Tige

When people ask why we have such a strict policy about dogs on our properties, this snapshot usually answers the inquiry. The injuries were the result of the second strike of a rather large dog. The first strike, which knocked me to the ground, was to my groin area, with puncture wounds through my Levis. My right arm held him back until the owner called him off.

On rare occasions, when someone needs a broader understanding of the risk, I offer it in easy-to-understand parts.

Buster Brown
I could have picked any one of hundreds of other “loyal pet” & “Loving Master” names. “Lassie & Timmy” or Jack London’s “Buck & Judge Miller” would have worked. But Tige was a Pit Bull Terrier, everpresent throughout the first half of the 20th Century in the Buster Brown shoe commercials, on the radio with his “arf, arf”, followed by, “That’s my dog Tige. He lives in a shoe. I’m Buster Brown. Look for me in there, too.”

The modern-day Buster lives, not in a shoe but in a house on my property, with his family, and Tige has recently joined the family. But the days when Pit Bulls like Tige were viewed as “man’s best friend” have long passed, so Tige’s home is a temporary one.

Evolution
Dogs, of course, descended from Gray Wolves, and their domestication began around the last ice age, or some 15,000 years ago. Keeping in mind that a single generation of dogs is a fraction of that of humans – typically 2 to 3 years – 5,000 generations has provided much natural selection. But what has made an even more pronounced effect on today’s vast diversity of dog breeds began less than 10,000 years ago, when humans began to selectively interbreed their dogs to suit their purpose – short legs for crawling in tight spaces, strong bodies for heavy work, or an instinct for herding livestock, etc. Today, we have hundreds of breeds, ranging from teacup size to Great Danes, and every size and variety imaginable in between.

Pit Bulls, for example, were carefully selected in the UK in the early 1800s. They were bred from Old English Bulldogs for strength, and Terriers for agility, and their stock was carefully selected for the aggressive nature, which persists today, albeit often hidden.

Pit Bull Terriers
Their original popularity was earned through a cruel blood sport known as “bull baiting,” which amounts to using dogs to tease bulls until those dogs who are fast enough and strong enough to survive the thrusting of the bulls eventually wear down the bulls and kill them – to the delight of their handlers. This 19th-century antique ceramic piece, not so subtlety, depicts how gruesome yet entertaining it must have been.

Not surprisingly, that sort of sport is outlawed in most of the civilized world, but the practice continues underground, even in this Country. Examples of such cruelty can still be seen in public, such as this example at the Salinas, California Rodeo in 2019.

Other Dangerous Breeds, like German Shepherds and Rottweilers, are also selectively bred to enhance their physical attributes and aggressive instincts. Still, none can compare with the reputation that Pit Bulls have earned, particularly in the past 20 years. They understandably have become the breed of choice for drug dealers, gang members, and other unsavory characters. The problem in recent years is that people, whether attempting to express their “macho” or just reflecting a lack of understanding, have taken these dogs into their homes as pets, thinking they are harmless.

Common Misconceptions
Owners are commonly heard to proclaim these dogs to be inherently gentle and harmless – but for their training as puppies to be aggressive. Sadly, countless anecdotes circulate around this dangerous lack of understanding. Animal lovers worldwide wish it were true and continue to insist that it is true, but the 200 years of interbreeding simply cannot be overcome. While not the dog’s fault, breeders promoting this misleading image with false claims jeopardize both dog and unsuspecting owner.

Some years ago, it was falsely reported that they had once been used as Nannys. However, the “Nanny Dog” myth has been debunked despite a series of 19th-century vintage photos of children with Pit Bulls attempting to sway unsuspecting dog owners. Owners who believe their friendly little “doggie” is inherently gentle because he has yet to show signs of aggression are dangerously mistaken[i]I have never been run over by a bus, but I still look both ways before crossing the street.. They ignore the fact that this 100 pounds of solid muscle, with sharp teeth and strong jaws, still have the ancient brain of a Gray Wolf and an IQ slightly above that of a lizard. The dog’s personality can also change over time, and no one can predict how it will react when ill, injured, surprised by a stranger, or just feeling threatened by a young child throwing toys.

Statistics

The actual statistics of fatal dog attacks show that Pit Bulls account for more than double the number of incidents accountable to all other breeds combined, and the problem is worsening at an alarming rate among the other aggressive breeds as well. These numbers show actual fatalities –  usually of small children – and do not include non-fatal attacks.

Insurance companies (including ours) have figured this out, so coverage is often excluded, and claims are denied. Governments are slow to respond, but a few cities like Montreal have banned them, as have several Countries.

Setting aside the fatal encounters for a moment, consider the number of non-fatal attacks. There are an estimated 400 million dogs in the USA – more than the number of people – but only 3.6 million of those are Pit Bulls. The 34th annual update of the Animals 24-7 report shows Pit Bulls and other Bull mix breeds as being responsible for 4,933 or 68% of the 7,295  “Attacks Doing Bodily Harm”, occurring between 1982 and 2016. It is impossible to escape the numbers.

Sanity Check
Had Buster asked me if he should bring Tige onto my property to live with his family, I would have said, “Absolutely not” because,

  1. I don’t like aggressive/barking dogs,
  2. My customers don’t like aggressive/barking dogs,
  3. My workers don’t like aggressive/barking dogs,
  4. Visiting friends don’t like aggressive/barking dogs,
  5. My insurance company doesn’t like aggressive/barking dogs,
  6. Buster is the only one I know who likes aggressive/barking dogs.

Buster’s family includes small children. The “Attacks Doing Bodily Harm” statistics referenced above were very often fatal when the victims were small children – being less able to defend themselves against the attack.

This is an URGENT ALERT to Buster, suggesting that in my never-to-be-humble opinion, when choosing a junk-yard dog, there is no better choice than a Pit Bull, but allowing one around small children is an example of extraordinarily poor judgment.

~ Occasional, unconfirmed reports suggest that loose, wandering dogs
might experience elevated accident rates in this area.~

By: Jim
Written: January 2020
Published: January 2020
Revised: April  29, 2024
footnotes
footnotes
i I have never been run over by a bus, but I still look both ways before crossing the street.