The term "pit bull" is used broadly to describe multiple related breeds including the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, sometimes the American Bully and sometimes the American Bulldog. A dog may also be labeled a pit bull if it's a combination of those breeds or a mix of those and other breeds.
What is and isn’t a pit bull is just about as confusing and vague as finding reliable statistics on how dangerous they may be.
Nearly half of all Americans have a dog and pit bulls make up around 6 percent of the U. S. dog population.
While the United Kennel Club describes some pit breeds as excellent family companions, they do generally have bigger mouths and therefore a bigger bite. But their so-called locking jaw is a myth, according to animal behaviorist Dr. Jessica Lockhart.
“With any dog that’s being aggressive, despite its breed, any dog in that situation is going to bite and hold,” said Dr. Lockhart. “It’s not just breed specific to pit bulls.”
So, are pit bulls more dangerous?
According to DogsBite.org, from 2005 to 2016, dogs killed 392 Americans. Pit bulls contributed to 65 percent of those deaths. But the site’s statistics come solely from media reports, which could lead to incomplete information and possible misidentification of breed.
In 2000, the CDC released a review which identified pit bulls in approximately a third of dog bite-related fatalities in the U. S. between 1981 and 1992. By now, that information is old and its statistics come partially from media reports, as well.
Turns out, there are no comprehensive numbers about how many people have been bitten by certain breeds of dogs.
We turned to the widely cited research paper “Breed differences in canine aggression” which surveyed dog owners about their own pets’ aggressive behavior.
In the category of a dog’s aggression against other dogs, pit bulls did score on the high end.
But the second factor is aggression toward people and there, small dogs like dachshunds and chihuahuas actually scored the highest and pit bulls settled in the middle of the pack.
It’s hard to find unbiased, reliable information when it comes to pit bulls, it’s a very emotionally charged topic. But from what we’ve learned, they’re not the most aggressive breed toward people and though they’re big and strong, pit bulls don’t bite differently than any other dog.