Bulldogs and Pit bulls have become almost synonymous with each other in some parts of the world. People tend to lump these kinds of dogs all together into one group and just use the label “Pit bull” as a universal term to describe them all. Are they the same? “Are American Bulldogs Pit bulls?”
American Bulldogs are sometimes called “Pit bulls,” although having distinctive looks compared to all the pit bull-type dogs. However, American Bulldogs are not Pit bull breeds, as they are separate and different from the American Pit Bull Terriers- highly regarded as the true pit bull.
In this detailed guide we will explain everything there is to know about Bulldogs vs Pit bulls. These terms describe dogs with different histories, origins, appearances, and behavior. Keep reading so that you can learn to tell the difference and use the correct term the next time you see one of these dogs.
History and Origins
Both the American Bulldog and Pit bulls can trace their lineage to England with the Old English Bulldog(image source). However, they soon diverged as they were bred for different functions, the bulldog not changing much while Pit bulls were crossbred with Terriers.
American Bulldogs descended from Old English Bulldogs and were originally bred for hunting and guarding purposes. They were brought over to the Southern United States and worked as farm dogs.
They were slowly going extinct until a man named John D. Johnson began breeding them. He crossbred his bulldogs in the South with the popular English Bulldog in the North.
There are currently many different types of Johnson bulldogs, with many different types of look. This adds to some of the confusion. The key difference, though, is that they are related to the Mastiff, not Terriers.
Pit bull type dogs evolved from breeding Old English Bulldogs and Old English Terriers from England and Ireland. Breeders wanted the muscular body of the Bulldog combined with the athleticism of the terrier.
They were originally used for bull baiting or bear baiting until these blood sports were banned, which then resulted in organized dog fighting. The United Kennel Club (UKC) registers “Pit bulls” as American Pitbull Terriers, while the American Kennel Club (AKC) registers them as American Staffordshire Terriers. Both clubs register the Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
Now that you know the history and origins of these dog breeds, let’s explain the differences in appearance. They are difficult to differentiate for most people, but there are key aspects to look for to correctly tell them apart.
American Bulldogs are incredibly muscular and thickset. Their chest is wide and strong, aiding their agility and balance. They don’t have an underbite like their relative the English Bulldog, but they do have a short snout.
Their head is quite large and square-shaped with folded-over ears. Their skull proportions are roughly 55% skull and 45% snout, although it can go all the way to 80% skull and 20% snout. The easiest way to tell the American Bulldog apart is from its wrinkles, a characteristic trait they get from their Mastiff relatives.
They are short-haired and come in a wide variety of colors. Their most common color is white, as they were in the past, but today they can be seen as red, brown, black, white, or various brindle combinations.
They can be found in different sizes, as they have a large range depending on the gender. Female bulldogs normally weigh about 60-85 pounds and stand 21-25 inches tall. Males can weigh anywhere from 55-115 pounds and stand 23-27 inches tall. They are meaty-looking and incredibly heavy dogs.
Pit bulls are also very well proportioned with a broad chest and strong stance. These dogs are extremely muscular and built for power.
Their heads are more rounded and flatter, and their cheeks do not have wrinkles, unlike the American Bulldog’s. Their faces are stretched smooth because they are descended from Terriers.
Their jaw is wide set with a fairly pointed snout, eyes low within the skull, and high set ears that can either stick straight up or fold over. Their skull proportions are more equal and usually range from 50% skull 50% snout, or 40% skull and 60% snout. Pit bulls have a wider face and longer snout than Bulldogs.
Their short stiff hair can also be found in numerous colors, from tan, white, and blue, to patches and brindle patterns.
They are much smaller than the bulldog, with females weighing 25-30 pounds and the males 30-60 pounds. The females stand tall at 16-20 inches and the males at 18-24 inches. Their size is the easiest way to tell these dog types apart, as typically the largest Pit bull size is roughly the smallest Bulldog size.
American Bulldogs and Pit bulls share some similar characteristics, but notably behave in entirely different ways. They have different lineages that influence their temperaments. Both of these dogs were bred for strong work, so they can sometimes be a little stubborn to deal with.
American Bulldogs descend from Mastiffs, so they were meant to be a working dog. They were originally used for bull baiting, protection, and cattle managing. They noticeably have “big dog” tendencies as they are calm and confident.
They want to be outside all day long and are more comfortable outdoors than indoors. You should always give big dogs enough exercise to burn off energy and prevent them from wreaking chaos, but Bulldogs have a more stable disposition and are considered energy conservationists. They are quite laid-back and enjoy relaxing.
American Bulldogs are incredibly easy-going and loving dogs. They are devout to their families and love to cuddle. These dogs are eager to please their owners but also have a stubborn side that can make training difficult. Maintain assertiveness to keep them in check. Bulldogs are great family dogs as they work very well alongside children when socialized properly and from a young age.
They want to be outside all day long. They are fantastic guard dogs and will do everything to protect their loved ones. They might seem intimidating—and they are to strangers—but they are such emotional and soft-hearted dogs.
Pit bulls, on the other hand, are balls of energy that constantly need an outlet or else they can become overly rowdy. They suffer from Terrier tendencies, which mean hyper and overactive at all times.
Although you can occasionally find a calm Pit bull, just as there are overexcited Bulldogs, they usually need hours of vigorous exercise to burn off all of their nervous energy. If you don’t work them, they will become overly frustrated and release the energy in destructive and/or aggressive ways.
They love being outside but would much rather be indoors chasing their tail or snuggled up on the couch with their owner. They need to be properly trained and socialized beginning at a young age and be trained to welcome strangers. Refrain from being an aggressive trainer, and instead focus on being calm yet stern.
They don’t have very long attention spans, so they need multiple short sessions. They are stubborn and will want to push the boundaries, so remain assertive.
Most Pit bulls are rescues from the streets or dog fighting rings, so they have a lot of trauma. This can make them incredibly skittish and prone to reacting aggressively.
Pit bulls are some of the most loyal dog breeds out there. They have a negative reputation for aggression because they are used in underground dog fights, but this is purely due to the owner’s handling. These dogs would do anything to please their masters, even if it’s fighting other dogs.
It is easy to mistake Bulldogs and Pit Bulls as they have certain similarities, but these are two completely different evolved types of dogs with years of lineage separating them.
They have different origins and histories, but the easiest way to tell them apart is from their appearance. Pit Bulls are smaller than Bulldogs and have a wider head and tapered snout.
Bulldogs have their signature wrinkled, square-shaped snout and folded-over ears. Pit bulls have been banned from some apartment complexes, public spaces, and even countries!
People can’t tell these types of dogs apart, so they effectively ban Bulldogs as well, even though they have a different history and temperament. Next time you see one of these dogs, try and look for the characteristics to tell which breed it really is.
Is a Pit Bull a dangerous dog?
Only if you train it that way. Dogs are products of their trainers and owners. The violence seen in Pit Bulls has been instilled in them by the cruel men and women who force them to fight. They will do anything to protect their family, so they will become aggressive to perceived threats.
Are American Bulldogs good family dogs?
American Bulldogs make for some fantastic family dogs. In the 20th century, Bulldogs were considered America’s top dog breed. They sometimes are even nicknamed the “nanny dog” because of how protective and caring they were to their family members. Bulldogs are incredibly loyal and protective. You only need to make sure they are properly trained and socialized, just like any other dog.