Pitbulls have been disproportionately discriminated against when compared to any other breed in history. Sadly, this has led to countless Pitbulls and Pitty mixes being banned in regions throughout the United States, with many of these dogs turned over to shelters as a result or, in some cases, simply abandoned altogether.
In many cases, Pitbulls and dogs with Pitbull likenesses are often the first to be put down. While this is sad on it’s own, the truth is made worse when you realize that many “Pitbulls” surrendered, banned, or put down are not even Pitbulls at all.
Are you wondering about the different types of Pitbulls and what a true Pitbull really is? Then you’ve come to the right place.
But before we get into the different types of Pitbulls and how to distinguish between true Pitbull breeds and breeds who just look like them, let’s first take a quick look at the history of Pitbulls and what defines a Pitbull in the first place.
The History Of Pitbull Breeds and Breed Discrimination
Pitbulls were once bred specifically for bullbaiting and blood sports, leading to centuries of breed discrimination for the breed.
Pitbulls do have a violent history which, unfortunately, has contributed to their arguably unfair treatment in recent years. Luckily, Pitbulls and their owners have found relief in recent studies that have proven these breeds are actually some of the least aggressive in the canine kingdom.
In fact, many regions have succumbed to public pressure and lifted Pitbull bans, though there is still plenty of work to be done throughout the United States.
But why are PItbulls so largely discriminated against?
It all comes down to their past. Like most breeds of today, Pitbulls were originally bred for a working purpose. Sadly, their working purpose was to compete in blood sports. Dog fighting and bull baiting were popular pastimes in the UK and in the early United States, and even after blood sports were banned, underground competitors continued to breed and compete Pitbulls for money.
This is an ongoing problem today, with Pitbulls being some of the most sought after dogs for those participating in underground dog fighting rings throughout the world. But is this because Pitbulls are notoriously aggressive and vicious?
Actually, Pitbulls are chosen for bloodsports for the opposite reason. They are, in fact, incredibly loyal, devoted and willing to lay down their lives for their human masters.
Add this to the fact that Pitbulls were bred with some of the strongest jaws in the canine kingdom, and you see why they are the perfect companion for those with insidious intentions.
Luckily, recent studies have brought to light the truth about Pitbull temperament, and many people are working to shine a light on the Pitbull breed and the umbrella term that has long been used to improperly and falsely label these dogs as aggressive and unpredictable.
So, what is a Pitbull, really? Let’s find out.
What Defines A True Pitbull?
The term “pitbull” is a broad term used to describe several breeds.
Okay, here is where we are going to admit that the title of this article is deliberately misleading. There are not actually 10 types of Pitbulls, though there are a multitude of dogs who are often mistaken for types of Pitbulls regardless.
In fact, the term Pitbull is not used to describe a specific breed but is actually a term used to describe a variety of dog breeds, although only four of them fall under the category of a true Pitbull.
The Four Types Of True Pitbulls Include:
- The American Pitbull Terrier
- The American Staffordshire Terrier
- The American Bulldog
- The Staffordshire Bull Terrier
With that in mind, let’s learn a bit more about each of the above types of Pitbulls.
1. The American Pitbull Terrier
American Pitbull terriers are true pitbulls recognized by the United Kennel Club.
Size: 17 – 20 Inches
Weight: 30 – 65 Pounds
Lifespan: 8 – 15 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Luxating Patella, Thyroid Issues, Congenital Heart Defects, Allergies, Demodex Mange and Immunodeficiency Issues.
Temperament: Stubborn, Comedic, Affectionate, Devoted, Friendly
The American Pitbull Terrier is one of the most commonly recognized types of Pitbulls in the United States and the United Kingdom. This breed originated as a fighting dog used in blood sports like bull baiting, bear baiting and dog fighting.
Today, the American Pitbull Terrier is a popular companion dog beloved for his goofy, comedic nature, gentle disposition, and devotion to his family. The American Pitbull Terrier is currently recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association, though he has yet to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.
2. The American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terriers are commonly referred to as AmStaffs or American Staffies.
Size: 17 – 19 Inches
Weight: 62 – 88 Pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 16 Years
Health Issues: Hypothyroidism Elbow Dysplasia, Heart Disease, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Cerebellar Ataxia, and Bloat
Temperament: Loyal, Friendly, Courageous, Affectionate
Often known as the AmStaff or American Staffy, the American Staffordshire Terrier is recognized by several major breed clubs including the American Kennel Club. In fact, he currently ranks in at number 85 out of 197 on the AKC’s list of America’s most popular dog breeds.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is one of the true types of Pitbulls on this list known for his large size, muscular build, and adoring temperament. Despite being bred for blood sports and bull baiting originally, the Amstaff of today is a friendly and devoted family companion.
