Nature versus nurture — it’s a question as old as time. Are Pit Bulls genetically more aggressive than other dog breeds, as public opinion and some Pit Bull statistics seem to suggest?
Or have they been bred and kept by irresponsible humans who mistreat them and use them for cruel and savage purposes? Don’t discriminate against Pitties until you get all the facts.
Here are some astonishing statistics and facts that’ll change your view.
What Are the Key Pit Bull Facts and Stats Everyone Should Know
- The AKC doesn’t recognize Pit Bulls as a separate breed of dog.
- Breed labels at animal shelters are wrong 75% of the time.
- Pit Bulls are reported to have killed 346 Americans from 2005–2019.
- Dogs labeled as Pit Bulls spend three times longer in shelters than other dogs.
- Pit Bulls used to be called “America’s Dog.”
- Half of all Pit Bulls are euthanized in shelters.
- Pit Bulls are the most abused dogs in the world.
- 25% of the US has a negative opinion of Pit Bull, statistics and studies show.
- As many as 51 Pit Bulls were seized from Michael Vick’s kennels.
- Pit Bulls and Golden Retrievers have similar pass rates.
You may think you have Pit Bulls all figured out, but the truth is that there is more to these dogs than brute force.
Pit Bulls are perfectly capable of being one of the most affectionate, cheerful, and playful pets, but only if they are given the right love and care.
What Is a Pit Bull Breed?
People consider Pit Bulls to be a separate breed, but science and the AKC disagree. So, let’s see where these dogs belong.
1. The AKC doesn’t recognize Pit Bulls as a separate breed of dog.
(AVMA, Today, Shaw Pit Bull Rescue)
First of all, Pit Bulls are not technically a breed. They’re rather a type of dog which includes the following dog breeds:
- The American Pit Bull Terrier
- The American Staffordshire Terrier
- The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and
- The American Bully
The English Bull Terrier, Boxers, and the American Bulldog are just some of the breeds commonly misidentified as Pit Bulls.
While Pit Bull facts show that a muscular body and a broad head are standard features of Pit Bulls, it doesn’t mean that all that have these physical characteristics are the same type of dog.
2. A study found that dogs classified as Pit Bulls only had 43.5% DNA from Pit Bull-type ancestry.
(Pitbullinfo.org, AVMA, NCBI)
The study, carried out in two shelters in California and Arizona, also found that 62% of dogs labeled as Pit Bulls had less than a 50% DNA concentration from Pit Bull-type ancestry, Pit Bull facts and statistics show.
Identifying the right breed of dog in attacks and death is incredibly difficult. This is why the CDC stopped collecting breed-specific data in dog bite-related fatalities (DBRF) in 1998.
The fact that there’s no official data to go by makes it even harder to separate myths from facts regarding Pit Bull attacks in the US.
3. Breed labels at animal shelters are wrong 75% of the time.
Pit Bull facts and information on breed labels show that this type of dog is misidentified. When a dog is brought to a shelter, it is immediately assigned a breed to ease the adoption process.
The problem is that most of the time, people assign the breed labels based on personal opinion. Consequently, they often misidentify a breed.
Moreover, research has shown that animal professionals, such as groomers, breeders, and vets, correctly recognized a prominent breed of dogs in only a small portion of cases.
These stats show that visual identification of dogs, especially mixed-breed dogs, is next to impossible.
Pit Bull Bite Statistics
Pit Bulls are often portrayed as vicious, aggressive dogs that go around, bite, and maul people. It’s true that some Pit Bulls do attack and bite people. But let’s see the statistics and break some myths.
4. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 60% of human deaths by dogs in the USA from 1979–1998.
This comprehensive report was compiled by the CDC, the Humane Society of the United States, and the AVMA. It reveals that Pit Bull-type dogs were implicated in a third of dog bite-related human deaths from 1981–1992.
However, the CDC dog bite statistics reveal that 25 breeds of dogs were involved in fatal attacks on humans during the 20 years.
The report also mentions that deadly attacks comprised a small portion of dog-bite injuries. Hence, the data presented in the study should not be used to identify a specific breed of dog as “dangerous.”
5. Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes are believed to have killed 33 Americans in 2018.
Statistics on Pit Bull attacks for the following year show there were 48 dog bite-related deaths in the US in 2019. Moreover, 69% of them are attributed to Pit Bulls.
