Is a pit bull a bull dog? Get Your Pet Thinking

American Bulldog vs Pitbull Appearance Comparison Chart

This chart compares and looks at the primary physical (size, color, etc.) traits and attributes between a Bulldog and Pit Bull.

American Bulldog American Pit Bull Terrier

Coat Color

Solid colors but usually white with black, brown, red, or brindle patches. Any color, color pattern


22-25 inches 17-21 inches


75-100 pounds 30-60 pounds

Life Expectancy

10-12 years 12-14 years


Smooth with speed, power, and agility Effortless, smooth, powerful, and well coordinated


Scissor bite or moderate under bite Scissors bite

Bite Force

305 pounds 235 pounds


Large and broad Large and broad


Well arched with strong nails and close together Round, proportionate to the size of the dog, well arched, and tight


Set low, thick at the base, tapering to a point Set on as a natural extension of the topline, and tapers to a point


Wide and muscular with pretty deep flanks Strong, muscular, and moderately broad.


Soft or stiff Glossy and smooth


Muscular. Nearly as broad as the head Muscular. Slight arch at the crest


Forward flap or rose High set and may be natural or cropped


Round or almond in shape, medium size, and wide set Medium size, round and set well apart and low on the skull


Long with wide nostrils Large with wide, open nostrils


Broad, thick and square Broad and deep

Source: American Bulldog EU2

Is An American Bulldog The Same As a Pitbull?

No, as stated above, an American bulldog is not the same as a pitbull. However both breeds have similarities in some areas.

These are some of the top similarities between American Bulldog and Pitbulls:

  • Short coat and a muscular build
  • Both used in bull-baiting in England
  • They make great family dogs with proper training
  • Share a similar health profile and are prone to conditions such as Hip dysplasia and Hypothyroidism
  • American Bulldog vs Pitbull Health Problems

    Health issues that American Bulldogs and American Pit Bull Terriers share

    Like other breeds, the American Bulldog and the APBT can potentially develop genetic health problems. You can get ahead of these health risks by doing an at-home dog DNA health test to identify potential medical complications.

    Pitbull Vs American Bulldog Differences – Which Dog Is Right For You?

    Pitbulls have been disproportionately discriminated against when compared to any other breed in history. Sadly, this has led to countless Pitbulls and Pitty mixes being banned in regions throughout the United States, with many of these dogs turned over to shelters as a result or, in some cases, simply abandoned altogether.

    The term “pit bull” does NOT describe a specific dog breed. A pit bull is a type of dog, just as retrievers, shepherds, and spaniels describe types of dogs.

    The term “pit bull” has no single, solid, scientific definition. Your idea of a “pit bull” is a personal and individual idea; no one else’s idea of a pit bull will be exactly the same.

    When I was a novice pit bull owner, I thought I knew exactly what “pit bull” means. Times have changed. Not only does our society use pit bull differently today, but my own meaning has changed after a decade of working with “pit bulls.” The term encompasses a large and variable group of dogs. Many if not most of today’s pit bulls are nothing more than mixed-breed dogs with a certain “look” and with unknown and untraceable parentage.

    Here you can explore the many different ways that pit bulls are defined and identified today.

    The stereotypical or popular of the pit bull is very different from the technical definition. The stereotypical pit bull is a human-aggressive, bloodthirsty, child-killing machine. It is impervious to pain, has locking jaws, and has incredible strength. It is highly unpredictable, unstable, and uncontrollable.

    Pit bulls are sometimes compared to sharks, tigers, venomous snakes, and other wild animals. There are a wide variety of myths associated with the stereotypical pit bull.

    Popular s of pit bulls often pair this type of dog with a similarly frightening owner. Owners are typically characterized as drug dealers, gang members, or dangerous criminals. They are often described as uneducated, poor, “trailer trash.” There is an element of racism that cannot be overlooked. In short, pit bull owners are as undesirable in a community as the pit bulls themselves.

    For some antisocial individuals, it is actually desirable to own a vicious dog. Individuals with low self esteem, who feel bullied or oppressed, or who crave attention, typically feed off of the intimidation and fear that an of a stereotypical pit bull can stir up among the general populace. For this reason, the stereotypical pit bull can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as those who are inclined to own a vicious dog are likely to do whatever they can to incite their dog to behave inappropriately.

