The term "pit bull" is a generic name used for many different pit bull breeds and pit bull mix dogs that may physically resemble the registered American Kennel Association or United Kennel Association breeds. The American Pit Bull Terrier and several of its closely related relatives, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, are often considered pit bulls by pit bull enthusiasts and legislative bodies.
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American Pit Bull Terrier
The American Pit Bull Terrier, recognized by the UKC, is the only official "pit bull" breed in the United States. Originating in the United Kingdom as a bull-and-terrier cross in the 19th century, the dogs were used by farmers and ranchers for hunting, driving livestock, and as family pets. The APBT has been a stable and established breed for over 100 years.
The UKC's APBT registry began in 1898 with the UKC's founder, C.Z. Bennett and his pit bull dog, Bennett's Ring. The current APBT breed standard places a dog's height between 17-to-21 inches tall and its weight between 30-to-60 pounds.
Related Pitbull Mix Dog Breeds
Several other dog breeds of pitbull origin share a common ancestry with the APBT. While they are also descended from bulldogs and bull-and-terrier crosses, different criteria were used in selecting the dog's characteristics, resulting in different breeds.
American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier was recognized by the AKC in 1936 as the Staffordshire Terrier. The name was changed to American Staffordshire Terrier in the 1970s. Similar in appearance and configuration to the APBT, several of the originating AKC dogs were dual registered with the AKC and UKC, and until the 1960s, APBT dogs could be shown as Am Staffs. According to the breed standard, Am Staffs range from 17-to-19 inches tall with a proportionate weight.
The American Bulldog, recognized by the UKC, was originally used to drive cattle and guard his owner's home. They were also used for bull baiting. While the English version of this breed disappeared when the sport became illegal, the bulldogs in America continued as working dogs. The breed was recognized by the UKC in 1999. The breed standard places American Bulldogs at 20-to-27 inches tall with their weight in proportion with their height.
The American Bully is descended from APBTs that were crossbred with American Bulldog, English Bulldog, and Olde English Bulldogge to build a solid family companion dog. The UKC recognized the breed in 2013. American Bully dogs are 16-to-20 inches tall with a correct proportion of weight to height.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was recognized by the AKC in 1974 and the UKC in 1975. Descended from the bull-and-terrier bull baiting dogs of the 1700s, the breed was popular in Staffordshire, leading to the name. The dogs are 14-to-16 inches tall and weigh 24-to-38 pounds.
Breeders are still developing new breeds from the APBT and related breeds. Among those new dogs are Razor Pitbulls. They were first bred from APBT and Am Staffs by Razors Edge Pitbulls owners Dave Wilson and Carlos Barksdale. They are not yet recognized as a separate breed by the AKC or UKC.
Red nose, blue nose, and more
Within the breed, there are wide variations in coloring. Albino or merle coloring is a disqualifying fault, according to both the APBT and AKC breed standards. Albino dogs are white with pink noses, and pinkish or blue eyes. Merle is a mottled pattern of colors in the dog's fur.
Red or blue nose are colors within the APBT and related breed standards. A red nose has a reddish nose and coat, and golden, hazel or green eyes. A blue nose has a dark "blue" or gray nose and coat, and dark eyes. Any combination of red and white, blue and white, or blue fawn are acceptable colors within the breed standard.
Personality and temperament
While each pit bull breed has their unique traits, all of these pit bull breeds share some characteristic temperaments. They are intelligent, energetic, and loving dogs, that with adequate socialization and training make excellent family companions.
Lifespan and health
Pit bulls can live anywhere from 8-to-15 years and are generally very healthy dogs. While ailments like hip dysplasia or allergies might occur, as well as the occasional heart issues common in larger breed dogs, pit bulls tend to have few health problems.
Grooming pit bulls
Since pit bulls have short hair that is flat and tight to their bodies, they need only minimal grooming. A bath and the occasional brush is all you need to keep your pit bull looking shiny and clean.
Determining your dog's breed
When registration papers are not available, comparing a dog to the breed standard may be helpful in determining its likely breed. In addition, while the APBT, Am Staff, and their relatives may be similar in appearance, a DNA test can determine the dog's specific breed and in some cases, its bloodline. It is important to have documentation of your dog's specific breed, due to anti-pit bull legislation enacted in many cities and counties.