What is a Pit Bull?


The question is not straightforward.  At Pitbulls.org, we try to keep the focus on the American Pit Bull Terrier, as this helps simplify things, so people know what we are talking about when we say "pit bulls."  Most, if not all, of our articles are based on this assumption. So you can read our history of the American Pit Bull Terrier for one answer to the question posed in the title.

American Pit Bull TerrierBut the APBT is not the only dog referenced when people say "pitbull," and can include the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, but also many dogs that only bear some resemblance, and this presents some confusion.  The problem is particularly acute in media reports.  Because of this confusion, many situations said to involve pit bulls really don't, and without a proper DNA test, it's nearly impossible to accurately spot a true Pit Bull.  Can YOU find the Pit Bull?

The question also becomes a problem when dealing with Breed Specific Legislation or in regards to apartments that don't accept people with pit bulls and airlines that don't allow travel.  In order to discriminate and enforce rules, people have to have an answer to this question. And in order to be "safe", they draw a broader stroke that goes beyond the truth.

Staffordshire Bull TerrierAmerican Staffordshire Terrier

Sometimes boxers are thrown into the mix.  Sometimes the American bull dog is called a pit bull. Even some Labrador Retrievers can have characteristics that cause people to jump to conclusions.

So what is a pit bull?  Calling a dog a pit bull should be limited to the main three we already mentioned: American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier (Although we will continue to maintain a focus on the ABPT.)  In other words, those with some terrier in their blood.  We know this isn't the only definition out there, but it is the one that actually gives a consistant, meaningful barrier to the phrase "Pit Bull." Some will want to apply the label to many breeds in the Molosser breed group, such as bull mastiffs and boxers, but Great Danes also fall under the Molosser category.

Do you agree? Disagree?  What do you think constitues a "pit bull?"

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Erica aka Smuckers's picture
Erica aka Smuckers
Fri, 02/25/2011 - 10:07am

I dont know about your APBT but mine is a great friend and protector to my 5 y.o. daughter. He is a guard dog (sometimes lol) and a lap dog most of the time. He also is a great comforter when you are crying and down...He some how knows.

piebald's picture
Fri, 02/25/2011 - 10:08am

I have always said that "pit bull" is an umbrella term for the 3-4 breeds generally considered to be pit bulls & the mixes therein. Mixes with breeds outside of this umbrella should be considered mutts & not further cloud the "pit bull" typology.

Pocopaca's picture
Fri, 02/25/2011 - 11:27am

There is no DNA test that can determine a breed, only lineage. DNA tests will determine whether a dog has certain attributes such as floppy ears or pushed in nose.

brandiejo111's picture
Fri, 02/25/2011 - 12:16pm

My 2 "dogs" may not be full blood pit bulls, but they sure do act and look like pit bulls. I feel it an honor to call th as such. They do the name justice (lol one oft pits names is Justice). Umbrella term yes. To bad as a country that has endured racism for centuries and has seen things like slavery, holocausts, and discrimination I'm so many forms we can not get past the fact that because dumb people do dumb things to a certain breed of dogs they should be banned from everywhere.

piebald's picture
Fri, 02/25/2011 - 1:03pm

I certainly don't mean any offense, I just think that the fact almost any mixed breed dog can be labeled "pit bull" &, in attack scenarios, this leads to the further prejudices against the breed (or breeds) that the term typically encompasses. I don't think it's right to strip a dog of what should be an honorable title, but irresponsible people who boast about their pit bull mixes are the ones hurting the reputation of the breeds that I personally feel fall under the pit bull category.

I realize there is no way to be 100% on what is & isn't a pit bull, & I don't feel that pit bull is something that can be full-blooded (why I call it an umbrella term).

Brandie,I certainly don't mean to imply that a dog who is more mixed with non-bull breeds is less than a dog & deserving of quotes. I simply meant that if there was a clearer definition, the media confusion & bias might save us all a lot of frustration & heart-break when our dogs are taken away or banned for something they or their breed(s) didn't even do.

kbkevdog's picture
Sun, 03/06/2011 - 3:40pm

Just consider the facial structure and the body dementions added with the additude, my Bully Bread may not be pure Amer. Pit Bull or Staffie. Bull Terrier, but to look at him and tell him he's not a Pit you will have a fight on your hands LOL. He is the most mild and sweet dog who love's to shake your hand and at the same time give you a kiss, chase after the ball and sleep on the bed with me, or sit on my lap and watch TV and fall asleep,he only weights 70 lbs of solid muscal. He's just a sweet heart and I love him and I know he loves me!

ashycole's picture
Tue, 07/26/2011 - 10:06pm

That sounds EXACTLY like my baby! We think he's got some lab in him, he's really tall and skinny, but he's got the wide, strong bully jaws. He shakes hands, gives hugs, and loves to chase kids around!! He's really careful about it too, which makes it so amazing. Makes me think, how can anyone be so cruel about these dogs? If he was so cruel and mean, then he'd be attacking those 2 3 year olds, not letting them pull on his tail and ears and climb on him while he just lays there wagging his tail kissing them everywhere he gets a chance, then getting up and chasing them, licking them, then running away. Just amazes me!

Hugle72's picture
Thu, 06/09/2011 - 3:47pm

People fear what they do not know. And what they think they know. Once upon a time somebody got bit by what they thought was a pitbull and then like magic all pit bulls are blood thirsty killers. I say bull sh#t. I just lost my pet of sixteen years to old age he was judged the same way because he was a full blood Arctic wolf even though in his entire sixteen years he never bit or hurt a single person. If the general population would take the time to learn about what they are so quick to judge maybe they wouldn't judge so harshly..! Just one mans opinion...

onyxpup2011's picture
Wed, 06/29/2011 - 5:18pm

I believe I have a pit. she is a 4 year old girl. I am wondering where I can get an accurate DNA test for her to find out exactly what all she is. I found her on the side of a major highway in the legs of her mother who didnt fare so well in traffic. Any input would be great. thanks, pics coming soon.


kbkevdog's picture
Wed, 06/29/2011 - 7:43pm

Dear onyxpup2011, what differance does it really make to you or anyone else what her pureity is? if you love the pup and she loves you it really doesn't matter does it. Unless your going to show her. Most all animals just want love and attention from you. They don't care what your make up is or where you come from do they? 

onyxpup2011's picture
Thu, 06/30/2011 - 12:53am

Maybe I want to know for myself. She get all the love she can handle. Now if you have any info that will help me, give it, otherwise mind your own business and love your dog, I dont need any advice or help on how to love mine, thanks! I didnt ask for anything other than where I can get the test. Why do you care what difference it makes to me? If you are on this site to bitch at other owners, than maybe you are not here for the right reasons. I am sure there is some lonely person club you can subscribe to. So either help me with my inquiry or keep your bs to yourself...

ashycole's picture
Tue, 07/26/2011 - 10:01pm

I grew up with a apbt named max. He was THE SWEETEST dog in the world. I also had labs and golden retreivers, and none of them were as amazing as he is. I'm living on my own now, and i'm adopting a new baby, and i can't be happier. I'm so excited because i know that my new baby will be my best friend, and eventually be my children's best friend, and make impressions on them so that the breed will live on. I love this breed, and i'll never be able to have a different breed!!!!!!!!!!