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Is the pitbull a dog breed?

A “pitbull” is not an actual breed of dog.

Usually the word “pitbull” refers to the American pit bull terrier or the American Staffordshire terrier. However, many breeds or mixed breeds are dubbed with the “pit” name incorrectly. The term slaps together anything resembling or related to the American pit bull terrier. It would be like calling a golden retriever a lab.

Some of the breeds often called pitbulls include the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the American bulldog, the Staffordshire bull terrier and even boxers and mastiffs. Many mixed breeds are also inaccurately called pitbulls.

The problem is, anyone can identify a dog as a pitbull without being questioned because the term has become too general.

A cop might identify a 25-pound bulldog mix as a pitbull. And a reporter might identify a 125-pound mastiff mix as a pitbull even though American pit bull terriers are usually around 40-60 pounds, according to the United Kennel Club. The UKC is a performance dog registry with 300 breeds from all 50 states and 25 countries.

The fact that law enforcement and media representatives can get away with using such general terms to describe dogs adds negative stereotypes to the American pit bull terrier and related breeds.

Headlines and police reports with phrases like “Pitbull attacks 7-year-old” imply an American pit bull terrier was at fault, even though the dog could have been three quarters black lab like my mutt. Brent Toellner from the KC Dog Blog had a good post about how the media fails to accurately identify dog breeds.

Are the American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier the same?

Yes, they are the same dog. I have used the names interchangeably on my blog for the past year. The difference is in who recognizes which name.

The American pit bull terrier was first recognized by the UKC in 1898. The American Staffordshire terrier was recognized by the AKC in 1936. Other than their names, they are the same dog.

“The UKC’s American pit bull terrier is the same breed as the AKC’s American Staffordshire terrier. They are simply called different things,” said Drew Forsyth, who works with the UKC’s dog events department.

Both clubs recognized a smaller breed called the Staffordshire bull terrier, a breed that is also referred to as a pitbull. When people argue that the Staffordshire terrier and the pit bull terrier are separate breeds, they are often referring to the Staffordshire bull terrier without knowing it.

What breeds can be called pitbulls?

There is a fine line between what can accurately and inaccurately be called a pitbull. It depends on who you ask.

When I say pitbull on my blog, I am referring to the American pit bull terrier or the American Staffordshire terrier. Many people also consider Staffordshire bull terriers and American bulldogs to be pitbulls.

The Staffordshire bull terrier is related to the American Staffordshire terrier. The main difference between the two breeds is size. The Staffordshire bull terrier is smaller, ranging from 24 to 38 pounds, according to the AKC. The American Staffordshire terrier is about three inches taller and heavier.

The American bulldog is registered with the UKC. The club describes the American bulldog’s size to be from 60 to 125 pounds. Chance from the Disney movie “Homeward Bound” was an American bulldog. The breed is much taller than the English bulldog.

Beyond the above breeds, it’s a pretty far stretch to call anything else a pitbull. But people are ignorant and will call anything with a “bulldog face” a pitbull. Breeds like boxers, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, English mastiffs and bull terriers are not pitbulls.

The photos are of the two American pit bull terriers we have fostered, Vixen (top) and Ginger.

Also, check out my posts on how to get pitbulls adopted and why shelters are spreading pitbull myths.

David S

Friday 20th of November 2015

I wish people would stop using the terms pitbull or pit bull, it's like calling all SUVs a Jeep like a coworker of mine used to do. There is only one true Pit Bull and that's the American Pit Bull Terrier, nothing else should be called a Pit Bull.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 20th of November 2015

You're right but I don't see the language changing any time soon.


Saturday 14th of February 2015

i have a female stafford and 75% pitbull male. so my female first time breeding bt the pitbull only there not doing anythg. the pitbull also first time. the age bitbull all most 2years. the stafford al most 1year.

so where the problem. y the bitbull dont do his job?


Wednesday 29th of May 2013

I have known that the term "pit bull" is being used widely and inappropriately, but before today I had never actually heard of an American Staffordshire Terrier - I was in a shelter looking for a dog to adopt and they had 6 or seven dogs labeled as these - they were all so beautiful and one was blue toned! So I came home to do research and found this site. If they are indeed the same breed as described here (and as I have seen written a few other places tonight) I find it interesting that the shelter is specifically labeling them as Am Staff Terriers - I wonder if this is by chance, or a purposeful way of letting people fall for these dogs without the negative connotations.

Side note: I'm returning this weekend to visit with the sweet blue girl I saw and see if she'll be a good fit for my husband and I.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 29th of May 2013

Yes, I do think some shelters use the Staffordshire name instead of the pitbull name since there are less negative connotations with Am Staff or Staffy vs. pitbull. Really, most of them are all mixed breeds, anyway. The names are just meaningless labels.


Thursday 11th of October 2012

I am a Proud owner of an American Pitbull Terrier. My Pit is a female Blue-Nose American Pitbull Terrier. She is very outgoing with her wonder & priceless personality.

She is one of my many best pits that I have ever owned. She is a "Rescue Dog". I confiscated her from a "Dog Fighter" on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio.

As far as she is concerned, I could "NEVER!" live long enough to make her fully happy. However, with that being said, I will go to "WAR!" for her and her rights to be raised and treatd properly.

THANKS A LOT!, Diamond & Rob

fully happy. But, with that being said, I will go


Saturday 4th of August 2012

Just adopted this sweet dog. The rescue group told us she was boxer. I have since figured out that she is an AM Staff. never wanted a pittbull. I was one of those ones that believed the media hype. I now know different. Wouldn't trade her for the world. She is aggressive around other dogs but loves people.