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American Staffordshire Terriers vs. American Pitbull Terriers: What’s The Difference?

Considering the American Staffordshire Terrier vs. the American Pitbull Terrier for your next canine companion? Find out how these two pups are different and similar!

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Last Updated: December 24, 2020 | 9 min read

American Staffordshire Terrier vs. American Pit Bull Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pitbull Terrier, are both considered Pitbull type dogs, or “bully breeds.” As such, you’ll soon learn that there are a number of similarities between them. American Staffordshire Terriers are slightly shorter but much stockier in weight. American Pitbull Terriers are more athletic in appearance.

Both breeds are equally striking in their looks. Some may say that they have an intimidating appearance. But despite this, both breeds are big softies at heart. They are so similar that many people believe that they are the same breed (they aren’t).  Both dogs are actually often compared to the American Bulldog as well.

For the purpose of this article the American Staffordshire Terrier will be referred to as Am Staffs, and the American Pitbull Terrier will be referred to as the Pitbull. So, without any further hesitation, let’s compare the two pups and get into all the bully breed details!

Breed Comparison

American Staffordshire Terrier

  • Height 17-19 Inches
  • Weight 40-70 Pounds
  • Temperament Confident, Smart, Good Natured
  • Energy Intense
  • Health Above Average
  • Grooming Weekly
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Price $1,000+

American Pitbull Terrier

  • Height 17-20 Inches
  • Weight 35-70 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Energetic, Loyal
  • Energy Intense
  • Health Above Average
  • Grooming Weekly
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Price $1,000+

Breed Histories

Two Tan Dogs Outdoors
Both dogs come from similar origins, and were bred for similar purposes.

The word ‘Terrier’ derives from the Latin word, ‘terra’, meaning earth. All Terrier dogs were created to go into ground and hunt vermin. They were bred to scare them out of their burrows for their master to cull, or to do the deed himself. For this reason, they were typically small.

However, in the 19th Century, Terriers, for their agility, were mixed with Bulldogs, for their muscle. This was purposeful, in order to create larger and more powerful dogs. These dogs were then used for dog fighting and bull baiting. However, in 1835 dog fighting was banned in England. Immigrants who wanted to continue in the cruel sport took off to America and continued to fight them. American dog fighters wanted to breed even bigger and more powerful versions of the fighting dogs from England. As a result, the Am Staff and the Pitbull were born. It is their fighting history that has unfairly earned them their vicious label.

The Pitbull was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) as their first dog in 1898. The UKC will allow Am Staffs to be registered as American Pitbull Terriers. However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognize the Am Staff, but they will not recognize the Pitbull.

The Am Staff was originally called the Staffordshire Terrier. But the name being too similar to his cousin across the pond, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was changed in 1972 to American Staffordshire Terrier. The Pitbull, being the most closely linked to their shared fighting history, also had his name changed in 1996 and 2004, to ‘St Francis Terriers’ and ‘New Yorkies’ in the hope that his past would no longer be associated with him. There was also hope that more people would adopt him, but this was soon dropped after much criticism.

The multitude of name changes, and politics amongst kennel clubs in their registration rules, has created much confusion in the canine world between these two breeds. And while some believe that they are the same breed due to their almost identical appearance, with the Am Staff just being the chunkier brother and the Pitbull the more athletic sibling, the mainstream opinion is that they are separate breeds.

Appearance

Blue and Tan Dogs
It’s easy to understand why these dogs are often confused for one another.

The Am Staff and the Pitbull are very similar in their appearance. They are both impressive looking canines who are both considered to be a medium sized dogs. The Pitbull is slightly taller measuring 17 to 21 inches in height, measured from paw to shoulder. The Am Staff is shorter at 17 to 19 inches in height. Pitbulls also weigh less, at 30 to 65 pounds. The Am Staff weighs anywhere between 40 and 70 pounds. The Pitbull is taller and more slender, whereas the Am Staff is shorter and more stocky.  They are both often mistaken for other pitbull mixes.

They are both well-balanced dogs, and with the large square heads and muzzles, and their defined muscles, in the Am Staff more so, they have a combination that gives them their powerful appearance. It is also common for them both to have their ears cropped, again, this adds to their mean exterior. If they aren’t cropped, their ears are normally either rose shaped or half pricked.

Both the Am Staff and the Pitbull are available in a variety of colors. Generally, kennel clubs will not accept black and tan or liver in the Am Staff, and white that covers 80% or more of his body is not encouraged, and merle is not accepted.

