Friday, February 07, 2020

A Type of Dog Older Than Rome

It’s always fun to engage the pit bull community, which has a lot of theories about the origins of “their” dog, but which is too often absent a cogent “origins” story that hangs together.

Earlier today I mentioned that there’s no terrier in pit bulls.

Some controversy that raised!

Didn’t I know that some book or web site says otherwise?


There are also books and web sites that say vaccines don’t work, that the Earth is flat, and that Elvis is alive and living in Tulsa.

Nope. Not saluting nonsense, no matter the earnestness with which it is offered.

Didn’t I know that someone had made a very pretty picture showing there had been some genetic leak with some unknown type of terrier after 1860?


You mean right after the first formal dog shows were created in 1859?

Pit Bulls were created by dog shows?

No they weren’t.

But what about the English White Terrier?


Which one?

The English White Terrier that was the weak-jawed lap dog that was so often congenitally deaf that it went extinct soon after it made it into two Victorian-era all-breed books?

Or perhaps they meant the English White that soon went extinct after the 1835 ban on dog fighting in the U.K. — the animal that was completely indistinguishable from the modern Pit Bull?

Surely that dog had some sort of terrier in it, right?


You do not create a mid- to large-sized dog-aggressive breed by starting with a 12- to 16-pound dog that is bred to NOT be dog aggressive.

A dog aggressive working terrier is going to be killed by hounds, or maybe by a more experienced terrierman if he attacks his dogs.

No one who digs has time for a dog-aggressive animal in the field. Bring it out, and you will not be invited back.

What the pit bull community seems to miss is that fighting dogs exactly like the modern pit bull existed since before the time of Jesus .... and a 1,000 years before the first terrier was created.

Look up the Alaunt on Wikipedia and see if the Alaunt statue in the Persian museum reminds you of something.

Read about the ancient dog-fighting Alaunts of France.

Is a new idea forming in your head?


And guess what?

The first dogs brought to the America’s were Alaunts.

Yes, that’s right, the first dogs brought to America were pit bulls.

And no, they were NOT “nanny dogs”. Far from it.

The post, below, was written for Columbus Day in 2018, but I repost it here for illumination.

For the record, no terrier of any kind existed in Columbus’ era.

Pit bulls and Allaunts were not created from terriers, but from crossing two ancient and far more logical breeds: mastiffs and greyhounds. Cross those same breeds today, and cross them again (perhaps with a whippet if you are looking to size down the dog) and you get the original “pit dog” and “alaunt” of old.


I live just upstream of the area the Dogue Indians used to inhabit on the shores of the Potomac River at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

I mention this as we celebrated Columbus Day just last week.

Columbus Day is a rather absurd holiday, as there is no day to commemorate the native people who lived in this country for thousands of years before we invaded and killed them off, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally by disease.

As for Columbus, he is best understood as a war criminal and mass murderer who killed and plundering for gold and ego.

Over at The Huffington Post, Eric Kassum reminds us of why Columbus brought the first European dogs to the New World -- Alaunts used to terrorize, kill, and feed on the native people.

On his second trip to the New World, Columbus brought cannons and attack dogs. If a native resisted slavery, he would cut off a nose or an ear. If slaves tried to escape, Columbus had them burned alive. Other times, he sent attack dogs to hunt them down, and the dogs would tear off the arms and legs of the screaming natives while they were still alive. If the Spaniards ran short of meat to feed the dogs, Arawak babies were killed for dog food.

