Animal Experts and the Innate Aggressive Traits of Pit Bulldogs

No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study, and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)



FRANKLIN LOEW, dean of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine  
I'm not aware of any other breed of animal that has ever been singled out this way. This is man biting dog.

KAREN L. OVERALL,MA VMD, PhD, DACVB and MOLLY LOVE, MSN, JAVMA Vol. 218, No. 12, June 15, 200, Dog bite to humans – demography, epidemiology, injury, and risk

HUGH WIRTH, veterinarian

Another vicious attack by not one, but four pit bulls. Dare we say anything lest we raise the ire of the breed’s apologists?

I have been in veterinary practice for 43 years and never have seen anything like the infusion of this breed. Having worked with more than 100,000 dogs of all breeds, I defy any apologist to offer up such experience.

Sure, there are sweet pits, but telling one from the bad ones, the Jekyll and Hyde ones that can be incited to violence by some catalyst, is near impossible. While most apologists fancy themselves good trainers, 95 percent of owners are clueless.

Many breeds have a history of use based on genetics; the border collie’s is herding, German short hair pointers find birds, and pits have a history of violence. With that information, it still makes sense from the “it’s how you raise your dog” crowd that any dog could be made to herd or point; I mean, it’s how you raise them, right?

A border collie herds instinctively, pointers find game birds, and a pit bull? Well, it wants to chase two girls across a field with three of its buddies and maul them.

Neuter all pit bulls, require high, double fencing, and give severe fines/incarceration of owners for such attacks. I’ve had it with pit bulls and their mixes trying to bite me during exams or scaring other pet owners. Six weeks old, three months old, you can’t trust them; you can only make excuses for them.

GRAEME SMITH, veterinarian
My views about associating a breed with dangerous behaviours were challenged over time as I saw the impact of Pit Bull attacks. Talking to owners with dogs of this breed who have themselves been turned on, it became clear that these animals are unpredictable and when they attack they can cause serious injury or death. It is very hard to give Pit Bulls the benefit of the doubt.
If it looks like a Pit Bull, it is a Pit Bull.
What’s at stake is the safety of people and their own pets in the wider community, there is no room for gambling with an unpredictable animal. 

And that is so often the case. No one knows where these dogs are until they come out and cause some form of grief. My position is about protecting the public and other animals from these animals.


on the MA muzzling law
After a spate of attacks by pit bulls this summer, Massachusetts lawmakers passed legislation requiring the dogs to be muzzled in public. Some pit bull owners protested, but a Tufts expert says the law may be a good idea. Breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers, says animal behavior expert Nick Dodman, are hardwired for aggression.

“Some of these dogs are as dangerous as a loaded handgun,” Dodman– director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at TuftsSchool of Veterinary Medicine – said in an interview with The Boston Globe Magazine.

Genetics play a big role.

“No doubt about it, pit bulls are genetically predisposed toward aggression,” he told the magazine. “Justas certain breeds of dogs were bred to herd, certain were bred to hunt, certain to point, and others to swim.”

While most pet owners accept that their dogs have certain genetic behavioral characteristics, there is still resistance to the idea that some dogs are more dangerous than others.

“Everybody accepts [genetic behaviors like herding or hunting] until you throw in the word ‘aggression’ and things like a full, crushing bite, which some breeds were specifically bred for in the past.”

Statistics on dog attacks reinforce the link between certain dogs and dangerous behavior.

“It’s like a scene from “Casablanca” when they say, ‘Roundup the usual suspects,’” Dodman told the Globe.“It’s always German shepherds, chow, husky, pit bull.The numbers do the talking.”

He added that pit bulls and Rottweilers alone account for more than 50 percent of the fatal dog attacks every year. Despite the danger, the owners of these dogs often fail to take proper precautions.

“A lot of owners of aggressive breeds are suffering from denial and ignorance, because no one wants to be fingered as having that kind of dog,” Dodman said.

“Genetics does play a role and people who think it doesn’t are kidding themselves,” says Dodman. “The pit bull is notorious for a very hard bite. They are always No. 1 in the lethal dog bite parade. The dog was bred for pit fighting. It was bred to never give up, to bite and hang on.”


BONNIE V. BEAVER, BS, DVM, MS, DACVB, Professor and Chief of Medicine, Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University
Executive Director, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

"It's very poor policy to allow any child around a pit bull, in my mind, let alone climb on a dog.

After seeing another dog die from a pit bull attack, I feel compelled to write. The opinion that pit bulls are "mean because of the way they are raised" is often not the case. A Both of the dogs I took care of that died were attacked unprovoked by pit bulls that were in families that raised them responsibly. Just as a retriever is bred to hunt birds -- an instinct you can't stop -- many pit bulls have a genetic tendency to attack other animals. When they do, they are extremely powerful and don't quit. I have never been bitten or growled at by a pit bull -- they are very friendly. But when the instinct to attack another animal occurs, they cause serious damage, or death. They don't bite people any more often than other breeds but when they do, it's bad. The aggressiveness toward other animals and damage they do is not because of "the way they are raised" -- it is usually due to a genetic instinct not in the control of the owner.

ARTHUR HERM, veterinarian, animal control
He said he disagrees with those people who believe they can train aggressiveness out of dogs, and added he believes aggressiveness is “inherent” and “genetic” in all dogs while pit bulls “seem to have more of that.”

