A random survey instituted between the years 2001 and 2003 revealed that approximately 4.521 million people are bitten by a dog each year. Of these people, 880,000 of them receive bites severe enough to necessitate medical assistance. The media sensationalizes attacks by “Pit Bulls,” leading people to believe that many of the emergency room visits, life-threatening bites, and deaths can be attributed largely to one breed: the much maligned and deeply feared Pit Bull. However, research shows that it is not “pit bull type dogs” that bite the most often. In fact, the dog that takes top honors for the most bites inflicted per year is the tiniest dog member in all of society: the Chihuahua.
Facts about the Chihuahua and Its Tendency to Bite
Chihuahuas are a breed that are well renowned for their territorial and protective nature. They bond deeply to their families and will respond aggressively towards anyone they think means harm to those they love most. But with such a diminutive size to his credit, many people think even if the Chihuahua’s bite is worse than his bark, they really have little to fear.
When determining how much damage can be inflicted by a bite, experts first assess what is known as bite force. Bite force is measured in pounds per square inch. This measurement indicates how much force goes into a bite, the circumference of the affected area, and predicts how much damage the pressure can inflict on the victim. Strangely, the Chihuahua’s reported bite force doesn’t line up with commonly accepted logic. Several sources indicate that the Chihuahua bites with a pressure of 3,900 PSI. When compared to the dogs that are known to have the strongest bite force in the world, the Kangal at 743 PSI, the Bandogge at 730 PSI, and the Cane Corso’s 700 PSI, it’s hard to understand how the tiny Chihuahua can muster up the strength to strike with a pressure that is more than five times the force of the world’s largest and most powerful breeds. The king of the jungle himself, the lion, only bites with a force of 600 PSI, leading us to safely conclude that the Chihuahua’s reported bite force is urban legend at best.
The shape and construction of a dog’s head also plays a role in the amount of force he exerts with each bite. The Chihuahua lacks the body size required for a bite force of 3900 PSI and also has a tiny head and set of jaws. It would be physically impossible for a breed of this size to exert the pressure that is attributed to it.
So, what is the Chihuahua’s actual bite force? Well, the truth is: we don’t know. Why don’t we know? We don’t know because no one has ever taken the time to measure it. From this we can deduce that though the Chihuahua may be the breed that chooses to bite the most, it is not the breed that is typically of concern for causing serious injury and/or death to human beings.
When the Chihuahua chooses to bite, its nip definitely smarts. Though we don’t have an accurate measurement as to what the bite force of this tiny chap might be, we can safely hazard a guess that it would ring in around 100 PSI, a far cry away from the PSI exerted by the Kangal, the Bandogge, the Cane Corso, and…the Pit Bull.
Chihuahuas and Bite Statistics
In a study completed by the Coalition for Living Safely with Dogs in 2009, the following was discovered:
- The Chihuahua is the breed that most often bites veterinary personnel.
- The Chihuahua takes the fourth position in the list of dog breeds most predisposed to biting children.
A second research project in 2016 noted that in a poll of over 4,000 dog owners, Chihuahuas earned top marks as the dog most likely to respond aggressively. Most dog owners felt that if confronted with a large, menacing dog, the Chihuahua would not back down from the conflict. Owners mostly agreed that the Chihuahua is not inherently aggressive but would not hesitate to bite if feeling threatened or annoyed by a human or an animal.
As difficult as it may be to believe, Chihuahuas do possess a powerful enough bite to kill a human being. In fact, between the years of 2005 and 2017, there is one fatality attributed to this breed. Further research indicates another death from a Chihuahua attack in 2018. This second fatality may not be entirely the fault of the Chihuahua as the dog was only one of three dogs involved with the other two dogs being Pit Bulls. However, with no witnesses to testify as to the events, the true perpetrator may never be known. Though the fatal bite could be measured and the damage examined to help indicate which breed was to blame, this information has not been released to the public to date.
Given that the Chihuahua’s jaws are small and that the breed has a minimal bite force, what would it take for this small breed to kill a human being? It is most likely that it is not how many times or how hard the Chihuahua chooses to bite but instead it is where the bite will land. If the Chihuahua were to bite down on an important artery, it wouldn’t take subsequent bites for a person to die. There would be sufficient blood loss from even one strategically placed bite for the person to succumb to death fairly rapidly.
Facts about Pit Bulls
The Pit Bull has a bite force of 235 PSI. Though no slouch for size when it comes to pressure, the Pit Bull’s bite force pales in comparison to breeds such as the Kangal, Bandogge, Cane Corso, and even the Mastiff. DogBites.org, an organization dedicated to tracking and recording dog attacks and their outcomes, made note that between 2005 and 2017 there were 284 deaths attributed to Pit Bulls to the Chihuahua’s 1. From this we can conclude that though the Chihuahua may bite more frequently, the Pit Bull’s bite, though seen less often, is far deadlier due to the dog’s power and strength. Research indicates that in 6 percent of attacks involving bites from a Pit Bull that the victim died. Sadly, this breed is at the top of the chart when it comes to dog attacks resulting in a fatality.
In 2019, 46 people in the United States died from dog attacks. 33 of these people were bitten by Pit Bulls. Since this time, the CDC has devoted their time to studying dog breeds and their tendencies to bite. It was discovered that Pit Bulls were the most frequently involved in bite incidents, being associated with nearly 300 deaths to date. However, it has also been noted that the breed is unlikely to bite or attack unless provoked in some manner.
To help combat the bad rap bestowed upon the breed, many Pit Bull owners have taken the time to complete temperament testing on their dogs. As a collective whole, 86.7 percent of Pit Bulls have earned a passing score on the temperament test. This alone indicates that the breed is not inherently aggressive. The breed scores higher on this test than other breeds including the Border Collie, the Beagle, and yes, the Chihuahua.
Another important factor to consider is that in 80 percent of dog attacks, the breed could not be identified. Since “Pit Bull” is not actually a dog breed but is instead a group of dogs that fit a specific set of physical characteristics, the statistics are not 100 percent accurate. Many times, it is reported that an attack by a Pit Bull occurred; however, the dog may simply have resembled a bully breed and been a different dog type entirely. Experts indicate that only in 18 percent of all dog attacks were the police able to identify the true breed of the dog involved.
When it comes to dog bites, who packs the most powerful punch—the Chihuahua or the Pit Bull? While the Chihuahua earns top marks as the dog that bites the most often, it is the Pit Bull whose bite is the most to be feared. With a PSI of 235, the Pit Bull has the potential to injure and kill while most Chihuahuas will just annoy and frustrate. Still, any dog in the wrong circumstance at the wrong time can bite and may kill, a sobering thought to consider.