The Pitbull has to be one of the most recognizable dog breeds on the planet. After all, it’s one of those breeds that most dog fans think they could identify on sight – and you likely don’t need a dog DNA test to tell you that your mixed-breed has a bit of pit bull in their genetics. Of course, even those fans might not understand that there is actually more the one kind of Pitbull breed.
What you might not know is that the Pitbull isn’t so much a singular breed as it is a label for multiple types of dogs. These dogs all come from the same general region and look alike, but they’re actually very different breeds. In fact, what most people think of as a singular type of dog can be divided into the American Pitbull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American bully breeds.
Don’t worry if you don’t know everything about these breeds – that’s why this guide exists. From learning a little more about Pitbulls in general to learning the differences between the breeds, you’ll figure out which dog breed is best for you here.
What is a Pitbull?
Since we know that the Pitbull isn’t actually a breed in and of itself, it’s a good idea to start by thinking about what a Pitbull might actually be. The term Pitbull encompasses a fairly wide range of dogs, all of whom were originate not as a singular breed but rather as hybrids between terriers and bulldogs.
At the moment, most Americans would probably point towards the American Pitbull Terrier as the default type of Pitbull. The truth, though, is that there are a number of similar dogs who all have a similar hybrid background. While most will still point to the singular exemplar as ‘the’ Pitbull, it’s a good idea to remember that there are more breeds who fall under that umbrella.
The Background of Pitbulls
So, why does this breed exist? Sadly, it all comes down to fighting. The entire Pitbull breed comes from the UK, where it was meant to combine the tenacity of a terrier and the strength of a bulldog. Though initially meant to bait bulls and bears, these dogs quickly became the stars of the show once cruelty to animals became illegal and dog fights became a popular form of underground entertainment.
While Pitbulls definitely were trained to be fighting dogs, they were also trained to be friendly to humans. After all, a fighting dog wouldn’t be much good if he or she attacked a handler. As such, Pitbulls gained a reputation not only for being an especially violent breed but one that was paradoxically very loyal to humans.
Pitbulls made their way to the United States after the American Civil War, still largely as fighting dogs. From here, though, the breed would begin to differentiate itself and split off into the successor breeds that we know today.
The Types of Bulldogs
One of the most difficult parts of identifying Pitbulls is that there are probably more breeds that fall into this category than can be agreed upon by the various Kennel Clubs across the world. This guide only takes a look at four of the types of Pitbulls, though there are good arguments to be made for including more – and, oddly, to include fewer.
What Do Pitbulls Look Like?
Pitbulls tend to be largely united in their looks. They are all muscular dogs, and most tend to look fairly athletic. Some are a bit leaner than others, of course, and there are some differences in height and weight. They do, however, all share the same kind of squarish head and they tend to have very similar noses and eyes.
Pitbulls tend to have relatively short coats, though the colors of those coats absolutely vary not only from breed to breed but also from dog to dog. Most Pitbulls are relatively low maintenance when it comes to their coats, though, with little brushing or bathing needed.
Tails are also commonly straight among Pitbulls, while most Pitbulls have similarly-shaped ears. Many Pitbulls do have their ears cropped, though, so there is some variation there. Even though there are four breeds discussed here, all four of them do look fairly similar to one another.
How Do Pitbulls Act?
If there’s one word that can adequately describe the personalities of all properly socialized Pitbulls, it definitely has to be ‘friendly’. Pitbulls love people and want attention, usually giving plenty of affection in return. Most Pitbulls love kids, napping, and spending time around their favorite humans.
Pitbulls can, however, be very different from other dogs. If they are not properly trained, Pitbulls tend to be fairly aggressive with dogs of all sizes simply because they are afraid of other animals. With that said, the people-pleasing nature of these breeds makes them far easier to train than many of their canine counterparts.
The Pitbull Breeds
American Pitbull Terrier
Height: 17-21 Inches
Weight: 30-65 Pounds
If there is one breed that gets commonly identified as the primary Pitbull breed, it’s definitely this one. This may or may not be the original Pitbull breed, but it’s definitely one that seems very close to the original bloodlines. While the United Kennel Club recognizes this breed as its own breed of dog, the American Kennel Club does not; despite that fact, the UKC does consider this terrier to be purebred with a fairly long history.
This Pitbull got its start in the United States not as a fighter, but rather as a working dog breed. Pitbulls were quickly employed by farmers and ranchers not only to watch over herds but to help hunt down the game. These big dogs were also prized for their ability to immediately adapt to families, quickly becoming fantastic companions.
So, what does this breed look like? They come in multiple colors, ranging from black or white to brindle or brown. Most of these dogs are relatively expensive, with high price tags and relatively high costs when it comes to healthcare and dog insurance.
