Monday, September 11, 2017

dog fighting lingo

I thought that perhaps instead of a simple glossary it might be more helpful to read the explanations in context. My apologies if it becomes tedious,  I've never discussed the subject at length with the general public. Should I at any point use a term or make reference to something that seems vague please let me know and I'll address it.

A dog pit or box is the arena in which the dogs due combat. It is generally twenty feet on a side and two to two and a half feet high. Carpet should be used as the floor covering as it provides traction for the dogs. Two corners diagonal from each other will have a line of tape or paint apx. three feet out from the the corner of the walls. This is the scratch line. The dog and handler must remain behind this line at all times until directed by the referee to release the dog. The handler may not step over this line until the dog has left the corner. To do so will result in a loss by fouling out.

Prior to the match the dogs are weighed. If a dog is over the specified weight the handler must pay the predetermined forfeit. The owner of the other dog may still choose to continue or reschedule the match for a later date. The referee will toss a coin to determine order of washing. The winner of the toss can choose to wash first or last. The dog washed first is then wrapped in a towel or blanket and carried into the pit. The handler first in chooses a corner and waits for his opponent. Once both dogs are in their corners and the referee has entered the match can commence. There are two officials, the referee and a time keeper, who advises the referee of corner time counts during scratch in turn as well as the official length of the match at conclusion.

To begin the match each dog is held facing into his corner and may not turn around until the referee instructs the handlers to "face your dogs". At that time the dogs are turned to face one another and make eye contact. When both sides are ready they are ordered to "let go" or "pit" their dogs and the fight begins. Only then may the handlers leave their corners.

During combat the handlers may talk to their dogs, whistle, clap or pat the carpet but may not at any time touch the dogs. Only the referee may instruct the handlers to touch their dogs and only their own dog prior to the end of the match.

The referee may order the handlers to hold their dogs in place in the event that one becomes "fanged". Ranging occurs when a dog in trying for a bite hold on his opponent pierces his own lip with his canine tooth or "cutter". This impairs a dog's ability to stay in hold and is corrected as soon as discovered. In order to unfang a dog the referee will slide a pen, pencil or similar tool between the gum and lip above the tooth to be freed. It is then pulled down the outside of the tooth freeing the lip from the tooth. If this cannot be done when the dogs are in hold the will be separated but not taken to their corners and the fight will recommence.

Either handler can call a "turn" on either dog which the referee may or may not allow. A turn is the dog literally turning head and shoulders away from the opponent without seeking a hold. This may indicate that the turning dog want a break, wants to quit or is simply part of the fighting style of that individual.
This begins the "scratch in turn" portion of the match. A handle is made as soon after a turn is granted by the referee and the dogs are free of holds. They are returned to their corners and the thirty second count begins. The referee gives a sponge to each handler to clean and cool the dogs. The sponges are from the same water bucket that remains under the eye of the time keeper or a judge for the entirety of the match.
When time is called the handlers again face the dogs and the dog who turned must scratch to the other dog in order for the match to continue. If the dog refuses to scratch or fails to beat the count to complete his scratch the match is over with the failing dog loosing the match. Almost all fights are won or lost during the scratch in turn portion of the match.

Each dog has his or her own style of fighting. Some are "front end" fighters in that they prefer the chest or brisket and shoulders as a target. Others prefer to fight the "stifles" or the knee to upper thigh of the hind legs. There are preferential face, ear, nose, throat, head, leg or gut and back end fighters. Ch. Chinaman was one of the best known gut and kidney dogs who literally disembowelled one of his opponents in the pit. There are also dogs known as "nut cutters" in males for specifically targeting the penis and testicles.

The fight will continue until a dog is unable or unwilling to continue. If a dog is unable to complete his scratch, cannot or will not take a hold, or attempts to leave the pit the match is over. The handlers may also agree to a draw during a long fight between equally matched, equally game dogs in order to try to save both dogs.

After the fight has been decided the handler of one or both dogs may ask for a "courtesy" scratch as proof if his dogs willingness to continue even if unable to win. The winning dog is held in his corner with his mouth held closed to prevent further damage to the loser. When the losing dog has made his courtesy and been retrieved by his handler, the winning handlers may "tail scratch" his dog to reciprocate the courtesy. In this the handler releases his dog but holds the dogs tail to insure there is not contact with the loser.

If both dogs have shown to the satisfaction of their handlers and recover from the match they may be retired or matched again.

A dog who has won three or more contract matches earns the title of "champion". A dog who has won five or more contracted matches without any losses or draws earns the title of "Grand Champion".
I'm sure there will be more terms or activities I fail to sufficiently explain but I'll answer any questions you may have to correct my oversights.


scurrilous amateur blogger said...

i've seen nut cutters on a hog. it is grotesque.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

here is an extensive glossary i grabbed from

PutMeInCharge4OneDay said...

