The Pit and the Pendulum

I'm a lover...Not a Fighter!

The crusade to rebrand the pit bull terrier breed from fighting animal to house pet is nothing new. It began a century ago with dog breeders and sellers, the only people who really stand to benefit from the continuation of  the purebred pet market.

In the same 1911 Dog Fancier volume, Werner puts in a “good word for the pit dog” in a letter to the editor. It must be noted that Werner is a fighting dog breeder and understands that dogfighting as a legal activity has a limited future. To continue breeding pit bulls, there must be a new market for them, which according to Werner is inside the American home.

But weren’t pit bulls and their close relations “America’s dog,” beloved family pets until twenty or thirty years ago when some losers came up with idea of dogfighting? Hardly. Dogfighting has a long and repulsive pedigree, and in the Western world, the Staffordshire and pit bull terriers were created as the “for us, by us” of the twisted individuals who love to watch dogs tear each other to bloody shreds. It’s not the dogs’ fault people have manipulated their genes so, but the dogs will pay the ultimate price as long as people continue breeding them. And just as dogfighting is nothing new, attacks by fighting dogs aren’t either:

Why, by 1911, does the American public believe the pit bull terrier to be an outlaw dog breed and deservedly feared? From 1859 to 1911, nearly 30 people in the U.S. were mauled to death by pit bull type dogs ( This is what we know by searching newspaper archives today, including the Library of Congress. This number excludes deaths still undiscovered and the many destructive bulldog and bull terrier maulings that ended in lifelong injury.

There are two aspects that Werner had correct in 1911: Dogfighting would eventually meet an end and the only way to ensure the pit bull’s survival was to “repackage” it with a purpose other than dogfighting. Werner and other pit bull fanciers needed to move fast too. Calls to banish the breed, believing it to be “more dangerous than a lion or tiger,” were already occurring in America in 1911. By 1914, the City of Ogden, Utah has a pit bulldog ordinance in place.

The facts don’t always reflect what we hope or wish was true. However, it’s important to have the courage to confront them.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

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