The Pitbull vs American bulldog debate is one that has been going on for some time. There is a lot of confusion surrounding both terms and this can lead to would-be dog owners getting confused. It can also be a controversial subject as the American Bulldog Pittbull discussion is sometimes associated with dog fights and aggressive dogs.
We have carried out in-depth research to unpick this debate and give you the facts about both types of dogs. Here we explain all the differences between a Pit Bull and an American Bull Dog
What is a Pit Bull?
The first thing to make clear is that ‘Pit Bull’ is not a breed. It is a term that is used in the US to describe several dog breeds that can be traced back to either bulldogs or certain types of terriers. Amongst these breeds are the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and the American Staffordshire. The confusion arises because many other similar breeds, including the American Bulldog, are often also included in this list. That’s why you may see an American Bulldog referred to as a Pit Bull. In the UK, the term ‘Pit Bull’ is used as a short term for the American PitBull Terrier. We suggest you check out A list of all Types of Pit Bulls and their differences to find out more.
To make meaningful comparisons, we need to be precise – so when we refer to a Pit Bull here we are talking about a specific breed – namely the American PitBull Terrier. Although within this breed there are some variations including the red nose pitbull and the blue nose pitbull.
American Bulldog vs Pitbull History
Both the American Bulldog and the Pit Bull breed developed in the US from dogs imported by working-class immigrants from the UK during the 1800s. These English Bulldogs had originally been used for bull-baiting where a bull is tethered to the ground and a dog tries to bite it. As bull baiting is such a cruel sport, it was made illegal in the UK in 1835.
History of the American Bulldogs
American Bulldogs developed from the English Bulldog breed imported to the Southern States of the US. Here they were bred as general farm dogs and proved to be very useful for controlling vermin and wild pigs. Dogs were chosen to breed based on their ability to work and the breed soon deviated from the original English Bulldog.
By the end of World War II, there were very few of the breed alive in the US and it faced extinction. It was thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders such as John D. Johnson that it survived at all. He crossed the few remaining dogs with the English Bulldog making them more of a family dog and less suited to blood sports. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that the American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted this dog breed as part of their Foundation Stock Service program so that the breed could be developed.
History of the American Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier breed has links to the terrier family. It was started by combing the Old English Bulldog with Old English Terriers. Whilst both dogs originated from Ireland and England, there is some debate as to whether the cross-breeding took place in the UK or the US. Nevertheless, this breed soon became popular in rural areas of the US in particular where they were valued for their talents at bull bating (until it was outlawed), as fighting dogs, and as ratting dogs. Ratting was a betting sport where people bet money on which dog could kill the greatest number of rats!
As these sports were made illegal, the Pit Bull breed was used as farm dogs for driving cattle and for hunting as well as making great family dogs. One of the characteristics that have been bred into the American Pit Bull Terriers is bite inhibition towards humans because their owners needed to be able to remove them from the fighting rings without getting bitten. The American Kennel Club does not recognize them as a breed but the United Kennel Club does.
Summing up Bulldog vs Pittbull History
- The two breeds are descended from stocky breeds used for blood sports imported from the UK to the US by working-class immigrants.
- The American Bulldog was bred for farm work and as a family companion.
- The Pit Bull was crossed with the Old English Terriers and retained more of the fighting temperament.
- The AKC has recognized American Bulldogs as a breed since 2019 but does not recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier.
American Bulldog vs Pitbull Appearance
At a glance, the American Bulldog and American Pit Bulls look quite similar and some people think that they are the same dog but there are significant differences if you take a closer look.
American Bulldog Appearance
The American Bulldog resembles a solid lump of muscle with big bones! Their chest is wide and deep making them both balanced and surprisingly agile. They grow to between 22 and 27 inches tall (measured to their shoulder) and can weigh anything from 60 pounds up to 120 pounds. Some weigh even more.
Thanks to the strength of the English Bulldog genes in this breed, they have what is often described as ‘meaty head’ featuring a square, flat skull, flat face, square muzzle, noticeable cheekbones, and rose-shaped ears that fold over. Their round or almond-shaped eyes are medium size and set wide apart. These stocky dogs have a muscular neck that is almost as wide as the head, well-arched feet, and a thick low tail that is sometimes docked.
