What is an American Pit Bull Terrier?

Old type BulldogOld type Bulldog

This article explains how the name American Pit Bull Terrier came about and why this type of dog is not a pure breed recognized by pedigreed dog organizations anywhere in the world.

History of the American Pit Bull Terrier

Some of the old type Bulldogs like the one pictured that accompanied immigrants into America in the 1800's came from the coal mining district of Staffordshire in England. Because coal mines were often referred to as coal pits, historically the generic term 'Pit Bull' was given to Bulldog type dogs that were the companions of miners. At that time, the name 'Pit Pony' was given to the ponies that worked in the mines. Maybe some of these dogs were also used for dog fighting prior to the banning of this practice in England in 1835.

When it first arrived in America, the American Pit Bull Terrier was given this name by the United Kennel Club. This is a different organization to the internationally recognized American Kennel Club which today registers our pure breeds. However the United Kennel Club concentrates on administering performance activities like Obedience, Agility and so on.

Dual Registered dog (1987)Dual Registered dog (1987)

However, until relatively recently, the same dog could be dual registered with the American Kennel Club as an American Staffordshire Terrier and with the United Kennel Club as an American Pit Bull Terrier. That meant that the same dog could participate in Shows or other functions held by either the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club, by using the appropriate registration. Pictured here is an example of one such dual registered dog, photographed in USA in 1987.

The Myth of the 'Pit Bull Terrier'

Old traditions die hard as today this term is often confused by media to perpetuate the belief any dog that attacks is a 'Pit Bull'. Nothing is further from the truth. Two centuries ago the rules of the now banned practice of dog fighting stated the owner had to be able to separate the two dogs during the fight. If the owner got bitten by his own dog, obviously this dog would not be bred. So in order to breed the fighting dogs of two centuries ago, the dogs selected to breed from were those who would not bite their owners. These dogs were then trained to fight, rather than be part of an unprovoked attack!


Despite this, today it is the United Kennel Club's American Pit Bull Terrier that is the subject of Breed Specific Legislation in Australia as well as in some other parts of the world. But the United Kennel Club is not the American pure breed organization whose breed standards are recognized by Australia's pedigreed dog controlling body the ANKC or any of the other countries' reciprocally recognized Kennel Clubs. So how did the American Pit Bull Terrier ever become named in the list of pure breeds whose importation into Australia became banned by Federal Law in 1997?