On October 28th, pit bulls across America will be in the spotlight as National Pit Bull Awareness Day kicks off. This day is important because it sheds some light on the breed that has been maligned in the media. Learning about the history and backstory of America’s dog may hold some surprises for you.

Pit Bulls and the United Kingdom

Back in the early 1800s, pit bulls were bred from old English bulldogs in the United Kingdom. These dogs were used to bait bulls and bears until the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 prohibited this blood sport. Enthusiasts then turned to ratting, which was done in pits. The dogs were placed in a pit with several rats, and the dog that killed the most rats in the least amount of time was declared the winner. This is where the pit in the name pit bull comes from. Eventually, the sport turned from dog against rat to dog against dog.

Dogs were required to be strong and have speed and agility; thus, bulldogs were bred to terriers. Their handlers needed breed a dog that would not bite or attack people. They had to be able to handle them in the pit or the ring, after all. Consequently, they were bred to be gentle with humans. If a dog bit its handler, it was usually killed.

America’s Dog

Immigrants from the British Isles came to America, and they brought their pit bulls with them. This occurred shortly before the Civil War. Also, at this time, the pit bull terrier breed, the cross between the old English bulldog and terriers, became known as the American pit bull terrier. Originally bred for fighting, the dogs were now used in a variety of ways. They were frontier dogs, herding cattle and sheep, catching hogs and protecting their families. In fact, during this time in the development of America, the pit bull was called the nanny dog because of its companionship traits with family members.

National Pit Bull Awareness Day

The negative reputation of the pit bull has been exploited by the media in the past few decades and caused the breed to be banned in several areas, including housing complexes, apartments, and parks. Even some countries have banned them. Though this terrible reputation has followed them for years, it is now turning around. They are becoming known as the gentle, loyal pets of the frontier days, once again. National Pit Bull Awareness Day helps dispel the myths and dispense truthful information about these misunderstood dogs.

Many celebrities own pit bulls. It is thought Helen Keller had one as a close companion. As people become better educated about these dogs, pit bulls may become more popular and less feared. They have many good traits, which have gone ignored or under-appreciated. National Pit Bull Awareness Day brings those traits to the forefront once again.

The lawyers at Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., encourage you to learn more about these interesting dogs and their history. While they may still be a little frightening to some, learning more about them is sure to reveal some surprises.

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