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Do Pitbulls Have Lockjaw? Myths and Truth of Lockjaw in Pitbulls

Do Pitbulls have lockjaws or locking jaws

There are many controversies surrounding the Pitbull breed, and one of the biggest ones is that the Pitbulls have lockjaw. Is there any truth to this? 

The truth is Pitbulls do not have locking jaws. There is no evidence of a physical mechanism that allows their jaws to lock. If anything, a Pitbull’s bite only seems like a lockjaw due to its strong force. In addition, its bite grip does not quickly release, giving the illusion that it’s locked.

Pit Bulls were initially bred for inhumane activities such as dog fighting and bull baiting. Because of this, they were taught to attack other animals with fury, which explains their powerful bite force.

In this article, I would like to inform the readers of the facts and debunk some myths about the Pit Bull lock jaw and more, so keep reading!

What Is “Lockjaw” in Pitbulls?

Pitbull holds a stick in his jaw during training

You may think that lockjaw has something to do with the physical ability of a Pit Bull, but it does not.

For some, the strong bite force of Pit Bulls can be easily misinterpreted as “lock their jaws” because of its persistent grip. However, lockjaw is not that simple.

In reality, a lockjaw is a clinical issue that happens when a dog develops toxin contamination or tetanus due to the bacteria known as Clostridium tetani.

Tetanus contamination happens when a dog has an open wound. This occurs when bacteria enter through the wound, disrupt the nervous system, and create toxic effects in the body. 

Some of these toxic effects are muscle spasms, one of which is known as “lockjaw.” 

Given this, a locking jaw is an illness that happens when a dog’s jawbone is surrounded by dead tissues from infected damage. Hence, it is not a physical mechanism or special ability of the Pit Bull.

Lockjaw has some very serious consequences. As it is a bacterial infection, it can greatly reduce your Pitbull’s overall health and lifespan.

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Do Pitbulls Have Locking Jaws? Myths and Facts

Pit Bulls have gained a bad rap throughout their history, but people still continue to fight the stigma pinned onto them. This includes their “lockjaw” ability, along with other myths.

University of Georgia’s Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin mentioned that the overall form and function of Pitbulls are no different than any other dog breed.

He also said that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that an American Pit Bull Terrier, or any Pit Bull-type dog, has a jaw structure with any sort of special ‘locking mechanism.’

From the studies conducted, there is simply nothing exceptional about the Pit Bull’s jaws that shows a system that allows them to lock their jaw when they bite.

The well-known myth about the Pit Bull’s locking jaws also stems from the common belief that this canine has a bite force of 1,600 pounds per square inch (PSI).

The truth is, the Pit Bull’s bite force is only 235 PSI, not even close to any other breed like the Kangal Shepherd dog with a bite force of 743 PSI.

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Where Did the Pitbull’s Lockjaw Myth Come From?

Pitbull Terrier lockjaw myths

“Do Pit Bulls have lockjaw?” Many people still think about the question and wonder where it came from.

The myth of the Pit Bull’s lockjaw began in the early 1800s in England, where they were used for bull-baiting.

These dogs were originally bred to become strong, confident, and aggressive enough to fight larger creatures, specifically bulls, for bloodsport. 

They even modified the appearance of the breeds through ear cropping to avoid injuries in that area when baiting or fighting.

Because of this, the fear of Pitbulls toward their humans turned into aggression in order to survive. 

During these inhumane activities, they needed to bite and hold until their victim collapsed due to fatigue, wounds, or both. This was considered entertainment for people during that period.

Sadly, when bull-baiting and dog fighting events became illegal, it did not stop people from organizing underground dog fights. They continued to operate in small and hidden spaces, which can be hard to track by authorities.

Moreover, the myth that the Pit Bull has locking jaws also most likely came from the statistics that they are United States’ most dangerous dog breed.

According to statistics, Pit Bull-type dogs have the most fatal attack on humans, and it alarmed many people.

