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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fighting dogs

I was speaking with a young man recently who jokingly told me, "I'm going to get a Bandog to keep my mother's pet terrier company. Or maybe I'll get a half wolf."

When I told him that half wolves were illegal, he said that he would just tell people it's a Husky.

When I asked him what a Bandog was, he explained that they were basically half pit bull, half mastiff, bred to be the world's best fighting dogs. The idea was to combine the ferocity of a pit bull with the size of a mastiff:

He added that if he did get such a dog, he would name it Cerberus.

(They do look as if they come from hell.)

I suggested he name it Fifi instead, and dress it up with pink bows and the like. And when it chomped other dogs in two, he could remonstrate with it in the same tone of voice female pet owners use with their pets. 'Oh, bad Fifi! Bad little Fifi," while giving it an affectionate caress.

The discussion prompted me to do a little research on the internet about fighting dogs. Bandogs are generally regarded as the ultimate fighting dogs, but there are a number of other breeds considered quite formidable, and each has its advocates. Many are named after the areas from which they originated, such as the Dogo Argentino:

The Presa Canario, from the Canary Islands:

The American Pit Bull Terrier:

Akita Inu:

Central Asian Ovcharka:

English Mastiff (don't worry, if this picture puts off-color thoughts into your head, you're not alone):

Neapolitan Mastiff:


Many of these dogs are related to mastiffs, and many are also thought to be descended from the Molossus, a now extinct breed used by the Romans as a war dog:

One of the big questions among owners of fighting dogs is whether any of these creatures can stand up to a wolf. Most think not. There is some evidence that dogs have occasionally bested wolves. But for the most part, wolves kill dogs, even the fighting breeds, because of their superior agility, longer teeth, and stronger bite. Wolves are less muscular overall than the strongest dog breeds, but they have stronger jaw muscles. Wolves generally kill dogs by chomping down on their skulls, which is instantly fatal.

This is not to say that the fighting dogs fear wolves. Many of these creatures were originally bred to guard flocks of sheep against wolves; some were bred as guard dogs. But the qualities required to be a good sheep dog, or guard dog, overlap with those required to be a fighting dog. All of these dogs were bred to be fearless and aggressive, even when confronted with superior firepower.

The problem is, people who want such a dog don't want a pet to lavish affection on. They want a dog to burnish their own macho self-images. And they train the dogs to be effective fighting machines, and, even worse, sometimes abuse them. Hence the killings by dogs.

You've probably heard it said that there's nothing wrong with pit bulls, the problem is with the owners. Yes and no. There are lovingly raised, safe pit bulls. But if you took the worst, most abusive pit bull owners and gave them Pomeranians instead, no humans would die.

It's a little like what the NRA says: guns don't kill people, people do. That is true. But it's also true that without guns most of those killers would be far less effective.

Michael Vick is widely regarded with abhorrence in this country, but in fact dog fighting has long been been a tradition in many, if not most, parts of the world. All those fighting dogs were bred for a purpose. (The American Pit Bull Terrier is in fact called that because of the frequency with which the breed was put in pits to either fight other dogs or enter rat-baiting contests, in which money was wagered on how long it would take a dog to kill all the rats.)

I certainly don't support dog fighting. But I can understand the my-dog-can-take-your-dog sort of pride some owners exhibit.


lowly said...

" ... I can understand the my-dog-can-take-your-dog sort of pride some owners exhibit. "

Pretty much a juvenile attitude ... so you aren't entirely over hill yet, lol.

"It's a little like what the NRA says: guns don't kill people, people do. That is true. But it's also true that without guns most of those killers would be far less effective."

Ditto for the defenders, and my sympathies are with them.

As to the fighting dogs; one of my brothers had a runt, bitch Akita, and there is something scary about them. Their "Don't even think about fucking with me stance" perhaps?

John Craig said...

Lowly --
I am juvenile, no question.

Agreed about the defenders. And while I have mixed feelings about that "guns don't kill people slogan," I completely agree with the NRA's other slogan, "If they outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns."

Actually, at least from the pictures I used, the Akitas are the least scary-looking dog of all those fighting breeds. The bandog looks the worst, and some of the others are intimidating just because of their size.

bluffcreek1967 said...

I admit I'm not a big fan of the pit bull dogs - mostly because many of the ones I've had some kind of run in with have been owned by gang members and shady ghetto folks. I know there's good ones, and a lot of it depends on the owners. Still, they're pretty damn aggressive.

Two quick stories. As a rookie cop many years ago, I'm almost clubbed a large rotweiler who charging at me with his owner screaming at me that it was a puppy and didn't intend any harm. Still, the dog was huge! I got my PR-24 baton ready and I was just about to whack the dog on its head, when, at the last moment, I gave it just two more seconds. At that point, it jumped up, placed its paws on my shoulders (and I'm tall!), and started to lick my face!

On another occasion, I was doing a probation check on some guy when he released his pit bull on me. The dog deliberately tried to bite in me in the face, and only missed me by an inch. I tasered the dog, but only one of the probes made contact. When he came at me again, I almost shot him with my .40 Cal, but my partner kicked him right before I fired. By then, the dog's owner called him off once he realized that his dog would soon be dead.

I've had several such 'encounters,' but thankfully none of them resulted in me having to kill any dogs. But I'm more cautious now than most people. I've also learned over the years how irresponsible so many dog owners are. For a lot of them, it's purely a way of intimidating those around them.

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
Those are interesting stories, thanks. In both cases it's a good thing you had such quick reactions. I guess if the owner is screaming that the dog means no harm, that's a good owner who brought up her dog well, which generally means a good dog. In the second case, I hope the owner got what he deserved. When you think about it, that's actually attempted murder.

I agree about pit bulls. They seem to be the dog of choice among gang members these days.

Anonymous said...

Dogo Argentinos are not generally regarded as a breed with the temperament for and were not bred to be fighting dogs. In fact, quite the opposite is true, they are generally regarded as being anything but dog aggressive and the "pack social" mentality in regards to cooperating with and not fighting other dogs was specifically bred into them.

Yes, it's wikipedia but in this case pretty accurate.
"Dogos are big-game hunters and are sometimes trained for search and rescue, police assistance, service dogs, and military work. As with all breeds, the Dogo Argentino can be good with children, if properly socialized at early age.

Dogo Argentinos have been bred specifically to allow better socialization with other dogs and are well suited for group environments. They get along with other pets in most rural and urban settings ranging from a complete outdoor farm dog to urban housing with a small yard, to crowded apartment buildings. Because aggressive traits are purposely bred out, attacks on humans or other pets are extremely rare."
"It is important to point out that the Fighting Dog of Cordoba, a breed established in that area consisting of Mastiff, English Bulldog, Bull Terrier, and Boxer, is now extinct. Much of the early work on the new breed was devoted to eliminating the fighting eagerness and developing the hunting instinct. An effort that was essential and highly successful.

The formula Antonio started was:

The Fighting Dog of Cordoba, to which he added blood from..
The Pointer to give him a keen sense of smell which would be essential for the hunt.
The Boxer added vivacity and gentleness
The Great Dane it's size
The Bull Terrier, fearlessness
The Bulldog gave it an ample chest and boldness
The Irish Wolfhound brought it's instinct as a hunter of wild game
The Dogue de Bordeaux contributed it's powerful jaws
The Great Pyrenees it's white coat and
The Spanish Mastiff gave it's quota of power"