The Pitbull is welcome to be any color except merle.  The red nose variant is the second rarest color, followed by the blue nose.  The merle gene has recently made its way into the gene pool from out breeding, and so despite the increase in popularity, this is not a traditional color in either breed.

It is also common for them both to have different color patches across their body. Of course, neither of these dogs are accepted if they are albino. Their coats are both short, smooth and shiny. This tight coat enhances their muscular frame. For further information on their appearance the AKC provides the full Am Staff breed standards, and the UKC provides the full Pitbull breed standards.

Temperament

Black and Blue Bully Dogs
Both dogs are very similar when it comes to their temperament.

The most common question asked by those who don’t know either breed is ‘are they vicious?’. The answer is no, they are not inherently vicious. As the famous saying goes, a dog is just as good as his owner. In reality, the Am Staff and the Pitbull are no more vicious than a Chihuahua. It is entirely dependent on their upbringing and their owners.

The American Temperament Test Society conduct temperament tests every year with a vast variety of dogs. The latest results show that 86% of Am Staff’s passed the temperament test. 87% of Pitbull’s also passed. With the samples being 743 and 931 respectively, no one can argue that the samples weren’t large enough to be conclusive. If this is compared to another well-known dog, the Collie, whose sample was 896, only 81% of them passed the temperament test.

Because these pups are often in the news for aggression related issues, they are often compared to other dogs that pop up in the news for similar negative headlines.  The Pit Bull is often compared to the Rottweiler and compared to other molosser dogs like the Presa Canario, even though there’s little similarity in their appearance, only in temperament.

Both breeds are very sociable and happy-go-lucky canines who adore their master and their family. They also both have a soft spot for children. This is how they inherited the name ‘nanny dog’. While we would never suggest leaving a dog alone with a child, this is one of the many reasons they make such a great family pet. They love to have a good romp around in the garden and play interactive games, so both of these pups will provide you with hours of bouncy entertainment.

The general consensus is that neither the Am Staff or the Pitbull extend their sociability towards other animals. While they are gentle with humans, they can exhibit fear aggression towards other animals who they see as a threat to them or their family.

Of course, this is not the same for every Am Staff or Pitbull, but this is a generalization and is something that you need to consider if you are a multi-pet household, or if you are walking your pup in public. For this reason, neither of the breeds are suitable for a novice owner, but ultimately training and the owners are equally responsible for this behavior.

If you don’t own or know an Am Staff or a Pitbull, then a great way to see them in action is on Instagram. Wesley is a Pitbull has over 97K followers who have joined him on his journey, from being homeless to tackling his stranger fear aggression, to being a snuggle bug with his family and other dog friends. Nala is an Am Staff who also shares her doggy life, and she is equally as cute!

Exercise

White and Tan Dogs Outdoors
Both Dogs have very similar exercise needs.

Both the Am Staff and the Pitbull are similar in their exercise needs. They are both high energy dogs who require up to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Being the more athletic version, the Pitbull would enjoy slightly more exercise. Am Staffs are more partial to an afternoon nap.

However, they both have a lot of energy that needs to be expelled. The best way to do this with these breeds is to play interactive games with them such as fetch or agility courses. Although they are only medium energy dogs, they require a lot of mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored and destructive.

Training

Tan and White with Brown Spots Dogs Outdoors
When it comes to training, both dogs are equally intelligent and easy to train.

Again, the Am Staff and the Pitbull are almost identical here. They need early socialization to avoid any guarding tendencies, and to minimize fear aggression with other dogs or animals. Many owners say that their Am Staff and Pitbull are great with other dogs in the local dog park, but this is entirely down to their training.

You cannot skip out on training if you want a well-mannered pup. Luckily, they are very intelligent and combining this with their love for snacks, makes them very trainable. We recommend training with a harness from a very young age. Any pitbull-sized harness will work, and this should be done after their first round of shots to discourage any potential leash aggression.

Health

Healthy Bully Breed Dogs
Both dogs have longer lifespans with minimal health issues.

Both the Am Staff and the Pitbull are healthy pups, they have the same lifespan of 12 – 16 years. They are both prone to Elbow and Hip Dysplasia, which is similar to most breeds in later life. The Pitbull is more likely to develop Cerebellar Abiotrophy, which is where the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination is damaged, and therefore he can struggle with his mobility. This is something that generally appears in later life. The Am Staff is also known to suffer with cardiac issues in later life more so than the Pitbull.

Many Terrier dogs are also known to inherit skin allergies, and although this is something that they may experience throughout their lifetime, it is something that can easily be managed with medication and nutrition. If in any doubt, be sure to speak to your Veterinarian.

