Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

5 Types of Pitbull Dog Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

black pitbull with chain collar

Despite being one of America’s most popular dog breeds, the Pitbull is also one of the most misunderstood. It isn’t just that these loving and gentle dogs have a poor reputation and face undue discrimination. At a more fundamental level, many casual pet owners don’t realize that a “Pitbull” isn’t even a dog breed!

It’s easy to mistake certain dogs for a Pitbull based on looks. You may also hear the names of some common dogs without realizing they’re a Pitbull type. We’ll help you sort out the facts surrounding these affectionate dogs in this look at five Pitbull dog breed types.

Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New

How Are Pitbulls Classified?

The Pitbull isn’t a breed but an umbrella term for several dogs stemming from Pitbulls of 19th century England. Pitbulls were once bull-baiting dogs, raised for blood sport to entertain blue-collar workers. With the sport outlawed in 1835, their Bulldog ancestors mixed with Terriers to compete in other brutal arenas, including ratting and dog-fighting, to give us the initial Pitbulls.

When Pitbulls arrived in America decades later, they gained notoriety as versatile and determined workers, loyal family members, and gentle companions for children. Unfortunately, illegal dogfighting in the 20th century’s latter half again positioned them as aggressive menaces. Breed-specific legislation took root in various pockets nationwide, and public perception worsened considerably.

Pitbulls reshaped their image recently as awareness campaigns began cementing their true lovable nature. They are still among the most common shelter dogs and one of the greatest victims of backyard breeders and unethical owners.

Faulty breedership and misidentification in animal shelters, among other things, have allowed many dogs to gain “Pitbull” labels undeservedly. Physical characteristics like a muscular medium–large body, short hair, broad head, and deep chest can often earn any dog the catch-all title.

The 5 Pitbull Breeds

1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Image Credit: k9arteu, Pixabay
Origin: 1800s, England
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Height: 14–16 inches

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of two AKC-recognized Pitbull-type dogs. Appearing in Staffordshire, England, during the early 1800s, they are an original pit brawler, blending the English Bulldog with more nimble Terriers, such as the old White Terrier or Fox Terrier.

While these direct descendants of the first Bull and Terrier mix still sport the courage and determination that made them famous as fighters, modern Staffordshire Bull Terriers channel those traits into being better family companions.

They are gentle with children, highly intelligent, and eager to please their people. They can even get along with other dogs in the house with proper socialization from a young age.

2. American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier on mulch_Shutterstock_Tom Myers
Image Credit: Tom Myers, Shutterstock
Origin: 1800s, USA
Lifespan: 12–16 years
Height: 17–18 inches

The American Staffordshire Terrier is the other AKC-recognized breed, a direct descendant of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As breeders worked on AmStaffs more for conformation than their fighting tenacity, they tended to turn out with milder temperaments. The outgoing, confident dogs are notably taller and heavier than their English ancestors and still sport lovable, obedient personalities.

The AmStaff may have appeared after the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but this hardworking farm and guard dog gained early recognition. After the Kennel Club in Britain acknowledged the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in 1935, the AKC was motivated to accept the American Staffordshire Terrier the following year. The AKC and the UKC wouldn’t recognize the Staffordshire Bull Terrier until the mid-1970s.

3. American Pit Bull Terrier

white american pitbull terrier in autumn forest
Image Credit: stockfoto, Shutterstock
Origin: 1800s, USA
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Height: 17–21 inches

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a multi-faceted farm dog that earned UKC recognition in 1898. Despite their affectionate, trusting personality, the APBT has become a target of criminals, dog fighters, and unscrupulous breeders, lending to the undeserved reputation for aggression they share with many pit mixes.

The muscle-bound, energetic, and intelligent Terrier has been an excellent worker, hunter, and family companion throughout history. American Pit Bull Terriers are talented and driven.

Outside of work and exercise at home, they love competing in numerous competitive arenas, including advanced obedience, agility, and lure coursing. They excel at weight-pulling, often outperforming all other Pitbull breeds in their class.

4. American Bully

Image Credit: gonzalo vidania, Shutterstock
Origin: 1980s, USA
Lifespan: 8–12 years
Height: 13–20 inches

The newest arrival to the Pitbull family, the American Bully, appeared in the 1980s, blending the American Pit Bull Terrier with Bulldog breeds such as the American Bulldog and English Bulldog. The UKC recognized the breed in its Companion Dog group in 2013.

American Bullies are easily distinguishable by their compact, extremely bulky builds and broad heads. They are athletic, strong, and courageous, always willing to stand up for their owners despite their otherwise good-natured demeanor. Though powerful, they are docile and tender creatures who only desire to please and play with their family.

5. Bull Terrier

Bull terrier show dog posing
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock
Origin: 1800s, England
Lifespan: 12–13 years
Height: 21–22 inches

The Bull Terrier has had a fortunate history, avoiding the stigma of most Pitbull breeds because of their unique looks. But their origins are firmly in the Bulldog and Terrier mixes in early 1800s England.

When Staffordshire Bull Terriers turned into darlings of the dog-fighting realm, Bull Terriers changed their image to trendy companions for capable owners in the mid-1800s. They never became symbolic of illicit and dangerous breeding.

Bull Terriers are easily identified by their egg-shaped head, tiny eyes, and erect, pointed ears. Despite the unique look, the character is unmistakably Pitbull. They’re delightful companions who love attention and exercise.

Socialization and quality family time is crucial with these powerful dogs to ease their temperaments around strangers and, to a greater extent, other animals.

Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New

Final Thoughts

Pitbull breeds have a clear history, but modern-day dogs are often challenging to categorize. Even as awareness improves, attitudes cool, and dog ownership becomes more responsible, Pitbull mixes come from widely varying breeding backgrounds, making them easy to misidentify.

Their looks can be deceiving, but the Pitbull’s personality stays true. While they can have some rough edges around dogs and other animals, the Pitbull is loyal, affectionate, and tender to a fault. As well as being an incredible companion, Pitbull breeds offer a perfect opportunity for responsible owners to promote their positive sides and improve attitudes around them.

More About Pitbulls:

Featured Image Credit: Romero Joel, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database