Pit Bull Tattoos: the infamous saga

Let’s make some clarity on the origins of the American Pit Bull Terrier, lead subject of many tattooed realistic portraits

The tale of the Pit Bull is a different story altogether. Or the American Pit Bull Terrier, to be precise, another dog that would seem to belong to the category of the ancient Italian Mastiff or Molossos, and this breed of dog was already used by the ancient Syrians both in war and in hunting.

Differences among breeds

At the turn of the 20th century, after years of cross-breeding and experiments, two different types of dog had emerged from the line of the Bull Terrier: the first, rather harmless and suited to dog shows was named the White English Bull Terrier while the second was the Pit Bull Terrier (though some preferred to call it Half and Half, Pit Dog, Yankee Terrier, and so on) and this breed was still forced to fight in the pits. In fact the first owners of Pit Bulls were boxers and members of sports clubs who saw the dog fights as an extension of their own “sporting” life not to mention a strict form of natural selection where the strength and endurance of the unfortunate dogs was concerned.

Matteo Pasqualin, The Inkers Tattoo Shop, Porto Viro, Italy
Matteo Pasqualin, The Inkers Tattoo Shop, Porto Viro, Italy

The dog fights phenomenon

Dog fights were not yet completely illegal in the United States (apart from New York where they were banned as far back as 1856), and the Police Gazette (published from 1846 to 1932) that became the most popular means of keeping up with dates and results of these bloodbaths. And no less than the prestigious United Kennel Club (founded in 1898 and immediately one of the most authoritative dog registers in the States) published the Bloodlines Journal which also contained the latest news on fight results. This went on until the turn of the century when the UKC, on the death of its founder C.Z. Bennet, changed tack and distanced itself from both the bookmakers and the breeders of what were then called “Fighting Pit Bulls”. In 1909, the American Dog Breeder Association (ADBA) started listing Pit Bulls in its bloodlines register without any reference whatsoever to their ferocity or whether or not they were inclined to fight against others of their kind.

The Staffordshire element

In 1936 the American Kennel Club (the famous “all-breed registry” which has always distinguished itself from the United Kennel Club) recognised some American Pit Bull Terriers but calling them American Staffordshire Terrier. And since then little or nothing has changed. The Staffordshire therefore immediately assumed the role of show-dog while the American Pit Bull Terrier stayed out of the official register with the notoriety of an animal that took part in clandestine dogfights.

Carlos Fabra, Cosa Fina Tattoo, Polinya, Spain
Carlos Fabra, Cosa Fina Tattoo, Polinya, Spain

Warning about Pit Bull fake news…

The traits of the two breeds then developed in completely different directions: the strength and endurance of the Staffordshire decreasing steadily as breeders focused increasingly on looks and the Pit Bull becoming lighter and more agile so as to contain maximum strength and endurance within a compact frame. All this talk of gratuitous violence and chronic aggression in the poor old Pit Bull is simply the fruit of unsound information and debatable opinion. Which could be knocked on the head with the statistics and the facts. Or maybe if we could treat these dogs with the affection they deserve from puppyhood onwards.