Nutrition

Staffy and Pit Waiting For Food
Both dogs should be fed a high quality kibble to promote skin, coat, and joint health.

They will both eat around 2 ½ cups of food a day, although some dogs will need more depending on their activity levels. Both breeds should be eating food that’s recommended for Pitbulls or bull terrier breeds.

Skin and coat health is important, so both will do best on a food that’s fortified with omega fatty acids. Depending on how active your dog is, you may need to find a formula specifically made for sporting breeds, which has a higher calorie count, and supports muscle growth. It’s worth noting that both breeds can have sensitive stomachs. This means you may also consider a limited ingredient dog food, with or without grain.

For dogs that have shown an allergy to poultry, consider formulas that contain alternate protein sources. Overall, nutrition quality will impact the overall health and lifespan of both the Amstaff and the Pitbull. It’s always recommended to spend more for a higher quality dog food if your budget allows for it.

Grooming

Bully Dogs Getting Bathed
Both dogs have very similar shedding habits and grooming needs.

These dogs are exceptionally easy when it comes to grooming compared to the average pup. A bath once every two months or so will be adequate, and a brush once a week will keep them looking shiny and healthy. Other general grooming tasks such as teeth brushing and ear cleaning are the same as any other medium sized pups.

Both breeds are fairly light shedders. Amstaffs and Pitbulls are single coated dogs, meaning their shedding will be pretty stable all year. You won’t need to worry about an undercoat rake due to the length of their hair. While they aren’t considered hypoallergenic, they both shed less than other double coated dog breeds.

Puppy Prices

Puppies Outdoors in Autumn and Spring
Expect to pay about $1,000 and up for a puppy from a reputable breeder.

Both the Am Staff and the Pitbull, from a reputable breeder, will cost on average $1,000 and up. If you are after a pup from a particular bloodline, then puppy costs will be significantly more expensive.

It is important to research reputable breeders when it comes to getting either of these breeds. Reputable breeders will only breed dogs who are gentle and friendly. If any of their pups show aggression, they will not be bred. If you buy your pup from anywhere else, then you are risking that he has either been bred from active fighting dogs, or worse, is violent himself. A reputable breeder will not sell a vicious dog. Puppy mills will do whatever they can to make a quick buck.

Alternatively, there are hundreds of thousands of these dogs in rescue shelters across America. With over 93% of Pitbull type dogs in shelters being euthanized, rescuing is something that you should consider. Of course, you may not know his history if you adopt. But, as long as you are a firm dog owner, this is something that you can overcome together.

Final Thoughts

The Am Staff and the Pitbull have shared the same hardships when it comes to their reputation, however, when you educate yourself, or get to know either breed, you will quickly learn that their fierce reputation is unjust.

Ultimately, they are almost identical, so for most prospective owners about to choose either breed, it really comes down to their slightly differing appearance. Either way, they are both sweet souls who have a lot of love to give!

Leave a Comment

14 Comments

Danae Murray

January 8, 2021 at 2:05 pm

Thank you so much for such a well written and thought out article. As a mom of both breeds, it is nice to find an article that educates and also clarifies the unfair reputation they receive. Great read!

Kelly Wilson

January 9, 2021 at 6:36 am

Thank you for the comment Danae! Appreciate your feedback, and thanks for being a dog mom!

Paola

January 9, 2021 at 8:38 pm

Great article, I'm looking to buy a bully for my girls and was so hesitant about that decision, after reading this article I think the Staffy would be the right fit for our family. Thank you so much.

Kelly Wilson

January 11, 2021 at 9:22 pm

No problem Paola! Just make sure you can commit to training a headstrong breed, as well as their high energy requirements, and you should be in good shape! Good luck!

Marc Olsen

February 4, 2021 at 2:59 am

Thanks so much for putting this together, we are considering a Staffordshire for our family (young kids) and this helps quite a bit. One question: in the pictures, its not clear to me which is which of the two breeds. Is the Staffordshire on the left in all of the pics or is it more randomized? Maybe I missed the caption header. Thanks again!!!

Kelly Wilson

February 4, 2021 at 3:08 am

Hi Mark! You are welcome! On all our breed comparisons, we try to match the breed according to the order of the article title. So in this article, Staffies are on the left, and Pitties on the right. Good luck with your puppy search!

Quinn Kerry-Rockov

February 7, 2021 at 4:20 am

Nice article! I have an Amstaff and she’s amazing! The short stocky body and a slight difference in head shape usually showcase the difference between the two from my experience. Another big giveaway is Staffies will almost always have a black nose.

