Thursday, July 22, 2004

Time to humanely euthanize some misconceptions about pit pulls.
Part one: An introduction
Most everyone who knows me with the least bit of intimacy by now knows that I've got a big, soft, chewy bosom of a soft spot for dogs categorized as "pit bulls." (An overarching breed term, this includes the American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier, bull terrier, bull mastiff, and the seemingly infinite mixes that result when one of these breeds gets it on with another breed.) My favorite is the American Pit Bull Terrier, a breed characterized by its loyalty, playfulness, physical affection, and semi-permanent "smile" built into its muzzle. Here's a handsome textbook APBT, replete with dopey grin, rippling triceps, and tail mid-wag. So cute.

Admittedly, these pups weren't bred for smarts. Instead, their history begins in Elizabethan England in the tawdry epicenters of pedestrian entertainment: ye olde bull baiting ring. The mastiffs and similar breeds that were used to bait and attack bulls were selectively bred to better meet the baiting task, yielding the stouter, short-snouted English bull dog. Bull baiting was outlawed by the British Parliament in 1835, thus making dog fighting the cruelty of choice among the isle's downtrodden. The bull dog was crossed with the region's smaller terriers, and individuals were selectively bred for agility, dog aggression, and human affection. The result was something along the lines of a Staffordshire bull terrier.

When financially desperate Limeys and the Mics immigrated en masse to the United States in the mid-1800s, they brought their beloved bull terriers with them and continued to breed them for fighting. The American pit bull terrier was refined in Confederate America over the next half-century, making friends and (mostly) enemies since then. They remain the breed of choice among this country's fight wranglers because of their strength, powerful jaws, and general amiability towards us people folk.

Fascinating, isn't it?

It's late and I'm tired.


Post a Comment