He is confident, intelligent, and overall healthy when obtained through a reputable source. However, the AmStaff can be prone to a serious and often life-threatening condition known as Bloat, which can be triggered when your dog eats or drinks too quickly, or eats too much after exertion or play.
To reduce chances of Bloat, we recommend investing in a quality slow feeder like the one listed below.
Outward Hound Slow Feeder Dog Bowl
The above slow feeder by Outward Hound comes in a variety of colors and shapes, and it not only helps prevent serious health conditions like Bloat from occurring in different types of Pitbulls and dogs, but it can also help make mealtime more fun for your American Staffordshire Terrier.
The maze-like shape of the bowl encourages good eating habits and helps keep dogs entertained during mealtime. The American Staffordshire Terrier is just one deep chested, large-breed dog that can be at high risk for Bloat, so these bowls are highly recommended by experts for different types of Pitbulls as well.
3. The American Bulldog
The American Bulldog is often mistaken for the American Bully, though the two are different.
Size: 20 – 28 Inches
Weight: 60 – 130 Pounds
Lifespan: 10 – 15 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Kidney Disorders, Thyroid Disorders, Torn ACL, Cherry Eye, Entropion, Ectropion, Ichthyosis, Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, Skin Allergies, and Bloat
Temperament: Athletic, Outgoing, Gentle, Confident, Protective
Originating in the United States, the American Bulldog is often mistaken for the Olde English Bulldogge, from whom it is derived, and the American Bully, from whom it also has some relation.
There has been some debate over whether or not the American Bulldog is a true Pitbull, although for all intents and purposes our sources have concluded that they are.
How have we decided? The American Bulldog is a purebred dog with many of the defining attributes of different types of Pitbulls and, like other types of Pitbulls on this list, was originally bred for bullfighting, bear baiting and dog fighting.
Today, the American Bulldog is seen as a true American icon, and is often a symbol for toughness, confidence and strength. In spite of this, the true demeanor of the American Bulldog is gentle and affectionate. This dog is highly loyal, athletic, and committed to his family.
4. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Terrier, also known as the Staffy, is one of the oldest types of Pitbulls.
Size: 13 – 16 Inches
Weight: 24 – 37 Pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 14 Years
Health Issues: Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, Patella Luxation, Juvenile Cataracts, Skin Allergies and Infections
Temperament: Devoted, Courageous, Loyal, Reliable, Loving
Hailing from England, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has been coined as a “nanny dog”, beloved for his devotion and sweet temperament when it comes to children. While this is one of our true types of Pitbulls, and while he was once bred for bullfighting, baiting and dog fighting, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of today is a friendly, devoted and docile companion.
And while he is a relatively healthy dog, this is one of our types of Pitbulls who can be prone to suffering from some pretty serious skin allergies. For this reason, we recommend investing in a high quality hypoallergenic dog food to help alleviate these issues like the one listed below.
Blue Buffalo Natural Dog Food For Dogs With Sensitivities
As we mentioned above, and like many different types of Pitbulls, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier can suffer from skin allergies and food sensitivities. This is why we recommend dog food like Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet.
This dog food for Pitbulls contains real meat protein from salmon and other ingredients that are specially designed for dogs with food sensitivities and intolerance. We also like that this dog food is veterinary recommended and hydrolyzed.
Which Breeds Are Commonly Mistaken For Pitbulls?
Canine confusion is common and results in countless dogs and breeds being turned over to shelters daily.
When it comes to types of Pitbulls, Pitbull bans and Pitbull discrimination, there are several breeds who are mistakenly mislabeled and banned under this umbrella term with no real validity.
While there are loads of breeds and mixes who are often confused for and mislabeled as types of Pitbulls, we are going to focus on the six most common.
Six Dogs Who Are Often Mislabeled as Types of Pitbulls Include:
- The Dogo Argentino
- The Cane Corso
- The Persa Canario
- The Bullmastiff
- The Olde English Bulldogge
- The American Bully
1. The Dogo Argentino
Massive and pure white, it’s easy to see why the Dogo Argentino is confused for some types of pitbulls.
Size: 24 – 27 Inches
Weight: 77 – 99 Pounds
Lifespan: 10 – 15 Years
Health Issues: Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Deafness, Autoimmune Thyroiditis, and Skin Issues Including Allergies
Temperament: Affectionate, Loyal, Protective, Courageous, Patient
The Dogo Argentino may resemble different types of Pitbulls, but this purebred dog is nothing of the sort. Created in Argentina for hunting big game, the Dogo Argentino is a loyal, intelligent and fearless dog who is known to be friendly and gentle with his family members.
