When Pitbulls are being talked about, the first thing that usually comes to the mind of most people is a dog fight. This is not entirely an unwarranted notion as the ancestors of Pitbulls have been used as fighting dogs even in the time Ancient Rome. Sadly enough, the history of early Pitbulls in dog fight arenas did not end when the colisseums of Rome shut down.
The Early History of Pitbulls
In 1066, the invasion of the Normans in Britain brought about the introduction of a new dog sport called baiting. This game originated from butchers unleashing their dogs called Bullenbeissers (ancestors of Mastiffs) on uncontrollable bulls that were meant for slaughter. As baiting became a popular sport among the masses, early Britons added some variety to the game by using bears, boars, and other animals as bait.
The game of baiting was banned by the British Parliament in 1835 but this did very little to stop early Britons from devising new games wherein dogs were thrown into the pit. Thus came the sport called ratting. In ratting, two dogs are thrown in a pit full of rats and spectators placed bets on which dog could kill the most number of rats in the allotted time. Coincidentally, pit games are the reason why the word “pit” was put in Pitbull.
As time went by, the public drew their interest to dog fights. Dog fights were also considered illegal which is why events had to be kept a secret. The size of the bulldogs they were using for the games quickly became a problem as they had to find a place big enough for the dogs to fight and could accommodate spectators without drawing the attention of authorities. Thus, they developed a new dog breed by crossbreeding bulldogs with native terriers. The new breed of dogs had the same aggressive behavior and stamina but with a smaller, albeit muscular, built.
At that time, the dogs were merely referred to as bull-and-terriers but they are considered to be the first line of Pitbull Terriers. The first Pitbull Terriers were specifically bred and raised to fight other dogs. Unfortunately, this trait has been carried on to modern Pitbull Terriers which is why early socialization is required if they are to be placed in a home with other pets.
Bull-and-terriers were raised rather cruelly as they were limited to very little human interaction, kept in darkness, and were given a diet of blood and raw meat. Their training consisted of running on a makeshift treadmill with a small animal in front of them, barely within their reach. If they did well in their training exercise, they were allowed to kill and eat the animal as a form of reward. These dogs were expected to pounce on their opponents and attack without hesitation. More often than not, the losing dog dies in the arena and if one does survive, it is usually killed after the match as it no longer considered useful by their owners.
It wasn’t until the 19th Century when British immigrants came to America with their dogs that the other uses of Pitbulls were even considered. Immigrants in the West took a more domesticated approach in raising their dogs. They saw that properly raised Pitbulls were not only useful in herding and guarding sheep, but they were also suitable family pets.
Click here for the The History of Pitbulls I
Click here for the The History of Pitbulls III