Breeds Category IconBreeds

Types of Pitbull Dog Breeds: Differences, Appearances, & Traits

Emma Braby

Last Updated: September 17, 2020 | 12 min read

Types of Pitbulls

So you think you know what a Pitbull is? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but according to a variety of research, it is very likely that you don’t! The University of Florida found that dog shelter workers, including Veterinarians, commonly mistake a variety of dogs as Pitbull type breeds, which not only is incorrect, but it can have a multitude of devastating consequences for the mislabeled pups.  Many of these pups are just random mixed breed dogs, or some type of Pitbull mix.

The term ‘Pitbull’ is not a dog as such, but a general label given to a few dog breeds with similar origins, appearance and temperaments. The four Pitbull type breeds are the American Pitbull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Bully. Despite their vicious reputation and their increased numbers in shelters, they are anything but vicious if they are raised properly.

This guide is going to set out the facts from the fiction regarding everything Pitbull.  We bet that you will learn something new about Pitbull type dogs that you didn’t know before, and we’ve compiled not only a comparison of the different types of Pitbull dogs, but also a full list of myths versus reality below.

Defining Pitbulls

Defining the Pitbull Breed
Pitbulls are a type of dog breed descended from bulldogs and terriers.

Officially, a Pitbull is not actually a dog breed in itself, but an umbrella term used for dogs who descend from Bulldogs and Terriers. There are four official breeds of the Pitbull type dog, but often other similar looking breeds will also be chucked under the Pitbull label, which we will look into further in the next section. The American Pitbull Terrier is the main dog breed that is associated with the term Pitbull, so often when someone is talking about a Pitbull, they will more than likely be referring to an American Pitbull Terrier.

Terriers, who are known for their agility and feistiness, and Bulldogs, who are known for their brute strength, were bred together to create the perfect fighting dog, who would be tenacious and powerful. Pitbull type dogs first originated in Great Britain, where bear and bull baiting were popular, but cruel, blood sports. In 1835, when the Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted, this sport was thankfully stopped, but the spectators and participants quickly turned their attention to dog fighting events, as they were cheaper to organize and easier to drive underground so to hide the events from law enforcement. Not only did these events involve gambling, but they enabled owners to showcase their dog’s gameness and strength, and the last dog standing, or fighting, won their owner the prize and reputation of breeding the best dogs around.

This is where the Pitbull type dog’s vicious reputation started. However, on an important note, all fighting dogs were obviously trained to be extremely vicious towards other dogs, but as soon as a human entered the ring, they were trained not to attack, and this is where their love of humans also stems from. Any dog that displayed human aggression were culled.

After the Civil War, British immigrants began to arrive in America, with their fighting dogs in tow. It was here that American dog fighters wanted to create an even bigger and more powerful fighting dog breed, and this was where the American Pitbull Terrier, American Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Bully were born.

Different Types of Pitbulls

Different Pitbull Type Dogs
There are several different classifications of dog that people refer to as “Pitbulls.”

The following four dog breeds are the most widely accepted Pitbull type dogs, however, just to make it slightly more confusing, some breeds are only accepted by certain Kennel Clubs, and some are accepted by all Kennel Clubs. Many people argue that the American Pitbull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier are the only 2 breeds that are true Pitbull type dogs, and others say that the American Pitbull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier are in fact the same breed of dog. So, dependent on who you ask, you may well get a different answer, but all the information in this article is what is the most common belief or what is commonly accepted by the professionals in the canine world.

All Pitbull type dogs share their athletic and muscular look, although some more than others, some are squatter and wider, some are taller and leaner; you can compare their heights and weights, according to their official breed standard, at the end of this section in the table. All Pitbull type dogs have a square shaped head, a square fleshy nose, and big almond shaped eyes. All of their coats are short and smooth, and they all require minimum bathing and brushing. Their tails are long and straight, and their ears tend to be rose shaped, except of course when they have been cropped, which many owners still prefer, and adopt, this look.

