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American Bulldog vs. American Pitbull Terrier: Breed Comparison

Are you looking to adopt an American Bulldog or a Pitbull for your next canine companion? These two breeds can often seem like the same dog, but they have differences that may help make your decision. Find out about their nutrition needs, health concerns, personalities, and more!

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: September 10, 2021 | 10 min read

American Bulldog vs Pitbull

Are you comparing the American Bulldog vs. Pitbull for your next canine companion? If you aren’t familiar with the breeds, these pups can seem like one and the same. They’re actually quite different, with different histories, sizes, and personalities. How can you tell the difference between the two breeds?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the term “Pitbull.” Many people use the term loosely to refer to a group of breeds that were originally used in dogfighting rings. The term “Pitbull” may be used for American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pitbull Terriers, and any dog that slightly resembles these breeds.

Let’s talk about the American Bulldog vs Pitbull and some of their similarities and differences. In this article, we’ll be using the term Pitbull to refer specifically to the American Pitbull Terrier (APBT), and we will discuss the American Bulldog. This is not to be confused with the “American Bully” which is an entirely separate dog breed.

Breed Comparison

American Bulldog

  • Height 22-27 Inches
  • Weight 60-120 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Loyal, Quiet
  • Energy Average
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,500-3,000

American Pitbull Terrier

  • Height 17-21 Inches
  • Weight 30-65 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Energetic, Loyal
  • Energy High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Price $800 and Up

Breed History

The American Bulldog and the APBT were both developed in America from dogs that were originally used for bull-baiting in England before it was outlawed in 1835. And that is where the similarities in their history end, so let’s take a closer look at them.

American Bulldog

White and Brown Dog Standing Next to Flowers
American Bulldogs are a fairly new breed in the States.

Working-class immigrants brought the Old English Bulldog to America and further developed the breed to work on farms. The dogs were used for all-around farm work, but they were especially good at managing cattle and hunting invasive wild pigs. The American Bulldog’s popularity started to decline in the first half of the 20th century and nearly went extinct by the end of World War II.

Thankfully, a few breeders saved the breed and bred them to primarily be family companions rather than farm dogs. Now they are less work-oriented and more accustomed to the doggy delights of family life. The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted them into their Foundation Stock Service program in 2019 to allow him to develop as a breed.

American Pitbull Terrier

White Dog Sitting in Nature
Pitbulls have an unpleasant history of fighting in rings or pits.

The APBT was originally brought over from England to be used in dogfighting rings or for ratting, which took place in a pit. Ratting was a betting sport where people bet to see whose dog could kill the most rats the fastest. The pit helped keep the rats in place and lent itself to the breed’s name. Sadly, this is where their ferocious reputation stems from.

Eventually, dogfighting and ratting became less popular, and Pitbulls became farm dogs and family companions. They have amazingly impressive bite inhibition toward humans thanks to their days as fighting dogs because their owners needed to safely remove their dogs from ratting pits or dog fighting rings.  They are also a very common dog to get mixed with other breeds, like the Labrador. The AKC does not recognize the Pittie, but the United Kennel Club does.

Appearance

Serious Dogs Looking at Camera
These two breeds look a little similar, but APBTs are smaller and come in a wider range of colors.

The biggest difference between these two breeds is their size. The American Bulldog is much larger, standing 22 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing 60 to 120 pounds or more.

The smaller of the two breeds, the APBT stands 17 to 21 inches high at the shoulder and only weighs 30 to 60 pounds. This can mean that you could have four Pitties to just one Bulldog when it comes to weight. So, if size is tight for you, the Pittie is probably going to be the better fit.

Another difference between the breeds is their color. American Bulldogs are usually white with black, brown, red, or brindle patches. They often have black “eyeliner.” Pitbulls, on the other hand, can be just about any color. The only color that isn’t accepted in the Pitbull rainbow is merle because it isn’t a true Pitbull color.

The American Bulldog, having English Bulldog genes, has a squarer and flatter skull. His meaty head is bigger than the Pittie’s, and this is something that many Bulldog lovers adore. His flatter face can affect his airways, which is something that we’ll talk about in the health section. The Pittie is more athletic looking than the Bulldog.

Temperament

White and Gray Dogs Faces
Both breeds are considered to be loving and loyal pets.

These two canines have very similar temperaments. They both love people and don’t do well left alone for long periods of time. Both breeds can be trusted with children better than you would expect – although you should never leave any dog alone with small children. That’s why they are often referred to as Nanny Dogs, particularly the Pittie.