Columbus’ acts of cruelty were so unspeakable and so legendary - even in his own day - that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his two brothers, slapped them into chains, and shipped them off to Spain to answer for their crimes against the Arawaks. But the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury filling up with gold, pardoned Columbus and let him go free.
Dog hunting boar, Roman relief in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne, Germany 


tuffy said...

this is an age old argument, which cannot be proven with enough documentation, for either side to be sure.

however, you're wrong. and to be fair your opinion, is just that. an opinion. like my opinion.
you nor I, weren't there when terriers were bred to ''bull dogs'' (not the modern iteration of bull dog).
i'm not going to go through all of the physical and mental qualitative differences between terriers, bull and terrier crosses and pure bull type dogs, because it makes no difference to you. you have your own emphatic opinion.

i WILL say that american pitbull terriers WERE ALSO put down for human agression. all of the old original breeders have done that and written about that.
Vickie Hearn and I did a lot of research on this, looking at original documents and writings. Fred Maffei (awesome old time APBT guy), and Donald McCaig (dog philosopher) both were consulted extensively as well.
Vickie Hearn, one of the foremost writers, trainers, and philosophers on dogs has written about this extensively.

i'll end by speaking directly from my own very extensive experiences owning, training and veterinary handling of these three types of dogs specifically. the pitbull's personality, drive, demeanor, sense of humor and thoughtfulness are AN EXACT cross between a bull dog/mastiff type and a terrier type. that's it.
unless you have owned and trained on a on a deep extensive level, all 3 of these breeds, you will not know what i am speaking about. and it would not make any difference to your viewpoint or opinion if i did.

tuffy said...

did you know that the original APBT was 25-35 pounds?

PBurns said...

Let's start with the simplest statement to prove wrong: that "the original APBT was 25-35 pounds".


The Colby dogs (to pick just one breeder) had weights all over the map.

Colby's Primo was put out as the first picture of the ideal Am Staff dog (the standard was written before the dog was born) and was 45 pounds. The AKC standard was largely copied off the UKC standard and Colby dogs were dual registered. Colby's Pincher was 75 pounds, Tige was 35 pounds. Pit dogs are fought by weight and that's been true forever.

I have no idea of whether you have ever actually owned or worked a REAL working terrier, but it's a bit amusing to me to be told that a molosser breed is worthless unless it has Jack Russell or Bedlington, or Cairn Terrier or (insert any fox or badger dog) blood in it. Truthfully, terriers are not some "super type" -- they are game enough, I supposed, but a drop of terrier blood does not a gladiator make.

Terriers were not a taxonomic class in 1700 -- they were a TAX category. This is basic and why the pit bull folks are confused -- they simply do not understand that words means less than the actual dogs assigned to those words.

For example, there were TWO English White terriers -- one a toy dog that weighed 10 pounds that the pit bull community somehow thinks created their dog. Very amusing!

There was also a white Molosser Pit Bull identical to the modern pit bull that existed prior to 1835 and which was ALSO called an "English White". The dogs have NOTHING to do with each other -- like saying David Cassidy is directly related to Hopalong Cassidy.

You say we "cannot know" if, when, and where a terrier cross was made to make the "put bull terrier".


We have fairly detailed records and illustrations going back over 500 years.

We know there was no specific "bull dog" breed -- they were lumped in with mastiffs and bandogs.

The argument that some nameless, faceless person in some unknown era might have crossed and unknown and unnamed breed is the shaky nail on which the claim is made that a Pit Bull is a terrier?


Pit Bulls were performance dogs with cash wagers made on fight outcomes, and they were that before any true terrier breed existed, before there were mounted fox hunts in the UK, before Cesar first visited the Colosseum.

What happened in the later Victorian era is that dog dealers showed up and invented a history and knitted a lot of lies about the dogs.

It's not like that's the first time that's been done, is it?

The difference is that the Pit Bull community is, by turns, ignorant of canine history prior to the Victorian dog show and dog dealer era, and deeply romantic. They want their dogs to have a storied and mysterious past .. they want to talk about this world-beater versus that "cur" -- this dog sired by Gunpower out of Bozo, a direct line-bred descendent from ... whatever.

I posted a link to some of Harriet Ritvo's work on the bulldog this morning. I will strip out some of the text and post it tomorrow for those who find it hard to read a PDF on a cell phone (that's me!).