Pitbull type dogs come in pretty much any animal color you can think of, except for merle, and whilst there are merle colored Pitbull type dogs out there, the merle color gene is not naturally found in the breeds, which means another breed with this color gene has been chucked into the mix at some point. Therefore a merle Pitbull type dog is not 100% of Pitbull origin, and this color is not accepted by any breed club, so this is something to think about before paying the extra price tag for this color.

They also tend to share the same temperament, in that they adore humans and crave their company, and they love to get involved in the family fun whether that be a game of football or a snooze on the sofa. They are very sweet and sensitive souls, and are particularly fond of children, hence the nickname, the nanny dog. If not socialized adequately as a pup then they can display fear aggression against other dogs, but this is the same for a Chihuahua all the way up to a Great Dane, but if they are socialized well they tend to be sociable with other dogs. Their eagerness to please their masters also means that they are a dream to train, so if you are consistent in your training you will find an obedient Pittie sidekick on your hands. So, let’s take a closer look at each Pitbull type dog.

 
American Pitbull Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
American Bully
Height

17 – 20 inches (F)
18 – 21 inches (M)
17 – 18 inches (F)
18 – 19 inches (M)
14 – 16 inches (F&M)
Pocket: 13 – 17 inches (F&M)
Standard: 16 – 20 inches (F&M)
XL: 19 – 23 inches (F&M)
Weight
30 – 50 pounds (F)
35 – 65 pounds (M)
40 – 55 pounds (F)
55 – 70 pounds (M)
24 – 34 pounds (F)
28 – 38 pounds (M)
Varies depending on type

American Pitbull Terrier

American Pitbull Terrier
The American Pitbull Terrier is the dog most people commonly refer to as the “Pitbull.”

As previously mentioned, this is the most commonly spoken of Pitbull, and the one that many think is the original, or the only, Pitbull type dog. This guy is not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), but he is recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC). It is stated that this breed has maintained his breed type for well over 150 years now, and he is considered to be a purebred dog by the UKC.

Upon arriving in America, ranchers and farmers couldn’t help but notice his athleticism, skill and obedience, and he quickly took employment on many farms and ranches  as herders, and as hunters. Once his hard day’s work was completed, he became the family companion for his master and his family. The American Pitbull Terrier is one of the tallest out of the four breeds, and being taller means that he is a lot more athletic in appearance. For further information on his appearance, the UKC breed standard of the American Pitbull Terrier can be found here.

 APBT’s come in a variety of different colors including brindle, black, white, brown or a mix of all of them.  Along with the label comes additional health conditions and often higher price tags. The American Pitbull Terrier is also often compared to the American Bulldog or compared to the Staffordshire Terrier even though they are different breeds.  They are also sometimes confused with the Dogo Argentino because they look similar.

Rednose American Pitbull Terrier

Rednose Pitbull Terrier
The Rednose Pitbull is a variation of the American Pitbull Terrier.

A Rednose American Pitbull Terrier will have exactly that, a red nose. With the red nose comes copper or earthy brown coat colors, such as brown, red, fawn or chestnut. His lips, eyes and toenails are also red in color. While they are certainly rarer than the typical American Pitbull Terrier, they are exactly the same in every other way, except for a few additional health concerns linked to the recessive gene, which is discussed further below.

Because he is rarer in color, many unethical breeders breed genetically close rednoses in order to increase the chances of their puppies also being rednoses, and thus generating more money. This breeding practice is frowned upon because it leads to genetic defects and poor health. If you are seeking a rednose American Pitbull Terrier be sure to work with an ethical breeder who can prove family lineage, and the health of the pups. Just because they often sell for a few thousand dollars does not mean that they have been bred correctly or well looked after, so be sure to do your own due diligence!

Bluenose American Pitbull Terrier

Bluenose Pitbull Terrier
Bluenose Pitbulls are also another type of American Pitbull Terrier.

A bluenose American Pitbull Terrier is the same as the rednose American Pitbull Terrier, except he has a blue nose. His nose, lips, eyes and toenails will be blue or grey in color, and he will be easily identifiable from a young age compared to the traditional black nose. Just like the rednose, the bluenose being rarer comes with a higher price tag, so be sure to work with a reputable breeder.

