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American Bulldog vs. American Pitbull Terrier: Breed Comparison

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: March 25, 2021 | 7 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 is a lot of misconception about the term “Pitbull.” Many people use the term loosely to refer to a group of breeds that were originally used in dog fighting 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 be talking about the American Bulldog. This is not to be confused with the “American Bully” which is an entirely separate dog breed.

Breed Histories

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, but that is where the similarities in their history end.

American Bulldog

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. A few breeders saved the breed and bred them to primarily be family companions rather than farm dogs.

Pitbull Terrier

The APBT was originally brought over from England to be used in dog fighting 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.

Eventually, dog fighting 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 biggest difference between the American Bulldog and the APBT 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.

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.

As you will see, American Bulldogs and American Pits have some similarities and some differences when you compare their temperament, training, and exercise needs side by side.

Temperament Comparison

American Bulldogs and Pits 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.

The primary difference in temperament between these two breeds is how well they tolerate other animals. Pitties, with their more recent dog fighting 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.

Whether you choose an American Bulldog or an APBT, either breed may not do well at a dog park. While they may not start a fight, their tenacity often means they’ll be the one to finish it, with potentially disastrous results.

Training Comparison

Both American Bulldogs and Pitbulls are intelligent but stubborn. They need an owner who is comfortable being firm with their training. In the right hands, both American Bulldogs and Pits 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.

These dogs are not ideal for novice dog owners or those who don’t like to spend a lot of time training their dog.

Exercise Comparison

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.

Health Comparison

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

Conditions that American Bulldogs and Pits 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.

Grooming Needs

The grooming needs for American Bulldogs and Pitbulls are the same. Both dog breeds have short hair and are mild to moderate shedders.

Both breeds will benefit from being brushed once a week with a rubber brush to help distribute their natural oils and remove loose hair. Occasional bathing with a shampoo made for dogs will help them stay clean and shiny.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Breed is Better:?

Neither breed is “better” than the other in general. Both dog breeds can be great family dogs. The only way to decide which breed is better for your family is to do your research.

For example, the American Bulldogs can weigh twice as much as an APBT and will eat significantly more. On the other hand, American Bulldogs are more likely to be friendly with your other pets than Pitbulls.

Do American Bulldogs or Pits Bark a Lot?

Neither American Bulldogs nor Pits 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 American Bulldog instead.

Are American Bulldogs or Pitbulls Good Guard Dogs?

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.

Which Breed Sheds Less?

Both American Bulldogs and Pits are mild to moderate shedders. They shed a little bit all year round. Weekly brushing with a rubber brush and occasional baths with dog-safe shampoo will help keep shedding to a minimum.

Are American Bulldogs or Pitbulls Hypoallergenic?

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 are dog breeds that would be good for allergy sufferers.

Which Breed is Better for Families?

Both dogs are both quite good with children. As long as you can give them plenty of exercise and don’t leave a dog alone with a small child, either breed will do well in a family.

Do Pitbulls Really Have Locking Jaws?

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 on to 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.

Beyond that, Pits don’t have the strongest bite force of any dog breed. Neither breed has a bite force that even cracks the top 10 of the most powerful dog breed bite forces.

Can Either Breed Live in Apartments?

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. American Bulldogs and Pitbulls do best in homes with large, fenced yards.

Which Breed Lives Longer?

American Bulldogs have an average life expectancy of around 10 to 12 years. Pitbulls, being a smaller breed, have a longer life expectancy of 10 to 15 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.

How Can I Find a Reputable Breeder?

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.

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 most of 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

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many similarities and differences between the American Bulldog and the APBT. Either breed could be right for your family. 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.

The other factor to consider is breed specific legislation (BSL). Most BSL forbids Pitbulls and other breeds from living in certain areas. American Bulldogs may or may not be included in BSL where you live or plan to travel, so make sure you research local laws before you bring home either dog breed.

If you have the energy to exercise and train your dog, your American Bulldog or Pitbull 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


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.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

April 26, 2020 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for the comment Nanette! Glad we could help!


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!

Kelly Wilson (Author)

August 31, 2020 at 2:03 pm

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

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.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

June 14, 2021 at 2:47 pm

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