Tropical Storms, I have to ask you this.

When you immerse yourself in that kind of thing, how do you keep your wits about you while you are doing it and how do you shake it off afterwards?

Small Survivors said...

wow, just wow.

Put me in charge, that is a huge question. If TS can't answer it here, i hope it is answered in the book!

Me, I just wanted to know how they defined a "turn" and if they argued about that. seems like a very subjective thing. I've always wondered that since reading about dogfighting.

tropical storms said...

Snack, a turn is literally turning away from the opponent. If you're watching the fight most are quite obvious. It can be somewhat subjective at times but a legitimate turn is as obvious as a human turning away from another person. Most referees are generous in allowing turns. I've seen only a handful of disputes on it. I could count them on one hand easily. As to decompression time it varies from person to person. For me I took about a year with no contact of any kind and that worked fairly well. Enough so that I could engage again at a remove anyway. There are all manor of animal issues to address that don't involve going to dogfights.

DubV said...


I'm fascinated about the demeanor of the dogs. Is it as the nutters say? That the pit bull doesn't want to fight and hates it but does it out of some programming or love of master? I'm guessing the dogs seem to want to be there.

Anonymous said...

some quality time with a nut-cutter is just what i'd like to order for the people who enjoy seeing such things happen to dogs and hogs . fucking white trash or the coloured equivalent .

tropical storms said...

DubV, they are lying. The dogs want to be there and love to fight. They really have no choice as they have been selectively bred for over 200 years to do or want to do nothing else. The only bulldogs I've ever encountered who did not want to fight were "cold" individuals who had no more clue about their genetic ancestry than your average multi line mutt. In other words they were just normal dogs, if not very smart ones.

tropical storms said...

If you don't constantly and consistently have your wits about you long before you ever get there you do something else. There is no shortage of animal issues in need of attention and you would choose one of those areas rather than this one.

orangedog said...

It has to be immensely stressful to work undercover around these people everyday. I can't imagine the worry of having your cover blown and knowing that they would probably dump your body in the swamp.
I watched that BBC documentary on dog fighting, but that didn't go into nearly as much detail as you have. Kudos for all the work you did.

tropical storms said...

Thank you. As to stress you know some people thrive on it and I would certainly qualify. There is an ever present tension regarding the safety of the cover persona. In a very real sense your cover is not only that which enables you to do your job it is the thing that keeps you safe. Guarding you cover becomes something of a preoccupation.

Anonymous said...

i couldnt sleep without dreaming of nutcutters rampaging on their white-trash owners and stopping the atrocities from reproducing themselves .

Packhorse said...

TS, your story is certainly an incredible one. I enthusiastically encourage you to write a book and expose both pitties and pit fans for what they really are.

I have two questions for you, if you have time:
What is a Register of Merit?

Is it true puppies, small animals, etc. are thrown to the bulldogs to rile them up before a match? (can't remember where I read this)

tropical storms said...

Packhorse, R. O. M. stands for register of merit and is assigned to brood stock based on the number of winners produced by a dog or bitch. Google Garrett's Jeep, Ch. Honeybunch or ch. Chinaman if you like. The only dogfighter from back in the day who used live animals as bait was Randy Fox. That's a fairly new phenomena among wanna bes and urban neophytes. I personally never knew or knew of anyone other than Randy.

orangedog said...

In AKC land a ROM is awarded to a CH who has produced a certain number of other champIons. Of course, our CH titles don't come from winning dog fights.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

ROM is ROM regardless of fighting or AKC showing but POR i am not sure about. orangedog do you have producer of record in the AKC land? do i need the secret hand shake to get this information?
never mind i will send you a coded message. the coven hasn't granted me that level of clearance yet.

S.K.Y. said...

To elaborate on what orangedog mentioned:

In the AKC world, ROM (also Sire of Merit-SOM, and Dam of Merit-DOM) are a type of honorary "title" conferred on certain successful breeding dogs by their breed clubs. In this case, it has nothing to do with fighting.

In the AKC world, dogs earn this by having a certain number of offspring that become conformation champions, get performance titles (e.g., herding for Border Collies), and get advanced titles in companion sports like obedience or agility. Since a male can sire more puppies over a lifetime than a female can produce, the requirements are approximately doubled for the males vs. the females.

Both of my Border Collie's parents are ROMs. My Papillon's dam is a DOM, and the sire will probably be a SOM by the end of this year at the rate his kids are racking up titles.