MICHAEL W. FOX, veterinarian, animal behaviorist

RADCLIFFE ROBINS, DVM, Master K-9 Instructor
Temperament is primarily a function of the dog's neurological makeup.
Temperament is 100% genetic; it is inherited, and fixed at the moment of the dog’s fertilization/conception/birth. Temperament in the dog cannot be eliminated nor transformed from one type to another. It cannot change during the dog’s lifetime. It is the permanent mental/neurological characteristic of the individual dog. But there may bean overlap of different temperaments in the same dog.Environment, socialization or training can modify the expression of an individual dog’s temperament, but they cannot transform it nor eliminate it. The dog will die with the temperament with which it was born.

SHERYL BLAIR, Tufts Veterinary School symposium - Animal Aggression: Dog Bites and the Pit Bull Terrier
The injuries these dogs inflict are more serious than other breeds because they go for the deep musculature and don't release; they hold and shake.
GARY WILKES, animal behaviorist
No other breed in America is currently bred for fighting, in such great numbers as the American Pit Bull Terrier. No other breed has instinctive behaviors that are so consistently catastrophic when they occur, regardless of how rarely they happen. The reality is that every English Pointer has the ability to point a bird. Every Cattle Dog has the ability to bite the heel of a cow and every Beagle has the ability to make an obnoxious bugling noise when it scents a rabbit or sees a cat walking on the back fence. Realistically, if your English Pointer suddenly and unpredictably points at a bird in the park, nobody cares. If my Heeler nips your ankle, I’m going to take care of your injuries and probably be fined for the incident. If your Beagle bugles too much, you’ll get a ticket for a noise violation. If your Pit Bull does what it’s bred to do...well, you fill in the blank.

ALEXANDRA SEMYONOVA, animal behaviorist

JOHN FAUL, animal behaviorist

Jørn Våge, Tina B Bønsdorff, Ellen Arnet, Aage Tverdal and Frode Lingaas, Differential gene expression in brain tissues of aggressive and non-aggressive dogs
The domestic dog (Canis familiaris), with its more than 400 recognised breeds [1], displays great variation in behaviour phenotypes. Favourable behaviour is important for well-being and negative traits such as aggression may ruin the owner-dog relationship and lead to relinquishment to shelters or even euthanasia of otherwise healthy dogs [2,3]. Behavioural traits result from an interaction of both genetic and environmental factors. Breed specific behavioural traits such as hunting, herding and calmness/aggression are, however, evidence of a large genetic component and specific behaviours show high heritabilities [4-8].

MICHAEL D. BREED, Ph.D., Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Certain breeds have been selected for enhanced dominance and aggression. Pit bulls and Rottweilers currently receive the most public attention in this regard, and pit bulls have been banned in many locations because they are perceived as being dangerous. While advocates of these breeds claim that maltreatment is a more likely underlying cause of the kind of aggression leading to biting incidents (some of which involve human fatalities), in fact we know that personality is fairly unresponsive to environment. Aggressive and dominant personalities likely only remain in check because dogs' owners have established themselves in a position of dominance over the animal, and other people are at risk, particularly when the owner is absent.


There are very few people, if any, who have written more on behalf of dogs over the past 40-odd years than I have, or spent more time down the back alleys of the developing world observing dogs in the habitats in which normal dogs came to co-evolve with humans. But appreciation of the ecological roles of street dogs & coyotes, exposing dog-eating and puppy mills, opposition to indiscriminate lethal animal control, introduction of high-volume low-cost spay/neuter and anti-rabies vaccination, introduction of online adoption promotion, encouraging the formation of thousands of new humane societies worldwide, etc., are not to be confused with pit bull advocacy. Pit bull advocacy is not defending dogs; it is defending the serial killers of the dog world, who kill, injure, and give bad reputations to all the rest. Indeed, pit bull advocacy, because it erodes public trust in dogs and people who care about dogs, stands a good chance of superseding rabies as the single greatest threat to the health, well-being, and human appreciation of all dogs worldwide.

"A dog's breed tells us a lot about that dog's genetic heritage and makeup. Genetics is a strong determinant of personality. In the absence of any other information, we can make a reasonable prediction about how the dog will behave based upon its breed." p 84

"When we crossbreed, we lose some of that predictability, since which genes will be passed on by each parent and how they will combine is a matter of chance. Fortunately, there is some data to suggest that we can still make predispositions without knowing much about its parentage. John Paul Scott and John L Fuller carried out a series of selective breeding experiments at the Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor, Maine. By happy chance, their results revealed a simple rule that seems to work. Their general conclusion was that a mixed breed dog is most likely to act like the breed that it most looks like." p 77