In addition to the inbreeding concerns given their smaller gene pool, the different color nose (including the red) is as a result of low melanin levels, which is the pigment responsible for coloring in any living system, including us humans. A deficiency in melanin, which is as a result of the recessive color gene, also creates additional health issues and diseases, and it has been linked to skin allergies (which Pitbull type dogs are already prone to), heart diseases, eye conditions, increase in the chance of cancer and decreased immune system functionality. Which is all the more reason to work with a reputable breeder!

American Staffordshire Terrier

Amstaff Dog
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a very popular breed in the United States.

The American Staffordshire Terrier, commonly shortened to the name ‘AmStaff’, is recognized by the AKC and not the UKC, and he is ranked as the 85th most popular dog breed out of 193 breeds, but research suggests that he is much more popular than this with most owners not registering them for breeding or conformation purposes. He has long been one of America’s favorite dogs, not only has he been the sidekick of 3 American Presidents, but he was also America’s most decorated war dog.

The American Staffordshire has long been a family companion, and his sweet nature has won the hearts of millions, not just in America but across the world. Despite his formidable exterior he is known to be one of the sweetest dogs around, who not only loves his family very much, but also everybody that he comes into contact with, so for this reason he does not make the greatest of natural guard dogs. For further information on his appearance his full breed standard can be found here.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terriers originated in the UK and remain popular today.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is thought to be the most popular dog in Great Britain, yet being the 80th most popular breed in America his popularity has not quite caught on over here. He is recognized by all major Kennel Clubs, including the AKC and UKC, and he is described as clever, brave and tenacious, and he is an affectionate guy who has a real love for life!

He is the smallest of Pitbull type dogs too, sometimes by 7 inches in height, with the biggest Staffordshire Bull Terriers being around the same weight as the smaller dogs amongst the other breeds. Being smaller, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a great choice for those who love Pitbull type dogs but have less room for the stockier versions. Further detailed information on his breed standard can be found here.

American Bully

American Bully
The American Bully is much stockier and wider than other dogs on this list.

The American Bully is a descendant of the American Pitbull Terrier, but overtime he has become so distinct in appearance that he is now considered to be his own breed altogether. He is a relatively new breed who was developed in the 1980s, and only recognized by the UKC in 2013. He is shorter than the American Pitbull Terrier and much wider than any of the breeds here in this article, he can be so wide that it often looks like his muscles have muscles! The American Bully is a larger pitbull-type dog, and has specific nutrition requirements.

He is recognized by the UKC, and not the AKC. The American Bully Kennel Club also recognizes him, and they recognize him in four distinct sizes: Pocket, Standard, Classic and XL (see sizes in the below table). The Classic American Bully is much narrower and less muscular than the other 3 sizes. Many people also believe that Micro and XXL American Bullies exist, and sell them as such, but these sizes are not officially recognized. 

The most expensive American Bully, named White Rhino, was purchased for $250,000, this exorbitant price tag is very rare, but American Bullies can be by far the most expensive dogs in America. The biggest American Bully on record is Hulk, who weighs a humongous 174 pounds! The American Bully is also often compared to the American Bulldog, English Bulldog, and (English) Bull Terrier. 

Breed Specific Legislation

Pitbull type dogs are all subject to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) which varies from country to country and state to state, all of which can, for example, enforce increased liability insurance all the way up to outright banning. Much research suggests that BSL is not effective and as such should be withdrawn. Not only do owners have to deal with unfair and restrictive law, increases in insurance and being excluded from home rentals, but they also have to deal with day-to-day prejudices from society thanks to a lack of education and the sensationalist media, despite controlled studies suggesting that Pitbull type dogs are not disproportionately dangerous.

Whilst this subject needs an article in its own right, it is something that you need to take into consideration if you are thinking about welcoming a Pitbull type dog into your home, and something that you must research thoroughly. For further information regarding local laws, this page lists the states that prohibit the regulation of certain dog breeds by local government.

Pitbull Myths vs Pitbull Reality

Here we are going to look at the common myths versus what the reality is surrounding Pitbull type dogs.  There are many different misconceptions when it comes to the breed, so we’ve compiled a list of the most commonly discussed myths versus the reality below.  Let’s dispel some of the bad, and take a look at some of the good.