To me, it's not very meaningful unless the dog only has a limited number of offspring. This is true for my Pap's father--his 6 kids have about 25 titles between them, and are only 2-3 years old.

For my Border Collie's father, he got it simply by being a super popular sire and having over 100 offspring, of which a high percentage became show champions and only a few--mainly my dog, who has over 30 titles in 6 sports--racked up all the performance titles needed for dad to get his ROM.

(As an aside, I'm VERY against the "popular sires effect" and think there should be a limit on how many puppies can be registered from one sire--like maybe 20-30. My dog was from his sire's second litter. I had no idea he was going to go on to produce a gazillion litters).

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, in the ABCA world, ROM is any Border Collie type dog that can herd REALLY, REALLY well, and ROM stands for Registered ON Merit.

The criteria is strict, and is purely on working ability.

I have a grandson of one of the first bitches ROM'd in this region. It's amazing how inheritable traits like herding ability are. About the only way I could stop this dog from herding would be to cut his legs off.

How is it people don't GET that fighting, maiming, killing abilities are just as inheritable?

How much do you want to bet there are happy suburban families out there, proudly crowing about their pitties ROM'd parentage? Look at what gets advertised on CL (no, don't, it's depressing), I don't know the pedigrees, but I KNOW some of these are close up fighting lines.

Small Survivors said...

That is interesting. Does that mean that the dog was registered solely on its herding ability without papers to prove lineage?

That makes perfect sense for working lines, when most working dogs' pedigrees were not kept like show dogs' peds are.

I think people are completely ignorant of what and how and why working dogs are bred and how that's different than show dog lineage.

People seriously believe all dogs are labs with different coats on - except lap dogs which are inherently vicious.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ROM in ABCA given solely on the dog's herding abilities. They do ask for pedigree and all available information on the sire and dam, but technically you wouldn't have to know a thing about the dog's parents as long as it was an exceptional herding dog.

"Labs with different coats on" is a good analogy. I keep wondering why the average Joe seems to think all dogs are interchangeable (except those Poms and Chihuahuas), maybe because most dogs are purely pets now? I don't know.

Small Survivors said...

I think that's it. dog=pet to so many people now.

Rumpelstiltskin said...


I think it's Register of Merit. I was told from a few breeders it was a great title to have. To me, it signifies champion parents and to the breed club it additionally signifies breed participation.

Your right about the herding ability being genetically passed on. My younger GSD has a ROM sire and while the dam is not ROM, her parents are ROM and well titled. That dog is on fire! I have no doubt he would easily take to herding.

My older one is more laid back and easier to handle. His pedigree is not quite as stellar but he's really smart and possesses a calmer temperament.

They both possess temperament and working behavior similar to their parents.

It's a sad thing for a pit bull to be ROM, he/she has to "win" dog fights.

Anonymous said...

No, it is Registered ON Merit in ABCA.

Linky here:

ABCA ROMs have absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH AKC ROMs. These are working dogs, not show dogs. (Also, AKC herding tests are not the same as Open ISDS trials.)

I was using these to compare to Pit ROMs as they both test "working" abilities.

Rumpelstiltskin said...


I see. So all points that go towards the ROM titles for Border Collies must be working title points? GSDs don't necessarily need herding titles, just titles in general. These days, the preferred titles for GSDs are obedience and Schutzhund titles.

I'm about positive my GSDs possess the herding instinct as they've both shown herding behavior, even the heel nipping.

When pit bulls show their genetic behavior, someone's pet might die. From all the attacks on humans, the behavior is not limited to other dogs.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I don't know about America, but in the UK a dog without ISDS parents can be registered with the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) following proving itself to have exceptional herding ability (I'm not sure of the exact criteria, I suspect it's decided by the society itself on a case by case basis).

I would imagine the dog would have to pass a herding trial or several herding trials, or perhaps even win a whole competition to be accepted. KC border collies without at least one ISDS parent would also have to be ROM to join the ISDS, however ISDS dogs are automatically qualified for registration into the KC for confirmation showing (most would not win shows however as they aren't bred for appearance).

Anonymous said...

In the UK at least, it's quite tough to get a non ISDS dog registered on merit.

Although I DID hear somewhere that a bearded collie was ROM with the ISDS which is interesting - it gives opportunity for fresh genetics to be added to the working dogs from other breeds.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, my male BC is the grandson of the first BC ROM'ed in the PNW, so yes, Border Collies can be Registered on Merit in the US; the ABCA website even outlines the process.

Unknown said...

I'm calling bullshit on this one Ts. Absolute bullshit!

Unknown said...

More border collies have attacked humans than apbts. The generic term of "pitbull" applies to over 15 breeds of dog and they then compare their bite data to single breeds of dogs. Unfair huh?