Dog trainers/animal control, Pit Bull breeders, owners, fanciers, experts

TARYN BLYTH, Dog Trainer
  1. No one is saying that a lot of Pit Bulls can’t be “successfully” socialised with other dogs. Many socialised from puppyhood are very friendly and outgoing with other dogs. The problem arises if and when fighting behaviour is triggered. Even if the Pit Bull does not start the fight, getting into conflict with another animal will often trigger their “grab, shake and kill” response.
  2. “Normal” dogs engage in “ritualised” forms of aggression when they come into conflict. This involves lots of noise, but no real damage. However, when Pit Bulls fight they engage the shake-bite/kill-bite part of the predatory sequence with often fatal or near fatal results. There is seldom time to intervene to rescue the other dog before serious damage is done.
  3. When Pit Bulls engage in a fight, far from this inducing an aversive state of mind (most dogs are in a defensive, survival mode during fights), opioids and dopamine are released in their brains making them feel really good - this feeling is so pleasurable that they will often seek out this behaviour again. In the same way that a border collie is built to feel really good when herding sheep, Pit Bulls are built to feel really good when fighting.
  4. Due to the opioid release during fights, Pit Bulls do not feel pain and so fight on regardless of injury - trying to stop a fight is incredibly difficult.
  5. When “normal” dogs fight, they usually respond to appeasement behaviour from their “opponent” i.e. as fighting is not designed to kill, but to resolve conflict without serious harm, one dog may “give in” and display behaviour which will cause the other dog to back off. Pit Bulls do not respond to appeasement behaviour during fights as this would have been counterproductive in the fighting pits and has been bred out of them.
  6. In my experience Pit Bulls have a very low reactivity threshold - this means that stimuli at low intensities which would be ignored by other dogs are often triggers for aggressive behaviour in the breed. They also have very high arousal levels - they become physiologically aroused very quickly and to extreme levels.

TRISH KING, Director, Behavior & Training Dept. Marin Humane Society

The fourth undesirable characteristic - arousal or excitement - is actually the most problematic. Many bully dogs cannot seem to calm themselves down once they get excited. And once they get excited all their behaviors are exacerbated. Thus, if a dog is over-confident and has a tendency to body slam or mount, he or she will really crash into the other dog or person when he's aroused, sometimes inadvertently causing injury. He may begin to play-bite, and then bite harder and harder and harder. When you try to stop the behavior, the dog often becomes even more "aggressive." In this way, play can turn into aggression fairly quickly. Research on the brain has shown that excited play has exactly the same chemistry as extreme anger. This allows a play behavior to switch quickly into aggression. And, once the dog has become aggressive a few times, the switch is much easier.

DIANE JESSUP, pit bull expert, breeder, former ACO
"Jessup, the animal control officer in Olympia, uses two pit bulls to train police and animal control officers on surviving dogs attacks.
Unlike dogs who are nippers and rippers, her pit bulls are typically "grippers" who bite down and hang onto their victims."

Jessup believes that much of dog behavior comes from their genes. “I truly believe that a dog is about 90% genetics,” says Jessup.
on protection sports
This difference in “sheepdog versus bulldog” mentality in a trainer is best understood when training the "out!” or release command. It is common practice for those training shepherds and sheepdog types to use force such as hard leash corrections or electric shock to get the dog to release the sleeve. Sadly, I had one young man come to me because a club trainer was slugging his little Am Staff bitch in the nose, till she bled, trying to get her to release the sleeve. She would not! And of course she would not! She was a good little bulldog, hanging on for dear life, just as her bull and bear baiting ancestors of old did. She was a super little gripping dog, who took the pain she experienced as just “part of the job” once her owner set her upon the sleeve. And this is the response from well bred pit bulldogs—to ignore pain while gripping. It is, after all, what they are bred for! Give me a bulldog like her, rather than one which will allow itself to be yanked off the sleeve due to pain.

MARK KUMPF, Montgomery County, Ohio Dog Warden 
on the cost of dog fighting “We had to go back and re-engineer our housing because the dogs were able to literally pull apart the cages.”

MICHAEL BURNS, Los Angeles Animal Control Lt.
You have a dog that has aggressive tendencies enhanced through constant and incestuous breeding. If there are some recessive genes on the aggressive or psychotic side, they will make themselves manifest.

They are different. There's an absence of the normal sounds a dog makes when it attacks. It's almost a workmanlike way they hold on in an attack. It's a persistence I haven't seen in any other breed.

KURT LAPHAM, a field investigator for the West Coast Regional office of the Humane Society
Most breeds do not multiple-bite. A pit bull attack is like a shark attack: He keeps coming back.

DAVID GENDREGSKE, Clare County MI Animal Control Director
“In my opinion they appeal to the most irresponsible pet owners and to younger people,” he said. “The younger people have no jobs to support the animal, or they have to move where animals aren’t allowed and (the dogs) end up here.” Certain people like pit bulls because they are intimidating, he said. “They want to scare people. It’s an intimidation thing. They’re number one with those being incarcerated. If there’s a dog left behind (when someone is sentenced to jail or prison), it’s always a pit bull,” he said. He cited the time a pit bull got out of a car and attacked a horse. He was pulled off, but he went back and grabbed the throat. He was pulled off again and again and went back after different parts of the horse. “What kind of a dog but a pit bull would do that?” he asked. “All dogs can bite but not with that ferocity. “ Some people will say that how a pit bull acts and reacts is dependent upon how the dog is raised, he said. “But he was raised to kill for centuries,” he said. “You can’t breed it out in one generation.” If the popularity of pit bulls is a fad, it’s a long term one, he said. “I keep seeing more and more pit bulls,” he said. “It’s getting worse.” Pit bulls, he said, are not good as a working dog, except for perhaps wild boar hunting. “And they’re not one of the smarter breeds,” he said, despite other’s beliefs that they are intelligent.

KEVIN COUTTS, Head Dog Ranger, Rotorua, New Zealand
There was concern among dog authorities about American pitbulls being allowed into New Zealand as they were dangerous, unpredictable animals, Mr Coutts said.

