Pitbull-Type Breeds & Pictures
There are four widely recognized "pitbull-type" breeds by AKC/UKC breed standards (all members of the Terrier Group of dog breeds): the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bully. The term "pit bull" is not a breed but instead, it is a generic term used to loosely describe a "type" of dog based only on its physical appearance (not on genetics or lineage) - just like a German Shepherd is one of many unique "shepherds" or "shepherd-type" breeds. While the four breeds listed above are the recognized AKC/UKC pitbull-type breeds, the common physical characteristics of pitbull-type dogs can be found in over 20 breeds (and in even more mixed breeds) - for example, Labrador Retriever Bulldog mixes have similar physical characteristics as pitbull-type breeds but in fact this mix is distinct and different from any of the pitbull-type purebred and crossbred breeds. The common use of visual breed identification is one of the reasons why the estimated population of "pitbull-type" dogs is up to 20% of the total U.S. dog population. Learn more about the history of pitbull-type dogs, the "pit bull" name, and each of the unique AKC/UKC pitbull-type breeds below.
Unique AKC/UKC breeds that are considered "pitbull-type" breeds
Estimated "pitbull-type" dog population in the U.S. (20% of dogs)
Other breeds with similar physical characteristics
History of Pitbull-Type Dogs
Pitbull-type dogs are a crossbreed between a bulldog and a terrier originally bred in England in the early 19th century (then called "Bull and Terriers") to be working dogs on farms to herd, protect, and manage livestock. While their early history is complex and includes herding cattle and protecting homesteads, it also unfortunately includes the cruel sports of "bull baiting" and dog fighting. However, these "sports" were not specific to today's pitbull-type breeds - many different breeds were subjected to these activities which are now illegal almost everywhere. During the 20th century, pitbull-type dogs quickly became one of America's most popular family dogs to the extent that they became national mascots and were used on recruitment posters for World Wars 1 & 2 and were called "America's dog". More recently, their popularity has continued to grow to an estimated 20% of the total dog population in the U.S. (all pitbull-type breeds and mixes combined) and they are successful as service dogs, as therapy dogs, as K9 police dogs, as family pets, and consistently achieve excellent temperament scores.
The "Pit Bull" Name
The term "pit bull" is not a breed. Historically, it was an informal and slang term that was used to describe any dog that was used for the cruel sport of "bull baiting" - using dogs to seize tethered animals such as bulls within an enclosed area called a "pit" (hence the term "pit bull"). While many different breeds were used for this sport, dogs that resemble today's bully breeds were commonly used - it was not an activity limited to today's "pitbull-type" breeds. Furthermore, baiting is not an inherent trait for any breed, it is an activity that must be taught and honed (no different than teaching a dog to sit or fetch). Today, the term "pit bull" is a generic term used to loosely describe a type (or category) of dog based only on its physical appearance and while the American Pit Bull Terrier is the only formal breed with the term "pit bull" in its name, it is only one of several breeds that make up the pitbull-type category.
AKC/UKC Pitbull-Type Breeds
The four widely recognized "pitbull-type" breeds by AKC/UKC breed standards are below (most are members of the Terrier Group of dog breeds). The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is the tallest and most athletic of the four pitbull-type breeds. The American Staffordshire Terrier is slightly shorter and stockier than the APBT. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is easily the smallest of the four. The American Bully is the most unique of the group as it is the most stout and resembles the classic Bulldog breed.
Breeds Misidentified as Pitbull-Type Dogs
While there are over 20 different breeds (and many mixed breeds) with similar physical characteristics as pitbull-type dogs, the breeds below are just a few of the unique breeds frequently misidentified as pitbull-type dogs because of their appearance. These breeds are larger and less common than the pitbull-type breeds and are not classified as "pitbull-type" breeds by any canine organizations (most are members of the Working Group of dog breeds).
Pictures of Pitbull-Type Dogs
An easy way to identify bias and misinformation about pitbull-type dogs is any website or organization that publishes aggressive pictures of pitbull-type dogs. Aggressive pictures can be found for any breed, but these biased and cherry-picked pictures never represent the breed as a whole. The pictures below of pitbull-type dogs are representative of the various pitbull-type breeds as a whole:
Note: Cropped (clipped) ears are a human modification of dogs performed for cosmetic reasons. As cropped ears are not a natural trait (of any dog breed), pictures of dogs with cropped ears were not included. Pitbullinfo.org supports the American Veterinary Medical Association's position against the practices of ear cropping and tail docking.