What Is the History of the Pit Bull?

The origin of pit bulls is a disputed topic. Some believe that the Molossus, an extinct Greco-Roman dog breed used as shepherds, guard dogs and later for fighting, hunting and war, was the ancestor of pit bulls. They eventually made their way into Britain where they became known as the Mastiff dog breed and later developed as fighting dogs. Breeders also crossbred the Mastiff-like dogs with Terriers to combine the Mastiff's strengths with the Terrier's intelligence.

British immigrants brought pit bulls to the United States, where they utilized the dogs for their original purposes as guarding, working and herding dogs. The United Kennel Club registered the first American Pit Bull Terrier as a formal breed in 1898. The American Kennel Club, however, refused to register the dogs due to their fighting history. The AKC eventually recognized the breed, but branded the dogs from the same lineage as English Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

The pit bull is a generic term used to identify dogs with similar physical characteristics, such as square face and bulky body. Unfortunately, these same characteristics and their history earned them a bad reputation. Dogs branded as pit bulls or have similar features as pit bulls fall under the breed-specific legislation. Some cities and states in the United States ban, restrict or regulate the ownership of these breeds.