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What American Bullies tell us about men The dogs are bred to signal Instagram machismo

Dogwhistle


September 13, 2023   6 mins

The first American dog to be awarded a medal was Stubby, a pitbull-type adopted as a puppy by J. Robert Conroy, a military private, after he kept showing up at drill sessions. After a distinguished life of service in the First World War, Stubby died in 1926 an American national treasure, and received a three-column obituary in the New York Times.

But a lot has changed for pitbull-type dogs since then. Once featured in children’s comedies and military posters as the emblematic all-American dog, they are now controversial in the USA, banned in Britain and — in their emerging, larger, American Bully XL hybrid form — facing calls for a fresh round of restrictions.

So why own a dog like this today? Who looks at the whole range of dog breeds, and thinks: “Why yes, the ideal pet for me is a massive lump of teeth, claws and muscle, that weighs as much as a muscular adult man and has a reputation for aggression”?

Even leaving aside those who breed and train dogs for illegal fighting, there are clearly some cases where a fierce hunting dog or intimidating, loyal guardian is necessary and valued. But these aren’t generally the dogs who get loose and cause injuries. Instead, it’s usually dogs with hunting, guarding and bloodsports origins kept in unsuitable environments. And this phenomenon is growing increasingly common, for the simple reason that nearly every environment is now unsuitable for a dog with these origins.

Over the last century or so, life has grown increasingly detached from the material world — and especially from the more visceral aspects of material existence where dogs have historically often played a role, such as hunting or physical conflict. Sergeant Stubby was unusual as military dogs go, in serving only as mascot: as far back as Ancient Rome, the Canis Molossus was a massive mastiff-type equipped with a spiked collar for use in battle and military dogs are still in use today. But such visceral types of employment have grown less widespread — either for canines or humans. Instead, over the last century, even non-violent real-world material work has drained away. In its place has emerged an “information economy”, with associated ecosystems of service, caring, and administrative occupations.

In this brave new world of de-materialised work, our relation to once-working dogs has also de-materialised. Many formerly-working dog breeds are now bred for exaggerated show-dog versions of their working traits, or kept simply as pets, with owners doing their best to meet the dogs’ bred-in traits and behaviours with work-like activities. Similarly, a great many human social traits that once served a useful purpose have come to seem redundant too — especially where these concern traditionally masculine-coded activities and social forms. For while the vast majority of “information economy” jobs can be performed by either sex, in practice, they often favour more feminine skill-sets and social strategies.

And as we’ve come adrift from our own limits, something akin to the exaggerated traits seen in show-bred dogs has become discernible in how we present sex differences, too: a cartoonish Instagram masculinity and femininity that have grown more exaggerated, like show-dog traits, in proportion to their loss of material importance.

This has, in turn, loaded new kinds of meaning onto the dogs we keep, and the reasons (overt or unspoken) why we do so. For as the human-dog relationship has shifted from practical, goal-oriented team-work to an emotional relationship based in affinity, dogs’ traits have increasingly become a means of signalling who we are. In this sense, it has probably never been more true that people tend to resemble their dogs — or at least have some affinity to traits signalled by their dogs.

It’s not a coincidence that pitbull-types — once celebrated for courage, stoicism, feudal loyalty, protectiveness, and capacity for aggression — began falling from favour in the Sixties, the dawn of the mass “information society” and the beginning of the end for “traditional masculinity”. Nor is it a coincidence that their loss of status in America hit a nadir in 1987 with the Pitbull that mauled a California toddler to death while guarding a marijuana field. This was, after all, the point when de-industrialisation began to bite, and thus when traditionally masculine-coded traits also began the same trajectory.

Responsible owners of working-breed dogs will go to considerable lengths to accommodate their pets’ inclinations. But suggesting that we might occasionally need to extend the same consideration to (at least some) men will get you burned at the stake. So instead of seeking outlets for all those human traits we no longer have a use for, they’ve simply become low-status. In tandem, Pitbull ownership, and also what’s left of the style of masculinity it signals, is increasingly associated with the (often criminal) subcultures for whom such breeds are still useful as fighting or protection dogs, and where aggression, loyalty and so on remain socially valued. So, too, they also became symbols for what’s left of this style of masculinity. If they have subsequently become fashionable again, this is via the flashy aesthetic and live-for-the-moment worldview (and sometimes also active participation in the criminality itself) that percolates out of the aggressively macho produced in these subcultures.

The Cuban-American rapper Pitbull spelled out this now deep link between criminal chic and dangerous dogs, explaining that he chose his name because they are “too stupid to lose. And they’re outlawed in Dade County. They’re basically everything that I am.” Pitbull, who resembles a podgy Andrew Tate, propagates much the same aesthetic of conspicuous consumption, priapism and machismo as the notorious pimp-cum-influencer: a worldview that Right-wing commentator Scott Greer described in Tate’s case, as “the rap ethos ‘Fuck Bitches, Get Money’”.

So when we consider who might deliberately set out to acquire a pet whose main obvious role is as a weapon, the most likely reason is that they want to signal an affinity with traits such as agency, power, and a capacity for violence — and, perhaps, also with the flashy, criminal-adjacent subcultures which are now more or less the only fields in which such traits are valued today. Typically, if the monster dog-owner is a man, this is aspirational; or if the dog-owner is a woman, to convey approval of these traits in men.

But even more than the Pitbull from which it was developed, the Bully epitomises the weirdly empty quality of this machismo-as-fashion-identity. It is there in the breed’s evolution toward ever more exaggerated traits, most notably the ultra-wide, low-slung, bizarre-looking Exotic Bully: all ultra-wide chest and short, burly forelegs but correspondingly prone to illnesses. Like bodybuilders who sculpt their torsos for posting physique, even as they neglect functional fitness and skip leg day, such dogs are bred solely for their Instagrammable air of menace.

And this is the Bully’s tragedy: for unlike the fighting dogs on Britain’s existing banned list, the American Bully XL never had a job, not even a grisly one such as dog-fighting or hunting down fugitives. It has no history as a working dog at all. It is in fact, just as much an accessory as a teacup poodle. The main difference is that the physique required to signal a suitably appealing level of dead-eyed menace makes a Bully XL potentially much more dangerous, in the hands of an irresponsible owner, than even the most irate and badly-trained 5lb fluffball.

Such uselessness is also likely a factor in the recent spate of dog attacks. For if responsible owners of non-working exemplars of a working breed go the extra mile to ensure their pets can do something akin to the activities they were bred for, there is no “for” in the case of the American Bully XL except “looking scary”. And this lack of real purpose leaves these dogs especially vulnerable to purchase for an under-trained, under-stimulated and badly-behaved life as a fashion item.

There are no behavioural requirements for an Instagram prop. No wonder the dogs bred to signal machismo on social media so often end up dangerously out of control, and for this alone I’m in favour of banning the American Bully XL. What about the men who feel an affinity with them?

