"PIT BULL" is a term used to describe a variety of animals, including American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers, depending on the registry. It also refers to mixtures of these breeds with one another and other breeds.

The dog has great strength, is stocky and muscular with a block head and powerful jaws. It weighs from 20 to 90 pounds and stands 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder. A short-haired dog, it comes in any canine color, solid, variegated or brindled. The biggest difference between pit bulls and other breeds is in how hard they can bite. There are stories of them tearing up chain-link fences. Their bite is rumored to exert 2,000 pounds of pressure, but no reliable measurement is known. Unlike most breeds, pit bulls bite repeatedly.

PIT BULLS have been bred for fighting for more than a hundred years. Their ancestors were the English bulldogs of the 19th century, so called because they were used in the sport of bull baiting. After bull baiting was outlawed, dogfights became popular, particularly in the coal mining areas of Staffordshire. Fights often took place in pits dug near the mines. To make the dog smaller and faster, the English bulldog was bred with a variety of other breeds including the fox terrier. They were brought to the United States about the time of the Civil War.

MOST PIT BULLS ARE GOOD PETS.

The vast majority are bred and raised by responsible owners. They have many years of breeding for characteristics that make them good companions and show dogs. Owners say the dogs are brave, athletic, affectionate, energetic, clean and quiet. Dogs kept by responsible owners are unlikely to cause many problems.

VICIOUS PIT BULLS are most likely to come from a fighting environment. Although the sport is illegal, it continues. These animals are bred for characteristics such as gameness. This is the ability to continue to attack until exhaustion or death. They will fight with no provocation. Most dogs will end an attack when the other dog withdraws or surrenders. Pit bulls keep on attacking. Fighting breeds have traits selected to do maximum damage to their opponents. They bite repeatedly, holding, shaking and tearing. Sometimes a dog with strong aggressive characteristics is bred back to his parent, making the traits even stronger. Pit bulls mixed with other breeds are particularly dangerous.

IRRESPONSIBLE OWNERS are converging on this breed. People who want a mean dog are buying pit bulls. If a dog is abused and isolated, it will not have an opportunity to socialize with people and is more likely to be vicious. Training or lack of it is an important factor. If the animal is trained to be mean, this compounds the problem. More than 95 percent of dog bites in the United States are caused by dogs that are improperly restrained or supervised.