    Thus, people who “innocently” repeat and reinforce the stereotype, including those who repeat unsubstantiated rumors, and those who pass off mythology as fact, are partially responsible for the existence of vicious pit bulls. If the pit bull did not have such a strong stereotype, making it the “breed of choice” for irresponsible, dangerous owners, society would likely see a decrease not only in pit bull-related bites (and over-coverage in the media), but also in the number of criminals, thugs, and others who believe that a pit bull is the type of dog that will scare people, and consequently raise and train a pit bull to… what else? scare people.

    Literally, the term pit bull terrier (from which comes the shortened term pit bull) can be broken down into three components: pit, bull, and terrier. Pit acknowledges the dog’s history as a fighting dog (because dogs fight in “pits”) while bull highlights the dog’s bulldog ancestry and terrier describes the dog’s terrier ancestry (see the graph and history section above). It is important to note that not every fighting dog is a Bull-and-Terrier, and not every Bull-and-Terrier is a fighting dog. The three elements (Bulldog, Terrier, fighting dog) come together only in the pit bull type dog.

    “Pit bull” does not include all bully breeds or all fighting dogs. Akitas are a fighting breed, but they are not a bully breed, so they are not pit bulls. Bull Terriers are Bull-and-Terrier type dogs, but they were never used consistently for dog fighting, so they are not pit bulls. The Dogue de Bourdeux might be considered both a Bulldog breed and a fighting breed, but the Dogue de Bourdeux has Mastiff, not Terrier, in its ancestry.

    Thus, in a technical sense, “pit bull” refers to a dog whose ancestors were Bull-and-Terrier type dogs once used for dog fighting. The specific breeds included in this technical definition are: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. On this website, I use the technical definition of “pit bull,” with some exceptions as noted.

    In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) registers American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. The United Kennel Club registers American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Their breed standards can be accessed at the following links:

    The American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier have very similar appearances, to the point that some APBTs are actually dual-registered as ASTs. APBTs and ASTs should be no more than 65 lbs at a healthy weight. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a smaller dog and should weigh between 28 and 48 lbs. In all cases, the dog’s overall body shape should be proportional and fairly streamlined; no part of the body should look “oversized.”

    A dog’s breed or type is not solely defined by its appearance; temperament must also be considered. The pit bull’s proper temperament is usually described as one of confidence, determination, courage, and tolerance.

    Pit bulls were historically bred for dog-aggression, not human-aggression. Before a fight, dog handlers washed each other’s dogs. In the heat of a dog fight, handlers had to be very close to their dogs, sometimes with their face just inches from their dog’s face. Dogs that redirected their aggression toward people were culled (killed), with very few exceptions. Overall, this should have created a breed-type with a very stable temperament.

    This is reflected in the breed standards’ descriptions of proper temperament. It is important to note that none of the breed standards allow for viciousness or human-aggression. Dog-aggression is acceptable to some extent but the dog should never be unmanageable.

    Breed-specific legislation (BSL) requires that all dogs be classified as a particular breed or type of dog. BSL almost always includes “pit bulls” as a specific target of the legislation. Because the term pit bull does not mean the same thing to everyone, a legal definition of pit bull is usually necessary in order to clarify exactly which dogs are affected by the legislation. Additionally, court cases revolving around BSL typically hinge on whether the definition of pit bull is too vague or incorrect.

    Breed-specific legislation, and thus the legal definition of pit bull, is created by lawmakers (state legislators, city councilmembers, and so forth), sometimes with input from other sources (animal control, citizens, laws written by other legislators, etc.) and sometimes based solely on the lawmakers’ own concepts of what a “pit bull” is. For this reason, the legal definition of pit bull can differ significantly from the technical definition.

    Denver City Code, Sec. 8-55.b.2: “A ‘pit bull,’ for purposes of this chapter, is defined as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of anyone (1) or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds…”

    Denver’s city code is the most commonly imitated legal definition. Although Denver uses breed standards to identify pit bulls, they focus entirely on physical characteristics and conveniently ignore the temperament characteristics mentioned in the breed standards.

