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14 Fighting Dog Breeds: Their Histories And Personalities

Key Takeaways

  • Although the archaic blood sport of dog fighting is long-abandoned in most parts of the world, former dog fighting breeds are still quite popular among dog owners.
  • Since they were bred to be fierce in a dog fight, fighting dogs possess bold physical features and killer instincts.
  • However, they were also bred to be affectionate, loyal, and obedient, making them great pets for those who know how to handle them.

Dogs are typically known as man’s best friend, but unfortunately, some breeds have been genetically manipulated to serve our desires, and not always to their best interest. Some breeds were developed specifically for dog fighting, a cruel and bloody sport where dogs are put on strict diets and training regimes, and the winning dog earns the owner cash. These fighting dog breeds were bred to be large, brave, and “game,” meaning they were willing to fight, even if it meant their own death. They were also bred to have strong jaws and sturdy frames, so they could be “the ultimate fighting machine.” If you’re an avid dog owner like me, I know it breaks your heart too to know that dogs were once used for this purpose.

However, handlers also wanted these dogs to be loving with humans. Despite the misconceptions that these breeds may turn on their owners or other animals, many loving pet parents like myself have taken on some of these breeds, and I can give you my firsthand testimony that these breeds can also be some of the most protective and loving dogs of all. While you may be familiar with some breeds that were specifically bred for dog fighting, it may surprise you to know that other popular fighting dogs exist.

A Brief History of Fighting Dogs

We tend to think of most fighting dog breeds as being something conjured up in America, but that assumption is incorrect. Dogfighting in its heyday took place chiefly in the United Kingdom. It was only in 1835 when the Cruelty to Animals Act was signed into law that the “baiting” of animals was outlawed. It should be understood that this legislation actually made the practice even more popular, despite tolerance towards animal cruelty getting lower and lower as the years progressed.

Today, dog fighting is illegal in most countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Americans for the most part view dog fighting in a negative light as we see the practice as unethical for its blatant animal cruelty, so it has definitely fallen out of popularity here. As dogs around the world become more members of the family than merely a pet, humans, in general, discourage the process.

So, what dog breeds are classically known as fighting breeds? Readers probably initially think of pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, and bulldog breeds. However, one might be surprised to find that there are many more breeds that were once used in the unethical practice of dog fighting.

1. The Akita Inu

Akita Inu.

The Akita Inu is a “spitz” breed dog. They are often confused with the American Akita. Both dog breeds have origins in Japan. Akita Inus are independent dogs that are physically very strong. They tend to be aloof around strangers, slow to trust someone new. However, the Akita Inu is very loving when in the presence of family. They tend to be quite protective of the family and family property as well.

It’s important to understand that the Akita Inu is not for the novice dog owner. This dog will need socialization and training from a young age. In fact, early socialization will help your Akita Inu to accept strangers as well as new situations.

2. The American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier.

The pit bull, or American Pit Bull Terrier, has perhaps one of the most undeserved reputations of all fighting dog breeds. The pit bull is actually a very affectionate dog and, when properly socialized, extremely protective of younger family members. In fact, the pit bull has often been nicknamed the “nanny dog” as they were trusted to keep a watch over babies and small children [1].

Sadly, American Pit Bull Terriers are still misused as pit fighting dogs in illegal dog fighting rings. There are still those who will take these great dogs and encourage them to fight. The pit bull is an extremely tenacious dog, and, in the wrong hands, an owner can encourage those traits. This makes the pit revert to its old dog fighting instincts, leading to the stereotypical image of the savage pit bull.

American Pit Bull Terriers are extremely protective of their family and their “territory” (i.e., the family property). When pet parents raise a pit bull from a puppy, experienced owners can encourage the affectionate side of the pit. Like the Akita Inu, pits are not for first-time pet parents. They need consistent, positive reinforcement training as early as can be provided.

It’s also important to note that pit bulls are often found in pounds and could be classified as rescue dogs. Those who have the time to put into working with a rescue pit find a great reward in the companionship this dog can provide. Anecdotal evidence also shows that the pit often takes on unlikely charges for their care – some pits have taken on abandoned kittens while others have developed “unlikely” relationships with other types of animals, even piglets!

3. The American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier.

Many confuse the American Staffordshire Terrier with pit bull terriers. The Staffordshire is shorter than the pit while most other features are much alike.

It is important to understand that male Staffordshire terriers tend to be aggressive toward other male dogs. However, by utilizing early socialization, you can help to prevent this negative attribute from becoming a bad habit.

Most Staffordshire owners do not have multiple dogs because of the propensity of males to fight. However, if one raises two puppies together, they will likely be friends for life.

It should also be noted that the American Staffordshire Terrier tends to dislike cats. Again, however, if pet parents raise a Staffordshire with other animals, the dog will accept them as a part of their “pack.”

4. The Bully Kutta

Bully Kutta.

The Bully Kutta is also called the Pakistani Mastiff or the Indian Mastiff dog. The breed is large and strong. The Bully Kutta was not originally bred as a fighting dog breed; they were a working dog that offered protection for families and property when not working alongside their human handlers.

The Bully Kutta is definitely not one for novice owners. The breed will need lots of consistent training with positive reinforcement for desired behavior.

5. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Shepherd Dog.

This breed was developed to protect flocks of sheep as well as guard property. The Caucasian Dog Shepherd was able to protect sheep against other dogs, wildcats, wolves, and bears.

Popularly known as Russian prison dogs, Caucasian Shepherds have a reputation for being fierce as well as possessing natural aggression that is difficult to train out of the breed. This is definitely not a breed that novice owners should consider.