He is massive and pure white, making him difficult to miss. While he does have the boxy face of different types of Pitbulls, the Dogo Argentino is actually a descendant of the Cordoba Fighting Dog, the Great Dane, and the Boxer amongst other breeds.
2. The Cane Corso
The Cane Corso hails from mastiff type dogs and is not a Pitbull type at all.
Size: 23.5 – 27.5 Inches
Weight: 88 – 110 Pounds
Lifespan: 9 – 12 Years
Health Issues: Demodex Mange, Eyelid Abnormalities, Bloat, Hip Dysplasia, and Idiopathic Epilepsy
Temperament: Intelligent, Adoring, Confident and Assertive
With a name that in Latin translates roughly to “bodyguard dog”, the Cane Corso is certainly a force to be reckoned with. This ancient breed was once a Roman guardian, and was designed as a guard dog for property and farms.
These dogs are commonly mistaken for types of Pitbulls, though they are most closely related to Mastiff type dogs and other breeds. Large and big-boned, the Cane Corso is a favorite for experienced dog owners looking for a devoted companion.
However, Cane Corso dogs can be hard-headed and difficult to train if they wind up in the wrong hands. They are highly intelligent and can outwit novice owners, but in the right household they make highly trainable and fabulous companions.
3. The Persa Canario
Sometimes called a Perro de Persa Canario, the Persa Canario is another Mastiff breed confused for a Pitbull.
Size: 22 – 26 Inches
Weight: 84 – 110 Pounds
Lifespan: 9 – 11 Years
Health Issues: Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Dental Disease, Allergies, kidney Issues, Viral Infections, Obesity, Heart Issues, Dwarfism, Demodex Mange,Epilepsy, Deafness, Skin Infections, Allergies, Cancer and Retained Testicle
Temperament: Mild-Mannered, Confident, Stubborn
Like many types of Pitbulls, the Persa de Canario or “Fighting Dog of Prey” was once used by owners to compete in the bloody dog fighting ring. However, before this they were bred guarding dogs, hunting dogs and herding dogs.
Very intelligent and calm-natured, the Persa de Canairo hails from the Canary Islands and is fiercely loyal and protective of his family. He is loving with children but can be stand-offish and suspicious of strangers and other animals, especially if he is not properly socialized.
The Persa de Canario may have a history of fighting like some types of Pitbulls, but he does not have Pitbull DNA. In fact, Persa de Canario dogs are likely descendants of Mastiffs, German Shepherds, Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers.
Strong and muscular, the Persa de Canario requires routine exercise each day in order to stay happy and healthy. As such, a quality dog harness is recommended for this athletic breed.
PetSafe Easy Walk Front Clip Dog Harness
The PetSafe Easy Walk harness above is a front clip harness that is designed to reduce pulling while also reducing pressure on your dog’s trachea. This is one of the safest and most comfortable ways owners can go about encouraging good and healthy walking manners in large breed, athletic dogs.
To get your Persa de Canario used to walking with this harness, begin slowly and use treats and praise to ensure the experience is positive for him.
Of course, this harness is not only for the Persa de Canario dog. It will work wonders for all types of dogs including larger types of Pitbulls and other athletic and strong breeds.
4. The Bullmastiff
Bullmastiff dogs are ancient guard dogs hailing from the 19th century.
Size: 24 – 27 Inches
Weight: 100 – 130 Pounds
Lifespan: 7 – 9 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Cancer, Torn Ligaments, Subaortic Stenosis, Hypothyroidism, Skin Issues, Allergies, Entropion and Bloat
Temperament: Loving, Courageous, Devoted
Bull Mastiffs tend to be mistaken for different types of Pitbulls, although there is no relation. In fact, this breed is a distant cross of exactly what it sounds like – a Bulldog and a Mastiff. The breed is massive, and was originally bred in England to protect land and livestock from poachers.
While fearless and protective, Bullmastiffs make docile and affectionate family companions. Their exercise needs are rather high, however, and they are trainable, agreeable and super friendly.
Of course, like all dogs, Bullmastiff dogs require plenty of training and socialization to ensure they grow up happy and well-rounded.
5. The Olde English Bulldogge
Due to their size and build, Olde English Bulldogges are often mistaken for some types of Pitbulls.
Size: 15 – 19 Inches
Weight: 44 – 60 Pounds
Lifespan: 9 – 14 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Bloat, Obesity, Allergies, Digestive Issues
Temperament: Strong, Confident, Loyal, Affectionate, Outgoing
The Olde English Bulldogge is commonly confused for some types of Pitbulls, and while he does resemble these breeds, the truth is that this is a bully breed from the past come back to life.
