While “Pit Bull” is generally used to mean a particular breed, this isn’t entirely accurate. In fact, Pit Bull breeds encompass several breeds, which are most often the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bully, the Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier. The last one is really the only one you could accurately refer to as a Pit Bull, given the name.
The most common Pit Bull breed being referred to is the American Pit Bull Terrier. It’s also the most common Pit Bull breed in general. This dog is on the smaller side, with their head and body low to the ground. They’re an excellent companion dog, and fiercely loyal, though they require consistent training and socialization with other animals, and people. With low-maintenance grooming, due to their short single-layer coat, weekly brushing keeps shedding to a minimum. In terms of colors, the American Pit Bull Terrier can be found in brindle, spotted, and solid color patterns.
The Staffordshire Terrier has a slightly smaller head than the American Pit. They are also stubborn by nature, and require a human that’s more dominant and firm in their upholding of established rules. The Staffie has similar grooming requirements as other Pit Bull breeds, and require daily exercise to exhaust their abundant energy. The American Staffordshire Terrier, similar in name but a different breed, is also known as the Amstaff.
The American Bully became popular in the South thanks to their skill in dealing with feral pigs. They were historically used by ranchers and farmers. This breed is sturdy and muscular, with a square-shaped head and usually a short snout. This Pit Bull breed doesn’t require too much exercise, and a daily walk or two should be enough for their physical health, while the coat is just as low-maintenance as for other Pit Bull breeds.
Definitions of Pit Bull breeds
So if they’re all different breeds, what it is exactly that defines a “Pit Bull”? First of all, there is no scientific definition. Instead, it’s rather a case of people ascribing certain physical traits to a certain group of dogs, even if these breeds have little in common. This means that not everyone’s definition of a Pit Bull is the same, and there’s some debate about which definitions are more accurate and valid. Many dogs we today refer to as Pit Bulls are often even just mixes of other breeds, with no determined parentage. In other words, a Pit Bull is whatever someone says it is. Even defining them here is therefore tricky, since there will be different definitions, depending on who you ask.
Generally speaking, a Pit Bull is defined by a set of physical characteristics. Mostly, these refer to the head of the dog; squared face, perked-up ears, and that signature “pit smile”. Seems straightforward, right? Except that there are several breeds that fit this description, aside from the “true” Pit Bull breeds. Such breeds include the Cane Corso, the Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, the Boxer, and the Bullmastiff. These are easily mistaken for Pit Bulls by the untrained eye.
The Pit Bull does not exist
In short, the purebred Pit Bull isn’t really a thing. They’re not an official pedigree with the American Kennel Club, and the traits assigned to this grouping of breeds are arbitrary, at best. Many dogs are mixed-breeds and carry the physical traits, but may not even have any of these breeds in their DNA at all. It’s unfair and ignorant, but at the end of the day, a dog with a block head and muscular body will be discriminated against because of this grouping of lookalike breeds. Even veterinarians and shelter workers sometimes have a hard time distinguishing one breed from another.
Regardless of the breed, however, any dog within the Pit Bull grouping is just as amazing as any other. With the right training and affection, you’ll have a loyal companion for life.