    In a 2007 court decision about the Act (Cochrane v. Ontario), the Judge noted: “…by providing that ‘pit bull includes’ and by designating ‘pit bull terriers’, the definition captures dogs beyond these three breeds and beyond those that are substantially similar in appearance and physical characteristics to these three breeds.”

    This city code includes Bull Terriers, a dog which is not technically a pit bull and, I would add, not commonly known as a pit bull except by the sadly misinformed.

    Senator James apparently was unaware that 1) there is no such breed as “Staffordshire Terrier,” and 2) unlike some breeds (i.e. Daschunds and Chihuahuas), pit bulls simply do not come in a “long-haired variety.”

    The state of Ohio does not even bother to define “pit bull dog,” assuming that any breed “commonly known as a pit bull”—is a pit bull. But commonly known by whom? Perhaps this is why the Toledo Municipal Court has subsequently ruled that Presa Canarios and American Bulldogs are “commonly known as pit bulls.”Without any criteria to define “pit bulls,” this suggests that almost any dog could be considered a pit bull.

    This definition turns a pit bull into a gross caricature, a Hollywood movie monster. There is not a dog alive that fits this description, which is based primarily on sensationalism and mythology, not scientific data. The fact that the court accepted the “2000 lb psi bite strength” myth as a fact, despite scientific evidence proving that no dog is capable of such strength, makes their entire definition suspect. The use of the emotionally-charged, dramatic words like “massive,” “frenzy,” and “ferocity” further undermine their definition.

    Some places with BSL use “pit bull checklists” to determine whether a particular dog is a pit bull. The checklist items are entirely subjective and it’s concievable that just about any dog could be deemed “pit bull” when the checklist is applied.

    I could see a Labrador Retriever meeting most of these criteria. And, if I were creative and/or determined enough, a Chihuahua. This description depends on subjective criteria, meaning it could be unequally applied.

    One of the major difficulties with the legal definition is that every dog’s breed or mix must be identified. Most dogs do not come with a pedigree, and current DNA-based breed-id tests are expensive and not very accurate. Thus, dogs are judged on appearance alone.

    Defining a “pit bull” based on appearance alone is clearly problematic due to its subjectivity. Many breeds and types of dogs “display the majority of physical traits” of a pit bull but are not technically pit bulls. Some animal control officials have admitted that, by using appearance as the sole determinant of a dog’s breed, a single litter of puppies may contain both “pit bulls” and “non-pit bulls.” Dog warden Tom Skeldon, the driving force behind Ohio’s BSL, testified before the court in Toledo v. Tellings (2006) that “even if a dog was 50 per cent pit bull, if it did not ‘look like a pit bull,’ the owner would not be charged. On the other hand, if a dog did ‘look like a pit bull,’ it would be classified as a pit bull and the owner would be subject to the ‘vicious dog’ laws.”

    In summary, here are some photos of dogs that might be legally considered “pit bulls” (due to appearance or breed), but are not technically “pit bulls.”

    Though their appearance is somewhat similar to pit bulls and they have similar ancestors, American Bulldogs are not fighting dogs and have minimal (if any) terrier ancestry. Nevertheless, they are often lumped in with “pit bulls” in legal definitions.

    Presa Canario Presa Canarios originated in the Canary Islands as farm dogs. Their only relation to pit bulls may stem from crossbreeding with Old English Bulldogs (the ancestor of many bully breeds) in the 18th century. Despite this, the Toledo Municipal Court seems to feel that Presas are “commonly known as a pit bull.” Commonly known by whom, I wonder?

    Bull Terrier (or English Bull Terrier) The Bull Terrier is a bulldog-and-terrier cross but is not a fighting breed, regardless of how some misinformed individuals portray it. Bull Terriers are not “pit bulls,” but the confusion doubtless arises because of the similarity between the name “Bull Terrier” and the term “pit bull terrier.”

    Mixed breed dog This dog may be a pit bull mix, but how can it be proven in a scientific manner? Mixed breeds come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and body styles; it may be very difficult to determine whether a mixed breed dog has any pit bull in it, especially when the owner has no knowledge of the dog’s parentage (i.e. an adopted or rescued dog).