Well, some 70 years of material pressure and cultural deprecation has thus far failed to obliterate the appeal of machismo, producing only its cartoon postmodern reboot. But while these traits seem persistent, could we make space for them? Perhaps we could have all the nice aspects of our physically undemanding, safe, high-tech society while also re-creating more cultural space for the masculine attributes made redundant by technological innovation. My suspicion, though, is that the modern pitch of ease and automated orderliness is kryptonite to these traits.

This, though, is assuming such orderliness will endure. If our assorted modern declinists, doomers, and climate catastrophists are right, civilised modernity is on track for a long slow implosion. And if this happens, whoever remains will once again be struggling to survive — meaning there’ll be no more cartoons or caricatures. The real dogs of war will slink back out of the shadows, along with the men who command them.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

Two owners of American Bully XL dogs I have seen recently (and given a very wide berth) were young, fairly slight, women. Neither of them seemed remotely capable of restraining the beasts should they choose to attack another animal or person.
Unfortunately, any discussion of dangerous dogs is always dominated by dog lovers. They are deemed to be the experts we are all obliged to listen to. The entirely predictable message they always come out with: There are no dangerous dog breeds, just bad owners who don’t train their pets properly.
Those of us who have no great love of dogs and are not blinded by the sentiment these pet’s are able to invoke have a much clearer idea of the many problems caused by needless and selfish dog ownership – but of course our opinions are dismissed as irrelevant. If you don’t own a dog it seems you are not entitled to express your views.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I’ve seen this too. Children and women being dragged around by larger dogs, clearly incapable of restraining them if needed. As a dog lover with two Yorkies and a Havenshire, I can assure you we respect people who don’t love them like we do.

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I accept that your comment is made in good faith but, as a regular walker I have found that parks and open spaces have become increasingly dominated by dog owners exercising their pets. There is a growing attitude that such open spaces are meant for this and people merely strolling without a dog have less reason to be there.
By the way, data collected by one of the major pet insurers shows that there are more personal injury claims against the “family friendly” Labrador than any other dog type in Britain. Also worth mentioning: Police data shows that you are more likely to be bitten by the (again “family friendly”) Jack Russell Terrier than any other type of dog. Of course, widespread ownership of these breeds is an important factor but it does rather tarnish the image of the lovely pet that wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Yes the Reverend ‘Jack’ Russell has a LOT to answer for.
However these little 8lbs beasts normally only inflict rather minor injuries due to their diminutive size.
Conversely XL Bully can sever an arm with ease!

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

Really? Only minor damage? Have you seen what a Jack can do?

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Absolutely. All anyone needs to do is search for them on YouTube to see just how much they love to hunt and kill. They are ferocious little beasts!

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago

I was bitten by a dog that was a cross between a Jack Russell and Staffy, (whoever thought that would be a winning combination needs help!) whilst my Rottweiler sat and watched. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of socialising dogs and I think that lockdown exasperated the issue as so many ran out and bought dogs then avoided socialising the dogs because social distancing and now have unspecialised dogs that don’t know how to behave around other dogs or people. I also appreciate that whilst my dog is generally harmless (raised in a family and socialised from pup), she is physically capable of killing even if she doesn’t know it. I would never leave her alone with a child or someone I didn’t know or trust. Not because I believe she would attack but because I cannot guarantee it.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
8 months ago

Small dogs can be very dangerous, precisely because they are small enough to be picked up by their owner and put in another room if they are causing trouble. That means the ignorant owner doesn’t see the need to ensure the dog is properly trained.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I read it is the cocker spaniel that holds the record for most bite-prone. But you’re missing the point with the comparison. Nobody ends up dead from a labrador, Jack Russell or cocker spaniel bite – or even end up in an ICU. Bites isn’t the concern that motivates here.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

Children have been killed by much smaller dogs.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Sure – once in awhile. The statistics on death by dog mauling aren’t even close to being debatable. Look at the police statistics, the ER room statistics.

I’m not arguing for banning them, though.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Why not ban them, there are plenty of other breeds to choose from, why take the chance?

Danielle Treille
Danielle Treille
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Hi Clare. In response to your query re my “out of here in November”… I will not be renewing my subscription to Unherd. Unherd is just like any other medium: a platform for a certain type of ideology. In this case, one I no longer care to engage with. “Clever” does not equate “good” in my books. Good luck if you are still in the US… I do not to envy you. Take care.

Last edited 7 months ago by Danielle Treille
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

How many times compared to Pit Bulls?

Luke Piggott
Luke Piggott
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I would imagine the high population of labradors contributes to the statistics as you suggest. But again, these are working breeds so must have the stimulation and exercise required to subdue them.

Meaning no offence to you sir, but your judgement on the matter seems just as bias by your distaste of dog companionship than dog-lovers are of their affection.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Having owned multiple Labradors and being a dog lover in general I’m inclined to believe that your claim about dog related injuries in Britain needs to be further examined in light of the shear number of Labradors relative to other breeds.

L Brady
L Brady
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Facts – American XL Bullies have been involved in 44 per cent of attacks on people in 2023, and 75 per cent of fatalities since 2021, despite only being around 1 per cent of the UK dog population.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

This is the sort of data needed to make correct decisions. Dogs breeds can therefore be rated acording to danger. 75 % divided by 1% is a fatality rate of 75. A Labrador with say 20% of attacks but 30% of population would be 0.67 and 0 fatalities would be 0. Dogs would be rated by fatalities and then attacks. Mongrels would be rated according to proportion of genetic make up.
Dogs may change in character of which Rottweilers appear to have the is problem. Someone has said in certain cases a bone grows into the brain of some Rottweilers and causes them to become more violent.
The Bully dogs have a large body mass but a small brain. Do they have some brain defect which causes them to lose control and attack ?
The national dog clubs should have asked the points I have made and provided the answers. The reality is that national dog clubs are not acting with sufficient discernment .

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

It should be attacks per number of dogs and fatalities per numbers of dogs. A simple strength test; can the owner hold the dog back with a single arm even if it rushes sidewards to the person? Therefore strength and size of dog must be proportional to strength of owner.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

About 12 months ago I walked round the corner straight in to a very small south-east Asian woman with a huge husky on a lead.
The husky gave me a cursory sniff and then let out a low guttural howl that went right through my core before it trotted on its way taking its owner with it

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago

The husky liked you. They howl socially, showing off for friends. Unless by “howl” you meant “growl”. Two different things.

David Harris
David Harris
8 months ago

Oh, so we’ve got to be experts in dog behaviour in order to not get mauled now have we? Jeez.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  David Harris

You need to be able to describe the animal if you survive the attack.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

More importantly sue the owner.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

It did not growl and was not on any way aggressive. It was completely ambivalent.
The howl just sent a chill thorough my bones and made me think I want one

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I don’t quite understand the last sentance.

Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

“There are no dangerous dog breeds, just bad owners who don’t train their pets properly.”

