Today in America, Dogs are arguably part of the American Dream just as they were fifty years ago but our dreams are seldom accompanied by visions of vicious attacks on our lives by these Dogs.
In today's America, a Dog breed that allegedly makes up the smallest population of all Dogs is somehow accountable for the vast majority of Canine violence resulting in death. As a matter of fact, the Dog Breed in question is simply accountable for the vast majority of Canine violence period.
So first we're going to establish the base factors that can attribute to the title of "Most dangerous". Then we're going look at just what is going on with Pit Bulls that would win them the title, a brief history and some hard facts about the breed itself and finally the undeniable statistics and subsequent reputation assigned by our Society.
1. We're going to have to look at term "Dangerous" closely in this context - Able or likely to cause harm or injury. Now if we're going to properly assign the title of "Most dangerous" to a Breed of Dog then we're going to have to fairly compare the numbers between all Breeds of Dogs in the U.S. that are able or likely to cause harm or injury but it's also not quite that simple. We also have to compare the severity of harm or injury. For example, mishandling of certain power tools can cause bodily harm while mishandling other power tools can kill you with less effort resulting in one being more dangerous than the other. Dogs certainly aren't power tools and share virtually nothing in common save the fact that failure to respect the primal nature of some breeds can result in bodily harm and failure to respect the primal nature of others can result in death.
So in conclusion, my point here is that fatality and the likelihood thereof is more often than not considered to be the supreme factor when determining what is "Most dangerous". There are exceptions to this case where the likelihood of simple bodily harm greatly and significantly outweighs the likelihood of death but both possibilities exist. In those circumstances it's possible to determine that something poses the most danger with higher regard to non-fatal consequences.
2. Just what is the deal with Pit Bulls? Where does this bad reputation come from? Incoming history lesson:
Dogs have been used for centuries in War, conflicts and you guessed it...Blood Sports. Americans certainly did not invent Blood Sports where Dogs were used in violent competition. There's still much debate on the topic but something that most Historians agree upon is that in Britain, in the 16th century Dogs of multiple Breeds were being used in a very popular and widely advertised Sport called "Baiting". Essentially, no more than two trained Dogs were released into a pen with a Bull, the intended outcome was that the Dogs wear the Bull down and eventually kill it. The Sport drew crowds from all economic walks of life and was extremely popular which led to the targeted breeding of the Dogs that were used in these competitions. There was no point in breeding a Dog for Baiting if the Dog was docile, calm or friendly...the intent of the breeders was to produce vicious, bloodthirsty Dogs who would win and make them money. The attraction of the Sport however, died down eventually and people lost interest...which is when the promoters of the sport began introducing new Animals into the ring like Bears, Boars, Horses and Monkeys. Now historically Pit Bulls didn't exist at this time, most of the Dogs used in these competitions were a type of Mastiff or Bull Dog (The term Bull Dog comes from the Baiting Sport). In 1835 British Parliament outlawed Baiting and all forms of Blood Sport involving Dogs fighting another Animal. But just like most of everything in History that was ever popular, new laws didn't stop people from doing it. The attention of Dog fighting enthusiasts and promoters turned to a new sport called "Ratting" where two or more dogs would be released into a pit with a number of Rats and the competition would be which dog could successfully kill the most Rats. The actual term "Pit Bull" comes from the Ratting pits that were used to ensure the Rats didn't escape during the exhibition.
