For decades, dog lovers have read headline after headline positioning one breed or another as “dangerous.” Most recently, the newest is the Pit Bull. But is this dog as dangerous as the media and society make them out to be? Or are they really just cuddly, playful companions?
Many people in the U.S. commonly use the name “Pit Bull” to refer to several dog breeds or mixed breed dogs with similar physical traits, such as a broad head and muscular body. What are the different types of Pit Bulls in the U.S.? Four breeds are commonly classified as the modern “Pit Bull-type” breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bully.
In the U.K., most people use the term “Pit Bull” as an abbreviation of one breed, the American Pit Bull Terrier. However, in the U.S., there’s a lot of disagreement about what a true Pit Bull is because there’s no recognized breed simply called “Pit Bull.” Our position is that the only dog that is a true Pit Bull is the American Pit Bull Terrier, which is recognized by the United Kennel Club and American Dog Breeders Association. We know this is widely discussed and disagreed upon, but for the purposes of this article, that is our position.
As of 2017, approximately 89.7 million total dogs throughout the U.S.1 Roughly 5-10 million of those dogs were estimated to be “Pit Bulls” (the reported number varies widely by how each vet, breeder, organization, owner, etc., defines the term).2
When you look at data from U.S. city shelters, you will find that Pit Bull-type dogs make up about 40% of the killed dogs.2
An American Pit Bull Terrier generally weighs around 30-65 pounds and measures 17-21 inches in height. They are medium-sized dogs with a solid build, known for their intelligence. The average American Pit Bull Terrier lifespan is between 8 and 15 years.
The short, single coat is shiny and stiff and comes in many colors — blue, red, brown, gray, black, white, brindle, and more. In general, they are average shedders, but they shed year-round, so regular brushing can help reduce the hair in your home. Pit Bulls are not hypoallergenic.
Two noteworthy and sought-after types of purebred American Pit Bull Terriers are the Blue Nose Pit Bull and the Red Nose Pit Bull. As their names suggest, their nose coloring (and matching coat coloring) are strikingly beautiful.
Should Their Ears Be Cropped?
The short answer is no. Pit Bull cropped ears used to be a common occurrence long ago, especially to make fighting dogs look more commanding. But today, many veterinary experts and animal organizations denounce the practice of ear cropping as unnecessary and even cruel.
What’s the best dog food for Pit Bulls? Every dog is different, so we recommend that you talk to your vet to determine the best, well-balanced diet for your pup.
They can help you understand your dog’s nutrition and caloric needs based on his size and activity level. Our experts also review some of the highest-quality dog foods, fresh dog food, raw dog food, and dog food delivery options.
How much does a Pit Bull cost? A purebred American Pit Bull Terrier puppy from a reputable breeder can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 (or more, depending on the lineage).
As with many types of dogs, you can find a lot of different mixes of breeds with the Pit Bull. Here are some of the most common:
- American Pit Bull and Patterdale Terrier mix (aka Miniature Pit Bull or Pocket Pit Bull)
- Pit Bull Husky mix
- German Shepherd Pit Bull mix
- Pit Bull Chihuahua mix
- Rottweiler Pit Bull mix
- Pit Bull Boxer mix
- Great Dane Pit Bull mix
Asking the question of whether Pit Bulls are good dogs is, in our opinion, the same as asking whether misbehaved kids are good children. A dog’s temperament depends on various factors including breeding and upbringing (much like our offspring).
According to the American Temperament Test Society, Inc., we know from statistical analysis that as of December 2017, 87.4% of American Pit Bull Terriers had passed their temperament testing.3 This is a higher number to pass these tests than Collies (80.8%), Beagles (79.7%), and even Golden Retrievers (85.6%). Of the 931 American Pit Bull Terriers tested, 814 passed the 8-12 minute behavior test that measures 10 criteria, including a dog’s reaction, aggressive behavior, and more.
Also, in a survey of over 4,000 dog owners4, the American Pit Bull Terrier consistently ranked as one of the least aggressive dogs out of the 35 most common breeds. (The Chihuahua was ranked as one of the most aggressive.)
What’s the Pit Bull’s personality? Most love people and affection and are often lap dogs (despite their size). Their love of people may not make them the best guard dogs, but they can be extremely loyal to their owners.
American Pit Bull Terriers are intelligent dogs who respond well to training, and they make great family dogs with proper training and socialization.
You may want to consider an online training program like Doggy Dan, or you may prefer a local trainer who can work with you and your pup in person. Our experts have tips for helping you find the right trainer.
After much research, it is our opinion that the “bully breeds” include a wide range of dog breeds (see list below). The term “bully breed” refers to a large group of various breeds of dog that hail from the same root breed. Dogs that belong to a bully breed are all derived from one particular type of dog known as the Molosser. The Molosser is an Ancient Greek breed characterized by a short muzzle, large bones, large frame, and pendant-shaped ears.
Originally, Molossers were bred with a range of other dogs that resulted in today’s characteristics in the various bully-type breeds. These dogs were bred as guardians of both property and livestock. Some owners would also use their dogs in sports like bull-baiting, which many believe is how the term “bully breed” came about. Unfortunately, many owners have recognized their potential as fighting dogs and, in turn, have created an unfortunate alternate use of the term “bully breed.”