"A lot of people in this town get them because they are a staunch dog and they will fight. They are perceived as vicious ... It's frustrating they were ever allowed in the country ... we can't go back now though," Mr Coutts said.

COUTTS' comment on a pit car mauling
This sort of thing happens when people own this breed of dog and then don't look after them.

VICTORIA STILWELL, celebrity dog trainer
Presas are not to be fooled with, they're dangerous. You've got a fighting breed here. You've got a dog that was bred for fighting. You've got one of the most difficult breeds to handle.

CESAR MILAN, celebrity dog trainer
"Yeah, but this is a different breed...the power that comes behind bull dog, pit bull, presa canario, the fighting breed - They have an extra boost, they can go into a zone, they don't feel the pain anymore. He is using the bulldog in him, which is way too powerful, so we have to 'make him dog' (I guess as in a "regular" dog) so we can actually create the limits. So if you are trying to create submission in a fighting breed, it's not going to happen. They would rather die than surrender.". If you add pain, it only infuriates them..to them pain is that adrenaline rush, they are looking forward to that, they are addicted to it... That's why they are such great fighters." Cesar goes on to say..."Especially with fighting breeds, you're going to have these explosions over and over because there's no limits in their brain."

GARRETT RUSSO, dog trainer
I estimate Medical & Veterinary bills related to injuries caused by pit bulls in the Tompkins Square dog run in 2011, $140,000.00. Estimated Medical (human) & Veterinary (canine) bills from all other breeds and mixed breeds combined during the same period, $5,000.00. (Estimate gathered from reports to by owners to the dog park association.)

STEVE DUNO, dog trainer, pit bull owner
"The dogs that participated in these attacks weren't Pekingese. You don't have herds of Pekingese roaming the city attacking people. When someone says all breeds are created equal, well then they're denying the definition of what a breed is. Breed serves a particular purpose."

"I like them. They're eager. They're athletic. They're aesthetically pleasing. But even if they're bred perfectly, they can be problematic, particularly with other dogs."

"When you combine the breed specific behaviors ... with owners who either don't give a rip, or with owners who (have) too much dog, you have a problem."

JEAN DONALDSON, dog trainer

KATHY CLAYTON, chairwoman of the Animal Behavior Consultants of South Africa
Pit bulls where genetically bred to attack and be vicious.

D. CAROLINE COILE, PhD, dog breeder, author of thousands of magazine articles and 34 dog books including Pit Bulls for Dummies
"I am the author of 'Pit Bulls for Dummies'. I will not have another after they, without warning, attacked and almost killed my other dog who they had been best buddies with for their entire lives. One of them choked my saluki unconscious and ran around the house with her like a panther with a dead gazelle while we tried to get her to let go. When they were good, they were delightful; when they were bad, they were deadly."

ARLENE STERLING, Newaygo County, MI Chief Animal Control Officer

JIM CROSBY, pit bull hired gun

DIANE JESSUP, Washington pit bull owner and expert

JOHN ROCKHOLT, South Carolina dogman

MARK PAULHUS, HSUS southeast regional coordinator

KATE RINDY, co-author Pit Bulls Are Different, former HSUS employee and assistant to Randall Lockwood, former executive director of Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society

PEGGY E. WARFLE, Manager Wake Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animal Shelters, Raleigh, NC.
"All Pit Bulls should be spayed and neutered" ..."That way we could do away with the breed, couldn't we? It wouldn't be a great loss to dogdom."

LESTER HUGHES, pit bull owner, breeder, dog fighter, Old Mountain Man Kennels
I didn’t used to see much danger in one that was vicious, I knew a Bulldog could hurt a man but I don’t think I realized how bad, I wasn’t afraid of one. Now I’m a lot more wary of a maneater, they really can hurt you, even kill you. I honestly don’t believe that a grown man could get a sixty-five pound Bulldog off without a weapon, if it decided to attack him.

Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. 



Medical Experts and the Injuries Caused by Gripping Dogs

Dear Ms. James,

I wish to extend a thank you for your efforts and time spent on creating your blog, "The Truth About Pit Bulls". I found your blog after reading about this very endearing set of vintage photos about pit bulls being 'the Nanny dog' of the late 19th, early 20th century. Which completely surprised me and I wanted to know more. My search found your blog.

I am a pathologist. I have attended the autopsy of 3 different individuals within a 8 year period whose deaths are directly attributable to pit bulls. They were in two different states. To have encountered 3 deaths due to dog attacks is extremely rare considering that frankly in numbers of fatalities of deaths resulting in these accidents is statistically nil. This in no way minimizes the loss of the people and children that have died as a result of these vicious dog attacks.

I can share with you that the bites of these animals (based only on my observations of the 3 autopsies that I attended) are indeed vicious. The way that the tearing of skin, muscle, tendons and bones looked very similar to someone who had an injury from an auger from a farm accident. Complete devastation. All of the deaths are a result of blood loss due to the attack. All three of the victims were male. Two were boys- 4 and 8, the older male was in his late 40's.

