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American Pit Bull Terrier

The American Pit Bull Terrier has been known by many names, including the Pit Bull and the American Bull Terrier. It is often confused with the American Staffordshire Terrier, however, the United Kennel Club recognizes the American Pit Bull Terrier as its own distinct breed. Affectionately known as "Pitties," the Pit Bull is known for being a loyal, protective, and athletic canine breed.

Vital Stats

Breed Group: Terrier Dogs
Height: 17 to 19 inches
Weight: 30 to 90 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 14 years

Physical Characteristics

The standard size of the American Pit Bull Terrier varies from medium to large, with a weight range of 30–90 lbs. The Pit Bull has a stocky, muscular build and a short, smooth coat varying in color. The fluctuation in the size and color of the Pit Bull is due to the breed being a mix between different types of Bulldogs and Terriers.

The body of the Pit Bull is long, with a short, whip-like tail that ends in a point. Small- to medium-sized ears are set high on its broad, flat head. The most defining facial characteristic of the Pit Bull is its wide, powerful jaw.

Personality and Temperament

The protective and fearless Pit Bull is noted for its playful temperament and friendly nature. The Pit Bull is also athletic, and has a strong desire to please people.

The Pit Bull breed has a high prey drive due to its being bred to chase and subdue livestock. However, the Pit Bull is not naturally aggressive towards people and is affectionate toward children. Depending on early socialization and handling, the Pit Bull can learn to restrain itself from unwarranted aggression towards other dogs.


Because it is a highly energetic and active breed, the American Pit Bull Terrier requires daily exercise — the more vigorous the better — to overcome boredom and possibly destructive behavior. Like the Greyhound breed, the Pit Bull has a particularly strong prey drive and may chase retreating animals. Taking a Pit Bull on a leashed walk is undoubtedly an important part of socializing it to "play nice." However, care must always be taken to keep the Pit Bull on its leash, to prevent it from running off if it should spot a potential prey animal.


Due to their athleticism and diverse breeding background, the Pit Bull breed tends to be hardy, with an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, longer than many breeds of a similar size. There are some genetic conditions to be watchful for. The Pit Bull tends to suffer from bone diseases such as hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy and kneecap dislocation. The Pit Bull can also suffer from skin problems, such as mange and skin allergies, because of its short coat. Other health ailments seen in Pit Bulls include thyroid and congenital heart defects.

History and Background

The Pit Bull’s origins can be traced back to early 19th-century England, Ireland and Scotland. The canine’s ancestors were the result of experimentally crossbreeding different Bulldog and Terrier breeds for the purpose of bear- and bull-baiting, a blood sport in which the dog was trained to attack until the larger animal was defeated. When baiting was banned in the 1800s, the dogs were then bred for the sport of ratting and dog fighting. European immigrants introduced the Pit Bull breed to North America.

Because of its controversial origins, the Pit Bull is not recognized by the American Kennel Club. This has resulted in the formation of two separate clubs for the specific purpose of registering Pit Bulls. The first was the United Kennel Club (UKC), which was formed in 1898 by founder C. Z. Bennett. The founder’s dog, Bennett’s Ring, was assigned UKC registration number one, making it the first registered Pit Bull in recorded history. The second club, the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA), began in 1909 as a multiple breed association, but it has been dedicated mainly to Pit Bulls, as the original president, Guy McCord, was an avid fancier and breeder of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Contrary to its dubious reputation as an aggressive breed, the Pit Bull is regarded by many as a friendly dog with an outgoing disposition. As those who are loyal to this breed are becoming more active in the education and training of the breed, the Pit Bull is fast becoming a popular companion pet once again.

Comments  7

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  • I love Pit Bulls!
    04/25/2014 10:46am

    I just bought my 2nd Pit Bull baby yesterday.She is too cute,funny,happy and intelligent! Her name is Diamond and she is a sweetheart!

  • Rescuedogs
    05/16/2014 02:22pm

    We just adopted our 4th and 5th rescue and the latest additions to our pack are an APBT and Amstaff. They are the most loveable, docile, and smart dogs! These breeds have such a bad rap and we felt that they needed to be rescued and not be destroyed. Also, the shelter we adopted them from is Dekalb County Animal Shelter in Georgia and they have an enormous amount of these dogs, which are being euthanized on a daily basis because they do not have enough room to keep them all. They have a special until the end of May, $20 fee covers spay/neuter, shots, heartworm check. What a deal, please visit them and save a dog!

