Pit bull vs Staffordshire

Updated November 21, 2016

At first glance, pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers appear very similar. In actuality, neither type of dog is an official breed, but are terms used to describe three different breeds of dogs. Recognising subtle differences is the key to correct breed identification.


The American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier are all descended from the bull-and-terrier crossbreeds that were bred for dog fighting for centuries in England. Beginning in the late 1800s, breed fanciers began focusing on developing the non-aggressive traits of these dogs and bred them for their intelligence and loyalty.

Breeders wishing to distance their dogs from the bull-and-terrier dogs used for fighting and from bull-and-terrier mixes being bred in America that would later develop into the American pit bull terrier, began referring to their dogs as Staffordshire terriers. When these dogs were taken to America and bred, the American Staffordshire terrier was born.


Out of the three breeds, the Staffordshire bull terrier is the smallest, and the American pit bull terrier is the largest. Size is not always a reliable factor when it comes to distinguishing between the American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier, however, since many breeders specifically breed pit bulls to be small for showing purposes.


All three breeds come in a wide variety of colours, from solid brown, black, silver, and white to combinations of these. The most common colour for Staffordshire bull terriers is brindle (a mixture of brown and black) or solid brown or black.

Head and ears

The Staffordshire bull terrier has a smaller, more egg-shaped head and smaller, floppier ears then the other two breeds, and its head resembles that of a bulldog. American Staffordshires and pit bulls have similar-looking heads, with large, blunt foreheads, sloping noses and ears that are almost always cropped. Many pit bulls have red noses, which is considered to be a breed flaw for American Staffordshire terriers and has been almost entirely bred out.


Despite their reputation as being aggressive, both types of Staffordshires and pit bulls are good natured, affectionate animals, and all three are good with children. They are high energy breeds, however, and like all large dogs, require proper training and plenty of exercise.

It should be pointed out, however, that because of the strength of their powerful jaws, these dogs can be extremely dangerous if they are trained to be aggressive, which is why it is especially important to supervise children around dogs that you may be unfamiliar with.

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About the Author

Hazel Baker has been writing professionally since 2003. She covers e-commerce, technology and legal topics for various online publications. Baker has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in history from Point Loma Nazarene University.