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People very often cannot live alone and, as a result, they buy, adopt, and take care of animals, with which they feel themselves comfortable and not lonely. The most popular kinds of animals that are kept at home are cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, and hamsters. The majority of people want to have some animal at home and train it in order to make it adapt to human environment. Quite often, people want to take a puppy and train it. There are a lot of breeds of dogs nowadays. They appear almost each month or day when people hybridize different and incompatible breeds with each other. In this paper, we will pay our attention to one of the most popular breeds of dogs called pit bulls. Furthermore, we would analyze why this breed has a bad reputation and is misunderstood in society.
There are a lot of facts and myths about pit bulls. Sometimes people call this breed a “canine crocodile” or “jaws on four legs”. One says that there is no such breed as pit bull while others claim that this breed came from an extinct English white terrier interbred with bulldogs. Each of these beliefs is true to some extent.
People use dogs from the time they were domesticated. One of the theories of the origin of pit bulls may be traced to the times of ancient Greeks and Romans and the Molossian family of dogs. This family of dogs is associated with the Molossi tribe that lived in ancient Greece and used muscular and vigorous dogs in warfare. These animals were widely known for their severity and ability to frighten almost all enemies away the tribe. Later on, another family of dogs, the Mastiffs, appeared from the Molossians. Britons retained a type of the Mastiffs as pugnaces. They were fighting dogs that could be used in warfare and wardship capacity. When in 50 AD, Briton Chief Caractacus was defeated by Roman emperor Claudius, the dogs caught the emperor’s attention because he had never seen them before. As a result, he began exporting the dogs back home to imbue his desire for entertainment in coliseums and areas of Rome.
In Rome, British dogs were mixed with their Roman specimen. During the period from 50 AD to 420 AD, the breed was widespread within the territory of the Roman Empire and used as fighting dogs. In the course of time, they crossbred with other local breeds through Europe, which led to the appearance of bulldogs, who were later believed to be antecedents of the American pit bull terrier.
In 1066, the Normansin vaded England and later introduced a new kind of sport called baiting. Butchers kept and used dogs as “bull bitter”. They were trained to attack a bull’s nose and did not let it go until it bends the handler. People could not deal with these animals alone, and that is why they used dogs that were stronger and faster than human. Later on, this technique promoted a new kind of “sport” called bull-baiting, in which dogs were set in a deadfall with the bull and observers made bets on who would win, and whether dogs would bring the bull down or which dog would hold longer. Nearly all cities and towns had baiting rings by the 16th century. The popularity of this type of entertainment was growing, and every time it attracted more and more spectators from different strata of society. Furthermore, its popularity was strengthened by some misleading information that before the fight, bulls were torture to make the meat tender. During the bait, only one or two dogs were released to the bull. Dogs were trained to pitilessly weaken bulls until they broke down. This activity could last for three or four hours. Finally, people were bored to watch and visit such events, and introduced a new way of baiting, such as baiting of horses, monkeys, bears, and boars.
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In 1406, Edmond de Langley wrote a treatise for Henry IV entitled “The Master of the Game and of Hawks”, in which he described offspring of the Mastiffs called “Alaunt”, which was a frequently used dog for baiting at the time. A painting presented in 1585 depicted Alaunts chasing a wild boar and represented brawny animals that are similar to the dogs we know now as pit bulls(“History of the Pit Bull”, 2012).
Later, people stopped dogs baiting and turned their attention to ratting. It was an activity during which a dog was flung to the hole with a changing number of rats. The peculiarity of this activity was that the dogs had to race within a given period of time against each other and people had to define which dog could kill more rats during the shortest period of time.
Eventually, people understood that baiting took too much attention, and they should think of some other kinds of sport. As a result, they suggested dog fighting. It is known that dogs that took part in those fights were muscular gladiators, bull-and-terriers, more known as the predecessor of the first pit bull terrier; they fought with different dogs.
It is difficult to imagine how sadistic and cruel dog fights were. The competitors went through different levels and types of the preparation for the fight. The owners put dogs through an inexorable training process, which deprived them of normal life and caused in them a dogged desire to kill and spill the blood of their competitors. Almost all of them were kept in completely dark places for few hours or days during training with their handlers. Moreover, dogs were on a special diet and ate only raw meat and blood. The handlers strengthened their dogs’ desire to kill by making them run on a treadmill with any weaker animal without attaining them. The dogs were allowed to eat their victim at the end of the exercise as a prize.
In the course of their fight, the dogs were supposed to throw themselves at their rival without any hesitation and moving back. If any dog flinched, it was considered as a weakness and could require a penalty. Even if such an animal survived the fight, it was not out of danger. A lot of handlers believed that if a dog hesitated once, it could do this again and no longer be confident about fighting with persistence and vigor as the sport expected.