The primary difference in temperament between these two breeds is how well they tolerate other animals. Pitties, with their more recent dogfighting lineage, can be more aggressive toward cats, other dogs, or any other small animal they may see as prey. That’s not to say that American Bulldogs automatically get along with other animals. They may also attack other animals; they’re just easier to socialize when they are young to decrease the likelihood of them trying to kill other animals.

Neither dogs are especially frequent barkers. They may bark when bored or excited, but they aren’t as known to be chronic barkers as other dog breeds. However, Pitbulls do like to “talk” a lot. They make a wide variety of vocalizations in their attempts to communicate with their humans. If you find this behavior adorable, then the APBT may be the better choice for you. If whining and other unusual dog sounds bother you, then you should probably go with the quieter American Bulldog instead.

Many people bring home these dog breeds thinking that they will make excellent guard dogs. While both breeds can look intimidating (especially the larger American Bulldog), they are usually much too friendly to be good guard dogs. They may decide to protect your family from attackers, but they’re just as likely to let a burglar in and show them where you keep your valuables. With that being said, their appearance alone may be enough to scare off the average intruder.

They both make amazing family pets, and they are both lots of fun and affectionate. The American Bulldog takes the role of canine clown seriously. And he is quite clumsy and dopey like his English cousin. But they are both always up for a game in the yard or snoozing with their family. Basically, whatever they are needed for, they’ll be there.

Exercise

White Dog Standing and White Dog Running
These breeds have lots of energy to burn and should have about an hour of exercise a day.

Both breeds were bred to work all day, and both breeds have plenty of energy. They need at least an hour of exercise every day, preferably in a large fenced-in backyard. They can be jogging buddies, but American Bulldogs may be prone to overheating, especially if they have a short muzzle. Try to mix up their exercise regimes to keep their mind entertained as well as their body.

There is a common misconception that Pitbulls have locking jaws that make it almost impossible to pry their jaws open. In fact, their jaw structure is no different than any other dog breed, and their jaw doesn’t lock into place. However, Pitbulls are tenacious and stubborn and may hold onto things longer than other dogs. This means that you’ll need to make sure you have some durable toys to hold up to their chewing power in between outdoor exercise sessions.

Both breeds have high exercise requirements, and they may not have the option of playing at the local dog park. If you choose to have either breed in an apartment, you need to be dedicated to spending at least one hour every day walking or jogging with them on a leash. Both do best in homes with large, fenced yards.

Training

Dogs Looking Up
The American Bulldog is more headstrong than the APBT and can be a bit harder to train.

Both pups are intelligent, but the American Bulldog can be stubborn, too. They both need an owner who is comfortable being firm with their training. But the American Bulldog needs an experienced owner to get the best out of his stubborn ways.

In the right hands, both can be trained to do many types of work or dog sports. In the wrong hands, however, these dogs can be antisocial at best and aggressive at worst.

It’s super important to socialize any dog but particularly dogs like these guys who have the potential to not to get along with other animals. Mix them both with as many other dogs and people as you can when they are young. The optimum window for puppy socialization is 3 to 12 weeks. You’ll get out what you put in!

Because both of these guys hate to be left alone, especially the Pittie, it’s a great idea to crate train them both. Separation anxiety is bad enough, but when a powerful dog is anxious, it can lead to disaster! Dogs naturally crave shelter, and it’ll give them a safe space of their own to offer comfort when you do have to leave them. You’ll need to invest in a strong, durable crate for these tough cookies.

Health

Happy Dogs Walking
Both of these canines are fairly healthy breeds.

Both breeds have some similar health problems and some health problems that the other breed is less likely to suffer from.

Conditions that both breeds are prone to include:

  •       Hip or elbow dysplasia
  •       Hypothyroidism
  •       Demodectic mange

Additionally, American Bulldogs are prone to breathing problems and cataracts, while APBT’s are prone to allergies, especially skin allergies. The American Bulldog’s breathing problems shouldn’t be as severe as the English Bulldog’s, but it can still affect his day-to-day life. If he does struggle to breathe, you should do things such as using a harness during exercise and exercise during the cooler parts of the day.

American Bulldogs have an average life expectancy of around 10 to 12 years. Pitbulls, being a smaller and healthier breed, have a longer life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. While there are no guarantees in life, the best ways to ensure your dog lives the longest, healthiest life possible are to get them from a reputable breeder, feed them a high-quality diet, brush their teeth regularly, and prevent them from becoming obese.

