American Pit Bull Terrier: Dog Breed Facts & Information

Country of origin: USA
Shoulder height: 43 – 53 cm
Weight: 14 – 27 kg
Age: 12 – 14 years
Colour: all colors and color combinations
Use: companion dog

The American Pit Bull Terrier (Pitbull) is one of the bull-like terriers and is a dog breed not recognized by the FCI. Its ancestors were fighting dogs with an iron will, who continued to fight until they were exhausted and even when they were severely injured and never gave up. The public image of the pit bull is correspondingly poor and the demands on the owner are correspondingly high.

Origin and history

Today the term pit bull is used incorrectly for a large number of dog breeds and their mixed breeds – strictly speaking, the dog breed Pit Bull does not exist. The breeds that come closest to the Pit Bull are the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. The latter is not recognized by either the FCI or the AKC (American Kennel Club). Only the UKC (United Kennel Club) recognizes the American Pit Bull Terrier and sets the breed standard.

The origins of the American Pit Bull Terrier are identical to those of the American Staffordshire Terrier and date back to early 19th century Britain. Bulldogs and Terriers were crossed there with the aim of breeding particularly strong, combative, and death-defying dogs and training them for dog fights. These Bull and Terrier crossbreeds came to the United States with British immigrants. There they were used as guard dogs on farms but also trained for dog fighting. Preferred to the arena for dog fights, which is also reflected in the breed name. Until 1936, the American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier were the same breeds of dog. While the breeding goal of the American Staffordshire Terrier changed towards companion dogs and show dogs, the American Pit Bull Terrier still focuses on physical performance and strength.


The American Pitbull is a medium-sized, short-haired dog with a strong, athletic build. The body is usually slightly longer than high. The head is very broad and massive with pronounced cheek muscles and a broad muzzle. The ears are small to medium-sized, set high, and semi-erect. In some countries, they are also docked. The tail is of medium length and hanging. The American Pit Bull Terrier’s coat is short and can be any color or combination of colors except merle.


The American Pit Bull Terrier is a very sporty, strong, and energetic dog with a pronounced willingness to work. Physical performance is still a focus of the UKC breed standard. There the Pit Bull is also described as a very family-friendly, intelligent, and devoted companion. However, it is also characterized by strong dominant behavior and tends to have an increased potential for aggression toward other dogs. As such, Pitbulls require early and careful socialization, consistent obedience training, and clear, responsible leadership.

Aggressive behavior towards people is not typical for the American Pit Bull Terrier. The early fighting dogs that injured their handler or other people during dogfights were systematically removed from breeding over a year-long selection process. That is why the Pit Bull still shows a strong will to be subordinate to people and is not suitable, for example, as a guard dog. Instead, it needs tasks in which it can use its physical strength and energy to the full (e.g. agility, disc dogging, draft dog sports). The American Pit Bull is also used as a rescue dog by many organizations.

Due to its original purpose and media coverage, the dog breed has an extremely bad image in the general public. In most countries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, keeping an American Pit Bull Terrier is subject to very strict regulations. In Great Britain the dog breed is practically forbidden, in Denmark a Pit Bull may not be kept, bred, or imported. These measures have also led to several Pit Bulls ending up in animal shelters and being almost impossible to place. In the USA, on the other hand, the pit bull has become a fashion dog – often irresponsible dog owners – due to its muscular appearance and the polarizing media reports.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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