Bully Breeds

Several breeds of dogs are commonly referred to as pit bull types or bully breeds.



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Standards of Strength
If you are having trouble keeping all the bully breeds straight, you aren't alone. Several breeds of dogs are commonly referred to as pit-bull types or bully breeds. Primarily, these are the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT, also called a Pit Bull), the American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff), the Bull Terrier (BT), the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier and the American Bulldog. All six share common ancestors and some history. The interwoven breeds share names and characteristics so closely related that the uninitiated can be forgiven if they are a little confused.

For instance, neither the APBT nor the American Bulldog are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC does recognize dogs that are virtually identical to the APBT under the name of the American Staffordshire Terrier, which it changed from Staffordshire Terrier in 1972, to distinguish it from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England. This, of course, is not to be confused with the AKC-accepted Bull Terrier, which has a smaller spin-off, the Miniature Bull Terrier. American Pit Bull Terriers are recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), and AKC American Staffordshires can be double registered as UKC APBTs. But American Pit Bulls cannot be registered as AmStaffs. And finally, the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA), established in 1910, registers only American Pit Bull Terriers under its own standard. ADBA dogs are sometimes dual-registered with the UKC but almost never with the AKC. Whew!

Why all the confusion? The answer is partly practical, partly political, because the development and recognition of pit-bull types have been inextricably bound to changing social norms and volatile public opinion since their inception.

In 1835, the British Parliament put an end to bullbaiting, a sadistic form of entertainment in which dogs were pitted against bulls, usually with a bad end for both. With bullbaiting outlawed, dog fighting in pits took its place. Both sports required tenacious, fearless, muscular, agile dogs with strong jaws, a high pain threshold and a fight-to-the-death attitude -- but also an easygoing and loyal disposition toward humans. Aficionados crossed mastiff-type bulldogs with a variety of working terriers, resulting in a number of different types of dogs, all bred for basically the same purpose: gameness in the fighting pit.

Settlers brought these so-called bull-and-terrier dogs of England and Ireland to the United States in the early 1800s. Despite the breeds emerging popularity, though, the AKC refused to recognize the pit bull or other similar breeds. Frustrated by the club's repeated brush-offs, a breeder named Chauncey Bennett formed the rival United Kennel Club for the specific purpose of recognizing the American Pit Bull Terrier as a working dog in 1898. The UKC now registers more than 300 breeds including a number of working breeds, but the APBT was the first.

It wasn't until 1936 that the AKC finally recognized the APBT under a different name. With the widespread popularity of the movies and television shows Little Rascals and Our Gang, a UKC-registered American Pit Bull Terrier, Pete the Pup, (Lucenays Peter) won the hearts of viewers across the country. World War I posters used the pit bull's image to stir American patriotism. Unable to ignore the growing demands of fanciers who wanted to legitimize the breed through conformation shows but still unwilling to perpetuate the negative image of pit fighting, the AKC agreed to accept APBTs under the more genteel name of Staffordshire Terrier. In 1972, the breeds name was changed to American Staffordshire Terrier to distinguish between the heavier AmStaff developed in the United States and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England. The 1936 Staffordshire Terrier breed standard was written by APBT breeders; all of the original AKC Staffordshire Terriers were UKC-registered APBTs. But fanciers agreed to the name change from pit bull to Staffordshire Terrier as a compromise in order to legitimize the dogs in the show ring.

Because of this common ancestry, some people feel that the two -- APBTs and AmStaffs -- are essentially the same breed with different names. Sara Nugent, president of the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of America and also a UKC American Pit Bull Terrier judge, points out that the AmStaff stud books have been opened to Pit Bulls as recently as 1966. "People try to say one is different from the other, but they all came from the same gene pool, and no other blood had been added to the mix, so how can you say they are different?" says Nugent. "Genetically, they are the same. The difference is only in what traits people have selected for and what registry they have chosen."

UKC senior judge Carol Gaines Stephens of Vancouver, Washington, respects her colleagues opinion, but could not disagree more. "It's like saying the Sheltie and the Collie are the same dog," says Stephens, who has judged UKC Pit Bulls since 1988. "The dogs have gone in separate directions." Die-hard AKC and Pit Bull breeders believe very strongly that the breeds are different at this point.

Mike Snyder of Seattle, Washington, is president of the UKCs National Pit Bull Terrier Association. He sees both sides -- to a point. He strongly objects to the increasing influence of the AmStaff on the Pit Bull, but he still thinks that AmStaffs differ from Pit Bulls in the way that show dogs differ from working dogs in other breeds. Or at least, they should.