    Note: Because I do not want to provide free publicity to breeders—especially fad breeders—my source citations in this section will be rather vague. My apologies.

    A “fad” breeder is generally defined as a person who breeds dogs to make money. Fad breeders surf the waves of popular demand and try to supply consumers with the latest “craze” in dog ownership. But fad breeders do more than just produce an overpopulation of a particular breed. To turn a profit quickly, fad breeders must disregard breed standard, health and temperament testing, and all other costly and time consuming measures that responsible breeders undertake to produce quality representatives of the breed.

    Because fad breeders do not spend the time and effort to create a quality dog (one that meets breed standard and does not have health or temperament issues), and because they want a quick sale, fad breeders must market their substandard dogs in a way that makes the dogs seem better, more desirable, more unique, or “cooler” than properly-bred dogs. With pit bulls, fad breeders have redefined what “pit bull” means, and what traits are desirable in a “pit bull,” in order to meet the market’s demand for “badass” dogs.

    Fad breeders often define and describe “pit bulls” closer to the stereotype than the true breed standard.

    This dog, according to a fad breeder, is a “pit bull.” Compare it side-by-side with an American Pit Bull Terrier that meets breed standard. You will notice that, compared to a pit bull of correct conformation, this dog’s:

    How can this dog, which is nothing like what a pit bull technically should look like, still be considered a “pit bull”? Yet, this particular “supersized pit bull” is usually the that comes to the mind of people who use the stereotypical definition of pit bull. (Notice how this dog somewhat resembles the pit bull drawn by the political cartoonist, above.)

    Not a single one of these traits is desirable per breed standard for any of the pit bull breeds. The weight range alone is far outside appropriate weight for a true pit bull breed; calling these dogs “pit bulls” is like calling a 10 lb dog a Chihuahua. No matter how you look at it, Chihuahuas don’t weigh 10 lbs. And pit bulls should not top 65 lbs, much less hit the triple digits!

    Again, my objections to size as noted previously. These are not “mid-size dogs”; they are very large dogs—too large to be pit bulls in the technical sense. Further, “baseball cheek” is not a term I’m familiar with, but I’d assume the breeder is trying to stress the width of the dog’s head and the extreme protuberance of its jaw muscles. Again, this is not what a real pit bull should look like. This is a caricature of a “musclebound” type of dog. In fact, this is rhetorically reinforced by the use of the phrase “hard, rock-chiseled bodies.” I picture a bodybuilder or weightlifter flexing his abs or crushing a soda can with his pectorals.

    Fad breeders of pit bulls will also emphasize guarding or protection abilities—never mind the prohibition against “viciousness” or human-aggression put forth by breed standards for pit bull breeds.

    Indeed, it seems that fad breeders are capitalizing on some individuals’ desire to be “bigger, better, and badder” than everyone else; thus, they portray the “pit bull” as the “bigger, better, and badder” accessory. Fad breeders market “pit bulls” as bulky, musclebound, powerful beasts that can be used for protection—or perhaps just to intimidate other people. This is a far cry from the technical definition of the pit bull that I put forth above, but not too far from stereotypical ry.

    Fad breeders are a major reason why the stereotype outshouts the technical definition of “pit bull.”

    [Ed note: Naturally, the authors cited above claim that they are not involved in dog fighting. For obvious reasons, you won’t find a lot of texts written by acknowledged dog fighters. However, the above authors—and many others—are very familiar with dog fighters and the dog fighting culture; they are the most accessible writers with texts in which dog fighters’ voices may be heard; and they offer, and may even praise, the dog fighter’s perspective. In this sense, their definition of “pit bull” is synonymous with the definition put forth by dog fighters.]

    Since the activity began centuries ago, dog fighters have been talking tough about pit bulls. Without exception, dog fighters frame pit bulls as the ultimate “fighting machine.” Machines, of course, lack the frailties, imperfections, and emotions that an animal possesses. Machines must be commanded to start and stop. In this way, the dog fighter de-humanizes (de-canine-izes?) the pit bull. The pit bull feels no pain, participates willingly, will not quit, and is unbeatably strong. The fighting dog has no flaws.