Myth: All Pitbull type dogs are inherently dangerous.

Reality: No, not all Pitbull type dogs are dangerous. The American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) put dog breeds through a series of tests and challenges to test their temperament, and out of 35,686 dogs tested in the latest results (December 2017), the average pass rate was 83.7%. The American Pitbull Terrier passed at 87.4%, the American Staffordshire Terrier passed at 85.5% and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier passed at 90.9%. The American Bully temperament test results are not available (which does not mean they failed), however, the three Pitbull type dogs passed well above the average score, so this alone supports the case that Pitbull type dogs are not inherently dangerous. 

Myth: Pitbull type dogs have ‘lockjaw’, which makes them more dangerous.

Reality: No, they do not have ‘lockjaw’. There is no such thing as a lockjaw, and all canine skulls are of the same design and have the same functions, and there is no locking function. Terriers are known for their tenacity and gameness, which is why when they get hold of prey, they keep hold of it, and it is this very reason why Terriers were originally selected to be bred with Bulldogs.

Myth: You shouldn’t rescue a Pitbull type dog because they will probably have been mistreated, so they will be dangerous.

Reality: No, not all Pitbulls have been mistreated, and not all mistreated dogs are dangerous. Not all Pitbulls have been mistreated, there are simply so many of them that they make up the highest proportion of dogs in rescue shelters, and consequently, they are the population that is euthanized the most too. Equally, not all mistreated dogs are dangerous. Being a Pitbull type dog rescue mom, whose dog was badly beaten and given drugs during the first year of his life, he was later used as the ‘tester dog’ in rescue kennels to profile other dogs and their sociability, simply because he is so friendly. Pitbulls are the same as any other dog, there will always be a few dangerous pooches, which is entirely down to poor socialization as a puppy, but they are few and far between.

Myth: Do Pitbull type dogs really smile?

Reality: While science suggests that dogs can’t smile, if you ask any Pitbull type mom or dad you will get a resounding yes from them! And if you don’t believe them, then check out Lady Shortcake’s Instagram page, who is one of the most smiley dogs, or velvet hippo as her mom calls her, to grace the planet!

Final Thoughts

Whilst all the Pitbull type dogs have an undeniably grisly past, without it they most likely wouldn’t exist, so Pitbull lovers across the world are somewhat thankful for it. Remember that they are all the most common found dog breed in rescue shelters, so if you are thinking about welcoming one of these guys into your home, then please consider adoption!

Despite their past, they are some of the sweetest canine souls around, and they love humans, more than anything. All they need is a warm home and a master who will invest time in training and exercising them. So now you are equipped with the knowledge about what a Pitbull type dog is, and who they are, and if you are after a loyal canine who will be forever at your side, then look no further than these adorable sweet dogs!

Leave a Comment

17 Comments

Doug

July 21, 2020 at 2:48 am

I just lost my red nose to cancer April 30th. She was a rescue dog that I really didn't want but couldn't leave her. And I only had for about nine years, she is without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me. She had so much love in her and always had my back and I hers. We were so close if we had to be apart even for only a couple of hours both of us would have anxiety really bad.

I'm sorry for being such a baby I'm a basket case still just hoping writing a little bit about her will help me, but also let others no don't believe the bad things you hear about pits. I'm 63 years old and had a dog most of my life and loved them all but got over their passing. But it's been the worst two and a half months of my life without her. Sorry, again I'm just trying to cope. I miss her so much.

Kelly Wilson

July 21, 2020 at 7:20 pm

Hi Doug - I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your pup! They always leave big holes in our hearts when they go. I'll be praying for healing and that you find a new pup sometime soon! Take care, and I hope that the memory of your sweet girl gets easier as time goes on.

Cristina Figueroa

July 21, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Thank You for explaining the Pitbull, I have a blue nose and she is the best girl I have ever had. She plays with my grandkids and is a lazy girl. Raine loves to cuddle, have her belly rubbed, and going out no matter where she is going. Oh and she loves to give free hugs! I would never regret having Raine nor any other PitBull, they are the best nannies!