Yet another version of “my feelings trump your facts”

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark O'Neill

It reminded me of the NRA slogan, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

How? Guns are inanimate objects. Dogs are living beings with brains, instincts, and and personalities. Guns can’t load themselves, aim at a target, and fire.

David Ryan
David Ryan
7 months ago

Not yet, anyway

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Of course it did – it was designed to. But guns don’t get up off the table and trot around the corner and attack the mailman when you aren’t looking.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Absolutely absurd comparison. Breathtaking.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

What is your lung capacity? If your breath is taken away that easily maybe you better knock off the fags.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Exactly, that’s the idea.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

You are absolutely correct and I say that as a confirmed dog lover of many years. In fact I always been much impressed by the alleged remark of the late Frederick the Great* :” The more I see of the human race the more I love my dogs!”
However in this case these XL Bully dogs have clearly been bred to kill, and should be immediately prohibited.
Dogs can be bred to do almost anything, guide the blind, herd sheep and cattle, retrieve game, chase foxes, sniff out drugs and explosives, and so on. So it should come as no surprise that some reprehensible beings have decided to produce the ultimate killer dog, and sadly they have succeeded.
It rather reminds me of someone not that many years, who attempted to breed a ‘master race’.

(*Onetime King of Prussia.)

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

No one attempted to breed a “master race” you gullible f*ing idiot.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
7 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Y’know, the reason I pay to read all the various opinions offered by UnHerd is the intelligent, civil discourse in the comment section. You’re a sad Blackadder figure, a Percy creating his “green” and wearing an idiotic oversized ruff. Go, Sir, and be savaged by a turbot!

Lesley McLure
Lesley McLure
8 months ago

All dogs have a prey drive, some more than others. For example a working line German Shepherd and a Jack Russell have generally high prey drive, whereas a Bichon and Golden Retriever, low. A lot of training is about channeling this drive for good.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Lesley McLure

But that’s not what this is about.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Exactly. I’ve lost count of the number of tragic cases of adults and children being mauled by this type of dog.

Mark Turner
Mark Turner
7 months ago

Hi Charles, I usually agree with what you say on here, but I am afraid you are wrong here. XL bullies, have not, as you state, “Been bred to kill” – Do you honestly believe breeders hone their dogs killing skills ? And if so, how? They have been bred for a certain size and pphysical characteristics that makes them of course dangerous in the hands of unsuitable owners. There are plenty of other breeds that are just as strong, and potentially dangerous, such as Alsatians, Dobermans, Cane Corsa, Mastiffs, Huskies, Malanois ( As used in combat by the Navy Seals) …..I could go on. The issue here is the people that own them, not the poor dog. No dog is intrinsically dangerous or aggresive unless trained by circumstance or deliberately to be so. Owning a big powerful dog comes with a certain social responsibility and unfortunately these owners who dont fit the bill are usually from the social strata creating other unwanted effects in society, such as crime, antisocial behaviour, bad parenting, etc. This is where we should be concentrating our efforts. So the breed will be banned and these same Ye-Ha’s will simply start crossing some other large dog with another and make some other hybrid with similar characteristics. Problem dogs are a very tiny percentage of the total and its a shame that the significant number of people who dont like dogs are so easily whipped up by the latest tabloid “devil dog” stories. You would not for example suggest banning black people because they carry out most street crime, robberies and stabbings? So why does the same logic apply to dogs?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago

Good points. Two women friends have been attacked by dogs. One by the family Rottweiler, luckily the husband returned as it was top of her and about to bite her neck. The husband shot the dog.Another by a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the lady needed a 100 stitches. In both cases the dogs were in the country and the women were experienced with dealing with animals. In both cases the dogs turned and attacked people. Large dogs designed to attack in order to defend a territory can kill, small dogs cannot kill.
Labradors have a very strong bite strength and are not used for guarding because their jaws would break the trainers arms even when they were wearing protection. Labradors were bred to retrieve rope and pots to help fishermen in Labrador. They were not bred for protection. There are two strains of Labradors, show types which need less exercise and working ones which need to be exercised the whole day long. Other dogs such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to protect farms from lions ( Lion Ddogs) and Rottweilers were bred to protect livestock and humans. Another dangerous dog only suited to living in remote areas is the Kangal.
Kangal Shepherd Dog – Wikipedia
Dogs are influenced by emotions and can be triggered by fear and jealousy. I suggest for some reason training can be overidden by emotions and basic instinct comes into play such as attack or retrieve.
There are certain simples tests to be done
Bite strength of dog. Number or % of fatalities divided by number or % of dog population to produce Fatality Rating. Number or % of attacks divided by number or % of dog population to produce Attack Rating. The dangerous qualities of each breed could be ranked. High rating on all three would mean banning or high insurance premiums. Some people have been attacked visiting people with dangerous dogs.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Snap. My only “near misses” with dangerous dogs in Vienna have been in situations where relatively small women have been on the other end of the lead (and the dog wasn’t wearing any muzzle). The dog was in control of them, not the other way around.
Who knows whether said women co-owned the dog with some big, meaty, bouncer-type boyfriend who was waiting for them at home…but if you aren’t able to control the thing yourself, you shouldn’t be the one taking it out for walks.
This kind of “dog-poser” makes me really angry, as any incidents which come about are because the dogs are just behaving like they are geared up to do. It is not their fault – it is ALWAYS the owners’ fault.
And to get yourself into a situation where a living thing has to be killed just because you just wanted to adhere to some kind of fashion or tough-guy image is disgusting and unbelievably shallow.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The authority on all this used to be the late Oberst Konrad Most.
Yet he clearly identified that certain breeds have definite characteristics. For example the Dobermann (Pinscher) was clearly an ‘attack’ dog, and very good at defence as well. Therefore you are correct it is ALWAYS the owners fault if they possess such a beast and are incapable of handling it.
However this does NOT mean that a dog cannot be bred to be super ferocious and thus impossible to control.
In other livestock breeding this characteristic is routinely eliminated, even in the case of Spanish ‘fighting bulls’ for example.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

Dobermans are what they are intended to be. Dogs that can be a guard dog and then go home to a family.

Nothing wrong with guard dogs. Handled properly they can be great additions to a home.

What is wrong is a few things. 1. Bad breeding 2. Owners who have no idea what they are getting or any idea how to raise and train them. 3. Other people who have no clue how to behave around a dog they do not know.

A Doberman is not a collie, is not a Pitbull, is not a Bulldog is not a Labrador is not a sheep dog, but a lot of idiots out there just buy whichever puppy looks cute at the moment.

If you are a passive person. Do not buy a bulldog. They take a strong hand and they will test you and they are stubborn. If you cannot walk a Jack Russel on a leash and not get pulled down the street, do not buy a Rottweiler.

You can be a bad dog owner and get away with it with a lot of smaller breeds and work dogs. But you cannot get away with not knowing how to train a dog to walk and come when called etc when you have a strong, strong willed, dog that weighs in at 75 lbs or more.

Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

“3. Other people who have no clue how to behave around a dog they do not know.” – what, the general public? So their fault if they are attacked, for not behaving properly around the dog?

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago

It could be. If you got up and try to pet a strange dog, or act in a threatening way to its owner, it’s your fault if you get bit.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

Would you raise your children with no understanding of the risks of strangers or traffic? Of course everyone should know how to behave around dogs.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

I’ve lost count of the amount of parents telling their kids that my dog is going to eat them. Like that’s going to help them in the long run! Dogs are reactive towards fear! Teach children to be respectful not fearful!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Do you think chilfren know the difference with a dog.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

The number of idiots that I have run into who have no respect for other peoples dogs is amazing.

You do NOT just walk up to some dog you think is cute and try to pat it on the top of the head.

You ask the owner if it is ok to approach and to pet their dog.

You approach with your hand below the dogs face with your palm flat so they can sniff you. A fist held down below can be acceptable too.

I HATE people who just run over and touch my dog. I detest people who bring their dog over to mine without first asking me. They always say stupid things like ‘” Do not worry, he is friendly.”. Well duh. Glad to hear it. But my dog was attacked by another dog as a puppy and does not trust dogs he does not know. DO NOT PUT MY DOG in a bad situation because YOU are an idiot. Acutally had one woman follow me with her dog trying to intoduce them as I kept pulling mine further and further away. I could have slapped her.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Exactly.Not a valid requirement of the general public and children.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It’s not either or it’s both – the dog breed and the owner.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Two days ago, I was on the phone with my son, who was walking near his place in Burbank. Mid- conversation he started yelling “Oh my God, oh my God! Sir! Are you alright? I’m calling 911!” When he called me back he said an old man with a cane was attacked by a pit bull being walked by a young kid. The dog was clamped to the man’s back. The kid was going to leave, but my son – not much older than him, said, “Dude, no. I’m recording this. Wait for the cops”. When the police and EMTs arrived, they brought animal control, who took the dog away.
My guess is that the dog was part of a fight ring, and the kid’s job was to walk it around for exercise; he was clearly too scrawny to control the thing.
Mary’s ’ larger point about masculinity and its seemingly dwindling usefulness due, in large part, to our feminized working life has a point – to a point. My husband has been a professional artist all his adult life. He’s also an athlete, a weightlifter, a mechanic, has remodeled several bathrooms, installed pull-down attic ladders, rebuilt a huge brick patio, and is an excellent father and role model to our two now-adult children. Masculinity doesn’t have to be tied to a man’s job. It’s something cultivated from father to son, and smart women honor and appreciate it.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago

Yes, Allison, masculinity is indeed the “larger point” in this essay, not dogs per se. I’m astonished that so few readers even noticed that. Harrington’s analogy is interesting, but it seems to have backfired in this essay.
Almost ten years ago, in Replacing Misandry, Katherine Young and I discussed the same problem, although our analogy was not between men and dogs but between perceptions of the male body in earlier times and perceptions of the male body in our time. Masculinity is a cultural elaboration on maleness (just as femininity is a cultural elaboration on femaleness), emphasizing some features and de-emphasizing others in the interest of communal solidarity and endurance. So the value of masculinity usually depends at least partly on the value of maleness itself (just as the value of femininity depends at least partly on the value of femaleness itself). Can the male body contribute something to society that is (a) distinctive, (b) necessary and therefore (c) worthy of public esteem (including at least the hope of some reward as part of a “social contract”)? In other words, can men have a healthy collective identity specifically as men? If not, to put it bluntly, then we’re all in big trouble. Unlike dogs, after all, men cannot simply be banned within any democratic context. But masculinity can be attacked and has been, relentlessly, for decades. The results do not exactly offer hope for either men or women.

Before proceeding, it’s worth noting that not all societies, either historically or cross-culturally, have fixated on the male body as the venue of communal aggression. Three extreme exceptions would be the Sambia (of Papua New Guinea), rabbinic Judaism (though neither biblical Judaism nor some modern forms of Judaism) and the Amish. But most societies have done so, including our own.

For many hundreds of years, the male body (and therefore masculinity in one way or another) was valued in the West for supporting either martial prowess or food production (as in making and using iron ploughs), or both. Since the advent of gun powder in the late Middle Ages, martial prowess has relied less and less heavily on the male body. By the sixteenth century, even the medieval jousting tournament was becoming increasingly ritualized, ornamental and vestigial. Following the advent of machines and electricity, the same has been true of food production. And now, with the advent of digital technologies–and, as Harrington points out, vast commercial and governmental bureaucracies–the same process has repeated itself, leaving only fatherhood as the (precarious) source of a healthy identity for men. Consider the continuing popularity of team sports and athletic competitions–all of which are ritualized, ornamental and vestigial (that is, unrelated except in symbolic terms to the practical needs of earlier communities).

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Wonderful reply. Thank you. Fatherhood is indeed the source of positive male identity, which may explain why so many young boys and men without them turn to gang membership.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Well stated. We’ve gotten side-tracked.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clare Knight
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Too broad a generalization. I’ve know a number of dog-lovers who have reservations about pit-bulls. I have reservations myself.
It seems like the problem could be managed in the same way ownership of many dangerous things is handled. If you own a swimming pool and don’t properly fence it off from toddlers and the neighbor’s wanders in and drowns, you are responsible. Generally, this becomes a tort issue, but in some cases the charge can be manslaughter. If you own a gun and don’t properly keep it out of the hands of a child who shoots someone with it you can be criminally responsible and go to prison. Tort law isn’t going to work at the bottom end of society because they have no pockets. But prison time probably would make a lot of people think twice about strutting around with a dog that could put them there.

clare davies
clare davies
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Any responsible owner of a normally sized, ordinary family dog is 100% for banning these kinds of dogs (me included). The dog owners who make excuses for Bully XLs are usually people who have similarly large/aggressive/fashion accessory type dogs who fear their own badly behaved breed might be next in line for a ban.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  clare davies

Clare, you strike me as a person with a predisposition to want what is “normal” or “acceptable” or common.

That is fine. A little Scottie can be nice. A Dachsund can be super. Love a mid size mutt.

But a dog being large or muscular and not small, fluffy and cute, is no indication it is gonna be dangerous.

I’m not a fan of any kind of Shepard or Shepard cross. I do not trust em. Not a fan of small dogs either, they tend to be fearful little nippers. Labs are great, IF you own a lot of land and do not mind washing mud out their coats daily or spending 5 hrs a day out jogging with them.

As a former shelter volunteer, I am good with pits depending on the owner and the breeder. They are very very loyal and require a strong hand. They should not be around children unsupervised. Best home for a pit is with a single woman with no kids but who has the skill to train that dog and can keep it well exorcised and well discilined. Not a dog for a young person. Not a dog for someone who is timid or has never dealt with a strong willed dog. Very specific circumstances.