  • Luv4K9s
    04/14/2015 05:27pm

    I have 3 American Pit Bull Terriers and 2 Boxers. I carry such a love for these incredible creatures that love us so unconditionally. One of loving Pit Bulls Terriers "Petey", is a license and registered Therapy Dog, and volunteers for one of New York's Largest Hospitals. He brings such joy and peace to the children and adults he visits. Rescue a pibble, and I guarantee you will want to rescue another, and another. THEY ARE THE BEST

    04/14/2016 05:02am

    I LOVE my 7 month old American Pitbull, Achilles Thor. He's already nearly 60 lb!. He comes from a long line of very large males that keep getting bigger with each new generation. I am lucky enough to have seen all of the males back to his great grandfather, who was all white. Sadly, his Grandfather, Papi, who was all white too and gorgeous, was extremely aggressive, did not have proper training and was not bred soon enough. He was also caged way too much, and never socialized. He could only be trusted out with certain trusted people as he had tasted human blood more than once. I was one of those trusted people, but I was even slightly intimidated by him. He ended up attacking both his female master and her daughter while they were having a physical altercation in front of him (a big NO NO). He ended up being put down after that at the age of 6. I received one of his great grands as a birthday gift as a companion for my 4 yr old Black Lab/Beagle. Achilles is half all white and the other side brown spotted. On the all white side he has a brown tear drop coming from that white eye. He has a lot of his grandfather's positive traits, but I was fortunate enough to be allowed to bring him home at 7 weeks and train him MY way and he is 0% aggressive and 100% sloppy lover. I'll never own another breed again.

  • 11/27/2016 09:40am

    I'm chiming in late here, but wanted to bring to light a couple of misconceptions in this comment.
    For one, a human aggressive American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) should never be bred. The breed has a bad enough reputation as it is and breeding such dogs will cause some of the pups to pick this trait up if it was genetic (in other words, if the dog was aggressive due to not being genetically "wired right" in the head). The breeding of aggressive targeted breeds leads to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) where pit bulls (which is an umbrella term for APBT's, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and now American Bullies), and other breeds deemed "dangerous," are outlawed and some put down if the owners can't move out of the area BSL is in or can't find homes for them soon enough. BSL does NOT work and this has been proven quite a few times, yet areas still continue to adopt it. :(
    There is no such thing as breeding a dog soon enough. Ideally a dog shouldn't be bred until they're two yrs. old or older. Only dogs with good temperaments, with good confirmation and no genetic defects (mentally or physically) should be bred, as this furthers the breed, rather than hindering it. The reason being that are SO many pit bulls (as well as other breeds and mixes too, but pit bulls are high on the list and hard to get adopted due to the unfair stereotype against them) in shelters that are euthanized on a regular basis, it's really sad. Breeding of dogs with bad temperaments, or that are not sound of mind (such as neurotic dogs which can turn out to be "fear biters"), can lead to issues, especially with breeds as targeted as pit bulls. Genetic defects can lead to all kinds of issues, including physical pain and the need for corrective surgery, though dogs that aren't sound of mind can also be considered genetically defective if that's the reason their minds are unsound. Dogs without good conformation can lead to things such as hip dysplasia and so on (though there are dogs with OFA tested hips that tested good or higher that can "throw" pups with hip dysplasia too), elbow dysplasia and other conformational defects, which leads to physical pain as well.
    A pit bull tasting human blood is a myth. That same myth has circulated (in my lifetime, though it existed before) with German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers and now pit bulls.
    It's odd that the males you talk of kept getting larger. Were perhaps the largest males bred? That would lead to the male pups getting larger with each generation.
    And yes, you are so right, a dog (and this can be ANY breed) that is caged all the time can become aggressive...just like many dogs left on chains for yrs. can. No socialization and improper training didn't help either, like you stated.
    Papi may not have been genetically aggressive. It sounds like being locked up in a crate too much, lack of socialization and improper training is what lead to his aggression problems with people. Pit bulls, though they can be so human friendly they're easily stolen and would help some robbers to the silverware, lol!, can be protective of their owners if they feel their owner is in danger. It sounds with Papi though, that since he wasn't trained correctly and crated too long, felt it was his place to put his female master and her daughter in their place. It seems he had no sense that it wasn't his place to correct them because he felt he was the leader of "his" pack, not them. Pit bulls, though willing to please and I've found easy to train, can have stubborn streaks and minds of their own at times, but with his lack of proper training and being crated too much (which can mess with a dog's head) he took over when he shouldn't have. It's sad, but putting him down was the best thing to do.
    I'm very glad you've done such a good job with your dog. You sound like a responsible owner who has done the right thing and started him off right from the start with good training, which is just what APBT's need - responsible owners! They're an awesome breed when they're bred right and even if not bred perfectly, can still be when they're in the right hands! :)

  • grace77
    02/22/2017 08:31am

    owned and raised dogs for years and all i ever heard through media and people how they were all bad. The older they get the more dangerous they are. i'm disabled now and my nephew brought me a six month old Pitt bull. Thank God i knew no dog breed was all bad. i had raised most of my dogs from pups. So now here i am disabled and can't hardly walk with a killer dog. It turned out she was easy to train even with hand signals. A giant lap puppy to kids as well. She died with a heart murmur three years ago and i still miss her. I recently got a Boxer from a rescue center the two breeds are alike in many ways. Son and i have had other pitts now and never had any attacks. My best of the best gentle and easy to train. i believe they know what i doing next before myself. They take great care of me. when i'm really having a ruff day they stay inside with me. Please people STOP it's not the breed it's the abusive owners, Pitts luv to please.


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