About 380 American lives were taken within a 15-year period by the breed. However, it does not mean that all of it was due to the “bite, hold, and shake” method they mistakenly call a lockjaw. 

Here is a short video about Pit Bulls and their history:

History of Dog Breeds: Pitbulls

READ NEXT: Pitbull Ear Cropping: Should You Crop Your Pitbull’s Ears?

Do Pitbulls Lock Their Jaws When They Bite?

No, Pitbull jaws do not lock when biting. However, they may forcefully grip onto their bite for as long as they can. This is just how Pitbulls naturally bite.

There are also other biting methods found in other dog breeds. For example, Chihuahuas tend to bite, let go, and then bite again. Meanwhile, German Shepherds tend to bite and try to rip their prey.

As we get deeper into the topic, let’s talk about which breeds the Pit Bull initially came from and how they were mistaken to have a lockjaw mechanism.

Pit Bull is actually the term used when a dog is a descendant of both bulldogs and terriers.

There are four known Pit Bull-type dogs in the United States, including the American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Dogs like Pit Bulls have an edge in strength due to their Bulldog descendants’ short-length faces. This means they can have a powerful bite force on the end of their jaws.

The robust grip and shake mechanism come from their terrier descendants. The Yorkshire Terrier, one of the smallest terrier breeds, is known to exhibit similar behavior.

The combined bite, grip, and shake method, along with their muscular bodies, make people think that Pitbulls lock their jaws when in fact, they do not at all.

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Other Common Myths About Pitbulls

A black and white Pitbull dog with opened jaw

Apart from the question of whether Pit Bulls have locking jaws or not, there are other common myths about this breed that are continuously believed by many. Fortunately, this article is here to debunk some of these myths.

Here are other common myths about Pit Bulls:

Myth #1: Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous and have a bad temperament

It is a fact that the Pit Bull had a dark past for being used in ruthless activities. However, this doesn’t mean that the breed has a natural instinct to become a vicious dog.

Unfortunately, the misconception that violence will always be in their blood is still believed by many despite proof of their good temperament.

According to the American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (ATTS), Pit Bulls ranked in fourth place out of 122 dogs in their temperament evaluation with a passing rate of 87%.

This implies that they are one of the most affectionate and least aggressive dogs.

Note that a Pit Bull can only have negative behavior when they are left alone for a long time, neglected or abused by their owners, or raised to be purposely aggressive.

Myth #2: Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other dogs

The environmental factor plays a bigger role in this issue rather than genetics. When a Pit Bull or any dog is properly raised and socialized by its owner, they make gentle and loyal companions. 

This myth probably came and progressed from the statistics that mentioned Pit Bull-type dogs inflicted the most fatal injuries on humans. This earned them a bad rap as the United States’ most feared dog breed.

Myth #3: Dog-aggressive Pit Bulls are also human-aggressive dogs

Dog aggression and human aggression are two different things that should not be mixed up. Pit Bulls are usually good with people, except when they are raised in a bad environment or trained to attack humans.

Meanwhile, dog-aggressive dogs attack other dogs for no apparent reason.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), even if there are Pit Bulls created to fight other animals, there is no evidence that they are also aggressive towards humans and dogs.

When they turn to aggression around humans or other animals, there is typically a factor that causes this. It could be caused by discomfort or stress, fear, territorial reasons, or perceived danger, among others. 

An experienced Pit Bull owner, or owner of other dog breeds, knows that when a dog is well-socialized around humans, dogs, and other pets, they grow up to become approachable and playful with good dog behavior.

Myth #4: Pit Bulls are only bred for fighting

Pit Bulls were indeed selected and initially bred for fighting back in the 1800s, but despite this stigma, they make wonderful pets and even service dogs.

To be specific, American Pit Bull Terriers are muscular and strong enough to give physical support to people with mobility problems.

Their loyal and caring nature makes them excellent as comfort pets for people with psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. They can even remind their humans to take their scheduled medications.

