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What Were Pitbulls Bred for Originally

Pit bulls are a group of dogs that were bred primarily to excel at sports such as bull- and bear-baiting in Great Britain, as well as dog fighting.

These breeds, known as bull terriers, bully-type terriers, American pit bull terriers, and American Staffordshire terriers, are recognizable by their short, muscular build.

While they were used in the past for blood sports, many people now keep them as companion animals and they serve a variety of important roles.

In this article, we will explore the history of pit bull breeding, their different characteristics and physical traits, major differences between the pit bull breeds, commonly known temperament traits, historical uses for them, modern breeding and training practices, and tips for responsible ownership.


Let’s dive in

Pitbull History: An Overview

Pit bulls were first developed in Great Britain around the early 19th century.

Their development was brought about by crossbreeding different breeds with strong physical characteristics and a high level of aggression.

These breeds included the English bulldog, terriers, the mastiff, and the bull baiting dog.

The original bulldog was actually taller and thinner than the standard short and stout look we are now accustomed to today.

The pit bred dogs were intended to combine the best traits of these breeds in order to excel at the then popular blood sports such as dog fighting, bull baiting and bear baiting.

When animal blood sports were outlawed in England in the 1800s, the pit bull breed started to migrate to other countries like America where they became popular because of their strength and bravery.

In the United States, they were used to hunt various animals, serve as guard dogs and companions, and take part in various activities such as police work, pet therapy, service dogs, and even circus performing.

Characteristics of Pit Bulls

Pit bulls have a muscular and robust body, typically ranging from 18 to 21 inches in height at the shoulder.

Their face has a distinctive wedge-shaped head with wide eyes and a short muzzle. They typically have smooth but short coats.

The most common colors associated with the breed include black and tan, brown and white, red and white, and brindle.

Their short coat requires a minimal amount of maintenance and they are known to be strong yet gentle with their owners.

They are also friendly and great with children and other pets.

The breed can be trained easily and does require an abundance of exercise.

Physical Traits of Pit Bulls

Pit bulls have muscular bodies with well-defined shoulders, hindquarters, and chests that have a broad chest circumference.

They also have wide chests between their front legs.

Their ears are typically cropped but natural ears are sometimes seen on puppies.

Pit bulls have wide, sloping heads that range from medium-sized to large. They have somewhat rounded jaws with wide mouths that boast 42 teeth.

They boast strong necks and broad heads which are often adorned with short, stiff whiskers.

Pit bulls are known for their athleticism, endurance, agility, and strength – making them excellent working dogs.

They possess high levels of stamina that allows them to perform strenuous activities with ease.

Pit bulls also have a tendency to be strong-willed yet also very loyal.

Differences Between The Different Pit Bull Breeds

There are several different breeds of pit bull-type dogs that vary slightly in characteristics.

The most popular breeds include:

  • The American Pit Bull Terrier:
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

While all pit bull breeds share many physical characteristics, there are some key differences between them.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized dog with a strong stance and solid build. They are loyal, active, and intelligent family dogs that need daily physical exercise. The American Staffordshire Terrier (a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club) is a larger breed that is stocky yet balanced. It has a large head, small eyes, and a broad chest with muscled Definition along the neck. Check out this article to learn more about American Pit Bull Terrier

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (a breed recognized by the American Dog Breeders Association) is smaller than the other two breeds and has a gentle yet brave demeanor.

They are extremely loyal and obedient when given proper training. All three breeds boast different personalities and traits but overall they share many similarities as well.

Pit Bull Temperament: Overview

Pit bulls are known to be loyal companions that are usually friendly towards strangers, especially if they were socialized properly while they were young.

While this breed may have a reputation for being aggressive, studies have shown that this is largely misunderstood.

Although the breed may have higher levels of aggression than other dogs due to their histories of being bred for fighting, their aggression levels can be managed through proper training and early socialization.

Pit bulls are affectionate and gentle with their owners yet can be strong-willed at times.

 They do not require constant attention unlike other breeds, but they do need to have proper boundaries set from an early age in order to foster appropriate behaviour.

Regular physical activity is also important for raising a happy and balanced pit bull.

Popular Uses for Pit Bulls Throughout History

Throughout the years since they were first bred in Great Britain, pit bulls have been used in various ways which include:

  • Working dog breeds due to their ability to herd sheep or help hunters track game.
  • As search and rescue dogs due to their strength and sense of smell.
  • For protection or as guard dogs, as they can easily intimidate intruders.
  • They have even been known to be used for circus performances due to their intelligence and trainability.
  • They have been known to be used as Service Dogs

Modern Pit Bull Breeding and Training Practices

Modern breeding practices now focus on good temperament rather than aggression when selecting pit bull breeds for breeding purposes.

Breeders also focus on producing dogs that have good conformation (an animal’s physical structure) in order to produce healthier pups.

While this is generally accepted for pit bulls as pets today, there are still people who breed them for illegal activities such as fighting.

When it comes to training these dogs, it’s important to use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise or treats.

This will help them to bond with their handlers while focusing on learning commands rather than aggressive responses.

It’s also important to socialize them while they’re young so that they’re comfortable around humans and other animals.

Current Stereotypes Surrounding Pit Bulls

Pit bulls have garnered negative attention due to unfortunate incidents involving people using them improperly.

This gives them a bad reputation when it comes to public opinion. There is an unfair bias against pit bulls that still exists today leading many people to think that they are an inherently aggressive breed when in reality it’s how they’re raised and trained that makes a difference.

Debunking Myths About Pit Bulls

Pit bulls are not inherently aggressive dogs – their aggression levels depend largely on their training and socialization while they were young.

Pit bulls also do not need an overwhelming amount of exercise like many other breeds – an hour-long regular walk a day will keep them happy and healthy for life.

Contrary to popular belief, pit bulls also do not require a “strong owner” but responsible pet owner; instead, consistent positive reinforcement is key for any canine. If you are still wondering if a pitbull is right for you, here are some interesting things first time pitbull owners discovered after getting their first pitbull.

Tips for Responsible Ownership of a Pit Bull

Owning any type of dog requires responsibility from the owner. Here are some tips for owning a pit bull:

  • Provide plenty of exercise on a regular basis.
  • Be consistent with training and socialization.
  • Set clear boundaries on how your pup should act.
  • Seek out professional help if your pup is displaying aggressive behavior.
  • Maintain open communication with your vet about your pet’s health.


All in all, if you’re looking for a loyal companion that is full of energy yet requires minimal maintenance and exercise, look no further than a pit bull. With proper training and socialization from an early age within its family unit or by a professional trainer, it can be a great pet for life.

Ryan Spree

Ryan is a service dog puppy raiser/trainer and founder of The Pit Bull Center, a dedicated Pitbull blog that has been visited by tens of millions of people since its inception.