I have eluded to the trauma that each body experienced with these dogs. Each incident was one pit bull. Verified by the bite marks that were attained from the wounds and from orthodontic cast moldings from the suspected animal. People read the word "mauled" by dogs. They do not understand the truly outlandish, macabre wounds inflicted by these dogs. I've been a pathologist for 9 years and in that time I have attended for those deceased on all manners of death imaginable. These 3 deaths are still the top 5 of the most horrifying because of the destruction. I'm trying to refrain in the details simply because for heaven's sake it's Saturday morning and you've probably not yet ate breakfast. But for any pathologist we have those deaths we've attended that are memorable. All of us have a story. All of us have our demons that haunt us at night, to say that THREE of my top 5 is from 1 breed- the pit bull-- attack says volumes. It's the severity of the wounds, from the head injuries and in one case all the way to the bottom of the feet. I recall the death investigator coming into my office and telling me that the neighbors in one of the child attacks said that they heard nothing. They did not hear the child screaming (death was quick with this attack as the pit bull went literally for the jugular first; all other wounds on this child was post-mortem). But the silence was also from the pit bull. The child was within only 14 feet of a neighbors home, they're windows were open, the reporter (neighbor) did not have his T.V. on. It was all stealth, quiet, secretive almost. If I could I would absolutely be able to put up for a case of at least manslaughter. But alas I can not, but thankfully each dog in this instance was sentenced appropriately to death shortly after our investigation(s) concluded.

There are way too many incidences of deaths and maiming that is directly as a result of pit bulls (and some other aggressive dogs) that the bite marks and the trauma inflicted shows the power, furiosity and cruelty to me shows that perhaps it would not be a bad idea for these dogs to become extinct. Either by hook or crook, I care not. I have no doubt that some of these pit bulls are nothing but lovebugs but to me and anyone else in attendance at these type of deaths would conclude they have no place in our society. None. Yes, very much a zero tolerance policy. After observing what I have, any other logical, sane human being would agree. This is not a complete 'owner is to blame' this is genetic, inbred instinct in these types of animals that can not be culled simply due to the fact it's been a part of their breeding/stock for multiple generations. Here I am pontificating outside of my competent 'domain', but it is what I believe wholeheartedly.

I wish to reiterate that your time, attention and dedication to exposing the candid, unvarnished truth of the issue with these types of dogs is appreciated.

Most Sincerely,
(name withheld)

DAVID A. BILLMIRE, MD, professor and director of the Division of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
As one who, for the last 30 years, has been on the receiving end of the dog-bite injuries that pass through the Children's Hospital Emergency Room, as well as on the staff at the Shriners Hospitals for Children where we see the late effects of these injuries from across the nation, I can categorically tell you that the problems associated with dog bites are indeed breed-specific." "Starting about 25 years ago, my colleagues and I started to see disturbingly different types of injuries. Instead of a warning bite, we saw wounds where the flesh was torn from the victim. There were multiple bite wounds covering many different anatomical sites. The attacks were generally unprovoked, persistent and often involved more than one dog. In every instance the dog involved was a pit bull or a pit bull mix." "...[H]ow many mauled children do we have to see before we realize the folly of allowing these dogs to exist?" "There are plenty of breeds available that peacefully coexist with human society. There is no need for pit bulls.

JOHN BINI, MD, chief of surgery at Wilford Hall Medical Center


DAVID E. BLOCKER, BS, MD, Dog Bite Rates and Biting Dog Breeds in Texas, 1995-1997

PETER ANTEVY, pediatric E.R. physician, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital
Dr Antvey sees at least five dog-bite victims a month in his emergency room. Unfortunately, he said, "the biggest offender is the pit bull."

The reality is that any dog can bite, and statistically speaking, a child is most likely to be bitten by the family dog or a dog that they know. When you're talking about bite severity resulting in life-threatening and even fatal injuries, pit bulls and Rottweilers are the main culprits.

Experience absolutely colors our perception, and in this case I can't help but be affected by what I've seen. I will never forget a young child I treated in the ER during my pediatric residency. She suffered severe facial lacerations and tears to her face after a pit bull attack in her local park.

HORSWELL BB, CHAHINE CJ, oral surgeons
Dog bites of the facial region are increasing in children according to the Center for Disease Control. To evaluate the epidemiology of such injuries in our medical provider region, we undertook a retrospective review of those children treated for facial, head and neck dog bite wounds at a level 1 trauma center. Most dog bites occurred in or near the home by an animal known to the child/family. Most injuries were soft tissue related, however more severe bites and injuries were observed in attacks from the pit-bull and Rottweiler breeds. Younger (under five years) children sustained more of the injuries requiring medical treatment. Injury Severity Scales were determined as well as victim and payer mix demographics, type and characteristics of injury, and complications from the attack.

DR RICHARD SATTIN, chief of unintentional-injuries section of the Centers of Disease Control
We're trying to focus public attention on this greatly underestimated public hazard.

In 1979, pit bulls accounted for 20 percent of fatal attacks by dogs. That figure had risen to 62 percent by 1988.

Nobody knows the dog population of the United States or the exact breakdown by breed.
We do not believe that pit bulls represent anywhere near 42% percent of dogs in the United States. Therefore, we believe that the pit bull excess in deaths is real and growing.

As a pediatrician I was disturbed to read Vicki Hearne's assertion that there are no bad breeds, just bad dogs (Op-Ed, April 15). There is ample evidence to suggest that certain breeds of dogs are more dangerous to children than others.
From 1979 to 1994, there were 177 known dog-bite-related fatalities in the United States. Of these fatalities, 66 percent were caused by five breeds: pit bull, Rottweiler, shepherd, husky and malamute. If you include crosses among these five breeds, that number rises to 82 percent. Other breeds, like Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers were not implicated in a single fatality during this same period.
I laud the American Kennel Club's attempt to include information about dog breeds considered ''not good with children'' in the coming edition of ''The Complete Dog Book,'' and lament the fact that the book is being recalled at the request of some breeders.
Seattle, April 16, 1998

Dr. EDGAR JOGANIK (after trying to reattach scalp and ear to a pit bull victim)
Pit bull attacks are typically the most severe, and in about one-third of all attacks, the animals are family pets or belong to close friends.
That should be the message, that these dogs should not be around children, adults are just as likely to be victims.
Everyone should be extremely cautious.