    Why do dog fighters work so hard to build up the idea that pit bulls are the toughest, strongest dogs around? Why is it critical that pit bulls be presented as unbeatable and indomitable? One gets a sense, from reading the texts written by dog fighters, that the pit bull’s status is tightly linked to the dog fighter’s self-esteem. By owning an unbeatable dog, the owner feels superior to his peers.

    In most texts written by dog fighters, there is a very stereotypically masculine-oriented tone. Richard Stratton, in particular, uses the word “man” almost exclusively when talking about dog fighters, and apparently assumes most of his readers are men (men who are amused by dog fighting). Further, many writers about pit dogs inevitably strive to “impress” (as Stratton says) their readers by spouting out story after story of dogs fighting each other, dogs fighting wild animals, and, occasionally, dogs acting aggressively toward people. These stories are written with overt admiration and amusement.

    Because–in the dog fighter’s mind–the only “real” dog is a supreme gladiator, it is natural that the dog fighter’s definition of a pit bull revolves around the portrayal of the pit bull as an unbeatable fighting machine. Consequently, the dog fighter’s definition of a pit bull is more of a stereotype than a reality.

    It should be noted that the dog fighter’s definition is also the definition from which many legal and social definitions sprout. BSL is passed, in part, because politicians and citizens buy into the dog fighter’s emphasis that pit bulls are unstoppable (i.e. “bulletproof,” “hard to kill,” “can do more damage”) and unbeatable. Courts have also cited dog fighters’ exaggerated descriptions of the pit bull as evidence that the dogs are dangerous (see, for example, State of Ohio v. Anderson, 1991). This, of course, only legitimizes the dog fighter’s stereotype, thereby encouraging dog fighters—and others who wish to own “the toughest dog on the block”—to go out and get a pit bull not as a pet, but as a status symbol.

    Considering the vast array of definitions of pit bull we have discussed so far, it is no wonder that the definition of pit bull is not at all consistent among pit bull owners themselves. Furthermore, any owner’s definition may evolve over time based on their experiences and acquired knowledge about the breed-type.

    Novice owners’ early definition of pit bull typically parallels popular ry or the dog fighters’ stereotype. This is due to these s’ immediacy and prevalence, as well as the novice owner’s limited experience and knowledge.

    Many first-time pit bull owners are easily able to obtain Richard Stratton’s books, wherein the pit bull is described as a tough fighting machine. Jacqueline O’Neal’s or Diane Jessup’s books, wherein the pit bull is greatly normalized and the author puts forward a strong of pit bulls-as-pets, can be more difficult to find.

    Furthermore, novice owners tend to receive a great deal of feedback from inexperienced friends and family members who define pit bulls via media horror stories and popular ry.

    For those owners who aquired their pit bull as a status symbol and intimidation device, this definition may be quite agreeable. Therefore, they may never revise the definition past this point.

    Owners who are uncomfortable with the Type 1 definition, and who see an extreme disjoint between this and the definition that their own pit bull—usually a puppy—seems to be offering (friendly, gentle, sweet, funny, playful, etc.) will totally reject the former definition. They redefine the pit bull as a total angel, incapable of doing wrong. Common quotes by pit bull owners who use the Type 2 definition include: “He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” “My dog is the sweetest dog ever,” “Not an aggressive bone in his body,” “I trust him completely with my kids,” “Perfect in every way,” and so on.

    Note: This sort of attitude is definitely not limited to pit bull owners; this can apply to an owner of any breed of dog.

    More experienced and educated owners, having been exposed to a wider variety of material and points of view, generally reject both Type 1 and Type 2 definitions in favor of a more moderate definition. They see the pit bull as a normal dog, with typical canine needs, flaws, and abilities. Responsibilities and requirements for ownership are the same as with any other type of dog. It is generally understood that the pit bull is neither an innocent angel nor a vicious beast; the pit bull is a dog and will behave like a dog.

    Our goal is to provide abused, abandoned or homeless pit bull dogs with the medical attention they need; as well as the love and attention they deserve to heal – both emotionally, and physically.

    We will work to facilitate the rescue and placement of abused or abandoned pit bulls into responsible homes and participate in fundraising to provide veterinary treatment; spay/neuter; food and shelter.