When someone says "pit bull," you picture a stocky dog with a short coat, strong head, and a bad reputation. In actuality, "pit bull" isn't even a breed, but a term commonly used to describe several breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the Bull Terrier. However, these are only a few of the dogs that fall under the bully breed label. Most people could have probably guessed at some of the aforementioned, but the other breeds on this list might surprise you.
What makes a breed a bully breed?
The designation “bully” does not, in fact, have anything to do with behavior or temperament. It’s the origin and history of each breed that lands them in this category. They all share common ancestors known as Molosser dogs. Molossers are an ancient type of dog that can be characterized by their common traits: a short muzzle, heavy bones, pendant ears, and a relatively short, muscled neck.
Originating in ancient Epirus (a geographical and historical region in southeastern Europe that has since been absorbed by Greece and Albania), Molossers were large shepherd dogs. The name Molosser itself is derived from King Molossus, the fabled grandchild of Achilles who ruled the Molossians living in Epirus. They were seafaring people and their dogs often sailed with their masters to Asia. It was from these expeditions that selective breeding and trading began to develop the Molosser dogs into the breeds we see today. As time went on, they were also kept for protection, hunting, as military dogs, and in 19th century England they were used for ‘bull baiting’, which is believed to be when the term ‘bully’ became common.
Today, these once coveted animals are seen by many as brutish, naturally aggressive, and downright dangerous. The truth about these misunderstood companions is quite different. Naturally gentle, social, and loyal creatures, they have a high intelligence that makes them very trainable. These personality traits combined with their inherent athleticism allow bully breed dogs to excel at a number of disciplines such as agility, hunting, or as working farm dogs. They are also excellent family pets, being especially well adapted to tolerating the rough and tumble that can be involved in playing with young children.
In this multi-part exploration of the many bully dogs, each of these unique breeds will be profiled with information that can hopefully shed a little light on just how diverse this category is. Here’s a quick list of the more common bully breeds that will be discussed: