Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fighting Breeds

The belief that pit bulls show no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers is widely accepted among advocates of fighting breeds.

The School of Veterinary Medicine at Hannover, Germany (TiHo) has been instrumental in promoting this belief.
See this index for a complete list of posts on TiHo and on the belief that pit bulls exhibit no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers.
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Revised: Oct 24, 2012; 22:57 GMT
Revised: Oct 26, 2012; 15:32 GMT
Revised: Apr 28, 2013; 19:08 GMT
Revised: March 10, 2014; 13:07 GMT

On June 26th, 2000, six-year old Volkan Kaya was attacked by two dogs, an American Staffordshire terrier and a pit bull. Volkan had been playing soccer with schoolmates in the schoolyard, and was killed while his schoolmates looked on in horror.

In July of 2000 the state of Lower Saxony passed a Dangerous Dogs Act; provisions of the law placed restrictions on specific breeds of dogs. In August the Veterinary School at the University of Hannover began testing restricted dogs under provisions of the law, and collecting data from the tests.

The following year (March 2001) TiHo was established at Hannover, and the first dissertation on dangerous dogs was published in May, 2002. In the following years the TiHo faculty and students have been closely associated with the study of canine aggression, and have an extensive history of publications on the subject. The dissertations have been carefully directed, primarily by the long-time director of the program Prof. Dr. Hansjoachim Hackbarth. TiHo publications have exerted a strong influence on the animal legislation in Germany, and on the advocates of fighting breeds in the US.

In our series SRUV has focused on the papers which assert that pit bulls and other fighting breeds show no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers. We have yet to comment on the very first paper published by TiHo in their series on dangerous dogs, Fighting dogs: history, use, and behaviour problems, by Andrea Steinfeldt (May 2002). In the paper Ms Steinfeldt arrives at the following conclusion:1
However, to use the term „fighting dog“ for all members of certain species must be rejected for many reasons. Forms of increased aggressive behaviour of dogs can be caused by various endogenetic and exogenetic factors,2  regardless of the species a dog belongs to. From a veterinarian point of view, a dog should be assessed by its individual behaviour and the term „fighting dog“ must by all means be avoided, as it is of historical origin and referred to dog species, which were especially reared for dog fights and which do not exist anymore.
Ms Steinfeldt claims that fighting breeds no longer exist, which observation and common sense tell us is false. If we interpret this passage as leniently as possible, perhaps Ms Steinfeldt may be claiming that dogs are no longer bred to fight, which is nonetheless false. No matter how we choose to interpret Ms Steinfeldt's assertions, the fact remains that she is wrong on all counts. Dogs are still being bred to fight, and dog fights are still being held. Backyard breeders continue to overproduce pit bulls with all the characteristics of authentic pit fighters. Fighting breeds do exist.

This dissertation, the first from TiHo on dangerous dogs, clearly attempts to lay the groundwork for subsequent TiHo papers on fighting breeds. It is instrumental in establishing the core belief of advocates of fighting breeds: that all dogs are individuals and should not be considered as members of a breed. This hypothesis, if carried to its logical extreme, would erase the concept of dog breeds altogether.

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1  This excerpt is from the English version of the dissertation summary.
2 This translation into English (which is copied exactly from the TiHo web site) incorrectly translates endogene und exogene, the terms used in the German version. The mistranslated terms endogenetic and exogenetic appear to apply solely or primarily to geomorphology. Based on the definitions in Aggressive behaviours in dogs: a new descriptive-contextual classification (Dehasse, 2004), as well as on the author's intent, we believe the correct usage in English is endogenous and exogenous.

Fighting dogs: history, use, and behaviour problems. Bully Species: a study of the literature.
Andrea Steinfeldt. Hannover, Tierärztliche Hochschule (TiHo), Dissertation, 2002

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