When a Pit Bull is involved the bites are worse. When they bite, they bite and lock and they don't let go... they bite lock and they rip and they don't let go.

Bites from pit bulls inflict much more damage, multiple deep bites and ripping of flesh and are unlike any other domestic animal I've encountered. Their bites are devastating - close to what a wildcat or shark would do.

DR. AMY WANDEL, plastic surgeon
I see just as many dog bites from dogs that are not pit bulls as bites from pit bulls. The big difference is pit bulls are known to grab onto something and keep holding so their damage they create is worse than other breeds.

DR. PATRICK BYRNE, Johns Hopkins Hospital
I can't think of a single injury of this nature that was incurred by any other species other than a pit bull or a rottweiler.

As a practicing emergency physician, I have witnessed countless dog bites. Invariably, the most vicious and brutal attacks I have seen have been from the pit bull breed. Many of the victims have been children. In a recent study from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, pit bull attacks accounted for more ER visits than all other breeds combined.

In young children, the most common part of the body injured was the face. Numerous studies have proven that the number-one cause of dog bite fatalities is the pit bull breed. I am certain that many attacks are due to owner negligence, but the fact remains that many were unpredictable and were perpetrated by formerly "loving and loyal" pets.

Dr. Chagnon has every right to leave our town as she claims she will if pit bulls are banned, just like every one of her patients has the right not to attend her clinic where she brings her pit bulls. I applaud Mayor Pro Tem Joanne Sanders for bringing this issue to the forefront. In the interest of public safety, I recommend we enforce a spay/neuter requirement on pit bulls while reviewing and revamping all of our policies relating to animal bites.

A ten-year, two-institution review of pediatric dog attacks: Advocating for a nationwide prohibition of dangerous dogs
Affectionately referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, dog attacks in the pediatric population often test this analogy. Pediatric dog attacks are a significant public health issue that negatively affects the psychological well-being of a child. We performed analysis of our cumulative two-institution pediatric dog attack data, present representative cases and offer evidence to support a nationwide prohibition of dangerous dogs.
A retrospective review was performed at two urban Children’s hospitals from 1996-2005 of all dog attacks presenting to the plastic surgery service. Charts were reviewed with analysis of patient demographics, injury site, operative intervention, and dog-specific data.
109 patients were included for review, with 83% of attacks occurring in the facial region. Mean age was 3.9 years (range 2-18 years). 67% of attacks involved multiple anatomic sites, 95% required surgical intervention with 30% requiring a skin graft or flap reconstruction. 88% of dogs were known to the victim, 46% of attacks were provoked, 73% of dogs were euthanized and 57% of dogs were deemed to be of a dangerous breed (Pit Bill or Rottweiler). Mean hospital duration was 4.7 days and 27% required additional reconstructive plastic surgery. Figures below illustrate a representative case of a 4-year old female attacked by her aunt's dog, resulting in a complete nasal amputation, preoperatively (upper), at time of forehead flap reconstruction (middle), and five years post-operatively (lower), with an acceptable functional and aesthetic reconstruction.
Dog attacks in the pediatric population produce significant costs including physical morbidity, psychological disability, and financial strains. A majority of attacks were by a known dog, in the facial region, by dogs which we define as of a dangerous breed. Much of the injury patterns are unique to children and these injuries and associated costs can be significantly diminished, as the problem is often preventable. Our cases present the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as our cases only represented consultations directed to Plastic Surgery. The Province of Ontario, Canada has banned Pit Bulls since 2004, as have several American cities. We describe the scope of the problem, preventative guidelines, and outline why organizational advocacy in plastic surgery should be directed towards a national prohibition of dangerous dogs.

M. A. DEWAN, EDWARD J. WLADIS, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery, Lions Eye Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, Albany Medical College, Slingerlands, NY
Periorbital trauma from pit bull terrier attacks.
To report the nature of periorbital trauma after pit bull attacks. While these attacks have been well-characterized in the popular media, no case series has documented the ophthalmic manifestations of this trauma.
We retrospectively reviewed all cases of pit bull terrier attacks that presented to the oculoplastic and orbital surgery service at Albany Medical Center between 2008 and 2011. The age, gender, extent of the injuries, care provided, follow up interval, and complication rate were evaluated for each patient.
Seven patients were identified, with a mean age of 17.2 years. Six of the seven patients were in the pediatric age group. All patients suffered eyelid lacerations, and only one patient had additional injuries. Four patients (57.2%) suffered a canalicular laceration. Despite the lack of post-operative oral antibiotic use, no patient developed a wound infection.
In the ophthalmic setting, pit bull terrier attacks most frequently involve children and result in eyelid lacerations. Canalicular injuries are common after these attacks.

