Content continues after advertisement

Identifying Pit Bulls

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

Sign in to Print/View PDF

Pit bull is not a recognized breed but a term applied to a group of dogs that may include or resemble various breeds such as the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier. Dog owners, animal shelters, insurance companies, veterinarians, and the public frequently use the term casually and in official documents as though it describes a single, recognized breed. Pedigree information on individual dogs is not usually available, especially in a shelter scenario, so animals are identified based on subjective assessment of physical characteristics. 

In this study, 4 shelters were used to assess this subjective breed identification. Results were compared with DNA testing using DNA signatures of the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier. Results, which showed a lack of consistency among shelter team members, confirmed that visual identification of pit bull-type dogs was unreliable. One in 3 dogs showing no DNA evidence of pit bull heritage were identified by at least 1 person as a pit bull-type, and 1 in 5 with DNA evidence of pit bull heritage were missed by all team members. 

These data are particularly important because of assumptions that breeds can be identified by observation and that certain breeds or phenotypes are inherently dangerous, which lead to breed bans and regulations. However, even pedigree analysis cannot reliably predict morphology or behavior. Therefore, injury-prevention efforts should focus more on recognition, prevention, and mitigation of other risk factors for both humans and dogs. 

Commentary

“Pit bulls” are common in the United States. The dog was bred from a bulldog and a terrier to capitalize on the qualities of both—strength, endurance, tenacity, and high-energy athleticism—and originally intended as an animal-killer before inevitably being used in killing-type sporting events (eg, dog fighting, cock fighting). Advocacy websites provide quizzes that challenge users to correctly identify a pit bull; these emphasize the difficulty of differentiating pit bulls from other bull-headed type breeds (eg, the cane corso). A future point-of-care blood test for DNA markers of pit bull heritage would be useful in shelters and municipalities for accurate identification of the breed-type. Challenges remain to demystify the temperament of this dog and raise awareness about all factors implicated in dog bites that are not breed-related.—Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA, CVPP

References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

All Clinician's Brief content is reviewed for accuracy at the time of publication. Previously published content may not reflect recent developments in research and practice.

Material from Clinician's Brief may not be reproduced, distributed, or used in whole or in part without prior permission of Educational Concepts, LLC. For questions or inquiries please contact us.

Podcasts

Clinician's Brief:
The Podcast
Listen as host Alyssa Watson, DVM, talks with the authors of your favorite Clinician’s Brief articles. Dig deeper and explore the conversations behind the content here.
Clinician's Brief provides relevant diagnostic and treatment information for small animal practitioners. It has been ranked the #1 most essential publication by small animal veterinarians for 9 years.*

*2007-2017 PERQ and Essential Media Studies

© 2022 Educational Concepts, L.L.C. dba Brief Media ™ All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions | DMCA Copyright | Privacy Policy | Acceptable Use Policy