The American Bulldog coat is short but can be soft or stiff. They are usually white but can have brindle patches that are black, brown, or red. They can also have distinctive dark coloration around the eyes that makes them look as if they are wearing eyeliner.
American Pitbull Terriers Appearance
The American PitBull Terrier is a noticeably smaller dog. They weigh between 30 and 60 pounds at the most and adult shoulder height is 17 to 21 inches. They have a lean and athletic appearance with defined muscles and a wide head with high set ears that are sometimes cropped. To maintain this lean muscle, it is important that you feed them the correct diet detailed in The Best Food for Pit Bulls.
Their medium-sized eyes are wide-spaced and low on their face. The Pit Bull has a large nose with wide nostrils and a broad, deep muzzle. They have rounded feet and a tail that extends naturally from the topline.
Pit Bulls tend to have a glossy and smooth coat but they can feel quite stiff when you touch it. The Pit Bull usually has a solid color which can be light brown, grey, or a number of other colors. Some have what is called a ‘tuxedo’ coat where the belly is lighter.
Summing up American Bulldog vs Pitbull Appearance
- Neither American Bulldogs nor American Pitbull Terriers would be described as delicate!
- American Bulldogs are taller and heavier than the more athletic-looking Pit Bull that is leaner with more narrow shoulders
- American Bulldogs have a flatter face
- Both these dogs have medium eyes that are set wide apart.
- Both American Bulldogs and Pit Bulls have a short coat that can feel stiff
- Pit Bulls are more likely to be one solid color
Are American Bulldogs or Pit Bulls Stronger?
American Bulldogs are bigger but the Pit Bulls are more muscular and more athletic. Their shorter limbs make them better at climbing too!
American Bulldog vs Pitbull Temperament
There is not that much difference between American Bulldog and Pitbull personality. However, there are some key characteristics of each breed that American Bulldog or Pitbull owners need to be aware of. This information is particularly important if you are thinking about getting your first American Bulldog or Pitbull puppy. When considering the temperament of any breed, you can learn a lot by considering their history and the purpose that they were bred for.
American Bulldog Temperament
They are one of the dog breeds that was developed as working dogs. They would have made excellent guard dogs and would have been used to catch animals. This is why American Bulldogs tend to appear intimidating and have a high prey drive.
They have a loving and affectionate nature and make great family pets – they just don’t realize their own strength sometimes. These loyal dogs will be very protective of their human family. This breed can struggle with humans that they are not used to and hate to be left alone. Separation anxiety and boredom can lead to destructive behavior and a lot of damage to your house.
American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament
American Pit Bull Terriers have had a lot of bad press about their temperament! They are considered by many people to be aggressive and even dangerous. Pit Bulls are banned in many countries including the UK, New Zealand, and France.
The reality of the Pit Bull temperament is, however, more complicated than that. Pit Bulls are recently descended from fighting dogs so their attitudes towards other dogs and small furry animals can be problematic. With humans, however, they just want to play and have cuddles. The science seems to back this up. The American Temperament Test Society gave Pit Bulls a passing score of 83.45% which gives them a better temperament than Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, and many other dog breeds that are often kept as family pets.
They are commonly used as therapy dogs and in search and rescue work. Their energy, patience, and goofy personality make them perfect for families with kids. So much so that they are sometimes called the ‘nanny dogs’. However, it is always wise to supervise any dog with young children.
You can find out a lot more on how to train and care for your Pittie in How to care for a Pit Bull: the complete guide.
Summing up American Bulldog vs American Pit Bull Terrier Appearance
- Both are energetic breeds
- American Bulldogs get on better with other dogs but will need early socialization
- American Bulldogs are better at getting on with the family cat or rabbit but should not be trusted alone with them! The Pit Bull’s more recent dogfighting heritage makes it highly unlikely that they will ever be pals with the family cat.
- Both breeds can make a great family dog and are very loyal and protective
- American Pit Bull Terriers are better at meeting new humans – they are more energetic and cheerful
- Neither breed bark a lot but the Pit Bull will vocalize more with a range of sounds
- Both are quiet and reserved with strangers
American Bulldog vs Pitbull Exercise and Training
These are both energetic breeds of dogs so be prepared to give them plenty of exercises. They were bred to work all day alongside their human companions and have loads of stamina. Both need at least an hour of running around in a large yard and will happily go jogging with you. However, American Bulldogs have a flat face and are therefore more prone to overheating so this is something to beware of when the weather is warmer. It may not be suitable to let these breeds run around off-leash in the local dog park so you will need to put more effort into finding a varied exercise routine in different environments.