Dog bites of the head and neck: an evaluation of a common pediatric trauma and associated treatment.
American Journal of Otolaryngology, Jan-Feb 2015


Human Aggression, Animal Aggression, Culled Man-biters and The Desecration of Truth

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.
Bertrand Russell

"Back In The Ole Bulldog Days These Manbiters Were Eliminated Immediately."
I hear this over and over again, so let me just ask who, specifically, ever culled a game "man-biter" back in "The Ole Bulldog Days?"
Earl T never minded feeding man-biters, even though his wife's legs were covered with bite scars. Some of Tant's dogs would just as soon eat you as look at you. I understand Burns' dogs were even worse.
I'd like to see someone step foot on V Jackson's yard if he wasn't around.
Carver kept his share of "man-biters," as did many many other famed dogmen.
In most cases, if a dog was good enough to win, it was good enough to live, regardless of who it wanted to have for dinner.
ROCKY ALEXANDER, APBT historian and former APBT breeder

Pit bull advocates are fond of saying that the American Pit Bull Terrier is no more aggressive than any other dog, and in fact they are LESS aggressive towards humans than most other breeds. They claim pit bulls make horrible guard dogs, stating their pit bulls would lick a burglar to death. They attribute the pit bull's love and docility of humans to the dogman's need to handle them in the pit and after the match, if they earned medical care, therefore, any pit fighter that was aggressive towards humans was culled. Or so the story goes. There are two problems with this claim. First, it minimizes animal aggression and exculpates pit bulls when they randomly flex their genetic muscle on unsuspecting animals. And second, it is patently false. This blog will only address the claim's lack of validity.

The pit bull evangelists have a litany of factually challenged, emotionally charged slogans ready to use in their online war of disinformation, each more ludicrous than the other. One of their favorites is "the dogmen culled man-biters". In the Nanny Dog and the ATTS myths, there was almost a kernel of truth at the core of the myths. Yes, the Little Rascals' Petey did appear to be the primary care taker of a group of neglected, poverty stricken, mischievous children and yes, the pit bull does score higher than many traditional family breeds of dogs thanks to the sociopathic machinations of the pit bull apologia.

In contrast, the man-biters were culled and the pit bulls were not bred for human aggression myths were created from thin air, complete fabrications. There is not a sliver of truth in the myth that dogmen culled man-biters. Not only weren't human aggressive pit fighters NOT culled, but a talented man-biter was heavily bred, his stud services were in high demand and the stud fees commanded a premium. The progeny of man-biters are still sought out long after he or she has passed away. This Italian game-dog website lists their choice for the Best Ever fighting dogs, three of the five are known man-biters and the other two trace their origins to the others on their "Best" list. Some famous man-biters have their own facebook fan pages. If you happen to be a 10x winner with 3 kills and scratching on the carcass, people tend to overlook a little thing like the danger she poses to people and she is also likely to be nominated for the cover of this month's International Sporting Dog Journal. Some famous man-biters not only have a facebook fan page, they have their own promotional merchandise too.

BadRap, Karen Delise and other pit bull advocates like to lay the blame of the current trend of breeding human aggressive pit bulls for protection on the 1987 Sports Illustrated Magazine. They believe the magazine turned the pit bull from loving nanny dog into an unstable meth lab soldier, forever tarnishing his image. But pit bulls have always been used to guard/watch property. This is not new to the contemporary backyard breeders who are attracted to the pit bull's thug image. It has been done in America since the beginning. Ads placed in the early 1900's prove this. Even the treasurer of the APBT club was peddling a human aggressive pit bull. And the oldest, most respected name in the history of the APBT, Joseph L Colby wrote in 1936, "As a watchdog he is unexcelled. This book could be written five times on this one subject, in regard to the American Pit Bull Terrier as a watchdog."

But there are APBT facts and then there are the comfortable myths the pit bull apologia tell themselves and others to conceal the fighting dog's true image and hopefully improve it. The fact is, if a dogman liked what he saw in the pit, the dog lived and it was bred with the hope of producing more high performance pit dogs. I have not found a single account of a great fighting dog or even a potentially great fighting dog who was removed from the gene pool prematurely because of poor temperament and a tendency to bite the hand that fed it. I have not found a single account of a great fighting dog or a potentially great fighting dog whose owner elected not to breed because of an aggressive temperament towards humans. The media accounts of the most famous fatal pit bull attack are oddly silent on the subject of the man-killer's fate.

This 1976 match report acknowledges the existence of man-biters and recommends the use of muzzles, not bullets to manage the problem.
July-August 1976
4th Match C. Beasley vs Starsky & Hutch M65 Ref. B. Clouse
Beasley's red and white handled by Joe Alvarado. Hutch handling a black. At the scales, while weighing the red and white, who is a bad man-eater, Alvarado lost control of the dog and headed right for Earl Maloney and bit him in the chest. Bill Carr kicked him loose and was bitten himself, very bad, just above the rib cage. That big crazy dog then headed for the crowd with his mouth wide open. Some one could have been seriously hurt if Bill Carr hadn't intercepted again, this time getting bit on the leg, through his boot. They finally got the dog under control and the match was on. Alvarado got fouled out for some bad handling in his corner and the Winner: Starsky & Hutch's black dog.
It would be a good idea to muzzle know man-eaters to prevent something like this from happening again.
Reported by Bobby D. Smith

One aspect of this particular pit bull myth that I find especially perplexing is that the group of people who most aggressively promote the man-biters were culled and pit bulls are people lovers who will only lick you to death myth are often the very same people who go to great lengths to SAVE every man-biter from euthanasia. This bizarre phenomenon is currently playing out in Godfrey, Illinois with a pit bull named Precious. After one unprovoked attack on another dog and three unprovoked attacks on humans, the battle is on to protect this man-biter at all costs, including condemning the victim, her parents and further endangering the community.

