Is That a Pit Bull?

February 23, 2011  

We thought we had a pit bull, but five years later discovered otherwise.

By Micaela Myers

Micaela Myers with Rocky (left) and her pit bull mix, Omega

In 2005, shortly after we bought our first home, we decided to adopt a dog. I wanted a German shepherd, my husband wanted a Lab. One day I came across a cute 2-year-old on Petfinder at our local shelter. Someone had listed him as a golden Lab, so I went to meet him. But when I got there, he didn’t look like a golden Lab. They told me he was a pit bull. I’d never met a pit bull before and had only heard bad things about them from the media; but he was sweet, playful, and a potty-trained adult that was good with kids and other dogs – exactly what we were looking for. I decided I should judge him as an individual, not by breed, and adopted him on the spot.

With his attentive, loving and goofy nature, Rocky quickly won us over. But soon I experienced something I’d never encountered with any of my previous dogs: prejudice. People on the street also guessed him to be a “pit bull” and would cross to the other side. A few people I know – people who had never met my dog or any pit bull for that matter – told me I should put him down before he turned on me. This blind hatred and fear of a companion I love as a member of my family led me to study the history, facts and issues surrounding pit bulls. I met dozens and dozens of pit bulls volunteering with Pit Bull Rescue San Diego and loved every one of them.

I became quite proud of the fact Rocky was a pit bull and used it as an opportunity to talk to people about the pit bull plight. Then one day I interviewed Dr. Victoria Voith, a professor of Animal Behavior at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Western University of Health Science, for an article on breed misidentification. She has been studying the issue and coming up with some pretty startling results. In one of her studies, Dr. Voith took a group of mixed breed dogs who had been visually identified as a certain breed and had them DNA tested. The result: The vast majority of dogs tested were not the breed people thought they were.

Out of curiosity, we decided to spend the $60 and have Rocky DNA-tested using the Wisdom Panel canine DNA test. One night we went to sleep thinking we had a pit bull, and the next day we found out we have a genuine all-American mutt. It turns out that Rocky has about 10 different breeds in him—none of them bully breeds.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed, but then I realized that Rocky has been given the opportunity that we hope all pit bulls will have one day: the chance for people to meet him with no labels and no pre-conceived notions – as just a dog.

« « Hot Dog Vendor Now Cares for Hot Dogs | Does Other People’s Fear of Pit Bulls Change Your Relationship to Your Dog? » »


14 Responses to “Is That a Pit Bull?”
  1. Micaela says:

    Thanks for reading the article everyone! We knew going into it that Wisdom Panel doesn’t test for “pit bulls,” but they do say that pit bulls tested will often show one or more of these breeds: the American Staffordshire terrier, Boston terrier, Bull terrier, Staffordshire Bull terrier, Mastiff, Bullmastiff Boxer, Bulldog and various small terriers like the Parson Russell in the mix. We knew Rocky was a mix and were curious what the mix was. We realize DNA testing is not 100 percent foolproof. But obviously Dr. Voith thinks it has some merit since she’s using it in her studies. Like most of you, we don’t care what breed he is – we just love him. My interest in the subject is that Dr. Voith’s work seems like it can be one more argument (of many) against BSL since it helps show how wrong guessing breeds is (and therefore how wrong it is to euthanize dogs just based on how they look).

  2. Misty says:

    I have a rescue American Stafford.Not the typical run of the mill Pit…She was abused & neglected.Out of every dog I have ever owned she is the BEST.She loves my 3 year old like he is her own puppy.Protects us when stranger people come to our house & no I don’t mean just random strangers.She has an intuition about people I believe but she is lovable,patient,friendly & overall 100% of our family.I don’t care if people label her as an “aggressive dog”.Until you get to know her & her personality you will never really know our Hope!

  3. Teri Melton says:

    my daughter’s ex hubby paid alot of money for a beautiful supposedly purebred pittie pup with a hand written list of her parentage that we looked up online, and I gotta say she looks nothing like them. not blocky and stubby, more long-legged and elegant. she is a blue nose brindle and is the love of my daughter’s life, but I think they paid for a mix and not a purebred, just my personal opinion. not that I care, she is an awesome dog. but I really wish people would rescue and not buy!!!

  4. Nuria says:

    This just shows how hard it is to identify a “pit bull”, which isn’t a breed, yet that’s what they are called. So many dogs have died because of not just stupid prejudice, but mis-identification. BSL doesn’t work. Any dog can bite and be violent if they haven’t been properly socialized.

  5. Rebecca says:

    When we adopted our Zoe, the humane society labeled her as part pit-bull so I was a little scared of her. But now, almost two years later, I can’t imagine us having any other kind of dog. We’re now also starting to think she’s part greyhound because of her long, lean body and strong legs. Whatever she is, she’s the sweetest and funniest dog in the world.

  6. Emily says:

    I think it is great that you love this pit bull, there is so many people who are just dumb butts when it comes to them. It is not the breed it is how they are raised. It has been proven over and over again that it is not the breed. I had one before I had to move. I also have a daughter who is bipolar and has seizures. My pitt bull Koko was able to detect when she was getting ready to have one and she helped her through them. When I moved to Asheville I brought her here because where I lived before euthinise them. She was adopted out within a few days because of her special qualities.

  7. Deb and Coco says:

    Thank you for this. I adopted my dog and was told she was a chocolate lab mix. As she got older she grew into what looks to be a very impressive and pretty pittie. Because I lived in Miami where pits are banned. I had to move. So I did. After reading this I am going to have her tested. Just out of curiosity. We are also testing a number of the dogs in our rescue so that we can get the adopted without the sterotype holding them back. Great article.

  8. DD says:

    Of course the AKC is going to have some sort of negative response to DNA testing. I find anything from this organization to be highly suspect with regard to their breed or testing standards. They have zero interest in giving up their monopoly on determining (the ‘purity’ and standards of) breeds.

    If the logic above is true, wouldn’t so called “pure bred” dogs then serve as a breed reference point?

    Interestingly enough, I went four years with my sweet pup who was rescued as a pit
    (and feared by strangers as a pit) despite his endless wiggles and kisses before finding out from the Wisdom MX Panel that he indeed was just a pit bull impersonator… and a very good one at that! 🙂

    I am not saying this science is the ‘end all, be all’ as these companies obviously have to make that paper too, but I just find the AKC’s distrust amusing.

    Congrats on having two amazing pooches!