That said, this breed does have some Pitbull DNA, which may be why he is routinely mistaken for a purebred Pitbull.
In spite of what his name suggests, the Olde English Bulldogge is not old at all. In fact, he was more recently created in the 1970’s by breeder and enthusiast, David Leavitt, who had aspirations to recreate the old Bulldog types of 18th Century England.
The modern day Olde English Bulldogge is a mix between the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Bulldog, the Bullmastiff, and the American Bulldog.
Bred primarily for companionship and athleticism for true Bulldog enthusiasts, the Olde English Bulldogge is a relatively healthy, mild-mannered, and eager to please companion for homes and apartments alike.
However, while the Olde English Bulldog is notably more healthy than many other bully breeds, he is still a Bulldog. Certain care should be taken to ensure his coat is properly groomed and cleaned, especially in regard to his wrinkles.
Wrinkle wipes like those listed above by the Squishface Store are specifically designed to remove dirt and debris that commonly get stuck in those cute little folds on your dog’s face. A buildup of this debris can lead to skin infections, so it’s important to use wrinkle wipes or something like them to ensure your Bulldog’s folds stay clean.
These Wrinkle Wipes are made with an alcohol-free formula and designed to reduce itching and skin issues. Instead, they contain ingredients that are soothing and reduce itching and irritation. You can also use these wipes on your dog’s paws and bum.
6. The American Bully
The American Bully is a cross between the American Pitbull and the American Staffy. Still, it is not considered a Pitbull type.
Size: 16 – 20 Inches
Weight: 66 – 88 Pounds
Lifespan: 8 – 13 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Cherry Eye, Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, Entropion, Bloat and Obesity
Temperament: Friendly, Loyal, Affectionate, Trainable
Another more recent breed that is commonly (and rightly so) mistaken for true types of Pitbulls is the American Bully. When considering if the American Bully should be on our list of true types of Pitbulls, we’re technically splitting hairs…
You see, the American Bully is actually a cross between the American Pitbull Terrier, the Bulldog, the Olde English Bulldog, and the English Bulldog, to name a few.
This breed was created in the 1980’s by American bully breed enthusiasts who were keen on making a dog with the physical traits of a bully breed yet with a lower prey drive and a more compact build.
What resulted is a dog that looks very Pitbull-esque but is often much smaller. In fact, the American Bully can come in several sizes from small to large, and is beloved for his gentle temperament.
Like many types of Pitbulls, the American Bully is a trainable, affectionate, and loyal dog who is not yet accepted by the American Kennel Club. However, the American Bully is recognised by the United Kennel Club as well as the American Bully Kennel Club.
Tips On Raising A Happy and Healthy Pitbull (Or Any Dog, For That Matter)
Like all dogs, Pitbulls need plenty of training, socialization, time and attention in order to grow up happy and healthy.
There tend to be three kinds of people in this world. There are those that are Pitbull fanatics and hardcore fans, those that don’t know much about Pitbulls either way, and those who truly despise and fear them.
Luckily, a bit of education can go a long way when it comes to informing yourself about the different types of Pitbulls on this list and their true temperament. In fact, most studies have concluded that these dogs’ behavior falls much more in line with how they are raised than what they were bred to do.
That said, good breeding does impact the overall health and long-term temperament of any dog you decide to get, which makes the source from which you go to obtain your dog that much more important.
When going through a breeder, look for reputable breeders who are qualified and have a history with the types of Pitbulls you are interested in obtaining.
Reputable breeders should be able to provide you with a certificate of health proving their dogs have been screened and cleared of any serious health issues. If you choose to go through a shelter, be sure to ask questions and be honest about your lifestyle and the types of Pitbulls you are looking for.
Once you obtain your Pitbull, be sure to implement proper training and socialization. Properly socializing your dog at an early age is imperative to his overall health and happiness, and can help reduce problematic behaviors like anxiety, stress, and even fear-based aggression down the road.
Most types of Pitbulls do well with children and other pets when their socialization and training needs are met, but it’s still a good idea to monitor youngsters around the family dog. We also suggest you work with children on how to respectfully interact with their dog and how to read basic canine body language and cues.
Last, be sure to keep up with your dog’s needs. All types of Pitbulls require routine grooming, daily exercise, and plenty of time and attention to ensure they are happy, healthy and well-rounded.
So, what do you think about the different types of Pitbulls on our list? Did you realize so many dogs were mistakenly labeled as Pit Bulls, or were you surprised to find that some dogs on the above list are not true types of Pitbulls at all?
Leave us your thoughts about the different types of Pitbulls you’ve come across in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.