Cristina Figueroa

July 21, 2020 at 8:35 pm

Doug, Sorry to hear bout your baby, I know how much we love them and the love they give back unconditionally. My husband is 63, Raine and he are the best of friends, to the point that I have to sleep on the couch sometime cause she takes over our bed, but that's OK. I wouldn't have it any other way. We love her very much and can't bear to think one day we will have to say good-bye. Hang in there!!!

Kelly Wilson

July 22, 2020 at 12:23 am

Thanks for commenting Cristina! Sounds like your blue nose is a lovely pup!

Heather

July 31, 2020 at 4:15 am

What kind of pit is in the very first picture on the article? The tan one with white on its nose and gold eyes? My pit/curr mix looks very, very similar and I wondered if there was a coloring reference word for the look or a certain way to describe it? Just out of curiosity.

Kelly Wilson

August 1, 2020 at 4:59 pm

Hi Heather, this is considered a Red-Nosed pitbull. The white is not preferred by many Red Nose purists, but that's what she is. Hope this helps!

Zina L Arredondo

August 21, 2020 at 7:23 am

I have two one full pitbull, and the other pit/boxer. They are my therapy boys without training to be one they are. I have borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, mood disorder, and PTSD. They are the best help anyone could ever have. I also have a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix. They are teaching him how to take care of mommy ( me ). Wouldn't trade them for all the money in the ? and would give my life up for theirs. So people get your facts straight before you say they are dangerous. PLEASE!!

Kelly Wilson

August 21, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Hi Zina, thanks for the comment! We agree with you - every dog is different! Sounds like you have some sweet pups!

Brenda McKinney

August 28, 2020 at 5:48 pm

This is for Doug who is mourning the loss of his beloved dog. I am a mental health counselor by trade and also an animal lover. We lost our Emma suddenly by suspected aneurysm. Still devastated we started looking at local shelters. Nothing will ever replace her but filling that void in your home and in your heart will help you through your grief much sooner while providing a loving home for someone who needs you and unfortunately may consequently be euthanized due to over crowded shelters and dog pounds. Best of luck and I am so sorry for your loss. Godspeed.

Kelly Wilson

August 31, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for commenting Brenda! Hoping Doug has found some peace, and agree with your recommendations!

Matthew

September 12, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Hi there! Thank you for this info. Sometimes I feel my pitbull mix is aggressive with me, but I can’t tell the difference because she’s 6 months old and likes to jump and bite me a lot. Even when I tell her to stop.

Kelly Wilson

September 13, 2020 at 5:53 pm

Hi Matthew! Pitbull pups are notoriously full of energy. Just keep correcting the behavior firmly, and reward the behavior that you want her to display. She will come around if you are patient and consistent! Good luck!

Dawn

September 18, 2020 at 1:02 am

To Doug: I just lost my Pittie Entourage two days ago and I understand the hole in one's heart the loss of a beloved pet creates. She was an absolute angel. What brought me to this post was wanting to learn exactly what breed my baby was so that I can look forward to my next angel. They will never be replaced, but look how much love you have to give! I hope you consider adopting again.

Kelly Wilson

September 19, 2020 at 5:47 pm

Thanks for stopping by to comment Dawn! Sorry for your loss and we wish you nothing but the best!

Kiara Kloss

November 23, 2020 at 1:47 pm

Working as both a kennel technician and veterinary nurse assistant, theese breeds are very often the absolute sweetest dogs. I've rarely seen one have to be muzzled for medical treatment, and I've found they are generally great on a leash when boarding.

We do playtimes with them as well and nearly all of them are enthusiastic snugglers. Despite their strength, I tend to trust them more than some other dogs when they re-grip during tug-of-war. I've never had one bite me (whether on purpose or accidentally), but I've had a couple of incidents with other breeds.

Believe it or not, the most bite-prone dog I ever had to work with was a big black lab. He was simply overly playful and very poorly trained. Made a couple of us bleed.

Kelly Wilson

November 24, 2020 at 3:48 am

Thanks for stopping by to comment Kiara! We appreciate you sharing your story! Many people don't realize how sweet these lovable canines can be. Thanks again for sharing!