Enter the Pit Bull Breed. Eventually Ratting died out and the public's interest turned to Dog fights as it was far easier to host a Dog fight than a Baiting exhibition without the law finding out. But Dog fighting required more agility and a smaller frame than Baiting and so the traditional Bull Dog was intentionally bred with a Terrier to produce something with the strength and endurance of the Bull Dog but also with the feistiness and unending focus of the Terrier. The result was what we call the Pit Bull today. Dog fighting being the cruel and sadistic Sport that it was, only the absolute most vicious and bloodthirsty Pit Bulls were allowed to live and breed. These dogs would be kept in the dark for the majority of the day and only brought into the light to train with their handler, during this training it was common for Pit Bulls to run on a treadmill with a weaker Dog in front of them but out of reach. At the end of the exercise the Pit Bulls would be allowed to kill the weaker Dog as a reward. The diet of these Pit Bulls was typically Blood in a bowl and Raw Meat. Handlers expected the Pit Bulls to be fearless and to hurl themselves at their opponent without provocation or hesitation, any hesitation during a bout could result in a forfeit...it was an exhibition Sport and no one wanted to watch an execution. As a result of this, any Pit Bull that hesitated in the least would be killed by their handler even if they won for fear of the hesitation being passed down to the next generation. Traits and qualities that would normally be considered abnormalities like unprovoked aggression, attacking without warning and relentless aggression towards people and other animals were prized and specifically singled out for breeding in hopes of bringing about more aggressive, violent and ruthless killers in subsequent generations.
Eventually when English Immigrants came to America, so did their Dogs and Dog Fighting was popular in America throughout the 19th century. The legacy continued. In 1884 the American Kennel Club was formed and served solely to promote the interest of pure-bred Dogs and their owners. This is the beginning of where our formal notions of Pit Bulls and their nature come from, the AKC formally acknowledged the function for which the Pit Bull was bred - Fighting. Because Dog Fighting was illegal at the time, the AKC rejected the Pit Bull as a bonafide breed of Dog as they would not remotely endorse anything related to Dog fighting. This is what spurred the creation of the United Kennel Club and their charter member was the American Pit Bull Terrier. Eventually the AKC agreed to recognize the "Staffordshire Terrier" albeit the breed is nothing similar to what Pit Bulls are today.
In conclusion one could easily see how Pit Bulls got their bad reputation and that it's not merely speculation, exaggeration, or myth that these Dogs are to be feared.
3. Now I'm not saying we all need to point fingers or assign blame to the Animal...that's simply illogical and faulty ideology. But there's really no denying the very real and substantially violent history that completely surrounds the creation of the breed. That being said, the science of how behavior is inherited is nothing new. Physical conformation is how a Dog has been bred to become physically shaped for the task we want him/her to perform. The targeted Dog's brain, skeleton, metabolism and muscles will be different than that of other Dogs. The Dog will feel comfortable doing whatever job we have prescribed it to do. Physical conformation leads to behavioral conformation, the brain of a Dog is genetically predisposed to efficiently direct the body it is born into. Now just as we cannot force a Dog to be something that it has no genetic capacity to be, we also cannot prevent a Dog from being something that it is genetically predisposed to be. This where the rubber meets the road in the argument for why Pit Bulls are seen as naturally more aggressive than other Breeds of Dog.
We're going to talk honestly about:
This is something that the creators and original breeders of Pit Bulls were looking for specifically in their Fighting Dogs. We're essentially talking about brain abnormalities and dysfunctions regarding aggression. Pit Bull Fighters had to attack without provocation or warning and more specifically had to intentionally hide their intent to attack. The Dogs also had to continuously attack without halting regardless of the response they received from the opposing Animal. They had to attack without aggressive visual cues and without any restraint. This is not functional behavior, nor is it normal by any standards in domestic Breeds. It's honestly not normal in non-domesticated breeds of just about any Animal. It is a dysfunctional trait that was targeted for breeding in only the most vicious, cold-blooded and victorious Pit Bull fighters. Understandably these traits actually helped the resulting offspring grow and eventually survive the fights they were forced into...but now we're in the realm of acknowledging that innumerable generations of the first Pit Bulls were bred with these killer behavioral conformations...and they're now genetic. When a Pit Bull was overly aggressive, attacked without warning or provocation, was relentless in its attacks and refused to stop until it's opponent was dead....that Dog was chosen for Breeding. So the assertion that this aggression is not heritable is not tenable. It's also not tenable to assert that not all of the Dogs of this breed will carry the gene that makes them dangerous. These genes may or may not drop out at random just as a Golden Retriever may acquire the genes to be impulsively aggressive, but the failure by Pit Bulls to have these genes is just that...a failure. It would be misleading to state that aggressive breeds will only have the selected genes as a matter of accident or that most of them will be fit to interact safely with other Animals or People. This is the case for the husky, the greyhound, and the border collie,
the genes of aggressive breeds have been selected so that certain
postures and behaviors feel good. These breeds will seek
opportunities to execute the behaviors they have been bred for. Because
these behaviors are internally driven and rewarded, they are not
subject to extinction. Learning and socialization do not prevent these
dogs’ innate behaviors from appearing.
