Pit Bull History

The Pit Bull is a descendant of the original English bull-baiting dog. Until the mid-19th century, breeding the now-extinct Old English Terriers and Old English Bulldogs together to produce a dog that combined the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the bulldog. This type of dog, became known as the Bull and Terrier.

pit bull history bull and terrier photo
pit bull history bull baiting image

Bull Baiting

Originally used in bull baiting, a cruel blood sport, quite popular in United Kingdom in the early 1800’s, a sport in which bully-type dogs were sent to attempt to bait and eventually bring down a tethered bull. They bred dogs for “gripping” ability. When baiting large animals was

outlawed in the 1800s, people turned instead to fighting their dogs against each other

Outlawed in 1835, the cruel bloodsports shifted to a less visible but equally lucrative illegal dog fight matches. For these high stake matches to succeed, these dogs had to be agile enough to fight another dog as opposed to a chained bear or bull. They crossed Bulldogs and terriers to produce fearsome breed of dog that would excel in the fighting pits. According to the cold-blooded rules of the fighting pit, any dog that bit a human, not only the handler of the opponent, but also the referee or anyone else nearby would not live to fight again.

Pit Bull History and Migrating to America

As people immigrated to America, they brought their dogs with them. Within a few decades, these “bull and terriers” made their way across the Atlantic. While they were still used for fighting in the States, their rough-and-ready attitude and intense loyalty made them a logical choice for the frontier, where they herded livestock, caught hogs, and guarded home and hearth. They soon became an integral part of America’s history. And, valued for more than dog fighing in the early years of America.

American Pit Bull Terrier vs

American Staffordshire Terrier

The first 50 or so American Pit Bull Terriers were dubbed American Staffordshire Terriers when they first became registered with the AKC in 1936. Thus distinguishing and separating them from the related dogs known today as American Pit Bull Terriers. To this day, the debate over whether the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier are two distinct breeds still goes on. However, breeders of the two breeds have distanced themselves from each other by having different goals. As a result the two breeds have different physical characteristics and drive. APBT have been bred for gameness while Amstaffs have been bred more for the show ring.


American Kennel Club closed its studbook for the American Staffordshire Terrier permanently in the 1970s.Today considering only dogs with American Staffordshire Terrier parents members of the breed. Although every American Staffordshire Terrier is technically is an American Pit Bull Terrier, not every American Pit Bull Terrier is an American Staffordshire Terrier. Some dogs have dual registration, registered under AKC and UKC, due to previous breeders who kept both pedigree registers parallel.

pit bull history our gang petey

Lucenay’s Peter

Lucenay’s Peter, better known to old-movie buffs as Petey, the canine star of the “Our Gang” films, which was later appeared on television as “The Little Rascals,” was the first newly minted American Staffordshire Terrier admitted into the AKC. He was the second dog to play Petey in the comedy shorts; the first was his father, Pal the Wonder Dog, a pit bull with a circle around his right eye thanks to Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor’s magic brush. After Pal died in 1930, his son took over the role. With the exception of his ring around his left eye, the replacement was almost seamless.