Knowing this, I guess it is time to realize that Pitbulls are no longer bred for such inhumane acts.

Myth #5: Pit Bulls are bad dogs and should never be family pets

Pit Bull owners can attest that Pits are not bad pets. In fact, they make loving family pets that are good with children. They are affectionate, devoted, playful, and protective.

Even the intimidating-looking Gotti Pit Bull and black Pit Bull are known to be affectionate and loyal as pets.

In general, Pitbulls are cuddly dogs that can lay in bed all day with you. They are also athletic enough to enjoy physical and mental activities with their active families.

Myth #6: Pit Bull puppies are easier to train

Many agree that puppies are easy to train since owners can initially shape their behavior. However, it is easier to teach an adult Pit Bull due to their self-control and longer attention span.

Puppies do not show their overall mental maturity right away until they are fully grown. This means changes in behavior can still occur unless you consistently train them to remain good at picking up commands.

Adult Pit Bulls, on the other hand, are also trainable because they have a more established behavior and personality. You also know what to expect from the mature ones.

If you are planning to get a Pit Bull puppy, make sure your pet comes from reputable breeders and that their training and exercises are consistent to keep them at their best as they age.

Myth #7: Pit Bulls do not feel pain

Pitbulls do feel pain. This misconception comes from their history of ignoring pain when they are required to bait bigger animals or fight other dogs.

However, that does not mean they feel nothing when under a strenuous situation. Pitbulls have a similar nervous system to any dog breed.

They can’t even stand to be outside for a long time, especially when they are in cold weather, due to their short hair and single coat.

Needless to say, like other dogs, Pitbulls feel pain when they get injured or when they have an illness. 

READ NEXT: 10 Best Pitbull Breeders (2022): Our Top 10 Picks!

Frequently Asked Questions

Young Pit Bull puppy chewing stick with his jaw

Do Mastiff Dogs Have Lockjaw?

No, like Pit Bulls, Mastiff dogs do not have lockjaw. The only reason dogs would have a locked jaw is if they were infected by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. It is more of a pathological process rather than a physical one.

What Animals Have Lockjaw?

While the locking jaw is untrue in the canine community, other animals, mainly crocodiles, are known to have one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom that also seems to portray a locked jaw mechanism.

The Crocodile has a second joint that increases its bite into full force. Once its jaw is completely sealed, it locks that position and crushes its unfortunate prey in its mouth.

Do Pitbulls Have Strong Jaws?

Regardless if a Pitbull is male or female, it will have strong jaws. However, it should not be misinterpreted that their jaws operate differently from other breeds. This breed also doesn’t have the highest bite force among other dogs.

Do Pitbulls Have the Strongest Bite?

No, the Pit Bull’s bite is not the strongest bite force among other dogs, and especially not among other animals.

Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic did a comparative study wherein he chose three breeds for a bite pressure test to determine what the strong bite of an animal is.

Results showed that Rottweiler and German Shepherd share the same bite force of 328 pounds per square inch, while the American Pit Bull Terrier only has 235 pounds per square inch.

It has a lower bite force than other breeds like Siberian Huskies and Akitas, with around 350 pounds per square inch. It does not come close, especially to Kangal Shepherd dogs with a bite force of 743 pounds per square inch.

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Final Thoughts

There are many dog breeds out there that get a bad rap, and unfortunately, Pit Bulls are one of them. It would be an understatement to say that this breed has been misunderstood by society all throughout its history.

However, as people become more equipped with credible data about Pitbulls, they are more convinced that Pits aren’t violent dogs. 

However, there is still a long way to go to debunk all the myths and controversies surrounding these dogs.

If you are deciding to get a Pit Bull pup or adopt an adult one, I hope this helps clarify the misinformation about the Pit Bulls’ locking jaw and other myths.

Do you have a pet Pit Bull in your family? Have you seen its jaws lock? Let us know your thoughts about Pitbull lockjaw in the comments section!