“Pitbulls” Are the Most Popular Breed in the U.S.
Dogs labeled as "pitbulls" are the most popular identified breed in the U.S. - more popular than Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, Huskies, Rottweilers, and many others. In fact, they are the #1 most common breed found in DNA tested dogs; moreover, a recent analysis of over 200K veterinary and pet expert interactions found that pitbull-type dogs are the most popular breed type in the U.S. overall. While the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is a distinct breed, the broader label of "pitbull" is not a breed but instead a generic term used to loosely describe a type (or category) of dog based only on its appearance resembling any medium-sized dog with physical characteristics from any of the numerous "bully-type" (or bulldog-type) breeds. Accordingly, as the term "pitbull" used in breed population data includes the 4+ unique breeds commonly included in the modern pitbull-type category, a large number and variety of pitbull-type mixes, and other breeds and mixes that can be labeled as "pitbulls" due to their appearance - we conservatively estimate that they represent at least 20% of the total dog population in the U.S. given the DNA and veterinary data below.
According to Embark, the #1 most common breed found in DNA tested dogs is the American Pit Bull Terrier - twice as common as German Shepherds (7%), the second most common breed, and almost 3x as common as Labrador Retrievers (5.7%), the third most common breed. In fact, DNA results from Embark reveal that the top 5 most common breeds are:
- American Pit Bull Terrier: 14.8%
- German Shepherd Dog: 7%
- Labrador Retriever: 5.7%
- Chihuahua: 5.1%
- Australian Cattle Dog: 4.6%
A recent analysis of over 200K veterinary and pet expert interactions found that pitbull-type dogs are the most popular breed in at least 21 states and the most popular breed in the U.S. overall. Furthermore, veterinary data [PDF] from Banfield shows that pitbull-type dogs are becoming more popular while the popularity of other large breeds have declined:
- Pitbull-type dogs: increased 24%
- Boxers: increased 6%
- German Shepherds: decreased 7%
- Labrador Retrievers: decreased 17%
Breed Registration Data
There are an estimated 90 million dogs in the U.S. and while there are no conclusive population counts by breed, kennel club breed registration data (e.g. AKC/UKC) is often used to create "most popular dog breeds" lists and rankings. However, as breed registration data only includes purebred dogs, it can't be used as a tool to determine actual breed population sizes when considering that over 50% of dogs in the U.S. are mixed breed and only a small minority of dogs are registered by a kennel club. Furthermore, because breed registration data doesn't include mixed breeds dogs, it impacts population estimates for pitbull-type dogs disproportionately as a recent study concluded that the vast majority (98%) of pitbull-type dogs are in fact mixed breed dogs. Therefore, as the majority of pitbull-type dogs are not purebred, DNA and veterinary data is a more accurate representation of their overall population size (vs. breed registration data) because it includes purebred dogs, mixed breed dogs, and represents comprehensive dog population data from all across the country regardless of registrations or any breed-specific legislation.
Contrary to misinformation promoted by special-interest organizations and tabloids that support breed-specific legislation (BSL), pitbull-type dogs are not "fringe" or unpopular dogs. Instead, they are exceedingly popular mainstream dogs providing companionship and happiness to millions of families which is not surprising given their excellent temperament scores and outstanding behavior. In fact, pitbull-type dogs have been popular in the U.S. since the early 1900s - they were prominently featured as national mascots on military recruitment posters during World Wars 1 and 2, they were mascots for sports teams and companies, they were featured in television shows and movies, and they were proudly considered "America's dog". Furthermore, their popularity alone is a leading reason why dog bans targeting "pitbulls" are a trend in decline and have been recently repealed in many cities and towns including in Denver, CO where voters repealed the city's 31-year-old ban against pitbull-type dogs by a landslide 66% majority. Therefore, we'd say that they are still "America's dog" today which is why it's really no surprise that BSL and dog bans are being frequently challenged and often repealed because after all, great dogs are family.
Updated: August 14, 2023