After the prohibition of the cruel treatment of animals in 1835, dog-fighting became an illegal and underground activity in the UK. At the same time, British immigrants brought dogs to the New World, to the USA. As a result of spreading across the USA, pit bulls appeared to be very useful in farming and different household activities. For instnce, during herding sheep and cattle, they acted as guardians who protected livestock and families from threats posed by wild animals and thieves.
In 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) was formed with the main purpose of promoting the interests of purebred dogs and their owners. As an accomplishment, they organized some events that were intended to test a lot of breeds in the areas of conformation and performance (“The American Bully”, 2012).
Confirmation events qualified dogs on the basis of the standards of the breed, such as a set of general principles that portray highly valued features of each strain. At the same time, performance events were divided on the basis of the reasons why breeds occurred and their functions. Nowadays, some common performance events cover sporting, herding and working categories. Performance events immediately posed a problem for pit bulls, since their crossed function, which was fighting, was illegal. The AKC rejected anything that was connected with dog fighting.
In 1889, John P. Colby started his breed from the best dogs which were brought from Ireland and England by immigrants, and this strain was called American Pit Bull Terrier.
In 1898,an alternative group was created, which was called the United Kennel Club (UKC), in response to the AKC’s disinclination to consider pit bulls as a genuine breed. The main goal of the UKC was to attest breeds that were not appropriate for the AKC certification. One of the UKC’s members was the American Pit Bull Terrier.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, particularly, in 1935, the AKC added pit bull terriers to the registry naming them Staffordshire terrier, according to the territory where they were crossbred. Moreover, they took Colby’s Primo as a standard for the breed. The Staffordshire bull terrier attracted people’s attention by its character, indefatigable courage, intelligence, and sturdiness from the very beginning of the lineage.
In 1935,there appeared the first Staff Bull Terrier Club at Cradley Health in the West Midlands. Sixty bitches and dogs entered the club. This club is also widely known as “The Parent Club”. Presently, there are 18 clubs in North Ireland and Great Britain. In 1938, the breed claimed the championship when CC’s were awarded firstly in Birmingham National. The two first champions of the strain were Ch. Lady Eve and Ch. Gentleman Jim (“Staffordshire Bull Terrier”, 2012).
For many years, the American Pit Bull Terrier has been a popular symbol in the USA. A pit bull called Stubby captivated the hearts of the whole nation during World War I. The dog was found at the Yale yard in 1917 by John Robert Conroy. The dog marched with Conroy and later learned to salute. During 18 months, he served in 26 Yankee division with 102nd infantry in France. Moreover, he took part in 17 battles and four offensives. In 1918, Stubby was injured in the foreleg and sent to the back front for the recovery. He came back to the trenches after his recovery. During the war, the dog learnt to notify his unit of gas attacks and warned when to duck for cover when he heard the incoming artillery. Furthermore, in Argonne, he captured a German spy. One grateful woman made him a coat on which he got all his medals.
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When soldiers came home, Stubby became famous and marched in a lot of parades through the country. Stubby met Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Woodrow Wilson. He visited Georgetown University Law Center with Conroy and was the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas team. He was given a ball during the halftime of the football game and gave it a push around the field making all fans amused. He is the only pit bull who was promoted to sergeant through combat.
Stubby was a member of the Red Cross, the YMCA, and the American Legion. In 1921, the Humane Education Society awarded Stubby with a gold medal for service to his country (“The Worlds Bravest Dog Sgt.Stubby”, 2010).
Pit bulls are known by people as the logo of RCA recording company. Also, from the marketing campaign of Buster Brown Shoes, because the manufacturers and businessmen understood that people adored this type of dogs, and they would pay attention to the products that had pictures of these dogs on them.
However, one of the most famous pit bulls was Petey who was an amazing ring-eyed dog that appeared in Little Rascals, a TV show. In no time, Petey, Spanky, Alfalfa, and some other rascals became a national treasure. One strange fact about Petey was that his telltale ring shifted from the left to the right eye in next seasons of the show. Some people said that the real Petey was poisoned, and there were other dogs that substituted him.
As time went by, more and more people got interested in pit bulls. They knew that these dogs were loyal, strong, friendly, and had a lot of positive features. People forgot that they were fighting dogs and loved the breed. In few years, pit bulls became part of many families. In the early 20th century, it was very popular to have a family portrait or photo with babies and a pit bull sitting next to them. These dogs are responsible, and that is why a lot of parents were not afraid to leave their children playing with the dog.
It is known that one of the precise characteristics of the breed is gameness. They are too energetic and strong, so people have to spend time with them teaching, playing, and going for walks.
At the same time, in the media, there appeared a few articles about pit bulls that bit women, children, or a group of people. People started to worry about their lives and families, but there was nothing to worry about because there were rare examples of pit bull attacks. Furthermore, attacks stopped, and people loved the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier. Moreover, the media informed that very often pit bulls saved people’s lives and became best friends for many people.
