pit bull, dog having a smooth coat, a stocky build, and a blocky head, originally bred for fighting from bulldog and terrier breeds. Pit bulls were used in bull- and bearbaiting for centuries and as guard dogs. The American pit bull terrier, bred in the late 19th cent. for blood sport, became popular as a pet after dog fighting was outlawed. In the 1970s and 80s illegal dog fighting gained popularity and the dogs were once again used in pit fighting and as guard dogs. Other breeds considered pit bulls include the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier. Although pit bulls have a reputation for being vicious and prone to attack and have in some cases been restricted by local ordinances, studies have not shown pit bulls to be unusually dangerous.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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