Pitbulls can have any color nose, but you can usually tell the difference between a pitbull having a more athletic body versus the Staffie's bulky muscular body. Also the Staffie's tail is thick at the base and tapers to a point with a length that is in proportion to the body size.

Kelly Wilson

February 8, 2021 at 3:12 pm

Thanks for the comment, Quinn! All very good points. Glad you enjoyed the read, we know that these two pups are consistently mistaken for one another, which is why we wanted to clear up the difference between the two dogs. Appreciate you taking the time to share your experience!

Cassie Temple

February 10, 2021 at 11:06 pm

I adopted a dog from a foster family and was told that he was a beagle terrier mix. He is now 3 years old and my baby. He is great with kids, our cat, and most dogs at the dog park.

He tends to be people skittish though (his young mom was the same way) but he has never bitten anyone. I am not sure how to train him to not be afraid of strangers, but I also don't want him to be too friendly with them. he has a similar personality as a boxer.

I am also not sure if he is a Staffie or Pit-mix. He looks like both and also a larger Jack Russell terrier with a curled tail (think Wishbone).

Kelly Wilson

February 11, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Hi Cassie! Thanks for stopping by to comment. Any dog that's been rescued may have some baggage. Depending on how long you've owned him, it may take time for him to settle into his new environment. If you've owned him for most of his 3 years, then socialization becomes a bit more difficult. But it takes consistent exposure and hard work to properly socialize and teach him that people can be trusted again.

Some dogs do tend to bond to one person, and if there's been abuse in the past, he may always be wary of other people. I would be patient and consistent with him and introduce him to new people on his own turf where he's more likely to feel comfortable. I would also recommend you consult with a professional dog trainer in your area locally. Even a few sessions might allow a trainer to see and properly diagnose any behavioral issues that need addressing. Good luck with your pup!

Alison Anderson

February 20, 2021 at 1:18 pm

Thanks for this all-encompassing article. It's so sad the bully breeds are unfairly targeted because some evil dogfighters train some of them to be vicious. I hope as people learn more and see them in the community, they'll become accepted and valued for the wonderful dogs they are.

I acquired a 3 yr old mixed Pitbull (69%) AmStaff (19%) (12% other) at the shelter last August. I've lived with dogs all my 59 years. Patch is one of the smartest dogs I've ever had. He's in training to be my ADA service dog and is advancing at a rapid pace.

He IS very energetic and loves to race around my 1-acre lot, play fetch several times a day, and loves swimming. He's always creating fun and games to entertain me. He had very good early training and is well socialized with other dogs and people. I really hit the jackpot with this incredible dog.

I've read that Pitbulls are euthanized more than any other breed. That's such a shame. My local shelter has a no-kill policy (YAY). There were many pitties in there waiting on forever homes. My guy had been in there over a month. I hope articles like yours will educate and encourage people to adopt this amazing dog breed.

Kelly Wilson

February 22, 2021 at 6:02 pm

Thanks for the comment, Alison! Sounds like you really lucked out with Patch, who sounds like an AMAZING pup! Appreciate you stopping by to share your experience with our readers!

Alois Weidemann

February 24, 2021 at 9:03 am

I am 76 years old and I am worried that I won't be able to give either one of those breeds enough exercise. Live in Ottawa, and often in Winter Time the sidewalks a slippery and the streets have lots of salt. Thanks for the description of both breeds.

By the way, this wouldn't be the first dog I/we had. Starting from a Golden Retriever, to a Yorkshire Terrier, to a 1-year old Doberman (which I hit it really off perfectly, even though someone else trained it. Then came a Bouvier de Flandre, which I never could train to walk on a leash nice beside me. Otherwise, he was perfect. Got a harness and he pulled me around in the snow. Goes without saying that he liked it.

Then came a German Shepherd also about 1-year old, he was too inventive and investigative for us, Training didn't go to well. We found an excellent home for him with a big area to run wild. The last dog was a German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, found out later (got him from SPCA) that he had run away from the original owner 3 times. He was very protective, which I didn't mind.

After a daily outing for about 45 minutes, came home rested for 1 hour or so, and was ready to go out again. This was too much for me. Liked to jump and roll in any puddle or wet mud couldn't change this habit. Was also already 1 year approximately old. So that's why I asked how much exercise those 2 breeds need.

Kelly Wilson

February 24, 2021 at 2:06 pm

Hi Alois, Yes - both of these breeds will require a good amount of exercise. Both of these breeds will need a little more exercise than your Golden you have experience with. Sounds like you may want to consider another breed that has a lower exercise requirement. Good luck in your search!