One of the variants of the American Pitbull Terrier is the Red Nose Pitbull. These dogs look virtually identical to their cousins, but with a red nose, red lips, red eyes, and red nails. These dogs tend to be fairly rare, which means that they not only fetch a fairly high price but that they tend to have some fairly significant health problems over the long run. As you might expect, unethical breeders aren’t helping this particular offshoot get anything healthier.
The other major variant is the Blue Nose American Pitbull Terrier. Just as the Red Nose has a red nose as well as red eyes, lips, and nails, the Blue Nose has a blue nose, eyes, lips, and nails. This is another one of those breeds that tends to have a lot of major health problems, mostly because they both come from a fairly small gene pool and because they tend to have generally low melanin levels. What this means for the average dog owner is that this breed is prone to a number of skin conditions, as well as more serious conditions that impact the dog’s heart, eyes, and immune system.
If you are going to seek out either of the variants, you’re going to want to make sure that you find a reputable dog breeder who doesn’t breed Pitbulls who are too closely related. This helps to reduce the possibility of some medical conditions getting passed on while helping to keep the gene pool of the dogs as deep as possible. Regardless of who you work with, though, you should be prepared for some significant medical expenses during the lives of these two variants.
American Staffordshire Terrier
Height: 17-19 Inches
Weight: 40-70 Pounds
The American Staffordshire Terrier, fondly known as the AmStaff, is one of the more popular dog breeds in the US. Unlike its cousin above, this breed is only recognized by the American Kennel Club but doesn’t tend to be registered by most owners. What this tells us is that the AmStaff is probably a much more popular dog than any kennel club thinks, but that most AmStaffs spend more time being companions to their owners than being show dogs.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this type of Pitbull is how famous they are for being friendly. These aren’t just dogs that have taken American by storm – they are family pets around the world, even if they tend to be some of the scarier-looking examples of the breed. In fact, this dog has such a fantastic reputation for being friendly that its big size doesn’t even make it a good guard dog. Far from being violent, this is a dog that just loves to be loved.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Height: 14-16 Inches
Weight: 24-40 Pounds
Another one of the dogs that have a solid claim to being the ‘original’ Pitbull, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a very popular dog in Great Britain. In fact, the dog tends to rank near the very top of the popular breeds there, even though it isn’t actually all that popular in the United States. Unlike the two previous breeds, Staffordshire is recognized by both the AKC and the UKC.
Though Staffordshires are significantly smaller than the other Pitbulls, they’re definitely no less loveable or brave than their bigger counterparts. In fact, these very affectionate dogs tend to be a great fit for those dog owners who don’t have quite enough room for the bigger breeds.
Height: 13-23 Inches
Weight: 25-60 Pounds
The first thing you’re going to notice about this particular breed of Pitbull is its size. It may not be the tallest, but this is a wide, heavy dog that was once considered to be an offshoot of the American Pitbull Terrier. This new breed has only officially been considered its own separate breed since the 1980s and only got its UKC recognition in 2013, making it one of the newest breeds on the planet.
The AKC may not recognize this breed, but fans of Pitbulls have some very specific thoughts on the dog. There are four sizes of the dog, for example, and with Pocket, Standard, Classic, and XL sub-breeds having their own fans. Classics are the narrowest and most like their forebears, while XLs tend to be fairly huge dogs.
As a note, this dog holds the record for being the most expensive of the breeds. In fact, one of these dogs sold for a quarter of a million dollars! Absolutely one of the most expensive breeds in the United States, these unique dogs still have all of the positive qualities that make Pitbulls so beloved.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the 3 types of pitbulls?
The three major types of Pitbulls are the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Pitbull Terrier. With that said, there is a relatively recent addition to these breeds that hasn’t yet been recognized by the AKC, which is the American Bully.
2. How can I tell what breed my pitbull is?
The easiest way to figure out what breed of Pitbull you own is by looking at the dog’s height and weight. While all Pitbulls have fairly similar colors, coat types, and heads, the four breeds do all vary quite a bit in terms of height and weight. If you’re looking at a dog that’s much broader than the rest, for example, you might be looking at an American Bully. Looking at one that’s a little shorter than average? That might be a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
3. What’s the rarest pitbull color?
The rarest Pitbull color is pure white. Though there are definitely some other contenders for that crown out there, it’s very hard to argue with the fact that the genetic anomalies necessary to produce an all-white dog are very rare. There are some who might note that merle is a very rare color scheme as well, but it should be remembered that any Pitbull with that color almost certainly has to be mixed with another breed.
4. Which type of pitbull is the best?
There is no single best type of Pitbull. There are, however, some dogs that are just better suited for some situations than others. If you are looking for a smaller dog, you’ll want a Staffordshire. If you want a dog that’s very easy to train, you’ve got to go with the American Pitbull Terrier. If you want a dog that’s brawny, though, an American Bully is the way to go. Even the American Staffordshire gets top marks for being an incredibly sweet dog.