Nutrition

Dogs With Open Mouths
The amount of food you feed your pup depends on its age, size, and energy level.

The American Bulldog tends to eat more than the Pittie, which is solely down to his larger, more muscular frame. The Bulldog will eat around four cups a day, compared to the Pittie, who usually eats around two cups daily. If you have a 120-pound dog on your hands, he’s likely to need much more kibble. Meaning the monthly food bill for the Bulldog is likely to be much more.

The best way to determine how much food your pup needs is to look at the package instructions. It depends on factors such as age, size, lifestyle, and kibble brand. If your Bulldog weighs over 50 pounds, he will need a dog food designed specifically for large breeds. His frame and joints will need the extra support thanks to optimized and controlled nutrients.

Both of these guys are prone to bloat, and it is a life-threatening condition that needs to be taken seriously and acted on quickly. Never feed your dog immediately before or after exercise, and split his food allowance into at least two different meal sittings. Be sure to research this condition and understand what symptoms to look out for.

Grooming

Close Up of Dogs Faces
A weekly brushing should be plenty for both.

The grooming needs for these two pups are the same. Both have short hair and are mild to moderate shedders. Brush them once a week with a rubber brush to help distribute their natural oils and remove loose hair. Occasional bathing with shampoo made for dogs will help them stay clean, shiny, and smelling their best.

Many Pitties and Bulldogs are known to suffer from skin problems. Particularly the Pittie. If he does, it’s important to speak to the vet to see if they can advise what doggy shampoo (if any) can alleviate the skin condition. If not, be sure to use a doggy shampoo designed for sensitive dogs.

While no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, some dog breeds whose coat grows continuously (like Poodles, Maltese, or Bichons) leave less dander around the house to bother allergy sufferers. Neither of these two is a dog breed that would be good for allergy sufferers.

Puppy Prices

Cute Puppies Looking Up
The price of a Pitbull puppy is usually lower than the American Bulldog.

Pitbulls and other “bully breeds” are often the most popular dog breed in shelters. You may choose to start your search for a new furry family member there. Adopting is a wonderful thing to do, and it’s really rewarding too! The price of adoption is usually much lower than buying a brand new puppy too.

If you really want to get a puppy, you’ll want to put in a little research to find a breeder who is more concerned with the health and happiness of their puppies rather than simply making money. To increase your odds of finding a reputable breeder, avoid:

  •       Buying a dog from a pet store (most of their puppies come from puppy mills)
  •       Breeders who don’t allow you to visit their puppies on site
  •       Places where you can’t meet at least one of the puppy’s parents
  •       Breeders who ship their puppies
  •       Puppies younger than 8 weeks old
  •       Breeders who don’t ask you questions to ensure you’re a good fit for one of their puppies
  •       Breeding facilities that offer more than one or two breeds of puppies
  •       Pups who cost much less than the average Pittie or Bulldog price

The starting price of a Pittie pup from a breeder is usually $800, compared to $1,500 for the Bulldog. The main reason for this is that there are more Pitties in the rescue shelters than any other dogs, so there is less of a demand for them. If you seek a pup from a reputable or popular breeder, you can expect to pay more than this price for sure.

Final Thoughts

There are many similarities and differences between American Bulldogs and America Pitbulls. Make sure you do your research to pick the dog breed that is best suited for your family life. Since the biggest difference between the two breeds is their size, you should seriously consider how much dog you want to care for. Larger dogs eat more, cost more, and poop more – but they also make great family pets and enormous lap dogs. It all depends on how much dog you want, or can handle, in your life!

The other factor to consider is breed-specific legislation (BSL). Most BSL forbids Pitbulls and other breeds from living in certain areas. Bulldogs may or may not be included in BSL where you live or plan to travel, so make sure to research local laws and housing details before bringing home either dog breed. Please don’t do it after you commit to him because it’ll only end in tears.

If you have the energy to exercise and train your dog, either of these breeds could make an excellent ambassador around your neighborhood for scary-looking, misunderstood bully breeds. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with the information you need to decide which of these wonderful breeds is best for your family.

Leave a Comment

14 Comments

Mary

October 26, 2021 at 10:00 am

Great information! Thank you! I am thinking of getting another dog. I have one pit and love her! I was looking at a couple of rescues. American Bull Dog mix.

