Where Did Pit Bulls Originate From?

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American Staffordshire terriers often live 14 years or more.
American Staffordshire terriers often live 14 years or more. (Image: Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The term "pit bull" is a puzzling term for many, as it doesn't refer to just one specific canine breed. Although it mostly refers to American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers, it also is used occasionally for other breeds. Pit bulls are grouped together because of several common physical characteristics -- short fur, broad skulls and sturdy, sinewy physiques. Identifying the individual breeds is usually a simple task, however.

About American Pit Bull Terrier

American pit bull terriers, as their name expresses, hail from U.S. soil. Although the breed is indeed American, it roots are in the British Isles, in powerful dogs from both Ireland and England. American pit bull terriers came about due to crossing together fighting terriers and fighting bulldogs from across the pond. American pit bull terriers are thought of as being so American that "Yankee bulldog" is actually a common moniker for them.

American Staffordshire Terrier Roots

American Staffordshire terriers are also American dogs with strong British heritage. These mid-sized canines were developed as a result of breeding English bulldogs with various other types of terriers, possibly including English smooth terriers. American Staffordshire terriers once were known simply as Staffordshire terriers, but the "American" part was introduced to stop people from mixing them up with another breed -- Staffordshire bull terriers.

American Bulldog Origins

American bulldogs are sometimes called pit bulls, although not as frequently as American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers. These sporty pooches, body-wise, are similar to the other pit bulls, with wide heads and nimble movements. American bulldogs originated in America, but their forefathers were the tough working bulldogs -- from the United Kingdom -- that diligently protected the farms of British settlers who moved to the U.S. southern region. Once World War II came to a close, these bulldogs had practically died out. A breeder by the name of John M. Johnson worked to bring them back, however, why is how American bulldogs officially emerged as a breed, complete with a breed standard.

Bull Terrier Background

Bull terriers are in the same camp as American bulldogs -- "occasional pit bulls." These dogs, however, were bred and established in England, where they, along with Staffordshire bull terriers, were previously known as "the Bull and Terriers." English white terriers and working bulldogs are the ancestors of today's bull terriers. The former breed no longer exists. English white terriers were prick-eared pooches that died out after developing reputations for being overly delicate, health-wise.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Heritage

Although Staffordshire bull terriers are similarly named to American Staffordshire terriers, they are totally distinct breeds. The former "pit bulls" come from England, specifically Staffordshire. The breed's heritage is a blend of bulldog with a tiny British terrier that resembled the Manchester terrier.

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