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10 Friendly Facts About American Pit Bull Terriers

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The American pit bull terrier may have a bad reputation, but under all that muscle is a heart of gold. Learn more about what makes this misunderstood dog so lovable.

1. They come from violent beginnings. 

Pit bulls were bred for a brutal lifestyle in Great Britain. The bulldog was crossed with either the white English terrier or the black-and-tan terrier to create powerfully-built dogs for fighting. Blood sports such as bull and bear baiting were popular in England as early as the 1200s. Dogs would enter pits and fight the giant animals for entertainment (hence the name). When baiting became illegal in England in the 1800s, pit bulls were turned on each other and illegal dog fighting became prevalent. 

2. As a result, they have a bad rap.

These dogs were bred to be strong and fearsome, and as a result, have a reputation for being dangerous. The type of dog is banned from Denver, parts of Florida, and even whole countries like Great Britain and New Zealand

Fortunately, the tide is changing for the misunderstood breed, and many cities are reconsidering their ban

3. American pit bull terriers fall under the "pit bull" umbrella. 

Pit bull is a type of dog, but the American pit bull terrier is a breed. Other breeds that fall under the term pit bull include the American Staffordshire terrier, the American bulldog, and the Staffordshire bull terrier. All of these breeds derive from the dogs originally bred to fight in the pits in England.

4. The American pit bull terrier is not an accepted breed by the AKC. 

American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Kennel Club does not recognize the American pit bull terrier, but it does acknowledge an extremely similar breed called the Staffordshire terrier. This name distinction was created in an effort to separate the breed from its negative past. 

5. The breed has been through a number of name changes. 

The AKC wasn't the only group to attempt a rebranding. In the '90s, San Francisco tried to change the dogs' name to St. Francis terriers.

In 2004, the New York City Animal Care and Control tried to rename the dogs “New Yorkies.” According to director Ed Boks, "New Yorkers, like pit bulls, are sometimes perceived as a standoffish and mean breed—but are actually some of the most generous and open-hearted people I've ever met." Sadly, the plan was a flop. 

6. They were once the American family dog. 

American pit bull terriers may need some PR help nowadays, but there was a time when the breed was America’s favorite. Petey, the canine companion of the Little Rascals, was a pit, as well as Nipper, the RCA dog, and Tige, the Buster Brown shoe mascot

7. Snoop Dogg loves them. 

The famous rapper loves the breed so much, he once had a kennel of 20 pit bulls while living in Claremont, California. 

8. One photographer aimed to put them in a better light—with flowers. 

To showcase the softer side of pit bulls, photographer Sophie Gamand photographed a number of dogs with soft pastel colors and floral crowns. The combination of doe-eyed dogs and beautiful flowers make the pups impossible to resist.   

9. They make good bandmates. 

Caninus (pronounced kay-nine-us) was a pit bull-fronted grindcore band. The two lead singers, female pit bulls Budgie and Basil, would “sing” by barking. The group even made a split EP with a band called Hatebeak, which featured an African Parrot vocalist. 

9. The army used the pit bull as a mascot. 

World War I propaganda posters would adopt the images of dogs to symbolize different countries. Germany was represented by the dachshund, England by the bulldog, and the United States by the pit bull. Respected for their loyalty, determination and bravery, they were considered the ideal candidate

10. They’re very loving. 

When properly socialized and trained, pits can be some of the friendliest dogs you’ll meet. While you should never say hello to a dog you don’t know without first asking its owner, pit bulls are naturally warm and kind-hearted canines.

Keep in mind that every generation has a dog that it has decided is dangerous. In the 1800s, it was the bloodhound. Often dogs with bad reputations are guilty of the most dog attacks because they are bought, and trained, for the purpose of being aggressive—not because they're inherently so. Any poorly-trained dog can be violent; shower yours with love and attention, however, and you'll be rewarded with a cuddly, loyal companion.

Interested in adopting? The Merit Pit Bull Foundation is a good place to start. 

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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