However, a positive view about these dogs lasted only for few decades. The first negative and alarming records appeared in the 1980’s. There were cases when dogs bit a man or a child; sometimes their victims were dogs or horses.. That was the beginning of the era of “pit bull terror” that lasts until today. A big number of articles have appeared in the media. In addition, when journalists heard somewhere news that somebody was bitten by a dog, they wrote an article about it and the first breed that came as an example was and is pit bulls. By doing so, they attracted people’s attention to their articles using the words “pit bull”. They have never been interested in checking what breed was actually guilty in the accidents. Journalists always write their articles on the basis of the first description of the situation that they hear. All short-haired, medium-sized mongrels, yellow Labs, and boxers made one group-“pit bulls”, or “pit bull-mixes”.
Only within several years, from lovely and intelligent dogs, pit bulls turned into criminals. People were afraid of them; some even placed their pets in special shelters.
One of the main problems of pit bull attacks is dog fighting. It has been illegal for a long time. However, some people have not paid attention to this and arranged secret fighting. In addition, people started to breed pit bulls in order to get a more vigorous type, which could win without any problems. Nowadays people use the same techniques for training dog-fighters as it was in previous centuries. Moreover, the priorities of these dogs have changed a little bit. The dogs used to fight only with dogs, horses or bulls, while nowadays their victim scan be people. Dogs cannot stand their handlers’ outrages. This is one of the most serious problems in our society, because these dog-fighters one day could get uncontrollable. To my mind, the government should do its best to prevent illegal dog fighting. It is essential to mention that nowadays not only pit bulls take part in these activities, but there are other breeds as well.
One more example of using pit bulls is provided by Scott Giacoppo. He suggests imagining a successful and dreadful drug dealer. This person should make others intimidated without any additional movements and weapon, because he does need the police to arrive. If he were using a gun, people would call 911 without any hesitation. Instead, if he had a dog with cut ears, people would think whether to call the police or not, because there is nothing wrong with a man quietly standing or walking with his dog. Furthermore, the dog does not seem tortured, and it is not fighting in the streets. Moreover, if the one who sees this dog calls 911 because they might think that there could be an attack or a fight, it will just reveal the bad influence of the mass media on people. However, a lot of humans think that pit bulls are only fighters and attackers (Giacoppo, 2008).
The environment where dogs are raised and the way how they are brought up have a great impact on them. According to the National Canine Temperament Society that tested 120 breeds of the dogs, it has been found that the American Pit Bull Terrier is one of the friend liest and most stable breeds on the planet. If a person grows a puppy with love, does not scream or beat it, and teaches to behave friendly, this dog would never hurt any person. The owner should know that every pit bull is an individual and should be treated accordingly. However, there are some people that hit puppies, scream at them, and make everything possible to hurt them. Later, such dogs could attack their owner to revenge for their cruel treatment. Such dogs can be rehabilitated, and later they can behave as normal animals without the feeling of anger.
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Michael Vick’s dogs are a good example. They were trained to kill or give their lives. In April 2007, he had 53 dogs, which were confiscated and later rehabilitated, and some of them became therapy dogs. Only one dog was euthanized (Edwards, 2011).
It is widely known that the media have a great influence on the public opinion. As a result, people are afraid of pit bulls, because of the general opinion provided in the media. Those people who have pit bulls at home say that their pets are different. Pit bulls are friendly, well-mannered, and intelligent. They are very smart and very often can understand humans. These pets are very energetic, they like to walk and play a lot. Furthermore, Staffordshire Bull Terrier is also called a “nanny dog”, because they are able to take care of for babies and children. When kids and a dog grow together, they become best friends, and the dog feels responsible for the kids.
A lot of pit bulls are ready to give their lives for their owners without hesitation. There are a lot of examples when a pit bull saves children or adults from fire, drowning or car accidents. Moreover, there are a lot of articles with great headings about pit bull savers. For instance, when Lilly saw that her owner was in trouble, she ran to save her pulling her body off of train tracks and taking the hit on herself. They were both alive, but the pit bull had a lot of injuries (Hefa, 2012). Sometimes the courage of our little friends makes us think whether this dog really can attack its owners or any other people. Many pit bulls help people to recover from injuries. Besides, many of them work as search dogs, police dogs, farm dogs, and therapy dogs.
A lot of famous Americans have been pit bull owners. For instance, among them were Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, Ken Howard, John Steinbeck, and many others.
To conclude, it should be said that the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier have a difficult history from the very beginning till the present day. These breeds are very faithful to people, because they have lived near them all the time. Pit bulls are ready to devote themselves to their owners if those love them. During the last decades, the dogs have been misunderstood and considered as monsters and killers. A lot of people think that this is unfair to treat pit bulls in such a way, because they are one of the intelligent and stable breeds. To my mind, pit bulls are treated unjustly. They are the sweetest and bravest type of dogs. People have a bad influence on the dogs, because they are trying to train and change the dogs to satisfy their own interests, and later blame them for their behavior. It should be noted that dogs always reflect their owners’ behavior and attitude. People should think twice whether to change pit bulls further and make them their enemy or friend.
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