There are a lot of stigmas, untruths and confusion that surround Pit Bulls. For starters, a Pit Bull isn't a specific dog breed. Instead, it's an umbrella term that's used for several bull breed types.
Also, these breeds face a lot of very unfair discrimination. Because of their strength and muscular build, these types of dogs have been bred for fighting or kept by irresponsible owners as a status symbol. This, along with media bias, has resulted in them developing an unfair reputation for being overly aggressive.
In fact, in the right home, Pit Bull types are usually incredibly loving, loyal and gentle with their family members. While a lot of dogs are often mistakenly referred to as Pit Bulls, just four are typically classified as being types of Pit Bull dog breeds. We've provided more information about each of them below.
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The American Bully is a relatively new breed that was first developed in the 80s and 90s. Recognized by the UKC in 2013, but not yet by the AKC, the Bully foundation stock came from the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and other bulldog-type breeds.
Bullies are easily identifiable in comparison to the APBT, as they're much broader, more compact, and have a wider head. They can, however, come in a variety of sizes.
Bullies from responsible breeders have been specifically developed for their temperament. Despite their muscular appearance, they invariably make great family pets with the right socialization and training.
Known for being gentle with kids and other animals, they tend to be very affectionate. Bullies are strong and athletic too, though, and need plenty of exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
Height: 13 to 20 inches
Weight: 65 to 85 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact, strong, thickset and muscular; short and smooth-coated and comes in a wide variety of coat colors and patterns
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The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is another breed recognized by the UKC, but not the AKC. Their ancestors were 19th-century terriers and bulldog types that came from the UK. The breed began to take shape in America in the late 19th century and was sadly regularly used for the popular dog fighting rings of the time.
Although modern-day APBTs can still have a high prey drive and may not always get along with other dogs, they're known for forming strong bonds with their family. As with most of the other Pit Bull types, they tend to be loyal and affectionate. American Pit Bull Terriers are a naturally athletic breed, and you'll need to be prepared to offer them the exercise and enrichment they need to stay healthy and happy. Without this, problem behaviors can surface as a result of boredom.
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 30 to 65 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized and solid built dog with a short coat in colors black, white, brindle, fawn, blue, red, brown, tan, or grey
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The American Staffordshire Terrier, or Am Staff, has a similar history to the APBT, with their roots in the terriers and bulldogs of 19th century England. Their development in late 19th century North America resulted in a dog that was larger than their English Staffordshire Bull Terrier relatives. They were registered with the AKC in 1936 under the name Staffordshire Terrier. In the 1970s, however, their name changed to differentiate them from their English relations.
The breed was also often thought to be used less for fighting and more as a farm dog and companion than some of the other Pit Bull types. This meant they were regarded as being less intense and more mellow dogs. While they can still have a strong prey drive and don't always get along well with other dogs, the Am Staff is known for being loyal, playful, and good-natured with their family. They are often well suited to living in an active one-dog household, where they can be the centre of their families attention.
Height: 17 to 19 inches
Weight: 50 to 80 pounds
Physical Characteristics: The short coat appears in a variety of colors, including black, brown, blue, fawn, red and liver; brindle pattern and or white markings are also seen in combination with these colors
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Despite the Staffie being developed in the 19th century for the purpose of dogfighting, the breed today is more closely associated with being a dog that is unfailingly loyal and affectionate with their families. They were recognized by the AKC in the 1970s.
Staffs often love nothing more than snuggling with their owners on the sofa. They also tend to be patient and gentle with respectful children.
They are a breed that is best suited to a household where they will have company for most of the day. They can be prone to separation anxiety.
Staffies tend to be people-focussed, and they don't always get along well with other dogs. This isn't always the case, though. Some Staffies love other dogs, and can even sometimes live companionably with small furries if careful introductions are made.
Height: 14 to 16 inches
Weight: 24 to 38 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; colors include black, blue, brindle, fawn, white, and more
While all of the dogs listed above can make great pets when given appropriate socialization and training, unfortunately not all States in the U.S. will allow you to keep these breed types.
Despite there being little evidence to show it's effective, controversial Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) still applies in many States. Sadly, 'Pit Bull type' dogs are often included in the list of banned or restricted dogs. The rules are gradually changing as a result of advocacy groups fighting against breed discrimination. These groups are focusing on education around dog bite prevention and responsible ownership instead.
You should, however, always still check the local legislation if you're planning to offer a home to a Pit Bull type. Some states have imposed complete bans on certain breed types. These can be open to interpretation and are sometimes based solely on appearance. Some require Pit Bull types to be muzzled in public, and some don't allow them to be out in public spaces at all. Frustratingly, even insurance cover can sometimes be more tricky for breeds labelled as Pit Bull types.