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Amanda Jones

October 18, 2021 at 2:13 pm

I do agree with your article! I have a 5 year old rescued/adopted American Bulldog laying across my lap as I type. Hands down the best dog I have ever or could possibly ever have. He LOVES people, he is down to go for a hike or lay on the couch all day (he makes his energy level match mine), he LOVES children and is incredibly tolerant (he goes out of his way to lay in the middle of the kids while they are playing because he wants to be near them), and he is as loyal as they come. He would be a terrible guard dog- he'd be licking the burglar in the face as the burglar loaded up all my possessions. He tolerates other dogs (we have 2 other dogs) but would probably prefer to be the only dog in the house. Our American Bulldog was up for adoption by his previous owners because of his extreme separation anxiety (he would destroy their house when they left...), but with proper crate training we've been able to manage his separation anxiety and it does not impact our lives or house. When out around town he is constantly looking up at me for cues as to what he should be doing/how he should be acting. I think he is actually part human. A family member has a rescued Pitbull and she's an amazing dog as well. Great with kids, a couch potato but down for a walk as well, friendly to strangers, etc. Very similar, but smaller than my AB.

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billy W mccurrie

October 7, 2021 at 8:46 pm

I'm just trying find a new puppy I can give a good home for

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Julie Ann Merrick

September 4, 2021 at 9:50 pm

We actually have both breeds. Jaws is 4-year-old American Bulldog and Lilly is 2-year-old Pitbull Terrier. Lilly just had her first litter of pups fathered by Jaws. Now, we have 9 Bully-Pits and a total of 11 dogs in our home. I wouldn't trade our pack for any other breeds.

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Apiffany Gaither Billings

September 5, 2021 at 9:26 pm

Wow! Sounds like a loving and happy family. What a great name--Jaws!

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Jim Wolcott

August 31, 2021 at 11:35 pm

I love my pits would never own any other dog the is American pit bull terrier hands down know one will touch your child with all the child trafficking it's the best choice and all people have to know is you have one and the problems solved no break INS nothing

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Dorothy Wood

August 29, 2021 at 10:07 pm

My boyfriend and I adopted a Pit Bull dog mix. She was 4 yrs old when we adopted her and we couldn't of asked for a better dog. She gets along with our cat. She's very smart and stubborn when she wants to get her way (haha)

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Michelle Schenker

August 30, 2021 at 11:18 am

So glad you all rescued one another, Dorothy ;)

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Lilia Martinez

June 12, 2021 at 7:07 pm

I was not planning on adopting any fur babies at all. Everything started after I agreed to puppy sit for two weeks for my daughter.... three days later I was madly in love but not with one but two precious Pitbull Terrier baby girls. We have been together for five years now and mean the world to me! They are sweet, caring, funny, and loving creatures I ever had.

They have a lot of energy and walking daily is a MUST. I get my exercise with these fur babies and they keep me young at heart. I had own several breeds in my life and these fur babies came to show me that the only thing better than having a Pitbull Terrier was having two of them. My fur baby girls have their own room inside the house and also own a doggie house and swimming pool in the back yard.

They sleep with me and wouldn't have it any other way. They have a doggie door and go in and out as they wish. They came into my life when I was getting divorced and was going through a very hard time. I did not rescue them, they rescued me and as much as my human children. It is unfortunate the bad reputation they have but it is totally the owner and how they are raised. I feel very blessed and I thank God every day for having them in my life.

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Kelly Wilson

June 14, 2021 at 2:47 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Lilia! Sounds like you have two amazing dogs!

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Monica

August 30, 2020 at 11:09 am

Thanks, and yes!, we have an American bull (100 lb), she is very gentle, my husband always says that this breed needs to be socialized when they are puppies, they need boundaries and, as a responsible pet parent, we need to spend time with our big girl, she does very good, is healthy, but yes, is a whole budget (food, pills, vet, big toys), she does very good with our other dog, a cocker spaniel (20 lb).

We walk them 2/day and pretty much we take them to have dinner or even camping, they are good with adults and kids. If you are thinking to get an American Bull, please consider that you will invest a lot in time, food, picking big poop up, vet,...but you'll get an amazingly lovely, trained, socialized, four-legged buddy for life, American Bull is an incredibly smart breed, do your part! When in good hands they are the best dog ever!

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Kelly Wilson

August 31, 2020 at 2:03 pm

Thanks for the comment Monica! Sounds like some great dogs!

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Nanette Lewis

April 25, 2020 at 6:51 pm

Thank you for the information. I wasnt sure if my Samson was a bully or pit. But now I know hes a bully! Hes white with black spots. Very loving dog.

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Kelly Wilson

April 26, 2020 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for the comment Nanette! Glad we could help!

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