Dangerous dogs ::

Learn about the most dangerous breeds of dogs, which are comprised of pit bull terriers, the fighting breed derivatives and ancestors of pit bull terriers, rottweilers and wolf-dog hybrids.

pit bull dangerous breed

Pit bull terrier

pit bull dangerous breed

Pit bull terrier

rottweiler dangerous breed


pit bull dangerous breed

Pit bull terrier

Which breeds are they?

Pictured are the two most deadly dog breeds in America: pit bull terriers and rottweilers. Research from DogsBite.org shows that during the 15-year period from 2005 to 2019, canines killed 521 Americans. Pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 76% (397) of these deaths.1 During the 20-year government study period of 1979 to 1998,2 238 dog bite-related fatalities with breed information was studied. The combination of pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 50% (120) of these deaths.

This is a 52% increase since the government's last study in this area, which stated two decades ago, "there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities." - Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998

It is important to point out that since 2005, pit bulls and their mixes have inflicted fatal dog attacks at over 7 times the rate as rottweilers. It is well documented by experts3 and humane groups4 that pit bulls pose a substantial danger due to their selective breeding for dogfighting. Unlike other dog breeds, pit bulls frequently fail to communicate intention prior to an attack (surprise attacks); possess a lethal bite style (hold and shake) and a ruinous, strategic manner of attack (gameness).

Fighting dog breeds

Though much less common than pit bulls, other fighting breeds pose a significant threat to public safety as well. Some municipalities, for instance, ban the following fighting breeds: American bulldog, cane corso, dogo Argentino, fila Brasileiro, pit bull, presa canario,5 presa mallorquin, and Japanese tosa. Each of these breeds is either a pit bull derivative or was derived from ancestors similar to pit bull ancestors. Countries like the United Kingdom, Spain, and New Zealand also regulate these breeds.

Dogo Argentino dangerous breed

Dogo Argentino

Presa Canario dangerous breed

Presa canario

Cane Corso dangerous breed

Cane corso

Japanese tosa dangerous breed

Japanese tosa

Wolf-dog hybrids (canid hybrid)

Many U.S. states regulate the breeding and ownership of wolf hybrids, a canid hybrid resulting from the mating of a wolf and a dog. This crossbreed also has a deadly track record. According to the same government study, wolf hybrids accounted for 14 deaths between 1979 and 1998.6 The death count may much be higher too; owners of wolf-dog hybrids often mislabel their dogs as a husky or malamute-mix to evade detection, as was attempted after the mauling death of Kyle Holland.

Wolf-dog hybrid canid hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid canid hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid canid hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid canid hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrid

Dangerous scenarios

One of the most dangerous scenarios involving high-risk dog breeds is often unaddressed in media stories after serious and fatal dog attacks. The scenario entails bringing a child into the home of a friend, relative or babysitter who owns a pit bull or rottweiler. The reverse scenario -- one of these dog breeds temporarily staying at the child's home -- is just as dangerous. Three factors are at stake in these cases: (1) High-risk dog breed, (2) "new" or "temporary" situations, and (3) children.

DogsBite.org cannot underscore the volume of serious dog attacks, some of which are fatal, that occur when a child is visiting or temporarily living at the home of a friend, relative or babysitter who owns a dangerous dog breed (See: Blake Bettis, Lola Farr and Olivia Floyd). Under no circumstances should a person agree to "watch" or harbor a friend or relative's dangerous dog breed if there are children in the home or may be visiting the home either. Children are disproportionally victims in these attacks.

Reporting a dangerous dog

Many people are unaware that one does not have to wait for a "bite" to report a threatening (menacing), at large owned dog or stray dog. Many attacks occur due to this lack of understanding. Always report problem dogs to your city or county animal control agency or sheriff's department. If that dog ends up biting and seriously hurting a person, but there is no documented paper trail behind it, authorities will have their hands tied and the victim may have no recourse for medical expenses.

If the dog owner lives on a rental property, it is beneficial to send a certified letter asking the landlord to ensure that proper containment infrastructure is installed and that the dog is declared on the renter's insurance policy. This act normally places the landlord into the "liability equation" and motivates the landlord to take care of the situation. Cell phone photographs and video of the dog's behavior can be sent as supporting evidence to show that an attack situation is imminent.

