5 Types of Pit Bull Dog Breeds

Learn the characteristics of 5 bully-breed dogs

Brown and white pit bull dog sitting with tongue hanging out

The Spruce / Kristie Lee

Picture a pit bull in your head, and most likely you see a muscular, short-haired dog with a broad head, deep chest, and a medium-to-large size. But it might surprise you to learn that there is actually no such thing as a "pit bull." In fact, a pit bull isn't a specific breed—there are several types of pit bulls. Pit bull is an umbrella term that's used for several breeds often referred to as "bully breeds." This is no reflection on their temperments, however. Bully breeds are generally playful and affectionate dogs when raised properly.

Pit bull-type dogs often face unfair discrimination. These dogs were bred for their muscular build and consequently have been used in inhumane dogfighting sports. This has given them an inaccurate reputation as being overly aggressive dogs. In fact, pit bull-type dogs are usually incredibly loving, loyal, and gentle with their family members. They also tend to be playful and eager to please.

Here are the five breeds that are most commonly referred to as types of pit bull dogs.

Breed Characteristics

Pit bull-type dogs typically have muscular, stocky builds with deep chests and large, square heads. They’re notoriously determined dogs. When given a task, whether it be learning a new trick or digging a hole, they won’t give up easily. And they usually love people, including strangers, and crave attention. Training and socialization from a young age are important for pit bulls. Otherwise, their size and strength can be difficult to handle, as they might pull hard on a leash or jump up on people to greet them.


Due to the stigma surrounding these breeds, certain areas have banned ownership of pit bull-type dogs. Make sure to check your local legislation before bringing one of these dogs home.

  • 01 of 05

    American Bully

    American bully standing in a forest

    sobakabarobaka / Getty Images

    The American bully is a relatively new breed that was first developed in the '80s and '90s. Recognized by the United Kennel Club in 2013 but not yet by the American Kennel Club, the breed came from the American pit bull terrier and other bulldog-type breeds. In comparison to the American pit bull terrier, bullies are much broader, more compact, and have a wider head. Bullies from responsible breeders have been specifically developed for their gentle and affectionate temperament. But bullies are still strong and athletic, so they need plenty of exercise to keep them happy and healthy, as well as regular socialization time with people and other dogs.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 20 inches

    Weight: 65 to 85 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact, strong, thickset, and muscular; short and smooth coat; comes in a wide variety of coat colors and patterns

  • 02 of 05

    American Pit Bull Terrier

    brown American pit bull terrier

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    The American pit bull terrier is another breed recognized by the United Kennel Club but not the American Kennel Club. Its ancestors were 19th-century terriers and bulldogs that came from the United Kingdom, and the breed took shape in North America in the late 19th century. Sadly this breed has been commonly used for dogfighting. Although modern American pit bull terriers can have a high prey drive and don't always get along with other dogs, they're known for forming strong bonds with their families. And as with most pit bull types, they tend to be loyal and affectionate. Be sure you have enough time to devote to play, socializing, and exercise if you are considering adopting an American pit bull terrier.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 20 inches

    Weight: 30 to 65 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; short coat; colors include black, white, brindle, fawn, blue, red, brown, tan, and gray

  • 03 of 05

    American Staffordshire Terrier

    American Staffordshire terrier lying in grass

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    The American Staffordshire terrier also has roots in the terriers and bulldogs of 19th century England. Its development in late 19th century North America resulted in a dog that was larger than its English relatives. The breed wasn't used as commonly for fighting as some of the other pit bull types, which resulted in more mellow dogs. But Am Staffs still can have a high prey drive and don't always get along with other dogs. However, they're known for being loyal, playful, and good natured with their families. They do well in households that have plenty of time for canine interaction, play, and exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 19 inches

    Weight: 50 to 80 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short coat; variety of colors including black, brown, blue, fawn, red, and liver; brindle pattern and/or white markings are also seen

  • 04 of 05

    Staffordshire Bull Terrier

    black Staffordshire bull terrier in nature

    Jennifer Hellbom / Getty Images

    Despite the Staffordshire bull terrier's development in the 19th century for dogfighting, the breed today is more closely associated with being unfailingly loyal and affectionate with its family. These dogs often love nothing more than snuggling with their owners, and they tend to be patient and gentle with children. They are a breed that is best suited to a household where they will have company for most of the day, as they can be prone to separation anxiety. Moreover, they tend to be people-focused and don't always get along well with other dogs. Still, they make a fine pet for an active household that has time to devote to their need for attention and exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 to 16 inches

    Weight: 24 to 38 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; colors include black, blue, brindle, fawn, white, and more

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    American Bulldog

    white American bulldog

    Carlos L. Mendez / Getty Images

    The American bulldog is a descendant of English bulldogs, which were developed in the 17th century for bull baiting—a blood sport that involved dogs fighting bulls. In North America, bulldogs became working dogs on farms and all-around friendly companions. They tend to be extremely affectionate with their families, often wanting to sit in laps despite their large size. They also often love kids. But they can be very protective of their families, so training and socialization starting in puppyhood are a must to ensure they will be friendly to people outside of your household.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 20 to 28 inches

    Weight: 60 to 120 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Stocky build; deep chest; short muzzle; typically white with patches of brindle, red, black, or shades of brown or gray

  • What dog breeds make a pit bull?

    There is no specific breed called a pit bull; pit bulls are either American bullys, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American bulldogs, or a mix of these breeds.

    Originally, these breeds were created by mixing terriers and and bulldogs, but they are now recognized as distinct breeds.

  • How much is a pit bull dog?

    It depends on whether you're seeking a pedigreed dog or not. Recognized breeds can cost from $1000 to $3000 for a show-quality puppy. But mixed-breed pit bulls are available at nearly every shelter or foster organization in this country, for the mere price of an adoption fee.

  • What size is a pit bull?

    Pit bulls are medium- to large-sized dogs, ranging in size from 30 to 90 pounds. Because they have very solid, muscular builds, and large broad heads, they can appear to be larger than they actually are.

  • How long do pit bulls live?

    Pit bulls have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years. You can keep your bully-breed pet healthy and happy well into their golden years by feeding them a well-balanced diet, providing plenty of opportunities for play and exercise, visiting the vet regularly for checkups and healthcare, and spending time every day interacting and enjoying your pet.

  • Are pit bulls dangerous?

    Pit bulls have a bad reputation as dangerous dogs because of their origins in dog fighting. In reality, most are loyal, affectionate dogs that make excellent household pets. It is true, however, that there are owners who specifically train or encourage their bully-breed dogs to be aggressive, either for use as fighting dogs or as guard dogs.

  • Do pit bulls shed a lot?

    Although bully-breed dogs are short-haired, they do shed. However, because their fur is relatively coarse and very short, shed hairs tend to not be as noticeable as shed hair from longer-haired breeds.

    You can minimize shedding by brushing your pit bull once or twice a week with a dog brush designed for short-hair breeds. Bathing your bully with a gentle shampoo formulated specifically for dogs will further reduce annoying shed hair on your furniture, clothes, and carpet.