Types of Pit Bull Dogs

Updated March 23, 2017

The title "pit bull" refers to dogs known by three names: American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. In 1936, the American Kennel Club allowed American Pit Bull Terriers to be registered under the name Staffordshire Terriers. In 1972, the American Kennel Club reclassified these dogs as American Staffordshire Terriers. Staffordshire Bull Terriers were first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1974. The United Kennel Club recognised American Pit Bull Terriers in 1898. Staffordshire Bull Terriers were accepted by the United Kennel Club in 1975.


Dog breeders in England are credited with developing pit bulls in the 1800s. Pit bulls resulted from pairing terriers with bulldogs. The aggression and high energy levels of terriers and the strength and stamina of bulldogs are the traits pit bulls inherited from their forefathers.

Pit bulls were developed to excel in a sport called either bull-baiting or bear-baiting. The sport involved tethering a bull or a bear in an arena referred to as a pit. With its movement limited, the trussed animal would attempt to guard itself from the hunting dogs released into the ring to attack it. Eventually, the chained animal would succumb to the repeated attacks of the dogs.

After bull- and bear-baiting were outlawed in 1835, pit bulls were bred to compete in dog fights. Dogs were pitted against one another in a ring and would fight to the death.

Despite the violent beginning of pit bulls, they became common household pets by the early 1900s in both Europe and the United States. Pit bulls were also employed on farms to work with livestock during this time.

Physical Traits

Pit bulls have a large heads that look like wedges when viewed from the front. A pit bull's head should be proportionate to its chiselled, muscular body. The size of a pit bull's head and its sculpted body are intended to demonstrate the dog's overwhelming strength, athleticism and elegance.

Pit bulls have broad, well-defined jaw lines and teeth that meet in a scissor-like bite. Pit bulls have large noses that may be any colour including red and blue. A pit bull's eyes are set wide apart and only blue eyes will disqualify a dog from competition. Pit bulls have narrow ears that sit high on their heads.

Pit bulls have thick, short-haired coats. Pit bulls have coats of many colours including red, blue, fawn, white, black and brindle. Only a merle coat will disqualify a pit bull from a show competition.

American Pit Bull Terriers are medium-sized dogs that weigh between 15.9 and 29.5 Kilogram. American Staffordshire Terriers are larger, weighing between 65 and 90 pounds. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are the smallest of the three types of pit bulls, typically weighing between 28 and 40 pounds.


Pit bulls are highly intelligent, affectionate and loyal companion dogs. American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers have long been recognised for their devotion and love of children. Pit bulls are friendly with strangers, but remain protective of their owners. The American Kennel Club describes the courage exhibited by American Staffordshire Terriers as "proverbial."

Pit bulls are eager to please their owners and demonstrate what the United Kennel club describes as a "zest for life." Pit bulls are enthusiastic participants in play with adults and children alike. Given their origins, pit bulls are not intimidated by intense physical activities; pit bulls require vigorous exercise daily.

Because of their combative past, pit bulls may demonstrate aggression toward other dogs. Socialising a pit bull must begin immediately after the dog becomes a member of a family. Exposing a pit bull puppy to other animals and correcting aggressive behaviour will prevent this tendency for aggressive behaviour from manifesting into a lifelong, recurring problem.

Mistaken Identity

The term "pit bull" may accurately be used when referring to any one of three types of dogs: American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Other breeds are often mistakenly referred to as pit bulls including American bulldogs, boxers and bull terriers. Many mixed-breed dogs are erroneously labelled as pit bulls, as well.

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About the Author

Deborah Barlowe began writing professionally in 2010. With experience in earning securities and insurance licenses and having owned a successful business, her articles have focused predominantly on finance and entrepreneurship. Barlowe holds a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration from Cornell University.