6. Pit Bulls are reported to have killed 346 Americans from 2005–2019.
According to the same analysis, Pit Bulls have killed more women than men. From 2015–2019, adult females made up for 66% of victims killed by Pit Bulls, as Pit Bull attack statistics reveal.
7. A 2019 study shows that of all breeds responsible for dog bites, “unknown” is number one.
(AAHA, National Canine Research Council)
Second on the list were Pit Bulls (responsible for 22.5% of all bites), mixed breeds (21.2%), and German Shepherds (held accountable for 17.8% of all bites).
According to the study’s authors, “unknown” tops the list because it’s so challenging to identify breeds based on just visual information correctly.
When it comes to the number of Pit Bull bites, statistics show evidence of the dogs’ genetics or pedigree in only 13% of the 38 reported cases of DBRFs in 2018.
8. Two-thirds of dog bite-related injuries in a Philadelphia hospital involved two breeds of dogs — Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.
According to a five-year review of dog-bite-related injuries from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 50.9% of all attacks came from Pit Bulls.
Around 8.9% of injuries were inflicted by Rottweilers, while mixes from the two breeds were responsible for 6% of attacks.
When comparing Pit Bull attacks statistics vs. other breeds, this review ranks Pit Bull’s number one among 30 other offending dog breeds.
Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that the report only reviewed a single pediatric hospital’s emergency room records in one state.
9. Over 47 breeds of dogs have been implicated in fatal dog attacks between 2016 and 2020.
This list includes Pit Bulls, as well as Akitas, Labs, and many others. Pit Bull attacks statistics put these dogs on the list with over 40 other breeds responsible for fatalities, including German Shepherds and Boxers.
Simply put, all dog breeds can display aggressive behavior and turn on humans, not just canines that are considered dangerous or “vicious.”
Pit Bulls in the US by the Numbers
There are millions of Pit Bulls in the US. Sadly, they’re mistreated and one of the most misunderstood dog category in America and worldwide.
10. There are around 4.5 million Pit Bulls in the US.
Pit Bull statistics suggest that Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes make up 5.8% of all dogs in the US. This means that one dog in twenty is a Pit Bull.
Around 54% of these canines are looking for a home, 31% of which are puppies, and 23% are put up for adoption after losing their previous home.
11. Pit Bull-type dogs and Pit Bull mixes accounted for 22% of all dogs put up for adoption in shelters.
Pit Bulls in shelters statistics reveal this number jumped to 31% in July 2019. Today, Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes make up 50% of total canine intakes in shelters.
12. Dogs labeled as Pit Bulls spend three times longer in shelters than other dogs.
(The Washington Post)
Dogs that looked like Pit Bulls but were labeled a different breed stayed in shelters for 13 days, while pups classified as Pit Bulls spend an average of 42 days in animal shelters.
13. Facts about Pit Bulls show that 7.9% of dogs advertised for sale in 2019 were Pitties.
This means that there were over 1.3 million Pit Bulls for sale in 2019. This is 375,000 more than in 2018, in addition to the millions of Pit Bulls in shelters and rescues. Even sadder, most of the Pit Bulls for sale are the product of backyard breeding.
14. Half of all Pit Bulls are euthanized in shelters.
(ANIMALS 24-7, KC Dog Blog)
It is believed that around 800,000 Pit Bull-type dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. In other words, Pit Bull death statistics reveal that about 40% of all dogs killed in animal shelters are Pit Bulls.
To end euthanasia, animal activists are pushing for bills ending the sale of commercially bred puppies in puppy mills.
The idea is that if puppy mills go out of business, people will have to adopt pets from the shelters. In turn, this will lower both euthanasia rates and the number of Pit Bulls in the animal shelters.
Discrimination, myths and facts about Pit Bulls
Myths and stigma around Pit Bulls are so common that people go into panic mode at the sole mention of their name.
15. Discrimination against Pit Bulls is so prevalent that the name alone puts people off this type of dog.
Participants in a study who were shown videos of canines labeled as Pit Bulls and similar dogs found the “look-alikes” more attractive. However, when the labels were removed, they found Pit Bulls more attractive.
16. 25% of the US has a negative opinion of Pit Bull, statistics and studies show.
Moreover, statistics also reveal that Pit Bulls are the 19th most popular type of dogs in the US.
However, as much as 51% of the American population still has a negative opinion of Pitties. On the other hand, 21% have a neutral opinion.