Both breeds need firm and consistent training by a confident owner that they will respect as the boss. Neither breed is really suitable for a first-time dog owner.
Both are intelligent dogs but the American Bulldogs are stubborn and will need a lot of patience. The American Pit Bull Terrier has a short attention span and will need resourcefulness and innovation. In the wrong hands, it is possible for these breeds to become antisocial and even aggressive.
Early and regular socialization with other dogs, other humans, and other animals is absolutely essential. This is the only way to avoid future problems. Your aim is to make your dog indifferent to all three and to focus on you instead. If you are not sure how to do this, get some advice from a professional dog trainer who specializes in these breeds.
Crate training is also essential as both breeds do not like to be left alone and this gives them a safe place where they feel comfortable. Separation anxiety can lead to destructive behavior and these powerful dogs can cause a lot of damage to your home.
American Bulldog vs Pitbull health and Lifespan
When it comes to health problems, the American Bulldog breed and the American Pit Bull Terrier are quite similar but there are some important differences when you do a detailed breed comparison of common conditions and diseases. Both breeds can suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and demodectic mange.
American Bulldog Health Issues
The average life expectancy of an American Bulldog is 12 years. Here are some of the leading health issues that could affect your American Bulldogs’ life expectancy and quality of life.
This is bone cancer – a malignant tumor of the bone. It most commonly affects the limb bones but the pelvis and jaw are also potential sites. It can also be found in the spleen, kidney, and other organs. This painful condition will make your dog limp and they will lose their appetite. There will also probably be an obvious swelling at the site of cancer. This is an aggressive form of cancer that is very likely to spread. It nearly always requires limb amputation and chemotherapy.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Kidneys filter waste products out of the blood so that they can be removed from the body in urine. They also regulate the amount of water and minerals in the body. Chronic kidney disease in dogs is normally associated with aging and is usually noticed because the dog is producing a lot of urine and is drinking a lot to try to stay hydrated. A diagnosis is made using blood tests and urine analysis. There are a number of different treatment options that include medication and a special diet.
You may have noticed that your dog has a third eyelid that is inside the lower eyelid – the medical term for this is the nictitating membrane. It contains a tear-producing gland that can pop out and look like a red lump in the corner of the eye. In American Bulldogs the fibrous attachment of the gland is weak and so it is more prone to prolapsing. Surgery is needed to rectify the issue and most dogs make a full recovery.
American Bulldogs have skin folds that form warm, moist pockets where yeast (fungi) and bacteria can grow. You will notice a smell coming from the skin fold and it will look red. You can prevent this with regular cleaning and careful drying but if the area is already infected you to seek veterinary advice.
American Pit Bull Terriers Health Issues
Pit bulls live for around 10 years but are predisposed to the following health conditions:
The most common types of heart disease in Pit Bulls are dilated cardiomyopathy (thin heart muscle) and valve disease (heart murmur). They can also get aortic stenosis where the aortic valve narrows. Most cases are controlled with medication.
In this disease, the dog’s body can no longer control the amount of glucose that builds up in the bloodstream. Diabetes is more common in older dogs but can usually be controlled through medication and diet.
This is where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. It is often associated with diabetes and is more common in older dogs. It will lead to blindness if not corrected by surgery.
Buying an American Bulldog or Pit Bull Terrier
In the past, you would have paid more for an American Bulldog – pups were around $1,500. Pitties were less expensive because there are so many of them in animal shelters. You could pick one up from a reputable breeder for around $800. These days, the increase in popularity of the Pitties in particular means that you could now pay as much as $8,000 for a Bulldog and a staggering $20,000 for a Pit Bull!
Both are large dogs that will require quite a lot of food but little in the way of grooming. In the end, it is up to you to choose which dog will fit best into your home and heart.
- PITBULL-TYPE DOGS ACHIEVE EXCELLENT TEMPERAMENT SCORES, Pit Bull Info
- American Bulldog, UKC
- American Bulldog, Wikipedia
- Kelly Roper, Pit Bull Dog Breed Information, LoveToKnow