There is a dog breed called American Pit Bull Terrier, but the broader name of “Pit Bull” is often used to categorize many breeds under the bully breed label. All the following breeds actually make up the bully breed category:
- Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
- Ambullneo Mastiff
- American Bulldog
- American Mastiff
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier (the most popular mixed-breed dog, according to a Wisdom Panel survey)
- Anatolian Mastiff
- Australian Bulldog
- Bantam Bulldogge
- Banter Bulldogge
- Belgian Mastiff
- Boston Terrier
- Buldogue Campeiro
- Bull Terrier
- Ca De Bou
- Cane Corso
- Catahoula Bulldog
- Dogo Argentino
- Dogue De Bordeaux
- Dorset Olde Tyme Bulldogge
- English Bulldog
- Fila Brasileiro
- French Bulldog
- Great Dane
- Miniature Bull Terrier
- Neopolitan Mastiff
- Olde Boston Bulldogge
- Olde English Bulldog
- Pyrenean Mastiff
- Renascence Bulldogge
- Spanish Mastiff
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Standard Bull Terrier
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Valley Bulldog
- Victorian Bulldogge
As you can see from this extensive list, the American Pit Bull Terrier is just one of many breeds. In fact, more than a handful of the breeds on this list surprise even the most anti-bully breed proponents.
Looking over the list of bully breeds above, many of these breeds are unknown to general dog lovers, which is perhaps one reason why so many dogs are mischaracterized as Pit Bulls. While these breeds all share a common ancestry and have similar features such as the flatter, shorter snout, distinguishing between different bully breeds is important.
Without separating one bully breed from another, it is easy for Pit Bulls to be pinned as the “breed that bit that kid.” That is not to say that bully breeds, in general, are bad dogs, they just happen to be most frequently selected by bad owners.
The mischaracterization of all bully breeds as Pit Bulls is not the only area where Pit Bulls get the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, as public opinion of this breed declines and the banning of bully breeds builds momentum, many more facts are turned around.
Myth: Pits Bite Harder Than Other Dogs
The Pit Bull is said to exert through their bite around 235 pounds per square inch, which is like many other breeds. According to a list of breeds with the strongest bite force, the Pit Bull is not even in the top 12 list.
Which dog has the highest pounds per square inch bite force? The Kangal, which measures 743 pounds per square inch of bite force.5 Even with this figure in mind, though, does this mean that the Kangal is a dangerous breed? Not necessarily. It means that if a Kangal were to bite someone or something, it could be capable of exerting 743 pounds per square inch of bite force. It does not mean that this dog will bite or use that much force with a bite.
What this data could also mean is that if a dog does exert that much bite force, the resulting bite could be much more severe than a bite from a less powerful dog. And that means that bites from this type of dog are more likely to be reported than bites from smaller, less powerful dogs leading to a news reporting bias. You can learn more in our dog bite statistics article.
When you turn on the news, it seems like the only dog attacks that ever make headlines are attacks by Pit Bulls and attacks that result in death or serious injury. Few people take the time to learn the facts behind this type of dog, they simply take what they hear from media news outlets.
If more people were familiar with the array of dog breeds within the bully breed category, perhaps they would be less inclined to judge one particular bully type as a “bad dog” — whoever heard of someone banning Boston Terriers from an apartment complex because they were a bully breed?
Judging a dog’s temperament by its appearance is like judging a person’s personality by the color of their skin, something one would hope humankind had learned from in its history.
Advocate For Pit Bulls And Spread The Word
One of the best things that can be done to advocate for Pit Bulls and bully breeds is to spread the word about just how expansive the bully breed category is. Share with your friends how the Boston Terrier and Pug come from the same origin as the Neopolitan Mastiff and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Encourage people to educate themselves about the difference between individual breeds (see our comprehensive list of breeds) and the sheer ridiculousness of judging an entire classification of dog based on a select few incidences that receive sensationalized media coverage. Ask people to stop and think when the last time they heard of a mixed breed dog bite fatality was?
With all of these statistics under your belt, it is important not to minimize Pit Bull bite incidences, but it is crucial to draw attention to the fact that there are some mitigating circumstances in these bite statistics. The truth is that people do get bitten by Pit Bulls, just as they get bitten by Huskies and German Shepherds. However, it is possible to become a proponent for Pit Bulls while also respecting incidences of Pit Bull bites.
Encourage individuals with reservations about Pit Bulls to understand that not all dogs within a certain classification are bred to fight, that upbringing and good breeding can result in a wide range of dispositions. Many people have experiences that have colored their opinion of one dog breed or another, but as a proponent for fair treatment of the Pit Bull, it is important to make others aware of the fact that not all Pit Bulls are like “the one that bit that kid.”
If you want to better understand how you might protect yourself and your Pit from potentially risky situations, we recommend you contact a dog liability insurance expert to gain some perspective on your options.
No question, these Pit puppies are adorable. Just watch this video if you don’t believe us.
As we said above, Pit Bulls can make fantastic family dogs. If you’re considering welcoming a Pit Bull into your home, you may need some dog accessories — especially to make sure your Pittie is getting enough exercise and mental stimulation. Our experts have reviewed hundreds of products and give you our top picks for collars, leashes, harnesses, and muzzles. And don’t forget the best chew toys for your pup.
What do you love about Pit Bulls and other bully breed dogs?