The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is believed to be of mastiff descent, as are most of the bulldogs of today. Mastiffs were a group of giant dogs, fearsome in appearance, known for their courage and valour in many areas, including war, blood sports, and defending their masters homes and lives from wild beasts.

It is generally accepted theory that the first mastiffs came out of Tibet; today, dogs from the mastiff, or Molosser, group are found across the globe. From its mastiff heritage the APBT gets its extreme courage and loyalty, high tolerance to pain, and its athletic appearance.

The APBT was developed through an intense process of breed selection carried out first in Britain, then perfected in the United States of America. The sports of bull and bear baiting along with dog fighting led to the hardy, resilient dog we see today. Many people assume that, because the APBT was bred to fight, it is human aggressive and vicious. This is not the case. Dog handlers had to be able to enter the ring and tend their dogs wounds in between rounds. For this reason, it was imperative that the dogs be completely non-aggressive to humans; any dogs that demonstrated human aggressiveness were quickly dispatched and never used for breeding. It is due to this ruthless culling that the APBT we see today is extremely friendly and tolerant of humans. Unfortunately for the dog, this lack of human aggression combined with its bloody history makes it a prime candidate for abuse.

It is unclear precisely when terrier was brought into the APBTs bloodlines. Some experts theorize that there is no terrier in the APBTs history, insisting that the breed is strictly of bulldog and mastiff descent. However, as fighting dogs were bred strictly on character and athletic ability, and many fighting dogs were terriers, it seems unlikely that the breeds’ lines remained unpolluted with terrier blood, especially given as other breeds developed during the same period have terrier or terrier-bulldog mixes listed in their pedigree.

When the APBT arrived in the US, it quickly became popular due to its hardiness and versatility. The breed was used for the traditional blood sports, and also as an all-around frontier dog. APBTs caught stray hogs and cattle, defended their masters properties from lynxes, mountain lions, bears, and wolves, and served as loyal family companions.

By World War I, the American Pit Bull Terrier was one of the most popular dogs in the US. Rather than fearing the APBT, people admired and respected the breed, seeing in the dogs many of the qualities and characteristics they liked to consider American.

Many famous people owned and continue to own American Pit Bull Terriers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Michael J. Fox, David Spade, Jon Stewart, and Drew Barrymore, to name a few.