I know I’m about to break one of my own rules.
I know I said I wasn’t going to write about pit bulls.
But I think I need to make an exception.
I’m not talking about BSL or anything that controversial.
Instead, I’m going to talk about a particular type of conformation show that pit bulls are now being bred for.
To illustrate my issue, here is G. G belongs to my cousin, Laura Atkinson:
G is a brindle pit. I don’t think anyone would argue about what he is.
He’s typical of the unregistered pit bull-type that exists throughout the country. (I know that technically there are American pit bull terriers, which are a UKC recognized breed, and there are “pit bulls,” which are not.)
The UKC standard calls for a dog that isn’t vastly dissimilar to G.
Something like this:
It’s not a particularly exaggerated dog in terms of its conformation.
The AKC recognizes another type of North American bull and terrier type, which is called the American Staffordshire terrier. (Not to be confused with the Staffordshire bull terrier, which is an English bull and terrier breed that was derived from bull and terrier types that were not bred from the Hinks strain).
These terms are all highly contentious, but let’s just say that the bull and terrier types that don’t have egg shaped heads aren’t particularly exaggerated dogs. The official breed standards call for very moderate dogs.
But there are other conformation standards.
In recent years, there have been new “Atomic dog” shows. These Atomic shows actually do reward exaggeration in type.
This is the sort of dog they want:
These shows reward dogs with very wide chests and massive bone.
They aren’t being judged according to any breed club standards, so they’ve written their own.
Now, there’s nothing really wrong with people writing their own breed standards, but when these standards are rewarding exaggeration, then we do have to have some discussion about it.
I have not seen any studies on the health of these Atomic-type dogs, but my guess is they are being predisposed to certain growth-related health problems, like OCD .
It’s also very likely that these dogs are being given growth supplements to build these Schwarzenegger bodies, and in Atomic Dog magazine, these hormones are advertised. If you have to give a dog growth hormones to produce the type you want, then there are definite ethical questions that must be answered.
There is nothing in the bull and terrier’s history that would require the breeding of such beefy dogs.
It’s simple vanity.
And I don’t think we’ve looked closely at the welfare issues associated with breeding for this particular phenotype in this particular breed.
After all, the enthusiasts who breed this sort of dog aren’t operating even within the framework of established kennel clubs.
And it’s relatively new.
But it does need to be examined.
It’s not just the conformation shows within the major clubs that are causing canine distortions.
They are also happening in other places.
The main registry for this sort of “wide stance” pit bull is the American Bully Kennel Club.
They also register a “Shorty Bull,” a wide stance dog with even shorter legs!
They even have a totally bogus breed called an “Old Roman bulldog.” This is what it claims one of these dogs is:
Before all the modern Bulldog crosses of today, there lived a true giant Bull-Dog, the Bull-Dogs of old Rome. We have done the research and have acquired the right genetic makeup to produce what we feel is a good representation of a True “Original Bull-Dog”. A bull-dog that has a great temperment (sic) and can do work or just hang out with the family. The total package!
Bulldogs aren’t from Ancient Rome.
The best history on bulldogs traces them to the dogs of the Alani, but even that information is a subject to debate.
The truth is this sort of dog appeared in northern Europe and the British Isles during the Middle Ages, and over time diversified into a wide variety of breeds.
But if dog breeds didn’t originate in Ancient Egypt, then they obviously came from Ancient Rome!
Breeding for super exaggeration and making up certifiably nutty crap about bulldogs and bull-and-terrier types is not something confined to the Bedlams that are established breed clubs and registries.
The start-ups are often just as bad!
Some people claim that the American bully is a different breed, but I’m not playing into this game. Even if the dogs do have other blood in them, so do most unregistered pit bulls.
This is a silly argument– on the level of trying to split apart all the different dogs we call Jack Russell.
Keep in mind that Labrador retrievers were the last retriever breed to have a fully closed registry. Some lines of Labrador have the influence of other retriever breeds that others lack. For example, “English Labs” have a influence from flat-coated and golden retrievers, and “American trial Labs” often have an influence from Chesapeakes.
No one splits hairs over them.
So I’m not going to here.
There’s already too much stupid splitting among dog strains that I refuse to indulge it any more.
That’s a very weaselly way of operating– and it’s intellectually dishonest.