17. Removing labels helps dogs get adopted.
(The Washington Post)
An Orlando shelter did away with labels on dogs and discovered something amazing. Namely, Pit Bulls facts show that only 52% of labeled Pit Bull-type dogs were adopted. In comparison, 64% were adopted after the breed identification tags were removed.
Non-labeled Pit Bull-type canines also spent 1.5 days less at the shelter, and euthanasia rates went down by 12%.
18. People don’t trust Pit Bulls, surveys show.
(The Washington Post)
A 2016 study asked people to look at Lab, Border Collie, and Pit Bull photos and then assess the dogs’ approachability, intelligence, aggression, and trainability. Pit Bulls ranked lowest in all categories, except in trainability and aggression.
Pit Bull Abuse Statistics
The sad truth is that Pit Bulls are some of the most tortured, maltreated, and abused dogs on the planet. They’re often bred for illegal dog fights. Inhumane conditions in which people keep them are just the tip of the iceberg.
19. Pit Bulls are the most abused dogs in the world.
In addition to thousands of Pit Bulls mistreated and abused by their owners, many of them die every year in dogfighting rings.
Some bad facts about Pit Bulls show they’re usually kept chained and are starved to trigger their survival instincts and encourage aggressive behavior. The ones that survive the fight are kept and bred for profit.
20. Pit Bulls are the types of dogs most commonly used in dogfights.
Starved, chained, and continuously abused, Pit Bulls are tortured even before they enter the pit. Some owners cut off their ears, sharpen their teeth, or inject them with steroids, all to make them more aggressive and tougher.
Horrific Pit Bull fighting facts show that when the dogs are no longer useful, they are electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot, or beaten to death.
21. As many as 51 Pit Bulls were seized from Michael Vick’s kennels.
It wasn’t the biggest, but it was undoubtedly the bust that got the most attention from the public.
When Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was arrested in 2007 for running a dogfighting operation, 70 dogs were seized, more than half of which were Pit Bull-type dogs.
Here are some more positive facts about Pit Bulls: 17 of them have since been adopted, and around a dozen passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.
Some of the seized Pit Bulls’ rehabilitation has been so successful that they have now become therapy dogs.
History of the Pit Bull
Facts about Pit Bulls show that they were once America’s favorite dogs. They were known as nanny dogs. What happened? How did they go from a favorite to the most hated dogs? The media started fueling stories on dog attacks and demonizing Pit Bulls.
22. The name Pit Bull is closely connected to this dog’s history.
Pit Bulls were originally bred in the UK from Old English Bulldogs and were used in vicious sports such as bull and bear-baiting (hence the name).
Historical facts on Pit Bulls show that once this sport was outlawed in England. These pups were used for “ratting,” which involved putting the dogs and rats in a pit and seeing whose dog can catch the most rats in the shortest amount of time.
When they arrived in America, though, there was no continuation of the Pit Bull fighting history. Instead, farmers used them as pest control, companions, and protectors.
23. Pit Bulls used to be called “America’s Dog.”
(Love-A-Bull, Good Pit Bulls)
Pit Bulls were used as the nation’s mascot during the war, and American history and Pit Bull facts confirm it.
The army also employed them, the most famous one being Sergeant Stubby — the only dog to be promoted to sergeant during WWI. Sergeant Stubby was a decorated war hero who served in four campaigns and took part in 17 battles.
It wasn’t just the army that loved Pitties. They also served as sports mascots for basketball, baseball, and football teams.
24. Pit Bulls were once known as nanny dogs.
Some good facts about Pit Bulls show that these pups served as babysitters for over a hundred years because they were loving, gentle, and loyal companions (and still are).
It may be hard to believe, given their reputation. Still, many photographs prove Pit Bulls’ history as a nanny dog and show that people used to trust Pit Bulls with their biggest treasure — their babies.
25. There was only one reported attack by a Pit Bull-type dog from 1965–1975, Pit Bull attack stats show.
Then things took a downturn for Pit Bulls — by 1986, there were 350 reports of this type of dog attacking humans.
Families that were fearing that their pet might attack them started euthanizing their Pit Bulls. With the media fueling discrimination against these dogs with sensationalized coverage of the attacks, it was inevitable.
Being widely used as fighter dogs or canines for street “thugs” and criminals didn’t do their reputation any good either.
Pit Bull Myths and Facts
We mentioned a couple of times there are many myths surrounding Pit Bulls. Here are some of the most common ones. We also provide the facts, so you can get a clear picture and see the truth.