"Earl T never minded feeding man-biters, even though his wife's legs were covered with bite scars."

Surely, if a dogman had a prized pit fighter that did not exercise discretion between human and dog flesh, they would take extra precaution with it to ensure that no yard accidents occurred, especially in light of Colby's freak accident.

Thanks to the dogman's need to boast, we can lay two more myths to rest. First, the myth of the responsible dogman. Second, dog aggression does not equate to human aggression.

The life and times of legendary pit fighter and known man-biter, Gr Ch Gambler's Virgil ROM has been well documented and provides evidence that these are myths.

Here is Virgil on the chain and posing with puppies, cats, women and children.

Virgil's heir and the heir to Virgil's legacy.

What do these photos say? These photos tell me that the line drawn between animal aggression and human aggression is an arbitrary one, as is the line drawn between irresponsible and responsible dogmen.

A quote from an interview with Diane Jessup in 2001:

Jessup believes that much of dog behavior comes from their genes. “I truly believe that a dog is about 90% genetics,” says Jessup. She believes that many of the aggressive pit bulls put down in the nation’s shelters are the victims of generations of indiscriminate breeding.

I don't know how the pit bull expert arrived at 90% or how accurate it is but i tend to agree that the number is high. Whether it is 75% or 95%, I don't know but it is my opinion that it is closer to 100% than 0%. Jane Berkey and Ledy Vankavage would like everyone to believe that genetically determined behavior of pit bulls hovers around the zero percent range. That is irresponsible, self-serving and just plain crazy.

Pit bulls have been bred for so long and so intensively for the pit, that their hard-wired violent tendencies don't always discriminate between dogs and people or dogs and cars or strangers and family members. Hard wired behaviors are true of many breeds of dogs, not just pit bulls and is probably best illustrated with the border collie. The border collie breed is not quite as old as the APBT, yet it is so hard wired to herd sheep, that if there are no sheep to herd, it will herd whatever is available. I have read accounts of border collies (and aussies, cattledogs, shelties) herding a variety of non-sheep animals and inanimate objects such as ants, cats, dogs, chickens, horses, rabbits, frogs, shadows, light, shoes, vacuum cleaners, tumble weed, leaves, snow, cars, carpet fuzz and HUMANS. No one is surprised when a border collie herds ants. And more importantly, no one tries to claim that it is the owner's fault for not properly training or socializing their border collie! The border collie's inability to refrain from treating children like sheep, often makes them a poor choice as a family pet, as they tend to nip while herding. The same cautionary approach should be taken with gripping dogs.

We recognize the border collie's hard-wired instincts to herd and it is dangerously foolish to deny the pit bull terrier's hard-wired instincts for violence.

"I will challenge you to show me the ped with no famous manbitters in it."
~ anonymous dogman

The following are a few pedigrees of known man biters and their first generation of REGISTERED offspring. As noted with the pedigree of human aggressive Lil Bit, not all offspring are registered, so the number of man-biter offspring is potentially much greater than indicated below.

Yellow John 66 registered offspring
Zebo 90 registered offspring
Art 63 registered offspring
Bolio 106 registered offspring
Angus (descendant of Spook & Eli) 9 registered offspring
Anderson's Spade 4 registered offspring
Mesquite Sam 1 registered offspring
Golden King's Silver 19 registered offspring
Zeljko's Yellow 3 registered offspring

Bullyson 129 registered offspring
The remaining man-biters listed below all trace their roots back to Bullyson.
Lil Bit
Virgil 336 registered offspring
Honeybunch 44 registered offspring
Buster 101 registered offspring
Tornado 9 registered offspring
Darla's Queen 7 registered offspring
Chinaman 189 registered offspring
* Chinaman sired the greatest producer of all time Frisco. It is irrelevant whether or not Frisco was a man-biter, he passed on Chinaman's (and Bullyson's) DNA on to his 1182 registered offspring.

Yacuza's Mr Indian 83 offspring
* Mr Indian is a pit fighter in the Balkans and his roots trace back to Bullyson, Bolio, Zebo and Yellow John. He is described as man-biter and a wall jumper.

Mr Indian

These 18 man-biters produced at least 1265 puppies.


Godfrey, Illinois


Diane Jessup 2001 interview

Pit Bulls by Gary Wilkes

Dogmen Conversations About Man-biters and Man-Eaters

Man Eaters by Gary J. Hammonds

Manbiter Discussion

Dogmen Conversationsions About Man-biters and Man-Eaters

Man Biters


Gambler's Virgil Stud fees

Dog Fighting and Pit Bulls

John P. Colby: the fountainhead of the American Pit Bull Terrier within the United States

1909 Dog Bite Fatality: John P. Colby's Fighting Pit Bull Kills Nephew

The American Pit Bull Terrier, Joseph L. Colby, 1936

Are Pit Bulls Different? An analysis of the pit bull terrier controversy - Randall Lockwood and Kate Rindy

Diane Jessup and man-biters

Tom Garner Kennels: Chinaman

Chinaman bloodline discussion

A few historical references to human aggressive pit fighters

1976 match report

Fairy Tales from the Pit