But, then, I have seen a Yellow Lab turn hyper aggressive. Had a young couple that got one. They had a baby and then proceeded to keep the dog locked in the basement except for the occasional walk for over 3 yrs. That dog came into the shelter bordering on insane. Finally had to put it down. Just too dangerous to adopt out. Seen the same thing with Cockers. Had a little spaniel brought in that had been badly spoiled, was hyper posessive of its owner and bit the face of the owners granddaughter when she tried to crawl up in the lap with the dog. Took us MONTHS of work to get that dog remotely normal and understanding it was a dog and where it sat in the pecking order. Took longer to get her trained and disciplined enough to adopt out and then we did now allow any families with kids to adopt her. OMG….those cute little purse dogs? Shoot me. The only reason most of them do not get put down is because of their size.

My Olde English Bulldog? Any kid could climb on him, pull his nose, and he will just think it is play time. Now, I cannot let him play like that since he is liable to hurt a kid just by bumping into them or pawing a ball. Total sweetheart with people. LOVES people. But he is a Bulldog, and when he kisses someone it is with a muzzle punch. If he paws you to get your attention, pray he does not do it on exposed skin. I do not let him put his face near anyone but me or my son and I keep his nails trimmed. Other dogs on the other hand. He has no trust of them.

So much of this is dependent on how a dog was bred, and how the owners have set out to raise them. That could be intentionally raising a dangerous dog OR it can come from simple ignorance and poor understanding of the responsibility.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

A friend of mine used to keep malamutes that full grown weighed over 150 lbs. He ran them in mushing races. I never felt the slightest qualm around them. They were rowdy but tempermentally harmless. Also very smart.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

I don’t think Harrington’s article was meant to elicit a treatise on dogs and dog ownership. You miss the point.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  clare davies

Here in the US one only has to see a male with a Pit Bull coming towards one on the sidewalk, to feel a shiver of fear and know what the message is. The dog owner would usually be an hispanic male. At least that’s who it was San Francisco.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clare Knight
Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The type of people who say this:

There are no dangerous dog breeds, just bad owners who don’t train their pets properly.

Also usually say this:

There are no dangerous countries, you get good and bad people everywhere.

They are wilfully ignoring reality.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago

There are dangerous dog breeds AND bad owners who don’t train their pets properly. I would also add many wholly unsuitable owners who shouldn’t be allowed to own any dog regardless of breed either because they wilfully raise dogs to be aggressive or because they’re fearful of their own dog which then dominates the relationship.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Rubbish.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

As a dog lover and trainee Search and Rescue Dog handler, I agree with you. I can assure any prospective dog owner that, in order to have a pet that is trustworthy, well-behaved and loyal, it takes repeated hours and hours of training. There are no short cuts and it is difficult. Unfortunately, in this era of ‘everything must come easy’, too many dogs are left untrained and not in control.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Let’s put that differently shall we…

First, instead of saying that there are no dangerous dog breeds, what we should say is that ANY dog breed can be dangerous if not properly bred and raised. ANY dog can be dangerous under the right circumstances. A black lab may well attack someone that they think is threatening their person. A collie may well bight a child that sticks their finger in the dogs eye. A Laza Apso may well tear into someone who steps on them. We CAN say that some breeds have a propensity towards assertiveness and being strong willed and that they attract bad owners. We CAN say that certain breeds that are bred to guard WILL guard just as a sheepdog may try to herd a flock of wild geese or even other dogs.

Second, there are people who should NEVER own a dog, many who should never have a pet at all. Hell, there are plenty of people who should not be allowed to breed themselves since they will raise dangerous kids.

Third, most people are CLUELESS about what a dog actually is and what it takes to raise a well behaved, well socialized, mentally and physically healthy dog. This includes dog lovers and those who do not own them or like them.

ALL animals, ALL OF THEM, are ANIMALS, not little human personalities in a four legged format. I’ve raised horses, dogs, cats, cattle, rabbits, even an orphaned racoon. I’ve even worked with orphaned black bears.

I have seen bad or dangerous examples of all these animals, from dogs to horses to cattle.

But, I have also seen a lot of these animals put in bad positions and or abused to a point they become dangerous. I have also seen and extraordinary number of ignorant people put these animals or themselves in bad positions.

I have seen people call for a bull to be put down because he tried to run them down. Well, you moron, you know nothing about bulls but thought you should climb under a fence so your 5 yr old could feed it a handful of hay. I have seen people want a horse put down because it freaked out on the cross ties, sent a young girl flying and she broke her arm. Did not occur to them that walking up beside a young colt, cross tied for one of the first times, and acting like fools could cause the animal to freak out. I watched a mom hold her 6yr old up to a box stall window so the kid could see a new foal and be terrified when the mare tries to bite her face off. I watch morons walk up to dogs they do not know and decide they are gonna just reach over and pat it on the head with no understanding of how that will be perceived by the dog. I have watched parents encourage their kids to give the puppy a kiss, a little dog they do not know. Just inviting a face bite. I have watched people walk up to horses pulling carriages and just stick their hands on the horses face or patting it on the side without an introduction, just inviting that horse to bite or bolt.

People who do not know animals, do not work with them, have no experience with them, should recognize their ignorance and not put themselves in bad positions. It just sets themselves up to get hurt and the animal to be destroyed.

And yes, I am all for requiring people to need a permit demonstrating that they have had training and have the proper home for a dog before being allowed to have one. I’m even good with the idea that all dog owners prove that their dog has been through an obedience class as part of getting a dog license.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Harrington was using the point that ownership of certain breeds of dogs is an analogy for what the owner is trying to project for what is missing in the male culture in the west, nowadays.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Yes to the the stupidity of the refrain “There are no dangerous dog breeds, just bad owners” but no to the invalidation of people who have no dogs, who say it. It’s said to anyone who suggests it’s a bad dog choice when their are hundreds of other breeds to choose from.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

Kudos to the editors of this piece about the association of machismo and pitbulls for choosing a picture of an obviously female pitbull to headline it.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago

LOL. Yeah I noticed that too. They also managed to duplicate paragraphs 4 and 5. What was this article about again? Oh, yeah, the power of appearance.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes. You know you’ve arrived as a writer when your work is uploaded without being checked by an editor.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Via your dog. Seen The Power of The Dog movie anyone?

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

That dog is not a pit bull. Possibly an American bully.

Robbie K
Robbie K
8 months ago

That one seems more likely to smother someone with it’s breasts.

Last edited 8 months ago by Robbie K
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Yes, I noticed that, and not only female but she has obviously nurtured at least one litter of puppies. Interesting statement I thought. Make of it what you will, readers.

