To reiterate, this archive is meant to help tell a very complicated and controversial story pertaining to the history of pit bull dogs. While I may eventually end up using digital files from other archive sources in the future, the pieces I will be writing about in this blog series are historical artifacts currently in my physical collection and acquired over many years, dating as far back as post-Civil War (1870s).
From 19th century tintype photographs and cabinet cards you saw in previous editions of this series; books published during the early development of the American Pit Bull Terrier; to underground dogfighting magazines from the 1950s through the end of the 20th century. They all are important pieces to the puzzle of how we got here.
Most of my attention thus far has been on items originating pre-1900 when the American Pit Bull Terrier name wasn’t prominently used as the breed type label for these dogs yet.
They went by other names, such as “bull-and–terrier” – a mostly self-explanatory name due to the mixing of a bulldog for its courage and strength to compliment the tenacity and other desired traits terrier dogs are expected to possess. They were also once known as Yankee Terriers, or as we’ve seen in the 5th edition of this series – American Bull Terriers, as well.
To add even more nuance, sometimes their name depends on who you’re asking. It’s common for some people…specifically those who call themselves dogmen – a designation typically applied to imply someone who breeds and/or fights gamebred pit bull dogs, to refer to them simply as “bulldogs”.
The most common label to describe these dogs today tends to be “pit bulls” – probably the laziest of generalizations, of which, I am not in the least bit comfortable with because it complicates matters even more. But, regardless, the list of names they’ve been called throughout our history is long and worthy of examining further.
Which brings us to the next item in The Archives…
The above press photo was originally taken for a news article dated November 2, 1933 by the now defunct American media company, ACME Newspictures, with the headline reading:
“NRA – Nice Rabbits Allowed”.
ACME operated from 1923-1952 under numerous other names such as United Newspictures or Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA).
The dog pictured, Peaches, was owned by a man named Artemas Ames, – who, according to the article, lived on a ranch in California somewhere in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Apparently, when Peaches had puppies she also adopted and nursed a wild, timid bunny rabbit, which this snapshot shows.
Nevermind the relationship between these two species of animals, or the fact that terriers and bulldogs both are supposed to have higher levels of animal aggression. This initially caught my eye because the breed name that ran with the article referred to Peaches as a Boston Bulldog. I have done some digging and could not locate a breed of dog specifically by that name from another source during this same time period. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but it’s definitely a bit more obscure of a name.
Somewhat off-topic, but worthy of noting:
The first possible name association that immediately came to mind is the Boston Terrier – a completely separate and independent dog breed itself, despite their similar ancestry which included the mixing of bulldogs and terriers, as well as their function or use in animal fighting.
Through this exercise I learned the Boston Terrier was the first all-American, made-in-the-U.S-of-A, breed of dog to be recognized and granted access into the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1893. For those unaware, the AKC previously would not recognize pit bull terriers as pure bred dogs in their registry, with the general excuse being that they wanted to distance themselves from dogs known for pit fighting.
That may be true, it’s hard to determine the intent of people who have long been dead and gone. But, it didn’t always add up since they did allow other dog breeds with fighting or other questionable pasts, such as the Boston Terrier…
In 1898, a man named Chauncey Z. Bennett, formed the United Kennel Club (UKC) in response to his inability to successfully register his American Pit Bull Terrier, “Bennett’s Ring“, into any registry. Bennett’s Ring became the first dog registered by the newly formed UKC, which was the first registry to accept American Pit Bull Terriers as a breed. The American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) formed in 1909 and followed.
But, not the AKC…they didn’t, and still don’t, accept the American Pit Bull Terrier into their registry.
Not until many years later, after the post-WWI surge in popularity of pit bull dogs, in large part due to their growing presence in popular culture (i.e. “Lucenay’s Pete” of “Our Gang” – learn more in the 6th edition) the AKC finally accepted a version of the breed, but remained steadfast in opposing the American Pit Bull Terrier name. Instead, they called them American Staffordshire Terriers, officially including them in 1936.
While on this subject, speaking of Lucenay’s Pete, he was the first American Staffordshire Terrier to be AKC registered, and the shocking part of this is, Pete was also registered with the UKC as an American Pit Bull Terrier. Confusing, right?
In closing, to turn back to Peaches the rabbit-loving “Boston Bulldog”…She probably was not a Boston Terrier, by modern day standards, anyway. She was likely just another pit bull terrier who shows on display that it’s not nature versus nurture. It’s both.
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