6. The Dogo Argentino

Dogo Argentino.

The Dogo Argentino was developed in Argentina for the purpose of big-game hunting. Before ending up in dog fights, the Dogo Argentino was trained to hunt game such as wild boars. (Keep in mind that some pit bulls today are utilized to assist hunters in hunting nuisance wild hogs.)

The Dogo Argentino ended up becoming a breed dogfighters loved due to its fierce and unforgiving nature when engaged in dog fighting. Some countries actually have a ban on this breed, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Israel, Ukraine, Singapore, and Iceland.

The Dogo Argentino is a breed that is very strong and will “take over” if you allow it. This breed is definitely not one for novice owners or those who aren’t able to take the time to provide consistent behavioral training. Of course, positive reinforcement is a must as these dogs never respond well to punishment when training.

7. The Dogue de Bordeaux

Dogue de Bordeaux.

Readers may recognize the Dogue de Bordeaux from Tom Hanks’ movie Turner and Hooch. The Dogue de Bordeaux originated in Rome with mastiffs used in battle. However, the breed is most closely related to the country of France. In fact, in some areas, the breed is referred to as a French Mastiff. The breed is considered a “large-to-giant” breed that requires consistent training.

The Dogue de Bordeaux is actually a very affectionate breed when properly socialized. Typically, the breed is very calm unless provoked.

8. The Bullmastiff


The Bullmastiff or English Mastiff is a giant breed dog that is actually quite easygoing and sweet, despite its effectiveness at dog fighting. The Bullmastiff was developed to assist gamekeepers in England in catching poachers. The Bullmastiff would silently sneak up on poachers and then alert gamekeepers to potential poachers in the area. They would actually knock down the poacher and hold him until the gamekeeper could get to the scene.

The Bullmastiff is a dog that rarely barks and is usually reserved. They are very territorial and protective. They are excellent with children. Although the Bullmastiff can be taught to attack on command quite easily thanks to their genetic inclination towards being driven in dog fights, they rarely if ever show aggression toward humans on their own.

9. The Fila Brasileiro

Fila Brasileiro.

This mastiff-type dog is much like the Bullmastiff in personality. It is a large breed dog originating in Brazil, and will subdue would-be intruders on one’s property and hold the perpetrator until its owner can intervene. Its gigantic size made it just as effective at dog fighting as it is at guarding the home.

10. The Japanese Tosa

Japanese Tosa.

The Japanese Tosa is one of the original Japanese dog fighting breeds that have a somewhat unwarranted negative reputation. In fact, this fighting dog breed has been banned in places such as the United Kingdom, Norway, Turkey, New Zealand, and Denmark.

Australia has also banned the breed within the borders of its country, and many insurance companies will not insure a property where a Tosa is kept.

11. The Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff.

The Neapolitan Mastiff is a giant breed dog that is actually quite protective of its family and its “territory.” This dog fighting breed is actually quite gentle, only occasionally displaying aggression toward other dogs of the same sex. Of course, if the dogs are raised together, the Neapolitan typically never shows aggression towards other dogs as they view them as members of its “pack.”

The Neapolitan Mastiff is also good with other household pets, provided they are raised together. Like other “fighting breeds,” the Neapolitan Mastiff requires a leader as a handler who will train him from an early age with consistency and positive reinforcement.

12. The Shar-Pei


Most people recognize the Shar-Pei for its adorable wrinkly coat and diminutive ears — not very obvious traits for a fighting dog. The Shar-Pei is typically a one-person dog that has little tolerance for strangers. With proper training and socialization, the Shar-Pei is a delightful, protective pet. However, Shar-Peis may need to take extra training and positive reinforcement in order to un-learn some bad habits, such as aggression — a nasty side effect of their dog fighting past.

13. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is in fact a different breed from the American Staffordshire Terrier although they have chiefly the same physical characteristics. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier originated in England, and it is known as one of England’s most favored pets.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an affectionate fighting dog, but, he will require consistent training as young as handlers can begin. Handlers MUST be both consistent and use positive reinforcement rather than punishment when training.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not intended for novice owners or those who do not have much time to devote to training.

14. The Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff.

The Tibetan Mastiff is not only large in size but can grow a bushy coat that actually appears rather intimidating itself! The Tibetan Mastiff is a Chinese dog that was utilized by shepherds to protect livestock and to fight off wolves and bears that might attack the shepherds themselves. This naturally lended itself well to dog fighting as the practice spread across China.

Like other fighting dog breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff will need a consistent trainer who provides positive reinforcement. This breed is one of the more intelligent breeds that commands a handler’s respect in order to foster a good relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What dogs are bred for dogfighting?

Many dog breeds began life as animals specifically bred for dog fighting, such as the Staffordshire Terrier, the Bullmastiff, and the American Pit Bull Terrier.

2. What is the most vicious fighting dog?

The Pit Bull is said to be a most vicious fighting dog, as it was bred specifically to have a massive jaw and strong bite force. This breed is descended from the English Bulldog, which developed large jaws to clamp down on the heads and necks of animals many times its size, like bulls and even bears. Their jaws alone give them a great advantage in a dog fight.

3. What dog can beat a wolf?

The Caucasian Shepherd as well as the Irish Wolfhound are said to be able to beat a wolf in a one-on-one dog fight, in the rare cases that it has come to that. The Tibetan Mastiff was developed to protect livestock from wolves as well.

4. What dog can beat a German shepherd?

Among all fighting dogs, it’s said that the American Pit Bull Terrier is the most able to go toe-to-toe with a German Shepherd and beat it in a dog fight.

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