"This is a can of worms that has been argued for decades," says Snyder. "They were debating this back in the 1950s. It's true these dogs all started with the same limited gene pool. But how many years of selective breeding does it take before you have a different dog?"

Snyder says that even though the standards read differently (the APBT standard is much more detailed and has been revised at least twice since it's original form), the biggest difference is that Pit Bulls have been selectively bred over time for working ability while the AmStaffs are bred for the conformation ring. Other than that, says Snyder, there's not a big difference between AKC and UKC dogs.

Stephens agrees that the breed has changed in recent years as more AKC AmStaffs, bred for the conformation ring, have crossed over and dual-registered as UKC Pit Bulls. "We've gone from working, athletic-looking dogs to pretty conformation dogs," says Stephens. "Its a beauty contest, what can I say?"

Fanciers will probably never reach perfect consensus about how best to preserve the historic integrity of the breeds while satisfying the needs of a diverse membership. But all responsible breeders and judges want what is best for the breeds, even though they may differ about what that may be or how best to achieve it. While the controversy ebbs and flows, the official breed standards remain the guiding light for breeders and judges to steer by.


bully breeds

Bully Breeds


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GD   asmalltownin, Texas

2/9/2013 6:59:01 PM

I have owned numerous dogs in my lifetime, most of them were/are pit bulls. I also work as an animal control officer, and I can honestly say that pit bulls are one of the MOST trustworthy breeds out there. I have been bitten many times in my profession by dogs, but never by a bully breed. People only spread lies about these dogs because they hear lies in the media... monkey see, monkey do! Yes, there have been attacks from pit bulls, but where is the media on other dog breed attacks?!?

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miraclesmom   morristown, TN

6/26/2012 1:34:06 PM

im am the proude new owner of an american stafforshire terrier (amstaff) puppy named dude. right now he is so cute i have owned pits before. but i fell in love with the amstaff breed as soon as i saw my friends amstaff wrecker. they are the best dogs glad to finally have one of my own

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Regina   Bulls Gap, TN

4/26/2012 7:16:58 AM

I adopted an American Bulldog from the animal shelter 1 year ago and she is the best dog I have EVER had in my life. The night I took her home, a wild electrical thunderstorm hit. She was shaking and trying to hide. I let her curl up next to me on the bed and we bonded that night as if she'd always been my dog. Even the vet said she'd bonded with me quicker than any animal he'd ever seen. She was 3 years old when she came home with me. And she had heart worms. Her previous owner denied her any proper care or attention. I wasn't about to let her die. I didn't care how much it cost, she deserved to live. Never before had a dog gained my complete trust and affection so quickly, but she was the brave one. She was and is completely devoted to me. She was on ordered rest mode for 3 months during her treatment, and I cared for her every step to her full recovery. She gained 12 lbs and knocks me down with all 80 now when I come home. She had to warm up to my new husband. LOL. She never showed any aggression or viciousness, but she supervised his every move toward me until he gained her trust. We both love her with all our hearts. She's been everywhere with us. Loves to ride. Loves people, kids, and other animals. She's very intelligent and obedient. She was attacked by a Samoan Husky while we were out one day. She literally body slammed the Samoan into submission but never laid a tooth on her. I had to patch her lip up from the husky's bite. But she immediately went from protective mode to docile, by my side. She won't even allow her teeth to touch skin. She lips her treats and toys from the hand. But strangers at the door? Yes, she has a menacing demon snarl and bark. She's doing her job. And I will do mine--which is to love and support her as an OUTSTANDING breed! "True Grit. True Devotion. True Love."

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Danielle   Soldotna, AK

4/4/2012 6:17:58 AM

I had the high privilage of owning a Bully. Sweetest, most loving and protective dog I have ever had, along with my Rotti. People's make some of the stupidest, most uneducated, naive comments about all breeds of dogs. Currently I own a Vizla/Lab mix. She is sweet and loving towards HER family, but she, by far shows more aggression towards strangers, than my Bully EVER did. And they were reared the same way. So, people, get your dang facts straight. All my dogs I have owned are personal protection dogs. When trained right, they protect when told and love every other minute of the day. I have 3 young children and all my dogs have showed nothing but love, affection and submission to my girls. So, again, get the facts straight and get to know a bully, you may just fall in love

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