Environments such as the pit, Blood Sport fights with Bulls and Bears, and fights to the death between Pit Bulls, for which these
behaviors were selected as an adaptive response, are so extreme that
there is no appropriate context for these behaviors in normal life.
Functional in the pit or facing the Bull or Bear, these behaviors
must, in all other contexts, be called pathological. Because the
behavior selected for was impulsive aggression, by definition this
behavior will always emerge suddenly, unpredictably and without warning.
4. Now let's talk about what we have as a result today. To the topic of Pit Bulls being the most dangerous breed of Dog in the United States, there's no way to know with any degree of certainty how many Pit Bulls are currently in the United States. There's no real way to know the numbers on any Dog breed as far as overall population. On top of the lack of registration and accountability of Dog Breeds, there's also the matter of proper identification of a Pit Bull. Just as Golden Retrievers have been misidentified as Labradors, Pit Bulls can and have been misidentified as Rottweilers, American Bull Dogs, Cane Corso Mastiffs and several other breeds. That being said, the Breed has a bad reputation for being substantially more aggressive than other breeds and while some of it might be attributed to misinformation...to label it a conspiracy or "Unfair" would be intellectually dishonest. We're not passing legislation about these Dogs for "No good reason".
- There were 31 Dog-bite fatalities in 2016, 22 were attributed to Pit Bulls (71%) which is seven times higher than the next most dangerous breed (Rottweilers).
- There were 34 Dog-bite fatalities in 2015, 28 were attributed to Pit Bulls (82%)
- 2016 - Family dogs inflicted 45% of all fatal Dog Bites, family Pitt Bulls accounted for 86% of these.
- From 2005 to 2016 only 20% of all fatalities that were a result of a fatal Dog attack resulted in criminal charges, of those 20% Pitt Bulls accounted for 74% of the criminal cases.
- The U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force have all adopted regulations and policies that either outright ban or heavily restrict the ownership of Pit Bulls on and off Military Installations.
- Many U.S. Courts have deemed Pit Bulls "Lethal weapons" subsequently acknowledging at the Judicial level that Pit Bulls are extremely dangerous.
- The New York Police Department reports in an 11 year study that Pit Bulls account for 72% of dangerous Dogs being shot by Police.
I'll close with a quote:Form follows function: one cannot have a dog whose entire body and
brain are adapted to executing the killing bite, without having a dog
who will execute the killing bite.Merritt & Beth Cliftonhttps://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fatalityhttps://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dangeroushttp://www.pitbull411.com/history.htmlhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2253978/http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/11/10/the-science-of-how-behavior-is-inherited-in-aggressive-dogs/http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/05/08/nyregion/08nypdgraphic.ready.html?action=click&contentCollection=N.Y. / Region&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
As a disclaimer, I fully acknowledge that any Animal, including Pitt Bulls, can be trained to be a sweet, loving, caring, adorable sugar booger. I've seen Lions that give hugs, Tigers that give kisses, Grizzly Bears that probably really do love their Human companions...but this doesn't change an Animal's behavioral predisposition...or the fact that they'll innately eat you if they "Feel" it's necessary...whether it is or not.
Feel free to bring up the discussion on Pit Bull power, bite PSI, strength and capability over other Dog breeds, I don't personally think it's much of a discussion as I doubt anyone really thinks there's another domestic breed out there that can do what a Pit Bull can do but we're all here to debate so feel free.