DogsBite.org - A reader left a comment regarding Verizon's chained up, junkyard pit bull advertisement. The ASPCA online community has sponsored a petition to "Make Verizon Accountable." In other words, Verizon ought to be ashamed of themselves for depicting pit bulls in this manner. Instead, the dogs should be depicted as the ASPCA describes them: "hero and family" dogs.
DogsBite.org challenges this myth (Myth #8), as does Animal People, who tested the claim. By searching the classified dogs-for-sale ads between 1900-1950 on NewspaperArchive.com, they discovered that Huskies and St. Bernards topped the charts. Of the 34 breeds searched, pit bulls ranked 25th. This includes using search criteria of three names: pit bull terrier, Staffordshire, and American bulldog.
Comment: "The portrayal of pit bulls as common family pets and "heroes" at the turn of the century is complete fiction....it succeeds because it has been essentially hard to disprove. All it took was for pit bull "activists" to scour the internet to find a handful of grainy black and white daguerrotypes of dogs that look vaguely like pit bulls, posing with their masters. Merritt Clifton has used quantifiable data to refute the claim that these dogs were common family pets by searching the classified dogs-for-sale ads between 1900-1950 on NewspaperArchive.com. He discovered that, of the 34 breeds searched, pit bulls ranked 25th.
In addition,the claims that pit bulls were "war heroes" stems from the fact that the cartoon image of a pit bull was used on a few WWI military posters. There is also an assertion that the most decorated military dog in history was a pit bull. Actually, "Sgt. Stubby" was a dog "of unknown breed" found as a stray on the Yale campus; many believe he was a Boston Terrier. In what I find as the ultimate irony, the Bad Rap website shows a picture of Sgt. Stubby, next to the full war poster, which depicts a Boston Terrier, a Pit Bull Terrier, and an English Bulldog. Stubby, in a full face closeup, looks exactly like the drawing of the Boston Terrier.
Other fantastical claims regarding pit bulls popularity as family dogs involve pointing out that "Petey" from the Little Rascals was a pit bull terrier. Can I therefore postulate that Bearded Collies were the most popular dog in America during the 1970's because Tiger on the Brady bunch was a Bearded Collie? Also, pit bull sites everywhere have the audacity to claim that the cartoon shoe mascot, Bustor Brown, owned a pit bull. Outraged Bostonians (like myself) who grew up with "Tige", know he was a Boston Terrier. Also, he is a cartoon, and his existance in no way indicates that Boston Terriers were the "most popular family dog in America" in the early 1900's.
The truth about pit bull dogs has been hard for the American public to swallow; that they were never intended to be family pets, and have always been bred primarily for bloodsport. It was neccesary to recreate the history of the breed, portraying them as relatively recent "victims" of "bad people". Using the terms "brave" and "loyal" to describe what the dogmen call "gameness" helped to further anthropomorphize these animals. Appealing to patriotism by declaring the breed "war heroes" was yet another attempt to win over the American public...despite the fact that there is no evidence that these dogs were ever extensively used as such, unlike GSDs. (Who apparently get little credit for their efforts during armed conflicts)"
11/13/07: Group Asks: How Popular Were Pit Bulls Once Upon a Time?