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16 Match Overview


This article is from the American Pit Bull Terriers Breed FAQ, by Michael Bur with numerous contributions by others.

16 Match Overview

Again, the authors wish to emphasize that by including this overview
we are _not_ promoting dog fighting. Matching two dogs in combat is
illegal in all of the U.S. and a felony on most parts. This overview
is the result of a post that was made to rpb and by reading some of the
older works in the "References" section of this FAQ. Neither of the
authors has fought dogs nor has either author seen an organized dog
fight. We feel that this overview is accurate but it should be treated
as hearsay as that is what it is. It is included here so that the
reader can better understand just what the APBT is and what he has
been traditionaly bred for. This also gives a more accurate, balanced
account of what the traditional pit match was really like. If you
think you might be offended by the material written here, by all
means, skip this section.

You have been warned.

In order to understand what happens in one of these contests one must
first understand the origin of the dog and individuals who originally
pit one dog against another. There is a lot of speculation on this
issue but the overal consensus among 'professional' dog fighters is
that it was a way to find out which dog was the toughest. Throughout
history, men have fought one another in caged contests, with gloves,
without gloves, with rules, without rules, etc...the tough man
was worshiped and to be emulated in the days when it was more
accepted by society. So, how did they define tough?

One aspect of being tough was gameness. Two men would duke it out
and if one of them quit the dual was over. Even if the man who quit
was physically stronger he was not considered to be tougher.
In other instances it was not only who was stronger physically but
who was smarter and in yet others it was physical. So, we now have
three components of a fight, physical, mental and gameness, or heart!
The heart is that intangible men worshiped back then, the gameness
to never quit until there was nothing left.

These men also expected the same of their dogs. The dog that would
quit in a fight was no longer kept for breeding. As a result there
was an evolution that took place where the dogs would continue to
fight even while taking a beating. Now, gameness is not sufficient
when faced with a stronger and larger opponent so other things began
to evolve such as strength of bite, agility, and various other
things like fighting style, yes, style. As men learned more and
more they began to selectively breed for one characteristic over
another to the point that only game, athletic, hard biting winners
were bred. These dogs tended to be small since they were typically
matched in buildings, basements etc...most ranged from as little
as 15 pounds all the way up to 45 or 50 pounds. The reason for
this was simple. It's easier to physically pick up a small dog
in the heat of battle than a large one. So, what prevents the
person who is handling the dog from being bitten? Well, that is
part of the evolution and something else that I will explain in
a moment. First let's examine being in a 16 by 16 foot square pit
trying to grab a dog that is the middle of a major battle. What
prevents the dog from biting the handler? Well, it's because over
the many many years breeders selectively bred only those dogs that
would NOT bite the handler. But, there was something else they
were doing and didn't know it. It had to do with the most fundamental
instinct of all. The survival instinct. The old timers believed that
a mean, vicious dog was never really game! Period! A man biter
was put to death immediately. That is how strong their feelings were.

To better understand this we need to examine the survival instinct
as it applies to Wolves in the wild, and in order for that to happen
we need a scenario that commonly occurs in the wild. Let's say that
a pack of wolves has just killed a deer and is in the process of
eating. Since the dogs are very hungry they just start tearing away
at the carcass and eventually there will be a piece of meat that two
males, (just for argument sake), will want. Well of course there
will be a conflict when that happens, right? The first thing one
wolf will do is to start something called "threat display", by
showing his teeth and raising the hair on his back to appear larger
than he is. He might even growl to sound mean. This type of behavior
is used so that he does not have to fight. The idea is intimidation
first, then and only then will he actually fight. The reason for
this is the ever present survival instincts. Being physically injured
could potentially risk life itself, hence "threat display" You'll
also notice that the fights the do happen are very short and almost
never result in debilitating injuries. Again in the interest of
surviving. All the slashing teeth, rearing up on the hind legs
and so forth are variations on a theme. The aggressiveness is
therefore considered threat display and as such is not, I repeat
not a desirable trait when crafting a combat dog. Therefore,
gameness and aggressiveness are not the same. I game dog does

* NOT show his teeth

* NOT raise up on his hind legs

* NOT growl or make any noise other than maybe screaming or
whimpering due to the intense desire for physical contact

* NOT show aggressiveness towards humans as this is yet
again a manifestation of THREAT display.

So, for people to say that these dogs are people aggressive simply
because they have seen action in the pit is not because they are
stupid, just uninformed.


Now we're ready for what really happens in the pit. Let's examine
the dimensions first. A pit is typically 16 feet by 16 feet square
and about 2 1/2 to 3 feet high. The floor is usually a thick carpet
and the walls are made of wood. In the real world of TOP dog fighters
there are only a handful of individuals at one of these matches. There
is a referee, a second for each dog, a handler for each dog and a time
keeper. there is a "scratch" line drawn diagonally from one neutral
corner of the pit to the other. A dog must cross that line to complete
his scratch. There is normally a ten second time limit from the time
a dog is released until it crosses the scratch line. If he does not
cross the line in the alotted time then the other dog is declared the


At the beginning of the match, both dogs are faced into their
respective corners by their handlers until the referee, also in the
pit asks the contestants to face their dogs. At that time the two
handlers turn 180 degrees and face each other. When that happens
the dogs get sight of one another and start to get pretty excited.
they both usually start trying to get away in order to go after the
other dog. The referee asks the handlers to release their dogs and
the match has begun. To the uninitiated it's a bit strange because
once the dogs make contact in the middle of the pit there is almost
not noise at all. No growling, no raised hair, no snapping. Just
each dog trying to get a hold on the other. One might grab an ear
or a shoulder and try to wrestle the opponent to the ground. Then,
the dominant dog will shake his head to try and punish the other
dog. As the match progresses, with only the sounds of breathing,
the dogs will swap holds, (i.e., take turns grabbing each other).


At some point in the match one of the dogs might have second
thoughts about wanting to be there so will show some signs of
this by doing certain things. One of those things that we look
for is the tail tucking. A sure fire sign that a dog is thinking
of not continuing. The most subtle sign but more reliable is
when a dog physically turns his head and shoulders away from his
opponent during combat. This is called a turn. It is up to the
handler of the other dog to point it out to the referee. When
that has been done the referee announces to the handlers that
a turn has been called and that they should handle their dogs
at the first opportunity. This opportunity comes when both
dogs are not in hold, (i.e., biting each other). This is when
each handler in unison will grab his dog by the nap of the neck
and put a hand under the stifle area to pick his dog up. Each
handler then returns to their respective corners, much like boxing.
they must each face their dogs into the corner for 25 seconds and
then upon hearing the referee say face your dogs, turn and face
their dogs. The dog that turns first, must scratch first. So,
the handler of the dog that was called for the turn must then
release his dog first.


Okay, the dog that turned first must now go across the scratch
line to prove that he still wants to dominate. If he doesn't cross
the line in 10 seconds then he loses and the opponent is declared the
winner. This is more often than not. Or, the losing dog will
be too tired to complete the scratch on time. Again, this
terminates the match. If a handler were to try to physically make
his dog cross the line then again the match is over and the handler
is called for a foul.


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