino Complete Guide” covers extensively this breed in his book. Michael covers everything from training, puppies, breeders, dog care and so much more. Make sure to pick up a copy of either his ebook or hard cover on Amazon.
8. Bull Mastiff
The Bull Mastiff is often mistaken for other breeds, including the American Pit Bull. If you saw the movie “Turner and Hooch,” you may have thought that you were looking at a Bull Mastiff, but, in fact, the dog in that movie was a Dogue de Bordeaux, otherwise known as a French Mastiff.
The Bull Mastiff is highly intelligent and very powerful, as well as being independent and protective. If you’re in trouble, you’ll have no better friend than a Bull Mastiff, because he will fight to the death for someone he loves. Because of his size, though, the Bull Mastiff requires a firm handler. The Bull Mastiff looks nothing like a Pit Bull. Carol Beans “Everyone’s Guide to the Bullmastiff” highlights the BullMastiff’s individuality as a breed and what you need to know to care for such a highly intelligent and beautiful breed. Make sure to pick up a copy of either the kindle edition or paperback edition.
9. Olde English Bulldogge
Kind of a funny way to spell things, isn’t it? But I guess that’s how they did it back then. You might be surprised to know that the Olde English Bulldogge is actually a fairly new breed, created in the 1970s in an attempt to bring back the old bulldog that was popular in the 1800s. The breed was created from a mix of the English Bulldog, American Bulldog, Bull Mastiff, and the American Pit Bull Terrier (which might account in some measure for why it is so often mistaken for this breed).
The Olde English Bulldogge is an athletic dog, well-muscled and tenacious. Although he is similar to the American Pit Bull, his head is larger and his muzzle is shorter. Paul Pearce author of “Olde English Bulldogge Training” shares his knowledge on the tricks and tips required to house train such and athletic and well-muscled dog, that requires daily exercise as part of his/her daily regimen.
10. Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
Unless you’re a total dog fanatic, you might never even have heard of the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog. It’s a fairly old breed, and is one of the ancestors of the American Pit Bull Terrier. Alapaha Blue Bloods are loyal and loving, as are most of the bully breeds, and good with children. This breed, though, has to be well socialized in order to prevent aggression.
In contrast, even without training, American Pit Bull Terriers will not typically become aggressive. Martha Hall authors a great book “Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog (Otto) Training Guide”. In this guide you will learn the tools needed to socialize and train this old breed.
So What’s the Takeaway Here?
You’ve probably heard the expression, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.” When you consider statements like that in the context of dogs, it might be something more along the lines of, “If it looks a bit like a Pit Bull, weighs about 60 pounds like a Pit Bull but could also be a lot heavier, and has about as much resemblance to a Pit Bull as I do to an orangutan, you can still call it a Pit Bull and try to get it banned in your community.”
The thing is American Pit Bulls aren’t big dogs, and they aren’t mean dogs. So why are we doing the equivalent of “photoshopping” dogs, adding pounds here and characteristics there, and then saying “It’s a Pit Bull”? Pits, Pit-types, Pit-mixes – you can’t tell from looking. Even veterinarians and shelter workers can’t tell, and yet thousands of dogs are being banned in certain municipalities, or worse, euthanized in animal shelters. Families lose their dogs, and dogs lose loving families just because someone has taken a look and said “Kill it.”
I can’t even begin to say how much this hurts my heart. And even when the breed is correctly identified, where do we get off saying, “We’ve decided that this breed of dog is a menace to society” when all the evidence seems to suggest that it clearly isn’t? It’s like that sketch from the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “How can you tell that she’s a witch?” The response is “She looks like one!”
If you have breed-specific legislation in your community, or if it looks like it might be put in place, please, do everything you can to fight it. It’s wrong. That’s really all that needs to be said: it’s just wrong. It’s no different from genocide.
I love dogs. All dogs. And it just kills me to think that someday, the people who are coming for the American Pit Bulls are going to come for dogs like my Janice and Leroy. Or my friend Neila’s Rottweilers. Or any other dog that somehow makes its way onto the “undesirable list.”
We all need to band together before it’s too late, and stop this banning and murder of certain breeds. I wonder sometimes, when people are screaming for breed bans, which of their rights they’d like to see legislated away. If you’re worried about your rights, the first place you should make a stand is where people are trying to deny you the right to have the canine companion of your choice, often based on nothing more than “It looks like a Pit Bull.” Enough already. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in his famous statement on gun control, “You will get my Boxer when you pry his collar from my cold, dead hands.” I hope that everyone reading this post feels the same way, and will act accordingly if and when the time comes.