Dog breeds are characterized by certain physical and behavioral traits. Each breed was developed to perform a specific job, whether that job is hunting rabbits, retrieving downed birds, herding livestock or sitting on people’s laps. When developing a breed, breeders selected only those dogs that performed their job best to produce the next generation.
Physical abilities and behavior are both important facets of any breed. A well-bred dog should have both the physical attributes necessary to perform its job and the behavioral tendencies needed to learn it. It’s not surprising that individuals of a specific breed tend to look and behave somewhat similarly. Pointers are more likely than Poodles to point, and sheepdogs are more likely than lapdogs to herd. However, while a dog’s genetics may predispose it to perform certain behaviors, tremendous behavioral variation exists among individuals of the same breed or breed type. It’s also important to note that some dog breeds are now bred for entirely different jobs than those for which they were originally developed. For example, certain strains of Golden Retrievers are now being bred as service dogs, a far cry from their original job of retrieving downed birds.
Today’s pit bull is a descendant of the original English bull-baiting dog—a dog that was bred to bite and hold bulls, bears and other large animals around the face and head. When baiting large animals was outlawed in the 1800s, people turned instead to fighting their dogs against each other. These larger, slower bull-baiting dogs were crossed with smaller, quicker terriers to produce a more agile and athletic dog for fighting other dogs.