Matt S
Matt S
8 months ago

In the same way that I don’t think that the speed limit for cars on local roads should be 100mph based on the drivers perceived ability as a racing car driver, I don’t think that ownership of these dogs should be in the hands of people who think that they can raise them properly. Some can be trained but most probably can’t and i’m not prepared to take the chance that the scumbag in front of me at the local park is actually Barbara Woodhouse in disguise. Any dog that CAN kill someone shouldn’t ever have the opportunity to do so.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt S

A car can kill someone at lower speeds than 100mph! That’s why we have licenses, to ensure car owners are fit to be on the road. Perhaps we need to look into bringing back dog licenses.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Don’t they have them in the UK. They do in the US but a fat lot of good it does in preventing attacks.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago

“What American Bullies Tell Us About Men”. Men? As in the entire category of adult males.
So what has it told us about all the members of that category?

Lazy language and a lazy headline IMO.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

Two of my favorite maxims are “women expect to be protected” and “men know they are expendable.”
So, one of the big tasks of human society, after protecting women, is to kid men into thinking they are not expendable, at least until we rulers need a jolly old world war again.
Probably men would not be so interested in vicious dogs if we made them feel that macho male traits in the Jungian collective unconscious might be put to good use.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
8 months ago

Do contact sports satisfy that purpose? Perhaps governments should popularise those sports just to make macho males among us feel useful!

Last edited 8 months ago by Vijay Kant
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Don’t they do that already?

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago

It seems that in Mary Harrington’s view, and probably the view of many young women today, Bully dogs and men are both equally unnecessary and expendable.

John Solomon
John Solomon
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Your last sentence is possibly ambiguous : personally I am of the view that Bully dogs and bully men are undesireable and expendable. Men (unqualified) are not.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Not if you read her last paragraph with understanding.

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

“Slink back out of the shadows?”

Maybe you should read that last sentence again.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Bully dogs and bully men.

Matt S
Matt S
8 months ago

Not sure how far down the list of my favourite maxims I would need to go to find either of those. Please don’t get into the fortune cookie business.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt S

For Vijay, William and Matt: I’m relieved that some readers don’t buy into the theory that “men are expendable.” I’m not sure that even evolutionary psychologists would do so without explaining that people (including men) are not purely natural beings–like dogs. Rather, we are also cultural beings. Consequently, we can and must create moral and other levels of meaning.

No healthy people, as either individuals or groups, consider themselves “expendable” (although, lamentably, they often consider other people expendable). To accept this ultimately dehumanizing premise, even grudgingly, people must be not only bribed heavily (promised material and social rewards in this world and immaterial rewards in some other world) but also intimidated (threatened with shame, imprisonment or execution). In short, every society has a social (cultural) contract, whether explicit or implicit, which makes it possible for everyone to believe that its assumptions about human existence make their lives dignified, meaningful and worthwhile.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

None of what you said is valid particularly the bit about women expecting to be protected. I never expected that, perhaps because I didn’t get it from my father. I would have welcomed it but it never came from any male in my life.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I think that Chantrill’s point was that culture has fostered this expectation among women, not that all women have ever complied. But I can see why you didn’t and don’t. Thank you for explaining that.

Now, try to think of it from the perspective of a man. My father made it clear to me (not often but often enough even when I was a little boy), that my duty was to protect women no matter what the risk or cost. And that message was backed up by countless movies, TV shows, commercials and so on–all of them addressed to both men and women. Frankly, I found that very threatening. I was hard put to protect myself from the bullies (both boys and girls). In those days, though, boys and men could expect at least the reward of public respect for being protectors–and public shame for not doing so.

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

Is Ms Harrington telling us that ownership of dangerous dogs is toxic masculinity by proxy? Several owners of American Bully XLs involved in recent dog attacks have been women. Presumably then, the women who choose these dogs really yearn for a good old-fashioned toxic male.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Yes – some dark thoughts going on around this one. Perhaps worse than that – a kind of tame animality.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Quite possibly, but they might also be walking it because their partner is imprisoned, intoxicated, or bored with it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Or to feel safe when they go for a walk since women sre prone to being attacked.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

She does address that point.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago

The XL Bully is a violent dog owned by stupid and violent people. I see them every day with their owners in their best Sports Direct attire. Nasty dogs owned by nasty people. As a dog owner who has had to kick other dogs off mine when they attacked it, I have no time for dogs like this or their retarded owners.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago

There was an article that stated that XL Bully is a deeply inbred crossbreed so arguably very much like their stupid owners!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

I have three adorable smell breed dogs. I take them to the dog park everyday. There are three pit bulls that come on a regular basis and they are just wonderful, loving animals. A couple of them are lap dogs – they just want to be cuddled and be as close as possible.

Having said that, I just read some research that shows pit bulls are responsible for 70% of dog attacks, even though they represent only 6% of the dog population.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That’s the tragedy though isn’t it? They’re lovely until they flip and then they’re unstoppable.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

There have been numerous ‘horror stories’ over many, many years of appalling dog breeding/interbreeding, many if not most of them simply ignored by Crufts & Co.
King Charles Spaniels, Labradors, Alsatians to name but a few.
The only difference here is that that ‘they’ have deliberately produced the ultimate ‘feroco-dog’ and it is a human killer.
Extinction is the only answer sadly.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
8 months ago

That is so true. My son is a vet and whilst he benefits from treating these canine products of bad breeding, he gets very angry with Crufts. They have created a situation where in some cases the prize winning dogs have required features that will inevitably lead to medical problems e.g breathing difficulties and skin problems.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

A few years ago some brave woman at the BBC took up this matter, and I believe managed to ban Crufts from the airwaves for a bit.
She also exposed the whole potentially fraudulent nature of our Pedigree system, particularly in comparison to both Germany and Scandinavia.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The “research” is bogus. There’s an American organisation dedicated to smearing the breed.

John Solomon
John Solomon
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Re “smell” (sic) breed dogs – which may be a Freudian slip!
I can relate to this, as I like dogs, but only in the abstract sense of essential ‘dogginess’. Actual dogs ALL smell and that smell makes me physically retch, so I keep away from them, and I assiduously avoid a house which contains a dog if possible. Some of them (the houses) absolutely stink! (So do some of the owners).
I am continually amazed that the owners either don’t notice or don’t care!
I suppose this is a case of ‘it takes all sorts’. And I admit that a world without dogs – particularly working dogs – would be a poorer place – I just wish owners would keep them away from me.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I think it’s probably your responsibility to stay away from them.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“Smell breed dogs”? You mean dogs bred for scent tracking? Or is that a typo?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

There you go.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago

I agree with a lot of this piece – and am probably more susceptible to the arguments made in it having watched a documentary about Andrew Tate and his nasty little acolytes in the German-speaking area last night.
However, just as pitties etc. are being used as fashion accessories – in some ways I find the trend for little lapdogs worse. Chihuahuas and similar might not pose the same physical danger as Bullies and pitbulls but they are being bred beyond any kind of physical utility to suit humans’ emotional and fashion needs. I’m no dog expert but when dogs are being bred to look a certain way because they do better in shows but then can’t breathe properly, then that is very wrong indeed.
I was out and about around Salzburg a few weeks ago and visited an outdoor museum. It was a stifling hot day and even we had difficulty walking any more than about 100m at a time without having to seek out shade. A woman was there with some kind of lapdog, pulling it around on a leash while the thing gasped and spluttered: when it couldn’t keep up, she picked it up and jammed it under her (pretty warm) armpit. It was a horrible thing to see.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

Any demographic info on the owners/market for these dogs? By class, gender etc.
Quick look on YouTube suggests young black men, plus middle aged white men who could, in all fairness, be described as “gammon”. Plus a few women. None of them looking like they might have read a book any time recently – not even Jack London.

