of Celtic Oak

of Celtic Oak Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

A Little Pit History

A Little Pit History

The Blood Sports

Blood sports were so much a part of daily life in England that around 1800, in the town of Wednesbury in Staffordshire county, church bells rang in celebration of "Old Sal," when she finally managed to have puppies. Sal was famous for gameness but had never been able to whelp a litter. If a Bulldog bitch died during whelping in that mining district, women often raised the puppies by suckling them at their own breasts. Bullbaiting and other blood sports were not just entertainment for the working classes, but for all classes. In fact, kings and queens often mandated that a contest be arranged. When French ambassadors visited the court of Queen Elizabeth in 1559, the Queen graciously entertained them with a fine dinner followed by an exhibition of dogs baiting bulls and bears.

The Bull-And-Terrier

In the early 1800, some Bulldog breeders tried something new, hoping to breed faster, fiercer fighters. They bred the most formidable baiting and fighting Bulldogs with the toughest, quickest and bravest terriers. This cross was believed to enhance the fighting ability of the Bulldog by reducing his size while maintaining his strength and increasing his speed and agility. Although some historians say the smooth-coated Black-and-Tan and the White English Terrier (now extinct) were most frequently crossed with

Bulldogs, others say the terriers were chosen only on the basis of gameness and working ability, and that a variety of terrier-like dogs were used. The result or these crosses was called the Bull-and-Terrier or the Half-and-Half. As time passed and Bull-and-Terriers were selectively bred, they became recognizable as an emerging breed.

Arrival in America
Blood sports were popular in America, too, and the first Bulldogs and Bull-and-Terriers imported to the New World were brought over for that purpose. While bearbaiting was banned in New England as early as the 1600s, public spectacles such as bullbaiting, rat-killing competitions for dogs, dogfighting and cockfighting were extremely popular in New York City during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Nearly all of America's early fighting dogs were British or Irish imports bred for generations to do battle, and many of the Americans who imported them continued breeding them for the same purpose. Dogfighting was so accepted in America that in 1881, when a fight was held in Louisville between the famed English imports, Lloyd's Pilot, owned by "Cockney Charlie" Lloyd, and Crib, owned by Louis Kreiger, the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad advertised special excursion fares to the big battle. Upon arrival in Louisville, bettors and spectators were taken to a fine hotel where they were warmly welcomed by the president of the Louisville board of alderman, the police chief and other local officials. The referee for the fight was William Harding, sports editor of The Police Gazette, and owner-publisher Richard K. Fox served as stakeholder. Pilot and Crib each weighed in at just under 28 pounds, and thrilled the spectators by fighting gamely for an hour and twenty-five minutes before Pilot won the victory.

Americanization of the Breed

Pilot and Crib, two of the most famous dogs of their period, weighed under 28 pounds, yet the weight of a male Pit Bull today ranges from 40 to 65 pounds. What happened? Pilot and Crib were at fighting weight, but though they would normally have weighed several pounds more, it would not have been nearly enough to make up the difference. One explanation is that because Americans always seem to believe bigger is better, they selected bigger dogs for breeding and thereby created a larger animal. Although this theory is partly correct, there is more to the story. It is believed that the breed's general usefulness on the frontier was a factor in increasing its size.

The American pioneers discovered the Bull-and-Terrier's versatility, bravery and devotion, and soon the dogs traveled west, becoming indispensable members of many ranch and farm families. The dogs were well-suited to life on the frontier, and guarded homesteads and children with confidence and authority. Many of them also helped round up stock. In addition, they protected the farm animals from predators and varmits ranging from rats and snakes to coyotes and bears. Eventally, the settlers probably decided that a slightly larger dog, with the same body style and bravery, would have an even better chance of defending the stock against marauding mountain lions and ravaging wolves. Consequently, when selecting breeding partners for their dogs, they chose larger specimens.

The Dog of the Day

Every dog does not have his day, but the Pit Bull certainly did. His day was just before and during World War I, when he was so highly regarded that he represented the U.S. on a World War I poster depicting each of the Allied forces as a gallant dog native to his country. During that time, many issues of Life magazine featured political cartoons with Pit Bulls as the main characters.
Pit Bulls even graced the covers of Life on February 4, 1915, and again on March 24, 1917. The first picture, captioned " The Morning After," showed a bandaged and scarred Pit Bull; the later one, captioned "After Six," displayed a gentlemanly Pit Bull in a bow tie and top hat. both were drawn by Will Rannells.

During World War I, the breed proved deserving of its country's esteem. A Pit Bull named Stubby was the war's most outstanding Canine Soldier. He earned the rank of sergeant, was mentioned in official dispatches and earned two medals, one for warning of a gas attack and the other for holding a German spy at Chemin des Dames until American troops arrived. 
Following the war, the Pit Bull's popularity continued to grow. Depending on what it was used for and where it lived, the breed was still known by many different names, such as Bulldog, American Bull Terrier, Brindle Bull Dog, Yankee Terrier, Pit Dog, and, of course, American Pit Bull Terrier.