When reporting a dog bite -- defined as a "breaking of the skin" -- anticipate its owner to plead with you not to. Many dog owners do not want a "first bite" on record and may offer you a "home nurse" solution. Do not accept a home treatment solution. Proceed to a hospital, tell the doctor you have a dog bite injury, which should trigger a formal bite report (what the dog owner hoped to avoid), and receive dog bite medical treatment, otherwise you could develop life-altering complications.

In many jurisdictions it is also a misdemeanor crime to fail to report a dog bite injury.

Stopping a dangerous dog

Many U.S. courts have declared pit bulls as "lethal weapons." Police officers have the right to shoot and kill pit bulls when under threat or when protecting citizens. Examples of officers shooting dangerous pit bulls were so routine in the early 2000s that DogsBite.org tracked these occurrences over a 2-year period.7 A New York Times examination of 11-years of New York Police firearms-discharge reports (1996-2006) showed that when dangerous dogs are shot, 72% were pit bulls.8

Our examination of New York Police firearms-discharge reports in subsequent years (2007-2016) showed that the number of dangerous dogs shot annually has fallen since 1996, but the percentage of dangerous pit bulls involved has grown to an average of 89%.9 Pit bulls are called out in 9 of the 10 years in these reports. Due to "Use of Force" policy and training advancements, NYPD officers are shooting fewer dangerous dogs annually, but a higher percentage of these dogs are pit bulls.

The inability for the average person, much less a child, pregnant woman or senior citizen, to stop an attacking pit bull may be the single most powerful reason why they must be regulated. In 2017, two large pit bulls killed a 7-year old boy in front of 15 witnesses. “No one knew what to do,” one witness said. Police shot one of the pit bulls, hitting it, but the dog still ran over a mile away before being killed in a hail of police gunfire. “That dog had 15 bullets in it,” Lowell city councilor Rodney Elliot said.10

Legislating dangerous dogs

Over 900 U.S. cities, all three major military divisions and many housing authorities have adopted policies that target pit bulls and other dangerous dog breeds due to the unreasonable risk they pose. Such policies are designed to prevent an attack before it occurs and recognize the cost and severity of victims' injuries and the difficulties of receiving compensation after a damaging dog attack. Many owners of dangerous breeds do not have sufficient insurance policies or any coverage at all.

DogsBite.org is a large resource

The dangerous dog breed issue is both deep and wide. It is also a worldwide problem and not unique to the U.S. The composition of DogsBite.org -- over 1,200 web pages -- reflects this. We encourage viewers to read our Special Reports, our Must Read posts and recent Shelter Dog Attacks and Service Animal and ESA reports. Also, review the dog bite victims' section. Watch dog attack victims share their accounts in videos, view the victim medical funds we are following and read the victim voices.

  1. 2019 U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Statistics - DogsBite.org, by DogsBite.org, July 2020.
  2. Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998, by Sacks JJ, Sinclair L, Gilchrist J, Golab GC, Lockwood R, J Am Vet Med Assoc, 2000 Sep 15;217(6):838.
  3. Excerpts: Dog Bite Prevention for Law Enforcement and Other First Responders, by Randall Lockwood, PhD, Tawzer Dog Videos, 2004 (tawzerdog.com)
  4. The Care of Pit Bulls in the Shelter Environment, by Leslie D. Appel DVM, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 2005 (sheltermedicine.com)
  5. The presa canario breed made headlines after savagely killing Diane Whipple in 2001.
  6. Sacks, Sinclair, et al., 838, 2000.
  7. U.S. Police and Citizen Shootings of Pit Bulls 2008 and Mid Year Results: U.S. Police and Citizen Shootings of Pit Bulls 2009
  8. 11 Years of Police Gunfire, in Painstaking Detail, by Al Baker, The New York Times, May 8, 2008 (nytimes.com) (Archived by the Wayback Machine) | Related chart graphic.
  9. NYPD Reports: Intentional Firearm Discharge - Dangerous Dogs (2007-2016), complied by DogsBite.org, May 9, 2024 (dogsbite.org)
  10. In Memory of Javian Candolario, by By Kevin Cullen, The Boston Globe, October 27, 2017 (bostonglobe.com) (Archived by the Wayback Machine)