The American Pit Bull Terrier, like other similar breeds such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, can trace its lineage back to the 1700s in England. Farmers sought a quicker-thinking, more agile dog than the Bulldog, so they crossed the Bulldog of the 1800s with several different breeds of terrier that were somewhat more aggressive and independently minded.
The results of these crossbreedings were extremely well-muscled dogs that were both agile and strong. These traits also made these dogs excellent candidates for the blood sports that developed in the late 1700s and early 1800s in England, such as bear baiting, bull baiting, and eventually dog fighting. It is from these dog fighting rings, known as pits, that the breed gets its name.
In the early 1800s, dog fighting also became popular in the United States, and dog fighting enthusiasts began importing these dogs into the country to fight. American breeders focused on developing larger and heavier canines. These dogs eventually became known as American Pit Bull Terriers in the United Kingdom and were also recognized as such by the United Kennel Club in 1898.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) sought to distance itself from the “sport” of dog fighting, however, and refused to recognize the breed. But in 1936, the AKC created a stricter standard, particularly in regards to the color and size of the dogs, then recognized them under the less-threatening name of the American Staffordshire Terrier. These two breeds have been developing separately for many decades.
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