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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 Terrier

But 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 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.”

American Staffordshire Terrier

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?”

Author: Matthias

Hey all! I’m Matthias and I love Pit Bulls (as you probably can guess lol). Until a couple years ago I had Blaze next to me while writing the articles for this blog and he was my inspiration, he still is but - hopefully - from a better life 🙂

I am not a veterinarian or veterinary health care specialist, so nothing in this blog should be taken or used as a substitute for professional help. Use our content as information to have a basic understanding about Pit Bulls but always look for expert advice, specifically when treating or diagnosing your Pittie.

Hope my articles are of any help to you, your family and especially your Pit Bull. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy!

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15 thoughts on “What is a Pit Bull?”

  1. I dont know about your APBT

    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.

  2. I have always said that “pit

    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.

    • I have a Pure breed red nose

      I have a Pure breed red nose female, and the world and the media consider any dog that has APBT in them are”pit bulls” so for you saying otherwise is completely  unfair because have 5 mixed boys from my pure bred and they are judged and put through all the crap we are supposed to be fighting against so if your not in to proof the breed as good dog than what is the point. All box breeds stem from mastiffs if you want do some research, they were called bullenbisers,and i think we should fight for all of them not just the so called purebreds,because the mixes are being prosicuted just like the pure breds!   

  3. There is no DNA test that can
    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.

  4. My 2 “dogs” may not be full
    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.

  5. I certainly don’t mean any

    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.

  6. Just consider the facial

    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!

    • That sounds EXACTLY like my

      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!

  7. People fear what they do not

    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…

  8. I believe I have a pit. she

    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.


  9. Dear onyxpup2011, what

    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? 

    • Maybe I want to know for

      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…
  10. I grew up with a apbt named

    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!!!!!!!!!!

  11. I live with 9 pit’s they may

    I live with 9 pit’s they may not be pure or they may be all I know is they are my best friends and so full of love. they sleep in bed with me and my boy friend, well part of them do, the other’s sleep with who ever they have chosen in the family to be there “person” and my childern and grand childern love them to and welcome the bed wormers,the dont be sad likkings and the I’m so glad you are home barking and jumping.our world is better becouse of the pit’s in our lives. I just wish every one could open thee hearts to one and see how special they are.


  12. My little girl is a blue

    My little girl is a blue darling. My Black Labrador is more agressive than our gentle Bella.