26. Pit Bulls bite stronger than other dogs — a common myth about these dogs.
Looking at the list of the strongest bites in terms of pound per square inch, Pit Bull facts show the breed doesn’t even make it in the top 12.
It’s the Kangal that has the strongest bite with 743 PSI. The strength of a dog’s bite is determined by its size and strength, not by its breed.
27. Pitties are ranked second on the list of dogs that bite.
(AAHA, National Canine Research Council)
Another one of the popular Pit Bull facts and myths is that Pit Bulls bite more than other kinds of dogs.
Actually, in regards to dogs that are most likely to bite, “unknown” breeds top the list, and Pit Bulls are second. “Mixed” breeds and German Shepherds follow.
Small dogs are not considered dangerous, even though they tend to bite more, because their bites do not inflict the same damage as those of bigger dogs.
This is backed by the fact that 81% of dog bites cause little to no physical damage and do not require medical treatment.
28. Other common Pit Bull myths and facts debate: Pit Bulls are naturally aggressive.
Actually, Pit Bulls have an 87.4% temperament passing rate. The American Temperament Testing Society tested 931 American Pit Bulls, 814 of which passed, while only 117 failed the test.
In addition to aggression, the ATTS Temperament Test measures friendliness and protectiveness towards its handler/owner, as well as the dog’s ability to differentiate between dangerous and non-threatening situations.
29. Pit Bulls and Golden Retrievers have similar pass rates.
Golden Retrievers got an 85.6% pass rate. However, fun facts about Pit Bulls show that Pit Bulls are slightly less aggressive than one of the most popular dog breeds in the US.
Other dogs that show more aggression than Pit Bulls include the tiny Yorkshire Terriers (83.7% pass rate), Corgis (79.6%), and Chihuahuas (69.6%).
30. Pit Bulls are recognized as outstanding therapy dogs.
(Service Dog Certification)
Pit Bulls love people and are incredibly friendly. Plus, they have the build and pain tolerance level to handle some situations other dogs can’t, making them the perfect service dogs and pet therapy animals.
31. Do Pit Bulls have lockjaw?
No. Pit Bulls do not have unusual physical features or enzymes that allow them to lock their jaws. In other words, the jaw of Pit Bulls is no different than that of other dogs.
The one thing that could explain this common misconception about Pit Bulls is their determination and enthusiasm.
When they bite down on something, they rarely release it, but so do a lot of other dogs, as any dog owner who has played “tug-of-war” with their pet knows.
32. Are Pit Bulls banned?
Over 900 cities in the US have implemented some form of breed-specific legislation, with Iowa and Kentucky leading the pack. Namely, 90 and 30 municipalities in these two states, respectively, have implemented a BSL.
BSLs have been proven ineffective and outdated, which is why many states are eliminating breed-specific legislation.
Neutering, microchipping, and posting warning signs is a more successful practice, as shown in Springfield, Missouri.
When Pit Bull owners were required to neuter and microchip their pets, the number of Pit Bull bites went down from 34 in 2005 to 16 the following year.
33. Are Pitbulls a good family dog?
Absolutely, with the right treatment and training, they can be a perfect family pet. Pit Bulls are no different than other dogs. If trained right from an early age, there’s no reason why they can’t be affectionate and trusting pets.
If abused, treated with cruelty, or bred for violent sports, then all dog breeds will display aggressive behavior and can be considered “dangerous.” As would people.
34. Are Pit Bulls actually more dangerous?
Sadly, stats show that Pit Bulls are identified as the main culprits in most dog attacks and fatalities. Nevertheless, there are other factors to consider beyond figures.
- Was the dog really a Pit Bull or a “look-alike”?
- Was it abused or provoked?
- Did it have a history of violent attacks?
These are just some of the questions that need to be answered before official data is put together and before Pit Bulls are blamed for almost every dog bite-related death.
The Bottom Line
Pit Bulls are the most abused, abandoned, and euthanized dogs in the US. However, Pit Bull history tells us that they were once treated as loving companions.
This just goes to show that Pit Bulls can be both tender pets and dangerous animals. It’s up to their owners to decide which side they will nourish and encourage.
And that’s the real truth behind Pit Bull statistics, not the fear-mongering of the media and anti-Pit Bull advocates.
- ANIMALS 24-7
- Canine Journal
- Good Pit Bulls
- KC Dog Blog
- National Canine Research Council
- National Canine Research Council
- Service Dog Certification
- The Washington Post