Last edited 8 months ago by David Morley
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Not every pit bull owner is a drug dealer, but every drug dealer owns a pit bull.

Mark Turner
Mark Turner
7 months ago

You have obviously not met a lot of drug dealers have you……….

Last edited 7 months ago by Mark Turner
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Correct. Dumb urban losers seem to constitute the majority of owners of these ugly brutes.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

Does Unherd use an American Bully as its proofreader?

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago

It’s like the firearms debate, in a way. A situation where deadly and unstoppable force is in the the hands of the bad and stupid people. To see anyone in public carrying or fondling an antique kalashnikov would be chilling, let alone those who are clearly not up to handling it properly.

There’s one in our local shopping centre, owned by a homeless bloke who frequently looks the worse for wear. It prompts three questions. Where the heck does he get the money from? Would I be ashamed of my cowardly response if it attacked someone? Do the local police and pseudo-police have some sort of contingency plan?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

The local homeless guy owns an antique Kalishnikov?

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
8 months ago

My husband is a lorry driver and built like the proverbial brick outhouse in terms of muscle. We have two shih tzus and a miniature poodle. He can regularly be seen walking our female Tzu (she’s his baby!) in her pink collar and harness and occasionally a pink jumper or tutu (the dog wears them not him, to be clear!). A man who needs a mutant killer on a lead to feel secure in himself is a truly sad specimen.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

All great dogs but not a dog that I would get for a 12 yr old boy or for a guy that takes his dog with him all over the place.

Those are great dogs if you just want something that is gonna hang with you on the couch and maybe go for a walk.

Not so great if you want to spend all day on a farm where they might get kicked or stepped on by a horse or cow. Not so great if you want to take them camping. Not great if you have a young son that wants to get down and rough house with them.

What constitutes a great dog is dependent on the person and their lifestyle.

If I still went out riding every day and covered a lot of miles, I would not want a Bulldog, I would want another lab. If I lived in my old apartment I would want a smaller terrier. If I had little kids at home or an elderly person living with me I would want something like what you have. But, I am a single dad with a 15 yr old boy. A bulldog suits our lifestyle.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

Not sad dangerous.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
8 months ago

Just get a goldfish.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

A pitgoldfish.

Chris Amies
Chris Amies
8 months ago

A pitranha

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago

Excellent.
“Typically, if the monster dog-owner is a man, this is aspirational; or if the dog-owner is a woman, to convey approval of these traits in men.”
There are a subset of lesbians, too, who seem to be attracted to pit-bulls. And I doubt they are so to vicariously approve of these traits in men. But maybe – I don’t have a clue. I’ve just noticed the tendency enough times to mention it. In fact, I’ll generalize slightly – I think I’ve noticed that lesbians much prefer to own male dogs to female dogs.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

Shockingly bigoted.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

You must shock easily.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago

There is surely a subset of lesbians who parade ‘butch’ masculine traits as in the ‘butch’ /Femme couples

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
8 months ago

Sorry, I’m not with Mary on this one. All the biggest pit bull fans I have met have been middle aged white women who love the breed for how affectionate and smart they are when raised properly.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I’ll say this about large, aggressive breeds. The owners have a much greater responsibility than small breed owners. Also, when dogs get older and start suffering from age related maladies, and sometimes dementia, large aggressive breeds can become dangerous, even with the most responsible owners.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes my fifteen year old arthritic pit bull was truly dangerous. In his later years he could barely walk around the block.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I find that most large dog owners take their responsibility more seriously than small dog owners that allow their dogs to do as they please because they’re small and less of a threat! ALL dogs should be trained and socialised! Regardless of size!

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I haven’t met any pit bull fans, let alone enough to draw statistically significant conclusions about them, and suspect I may be closer to the average UnHerd subscriber.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

That’s because his music was terrible

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

All the biggest pit bull fans I have met have been middle aged white women who love the breed for how affectionate and smart they are when raised properly.

Which suggests that something much darker is going on here than what is suggested by Mary.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yes, there’s a smear campaign against the breed.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Are you sure that your “middle aged white women” didn’t have Staffordshire Bull Terriers and NOT Pit Bulls? Despite appearances there is quite a difference.
Staffordshires have been renowned for years as being the ‘nanny dog’. Conversely in the pre-War Raj they were reputed to be the only dog capable of killing a King Cobra.
However recent’n*zi style interbreeding is slowly destroying this famous breed.

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

There’s very little difference. Both breeds were bred for fighting, with principal characteristics of strength, intelligence agility and intense loyalty. I’ve never met a pit bull I wouldn’t trust with children.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Size is a difference, an ‘average’ Staffie is quite a bit smaller than an ‘average’ Pit Bull.
Other than that your are correct, but perhaps you should have emphasised that historically speaking whilst ‘bulls’ were one of the earliest opponents it became mainly rats, or other similar fighting dogs.
The records of the premier London venue, the Westminster Pit are quite clear on the matter.
Now however the selective breeding of the XL Bully has produced something ‘beyond the Pale’ and it is completely unacceptable.
Years ago the same thing happened with Spanish fighting bulls, they just became too lethal, and had to
replaced by a slightly less pugnacious variety.(sadly).

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
John Solomon
John Solomon
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

“I’ve never met a pit bull I wouldn’t trust with children.”
Congratulations . You win the prize for the most irresponsible and misguided comment on here.

Mark Turner
Mark Turner
7 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

So much ignorance and bigotry being displayed on here against Bull breeds. I have owned Pitbulls, English bull terriers, Staffies and and an American bulldog over the last 45 years and without exception all of them have been lovely, affectionate, loyal family pets, great with our kids and fantastic personalities. These dogs reputations are being destroyed by a tiny percentage of irresponsible idiots. Not everyone who wants a dog, wants to own a yipping fluffball, and being attracted towards a strong, intelligent working breed does not make you some kind of sociopathic moron….get real people!

Last edited 7 months ago by Mark Turner
William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago

If you want to be sexist and insulting it’s difficult to do better than this headline:
“What American Bullies tell us about men”

To put it into perspective for feminists, consider the following:
“What Teacup Chihuahua’s tell us about women”

See how ridiculous a statement that is?

