Richard F. - Articles>Introduction

My name is Richard Stratton, and welcome to my official website. Over the last thirty years, I have been writing about the American Pit Bull Terrier, the infamous Pit Bull. If this does not seem like a long time to you, consider that the breed was but little known when my first book came out in 1976. (Before that, I wrote columns in various magazines, and I have written articles on this remarkable breed for a number of magazines, including Dog Fancy.)

I have had almost 60 years experience with the breed, so I did not start to write out of ignorance. The articles that are included here were written after my last book, so they are all new inasmuch as they have not been included in a book. The reader who is new to the breed may not know much about it-except the blurbs from an hysterical media-so let me give a few facts about it to fill in the neophyte on information that is needed to fully understand the articles.

First, the reason the Pit Bull has become so infamous is the old psychological phenomenon of high visibility in the media. As an analogy, a car was hit by a heavy rock in my town, dropped from an overpass by malignant children. The coverage of the event was so extensive that it probably caused accidents because drivers were very much aware of overpasses. Yet, the danger was remote. In fact, a similar incident has yet to be reported here. The same is true of car jackings and school shootings. The danger is remote, and school shootings have actually gone down, but that is not what the public thinks. Same principle here. The few legitimate attacks that were actually made by Pit Bulls were covered world wide. We all remember the one on the poor animal control person. It was shown around the world over and over. "Experts" described the Pit Bull as a "ticking timebomb." That so frightened some Pit Bull owners that they got rid of their own dogs-even though they had been perfectly gentle and nothing but joy. This was truly a case when ignorance on the part of "experts" was downright criminal-at least, in my eyes!

In reality, the Pit Bull has such a good disposition with people that it really is not a good watch dog. It likes everyone, and it seldom barks. Although I don't advocate raising infant children with any grown dogs, Pit Bulls usually thrive on the abuse the children heap upon them. People-mean Pit Bulls are rare to the vanishing point. So where did the horrific reputation come from? Well, the media caters to the salacious, but I don't think there was any conspiracy involved. It is just the nature of the beast (the media). But I have known many cases where reporters were there to cover a "Pit Bull attack" and left when they discovered it was some other breed. Even worse, some reporters have been known to cover any dog bite as a "Pit Bull attack." When challenged about such things, they have replied, "Well, it could have been a Pit Bull." Again, these are not bad people. They are simply catering to the public fascination with a sort of Frankenstein monster (as the Pit Bull is so often perceived).

With the Pit Bull's reputation being what it is, any loose member of the breed that takes a single step toward a police officer is shot on the spot. Such shootings are always reported as the policeman shooting a "charging Pit Bull." The police are not at fault here. The dog should not have been loose, and police officers can't be expected to be above the headline mentality of the public on all matters. But the point is that every such incident adds to the unsavory reputation of what I think is the most noble of breeds.

Is it true that where there is some smoke, there must be a little fire? I don't think that it always is, but there is a little fire in this case. The Pit Bull, known formally as the American Pit Bull Terrier, has, for countless generations, been used for fighting other dogs in monied contests. That is the main rub. But the breed has also been used for hunting huge wild animals, such as bear and Russian boar. There are paintings depicting such hunts dating back 300 years. Other depictions date back over a thousand years. Finally, the breed has also been used for ranch work, catching rough stock, such as a wild bull or a pig, by the ear or nose so that a hand can get a rope on the beast. It has been estimated that this notorious breed, infamous for killing people, has actually saved many hundreds of lives by doing the dirty and downright hazardous work with dangerous large animals.

The fighting reputation is what created the public attention. Although most Pit Bulls are smaller than a German Shepherd, and some of them are no bigger than Cocker Spaniels, they are capable of roundly whipping any other breed irrespective of size. Such a statement makes the breed sound savage, and it certainly does have a certain intensity to it when fighting, even though it fights silently. But the correct term is enthusiasm. It is descended from countless ancestors that were the best at what they did, which was, in most cases, pit fighting. The dogs that were good at that enjoyed it. For that reason, a Pit Bull can be a danger to other dogs. They are not a dog for everyone. Only the responsible people who keep them on leash should own them. Unfortunately, they have a certain appeal to the macho types who tend to be irresponsible. That, too, is a source of "fire."

The fact that the breed has been used for fighting makes people think that they are automatically vicious with people. But there has been a selective factor away from that in this case. Dogs which cooperated in their medical treatment were the ones that survived to beget progeny. Also, a dog that attacked a person, rather than concentrating on the other dog, would be a liability. In the pit, there were always two handlers and a referee. It wasn't a matter of throwing two dogs into a cage and watching them from the outside. All these things have factored into producing a breed that has a quite amicable disposition with people. The ultimate irony is that the infamous Pit Bull has perhaps the best disposition of all breed with people. Even its encounters with animals are not from anger or viciousness. No, it is simply unreal enthusiasm that is embodied in the stark warrior spirit of the breed.

Pit Bulls can be kept as pets, and their enthusiasm, which normally would be for fighting, spills over into nearly any activity its owner wants, from swimming to retrieving a ball. They can be raised with a house cat and will always be friends with it. Because of the hunting history of the breed, strange cats may not be safe from it, however. Dogs are a different situation. Although occasional dogs can be kept together, especially of the opposite sex, it is a little risky keeping two Pit Bulls unsupervised together. The rough play can get more and more intense until it turns into a real fight. However, Pit Bulls can often be kept with dogs of other breeds.

To repeat myself, the Pit Bull is not for everyone. But for those who admire pure courage and unbelievable athleticism, it may be the only breed.

Richard F. Stratton