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By Jennifer Cole

The real American Staffordshire terrier

American Staffordshire terriers, also known as pit bulls, are a sweet breed. They are known to be loyal, obedient and energetic. Originating from a working dog background, they are considered indispensable on the farm.

How it all began

This breed of dog began its career from two breeds: the bulldog, which was equipped to bait bulls in England; and the fox terrier, to add in agility. This combination of game tenacity and agility created what was known as the Bull-and-Terrier dog, later changed to the England Bull terrier.
When they came to America in the 1870s, they were called pit dogs, pit bull terriers, then later American Staffordshires.

A fighting machine is born

Bull baiting is a sport that originated from 1500s English law that meat had to be baited to be sold. It was believed that the exertion that the bull experienced during the baiting made the meat edible. This progressed into a brutal blood sport for the entertainment of the masses.

The bulldogs would attack the tethered bull in large packs – grabbing the nose, horns and anything they could reach – with goal to pull it into submission. At the same time, the bull would be flailing its horns around, goring and slicing to free itself.

The bull dog had won if they could hold the bull by the nose, face or ear causing it to still or, in some cases, drag it around the ring.

A transition occurs

It was not until the 19th century that bull baiting was made illegal in England. Long after it was no longer being publicly displayed, and subsequently surviving in private gatherings. With the decreasing popularity of bull/animal baiting, it was morphed into dog fighting.

The importation of these fighting dogs into America began around the Civil War, which were then bred for stamina, gameness and strength. Gameness meant being willing to fight – not aggressive behaviors toward humans. However, this too was outlawed in the late 19th century, but it is still a popular underground sport.

The past stains

The current national feel for pit bulls is not that great. There are 18 states, with varying degrees of breed-based ban laws on them. Even the Center for Disease Control statistics are biased on this breed. Claiming that 31.1 percent of dog bite attacks, from 1979 to 1998 were done by pit bulls.

However, this information was gathered from news accounts, which only "identify" the breed by its looks. As many as 10 other breeds have been lumped in with the American Staffordshire under the pit bull name. Another issue that crops up, is the inability to get a population number on the different breeds, which further skews the available numbers.

Despite such a checkered past, filled with so much blood, these dogs have always been considered man's best friend. Due to the fact, that when they were being bred to tear other dogs apart; they were also being bred to deal with their owners. The willingness to fight was important, but gentile towards the handler was paramount as well. This inadvertently created a human friendly breed that just wants to love.

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