The following information courtesy of:
American Pit Bull Terriers – All About America’s Favorite Dogs (Popular Dogs Series)
From the Editors of Dog Fancy Magazine. Volume 45, pp 5-11.
Bully Breeds – All About America’s Favorite Dogs (Popular Dogs Series)
From the Editors of Dog Fancy Magazine. Volume 21, pp 55-11.
Bully Breed Roots
In the family of dogs, most members were developed for a specific role: some to be hunters, some comforters, some herders, some pullers. Now versatile show dogs, workers and companions, the bully breeds were once bred to be the stern enforcers, developed primarily to keep livestock in line for farmers, butchers and auctioneers.
In one form or another, the bully breeds have been around for centuries. Their true beginnings are blurry, but most dog experts agree that the Bulldog type descended from the mastiffs of Central Asia and reached its modern development over central centuries in England. Bulldog-type breeds are a large group, encompassing the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, Bulldog, American Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Dogue de Bordequx, Neapolitan Mastiff, Tosa Inu and Dogo Arentino. Pit bull-type breeds (bully breeds) are a branch on this family resulting from the 18th-century crosses between bulldogs and terriers and include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Miniature Bull Terrier.
The Bulldog Base
The Bulldog that fathered all these diverse breeds was a very different animal from today’s English Bulldog. It was tall, with a smaller head than today’s bully breeds, and was quick and alert. The original Bulldogs were used as a combination guard dog and catch dog, including a vermin hunter for rats and other small pests. Its day job of keeping bulls at bay for farmers by pinning and holding the bull by the nose had entertainment value for people without books or movies or television, and the Bulldog began to be pitted for sport against bulls and sometimes other animals. Bullbaiting, as this popular diversion was called, was a common sport as early as the 13th century. According to beliefs of the day, it had health benefits as well. The meat of a baited bull was considered to be more tender and nutritious, and butchers could be penalized for not baiting bulls before slaughtering.
The physical characteristics needed to be successful at bullbaiting included a thick, strong, overshot jaw to aid in grasping the bull; a short, flat muzzle to help air pass through the nostrils while the dog was clamped onto the bull; and a hard, rangy body, able to take a beating and survive being tossed into the air by the angry animal. Just as important as strength were courage and tenacity. Crosses with terriers gave Bulldogs additional ferocity and gameness. Human nature being what it is, people found pleasure in pitting the dogs not only against bulls but against each other. Although they might be ferocious towards other animals, the bully breeds learned to turn a gentler face toward people. Those that didn’t were ruthlessly culled. Dog fighters did not want to be at the receiving end of a dog bite. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Bulldogs were a recognizable type. Among the well-known Bulldogs of the time were Crib and Rosa, who were depicted in a painting by Abraham Cooper, R.A. (Royal Academy). Another was Lord Camelford’s Bulldog, Belcher, who was fought 104 times and never defeated.
It was during the 19th century that the Bulldog’s appearance began to evolve, a result not only of new humane laws but also of the rise of dog shows. Dog fighting was outlawed in England in 1835, making the bully breeds some of the earliest beneficiaries of the burgeoning humane movement.
With the decline in dog fighting, it seemed for a time that the bully breeds would die away with it, but fanciers stepped in to save the dogs from extinction. They began breeding the dogs for exhibition instead. By the mid-19th century, it was clear that Bulldogs were becoming shorter in leg and developing larger heads while retaining their strength and tenacity. By the end of the 19th century, the Bulldog had come to much more closely resemble what it looks like today; the head was larger, the legs shorter, and the body stockier.
During this time, the Bulldog’s temperament changed as well. It softened considerably as the dog became less of an outdoor farm animal and more of a show animal and family pet. The modern Bulldog is almost unrecognizable compared to its progenitor. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier have probably changed the least. From the Bulldog, other breeds were created as well. The French Bulldog and the Pug are miniaturized versions of early Bulldog types.
Enter The Terrier
As Bulldogs evolved to become powerful fighting dogs, terriers were busy evolving as well, shapming themselves to various climates and terrains all over Britain. Although the British terriers varied widely in appearance, they all specialized in one important activity – vermin control. When bull-baiting and dog fighting became illegal, many Bulldogs were crossed with terriers, including the now-extinct Old English Terrier and the Black and Tan Terrier (similar to the Manchester Terrier of today). In England, these crosses eventually became the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, and the Miniature Bull Terrier. In America, they became something else.
The American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier developed in much the same was as bully breeds in England. People emigrating to the U.S. brought their ‘Bull-and-Terriers’ with them in the 1700s and through the 1800s. The dogs shared the work of the people they came with, working as catch dogs and farm dogs to drive semi-wild cattle and hogs and hauling carts for miners. The bully breeds were an extremely versatile working dog.
Early American life, as it did in Britain, also included bullbaiting and dog-fighting. These types of dogs – which went by numerous names including pit terriers, pit bull terriers, half and halfs, Staffordshire fighting dogs, old family dogs, Yankee terriers and Rebel terriers – became today’s American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and American Bulldog.
The United Kennel Club (UKC) was formed in 1898, solely for the purpose of registering American Pit Bull Terriers. The first APBT registered, Bennett’s Ring, belonged to Chauncey Bennett, the founder of the UKC. A little more than a decade later, the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) came into being, also with the purpose of registering APBTs. The ADBA was founded by Guy McCord, a friend of John P. Colby, which is the grand old name in American Pit Bull Terriers. The Colby’s have bred APBTs for generations, their dogs being originally bred for fighting. Colby dogs are still being bred today.
When fighting became illegal in the U.S., some owners of the APBTs wanted to legitimize the breed and distance it from its fighting roots, so they took on the name Staffordshire Terrier and gained AKC (American Kennel Club) recognition in 1936. According to the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of America, although ancestors of the AmStaff were fighting dogs, selective breeding since the 1930s has been away from the fighting heritage. Today’s AmStaff is a companion and show dog rather than a gladiator.
APBTs, too, have taken their talents to less violent arenas of competition. They’re a versatile breed that competes successfully in conformation, obedience, tracking, agility, protection work and weight pulling. In temperament and appearance, the modern APBT and the AmStaff are identical. Hence, many APBTs registered with the UKC are also registered with the AKC as American Staffordshire Terriers. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a smaller version of the APBT/AmStaff, also originated in a similar manner, but was bred for a smaller appearance. All three breeds, the APBT, the AmStaff and the Staffie Bull are hence the same “type” of dog, all originating from the Bulldog,