In the 3-29-16 edition of the Current, Adam Aasen wrote a small piece about a family that adopted a pit bull rescue dog and the Humane Society’s promotion of March as pit bull education month with their Pit Bull Parade event.
I think it is a wonderful thing that unwanted dogs are recued this way and that this family has found a great pet. But the Humane Society and this article ignore some facts about which people need to be aware.
It is believed that all dogs are descendants of the wolf. The amazing thing is that one dog can be bred to have characteristics as different as night and day from another. The Chihuahua is the same species as the St. Bernard, but they look as different as a rabbit and pony.
Dogs were not just bred for appearance. In fact it is believed that most early breeding of dogs was more for skills and temperament than looks. There are biblical references to dogs being used to herd sheep like the border collie breed of today according to the American Kennel Club. The AKA Dog Book publication will give you a background on the origins of all their recognized breeds and the history of the earlier related breeds when available.
Just as border collies were bred for their herding skills and pointers were bred for hunting, the pit bull was bred for certain reasons. This does not mean that all of the individuals of a specific breed have its targeted characteristics to the exclusion of all other characteristics. All dogs inherited all of their characteristics form the wolf and likely all dogs retain a little bit of all these characteristics. The separation of one breed form another are the specific traits that are targeted in its breeding.
According to the AKA Dog Book, pit bulls evolved in England as a cross between terriers and bulldogs to try to combine the traits of the two breeds. These traits included: “the spirit and agility of the terrier” and “the courage and tenacity of the bulldog”. In the 1870s the dog was highly prized in America for “pit gaming” due to their strength, courage and tenacity. This is the origin of the nickname pit bull for the AKA recognized American Staffordshire Terrier breed.
The Humane Society’s event and Mr. Aasen’s article point out that not all pit bulls are vicious and dangerous. This is certainly a true fact. But it does ignore the fact that in pit bulls the vicious traits are not just “in there,” like in all dogs, but they have been bred specifically to make these traits more dominant. That is why I know of no Insurance company that will knowingly write a homeowners policy for anyone who owns a pit bull breed dog. (Just ask your agent the next time you see him or her.)
I understand why the Humane Society wants to promote adoption of these breeds. They are likely not the first dog chosen by a rescue family, and no one wants to see any innocent animal put down because it was not adopted. However, I would prefer that the Humane Society try to promote the curbing of the source of these unwanted animals than trying to “dispel some misconceptions about ‘bully breeds”” and glossing over their true in-bred traits.