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 certain 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?
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. So don’t discriminate against Pitties until you get all the facts.
Key Pit Bull Facts and Stats Everyone Should Know
- The AKC does not recognize Pit Bulls as a separate breed of dog.
- Pit Bulls are believed to have killed 26 Americans in 2018.
- Over 42 breeds of dogs have been implicated in fatal dog attacks since 2016.
- There are around 4.5 million Pit Bulls in the US.
- Dogs labeled as Pit Bulls spend three times longer in shelters than other dogs.
- Half of all Pit Bulls are euthanized in shelters.
- Removing labels helps dogs get adopted.
- Pit Bulls are the most abused dogs.
- Pit Bulls were once known as nanny dogs.
- Pit Bulls bite stronger than other dogs — a common myth about these doggies.
What Is a Pit Bull Breed?
1. The AKC does not 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, rather a type of dog which includes the following dog breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, 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 common features of Pit Bulls, it doesn’t mean that all canines who have these physical characteristics are the same type of dog.
2. A 2018 study found that dogs classified as Pit Bulls only had 43.5% DNA from Pit Bull-type ancestry.
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, which 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 when it comes to Pit Bull attacks in the US.
3. Breed labels at animal shelters are wrong 87.5% of the time.
(Shaw Pit Bull Rescue, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine)
Pit Bull facts and information on breed labels show that, more often than not, 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. What’s more, research has shown that animal professionals, such as groomers, breeders, and vets, correctly recognized a prominent breed of dogs only 27% of the time.
These stats show that visual identification of dogs, especially mixed-breed dogs, is next to impossible.
Pit Bull Bite Statistics
4. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 60% of human deaths in the USA from 1979–1998.
This comprehensive report compiled by members of the CDC, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Veterinary Medical Association states 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 and that the data presented in the study should not be used to identify a specific breed of dog as “dangerous.”
5. Only 1.8% of ED patients bitten by a Pit Bull or some other canine were hospitalized, according to dog bite statistics.
In 1994, there were 4.7 million dog bites in the US. Consequently, around 799,700 people needed medical care as a result of a dog attack. However, only approximately 333,700 of victims who were admitted to EDs were hospitalized.
6. Pit Bulls are believed to have killed 26 Americans in 2018.
How many Pit Bull attacks occurred in 2018? There were 36 dog bite-related deaths in the US in 2018, 72% of which are attributed to Pit Bulls.
7. Pit Bulls are reported to have killed 311 Americans from 2005–2018.
This roughly translates to one person being killed by Pit Bulls every 16 days. According to the same analysis, Pit Bulls have a preference for female victims. From 2015–2018, females made up for 53.8% of victims killed by Pit Bulls, which is a 39% increase in the number of female victims from 2005–2009, Pit Bull attack statistics reveal.
8. 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 authors of the study, “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 there was evidence of the dogs’ genetics or pedigree in only 13% of the 38 reported cases of DBRFs in 2018.
9. 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 Bulls number one among 30 other offending dog breeds. Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that the report only reviewed the emergency room records of a single pediatric hospital in one state.
10. Over 42 breeds of dogs have been implicated in fatal dog attacks since 2016.
This list includes Pit Bulls, as well as Akitas, Labs, and many others. Pit Bull statistics for 2017 put these dogs on the list with 12 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
11. 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.
12. Pit Bull-type dogs and Pit Bull mixes accounted for 22% of all dogs put up for adoption in shelters, Pit Bull statistics for 2018 show.
This number jumped to 31% in July 2019. Today, Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes make up 50% of total canine intakes in shelters.
13. 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.
14. Pit Bull statistics from 2019 show that 7.9% of dogs advertised for sale were Pitties.
This means that there were over 1.3 million Pit Bulls for sale last year, 375,000 more than 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.
15. 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 euthanasia statistics reveal that about 40% of all dogs killed in the 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 the puppy mills go out of business, people will have to adopt pets from the shelters, lowering both euthanasia rates and the number of Pit Bulls in the animal shelters.
Pit Bull Discrimination Facts
16. 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.
17. Around 63% of respondents in a 2014 survey believe it should be legal to own a Pit Bull, statistics and studies show.
Moreover, 50% said that some dogs are trained to be more aggressive, but that Pit Bulls are not more susceptible to this kind of training than other canines. Nevertheless, 51% said that they would advise against a family with small children adopting a Pit Bull, and 50% said they would never consider adopting this kind of dog.
18. Removing labels helps dogs get adopted.
(The Washington Post)
An Orlando shelter did away with labels on dogs and discovered some amazing statistics behind the Pit Bull dog breed. Facts reveal that only 52% of labeled Pit Bull-type dogs were adopted, while 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%.
19. People don’t trust Pit Bulls, surveys show.
(The Washington Post)
A 2016 study asked people to look at photos of Labs, Border Collies, and Pit Bulls and then assess the dogs on approachability, intelligence, aggression, and trainability. Pit Bulls ranked lowest in all categories, except in trainability and aggression.
Pit Bull Abuse Statistics
20. Pit Bulls are the most abused dogs in the world.
(PETA, WAFF 48)
In addition to thousands of Pit Bulls mistreated and abused by their owners, around 10,000 of them die every year in dogfighting rings.
21. 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.
22. 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 of the good Pit Bull statistics: 17 of them have since been adopted, and around a dozen passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. The rehabilitation of some of the Pit Bulls has been so successful that they have now become therapy dogs.
History of the Pit Bull
23. 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 Pit Bull facts and info 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.
24. Pit Bulls used to be called “America’s Dog.”
(Love-A-Bull, Good Pit Bulls)
During the war, Pit Bulls were used as the nation’s mascot, and the 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.
25. Pit Bulls were once known as nanny dogs.
For over a hundred years, the Pit Bull was used as a nanny dog. The facts show that these pups served as babysitters because they were loving, gentle, and loyal companions (and still are). It may be hard to believe, given their reputation, but there are a ton of photographs that prove Pit Bulls’ history as a nanny dog and show that people used to trust Pit Bulls with their biggest treasure — their babies.
26. 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 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. 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
27. Pit Bulls bite stronger than other dogs — a common myth about these doggies.
Looking at the list of the strongest bites in terms of pound per square inch, Pit Bulls do not even make it in the top 12. It’s actually 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.
28. Pitties are ranked third on the list of dogs that bite.
(Puppy Lover News, 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, Chihuahuas top the list, and Pit Bulls are third, right after Bulldogs. The reason why small dogs are not considered as dangerous, even though they tend to bite more, is that 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.
29. Another common Pit Bull myths vs. 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.
30. Pit Bulls and Golden Retrievers have similar pass rates, Pit Bull temperament facts reveal.
Golden Retrievers got an 85.6% pass rate, meaning 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%).
31. Pit Bulls are recognized as wonderful 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 pets and service dogs.
32. 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.
33. 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 as ineffective and outdated, which is why many states are eliminating the 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.
34. Can you trust a Pit Bull?
Why not? 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.
35. Are Pit Bulls statistically more dangerous?
Sadly, stats show that Pit Bulls are identified as the main culprits in the majority of 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.
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, nannies, and mascots. This just goes to show that Pit Bulls — like all dogs — have it in them to 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
- Maddie’s Shelter Medicine
- National Canine Research Council
- National Canine Research Council
- Puppy Lover News
- Service Dog Certification
- Shaw Pit Bull Rescue
- The Washington Post
- WAFF 48