If this is the best that Harrington can do she should find another job.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Shaw
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Writers dont get to write the headlines. Unherd does that.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Agree. The article had some good points but the headline is abyssmal.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Unherd has provocative headers to get you to read the story. That’s what most publications do.

Rachel Elliott
Rachel Elliott
8 months ago

In my neck of Progressive America, Pitties are a badge of honor, particularly if they are “rescue dogs.” One neighbor has a 3-time adoptee reject, whose snarls she dismisses with, “He was abused. I’m his last chance.” Another neighbor’s dog lunged at me as I walked by on the sidewalk, and I was told, “He’s just protective of his mommy.” Insanity.

Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson
8 months ago

In her last paragraph Mary is I think -whether consciously or unconsciously I am not sure- drawing on Yeats’ “The Second Coming” about a time when “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed ,and everywhere The ceremony of Innocence is drowned”. The poem’s end sparked my reminiscence : ” And what rough best, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”. Compare “The real dogs of war will slink back out of the shadows, along with the men who command them”!

Chuck Pezeshki
Chuck Pezeshki
8 months ago

It’s strange to read this piece — no one has mentioned the ‘rescue’ phenomenon. Our part of the world is a dumping ground for seized drug dealers’ dogs, mostly pit bulls and pit bull crosses. Our shelters are no-kill, and as such are popular targets for the no-kill rescue crowd.
Pit bulls have seriously compromised dog culture here, because while 50% are fine, 50% are not, and they are dogs of means. The owners indeed are middle aged women, and if I have to hear another story about ‘nanny dogs’ I think I’ll puke.
My two dogs are both purebred — one border collie, and another borzoi, a Russian wolfhound. The Russian wolfhound is an odd policeman of our own dog park, in that he is loving and very passive, until an aggressive breed (pit bull crosses and huskies are the absolute worst) bites him on the nose or leg. Then he does what wolfhounds, well, do. Warning the Karens that show up to the dog park about what will happen to their beloved apparent killer makes them run, and we have a Clint Eastwood-esque peace. But it’s still depressing. The rescues are signs of a degenerate culture, grasping at virtue signaling, that has no use for good manners. Tragic. And antisocial as hell. It’s more than a sign of decaying society.

Last edited 8 months ago by Chuck Pezeshki
Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

Young working-class culture has been revived via Tate and the new accroutements of the modern council estate; including fighting doggies, naturally.
As we’re talking about the boys, they’ve had years to catch up with their women’s Instagram stardom. They don’t participate in the gender mysticism, as they have neither bourgeois or graduate standing.
What is key to the question of these dogs is that they also kill a few hundred other dogs these years. It is almost a metaphor for this forgotten social stratum carving out a thin niche in society by displacing the toys of the middle class- usually this is through drug peddling, but even that is being imperrilled by Ulez penalties now.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

We don’t need dogs like this, and to be honest I don’t think we need the kind of people that want them either.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
8 months ago

I think as well as technological sophistication, you must also look at the universal feminization of our institutions and values that has marginalised masculinity. Masculinity needs to be restored and allowed for in a way that is constructive. This is a very good article but it does somewhat repeat the breezy sneering at masculinity and its role in society that is a cause of this problem in the first place.

Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson
8 months ago

Cf.Re Yeats. Sorry for typo : “best ” from th poem should read “beast”.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

You gotta be more specific.

There are so many variations of these dogs.

My Olde English Bulldog is a big, sweet, lump of muscle. If he hurts you it is because he has no sense of his own strength.

Just a big lump that likes to cuddle, is afraid of the UPS truck, and thinks he can take down a deer on the TV. A dog, that has almost no ability to look dignified and looks silly when he tries.

Now, most of the people who stop and notice him? Women. Guys tend to stand back.

My fiance will more readily sit with him than me on some days.

These are great dogs for older boys who play rough because they cannot really hurt them. Great watchdogs, they will hear everything, they notice anything new or out of place and their looks just intimidate people even if the dog is a complete coward. They do not need lots and lots of exorcise the way a lab does or a collie does. Exorcise, yes, all day in a field..no.

Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

“If he hurts you it is because he has no sense of his own strength.”
“their looks just intimidate people even if the dog is a complete coward”
Tells me all I need to know about you and your choice of dog

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

It’s funny. I’ve always found men are more likely to be afraid of dogs than women and the bigger the man, the more likely they are to be fearful. I see lots of young women walking one or two huge dogs in complete control and I’ve seen men walking lapdogs. The stereotypes presented here are a product of ignorance.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

It reminds me of Bill Sikes and Bullseye. The bully of a man with a weapon of a dog. Whilst it would be nice to be a stereotype that doesn’t really exist, unfortunately it does. Whilst not necessarily typical.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Same with horses.

Amazing the number of times I have watched a 12 or 13 yr old girl handle a hard headed Thoroughbred, just put it in line when it is acting up, and do it with no fear and absolute certainty that she will win.

Then, watch that same young girls father not even be willing to go in the stall with the horse.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

My neighbour just had her hip broken after pulled over by her large dog. I see women being dragged along by dogs nearly every day, looks like the dog is taking them for a walk. The women you quote are not in full control by default because if the dog decided it was going somewhere they are not strong enough to stop it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

True. I walked someone’s big Airdale and it took off after another dog and I was dragged across the street in front of traffic. It was truly terrifying.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
8 months ago

A vicious dog needs a vicious owner to balance his instincts. Not!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

No mention of the MALINOIS*, the super attack dog of both the US and Australian Special Forces?
Capable of being parachuted into the combat zone, its ferocity is legendary, as many an unfortunate Afghan or Iraqi can testify.
One has even been awarded the Dickin Medal**, the dog VC for outstanding courage.
Yet so far no reports of any ‘retired’ Malinois killing anybody that I have seen. Why not?
(* A Belgium sheep dog that resembles an Alsatian.)
(** Awarded by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals or PDSA,
a UK charity for US readers.)

Mark Turner
Mark Turner
7 months ago

Probably because the ownership numbers are pretty small for this breed Charles, and the retired dogs you mention are almost certain to have been properly trained, well loved and owned by responsible service background type people……..which goes to the reply I made further up to you. Its not the dog, its the owner……

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

What a long way of saying stupid or thugish people keep these squatty kegs of dynamite with short fuses.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

But why is the point.

Kate Madrid
Kate Madrid
8 months ago

Wow. Lot of fear of dogs. And anger. Not saying either is unreasonable I just was surprised at the tenor of comments. I was only coming down here to comment that MH must’ve never seen a puppy XL. I’m an average size lady with ginormous Newfoundlands. And I live in the great American desert so their only job is Olympic level napping. And drool slinging. None of which is to the point, which actually was my point. I think much of what Mary says here and most of the comments are quite true and reasonable. But humans aren’t built for reason. We’re built for love and fierce loyalty. Reason was only ever meant to keep us between the rails. And people who are untethered from each other, family, children, etc are going to continue being unreasonable about their dogs. And no amount of banning is going to solve the problem.