American Pit Bull Terrier vs. Boxer Dogs

By Jo Chester

The American pit bull terrier and the boxer are both termed “bully breeds,” because they trace their lineage back to the same dogs as the English bulldog and the American bulldog. The pit bull is often used as a general farm dog, while the boxer is more likely to be used as a law enforcement or service dog. Despite these differences, both breeds make excellent pets and hardworking companions.

Breed History and Purpose

The American pit bull terrier originated in the United Kingdom during the 18th century, from a cross between bulldogs and terriers. The boxer is by far the older of the two breeds and can be traced back to the 16th century.

The American pit bull terrier originally was bred to be a bull-baiting dog. Later, it became a catch dog for cattle and wild hogs and a cattle drover’s dog. The boxer may have a fighting history, through its Tibetan ancestors, as well as being a small game hunter. The breed has been used as a military dog, a police dog and a service dog.

General Appearance -- American Pit Bull Terrier

According to the United Kennel Club, the American pit bull terrier has a rectangular body, slightly longer than he is tall. His legs are powerful, straight and at least as long as half the dog’s height at the shoulder. His coat, which can be any color or pattern other than merle, is short, glossy and slightly stiff or bristly to the touch. The American Dog Breeder's Association requires that the pit bull’s rather short, thick tail is set low with a “pump handle” appearance, curving slightly away from his rear end and ending in a slight upward curve just above his hocks.

General Appearance -- Boxer

The boxer has a distinctive head, which must feature a black mask with or without white markings.

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The American Kennel Club breed standard describes the boxer's head as being "chiseled" and as giving the breed "a unique individual stamp." Unlike the pit bull, the boxer has a square body. His coat is also short and glossy; however, only fawn or brindle coats, with or without white markings, are acceptable. The boxer typically has a high set docked tail, which is carried in an upward position.


Boxers can be flashy or plain, but should never have white over more than one-third of their entire coat.

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The United Kennel Club standard describes the American pit bull terrier as being an extremely friendly dog characterized by "strength, confidence and a zest for life." The pit bull should never be timid or shy. For all of the breed's being friendly to humans, they can be dog aggressive.

Most boxers are intelligent and loyal, but can be wary of strangers, according to the American Kennel Club. The standard emphasizes that boxers are a dignified and self-assured breed, lacking shyness. Boxers should be alert and exhibit "tractability to discipline."

The Importance of Trainability

American pit bull terriers must be socialized and trained to ensure their safety and the safety of those who handle them. They are highly intelligent and will work willingly for their owners, According to the United Kennel Club standard, they are highly suited for "performance events," which are obedience and agility, along with similar events.

Boxers are intelligent and willing. They are often used for service dogs for people with physical handicaps, and so are capable of learning difficult behaviors. However, their intelligence often makes them a challenge to train. Despite their reputation for being stubborn, boxers are highly trainable. Like the American pit bull terrier, boxers are best suited for experienced dog owners who will commit to training and socializing them, as well as providing them with firm handling when necessary.

Suitability as a Pet

According to the United Kennel Club, American pit bull terriers have been noted for their love of children throughout the breed's history. They have long been regarded as excellent family pets. The American Dog Breeder's Association standard states that pit bulls should be gentle with their loved ones.

Like the American pit bull terrier, the boxer is a popular family pet. The AKC standard requires boxers to be "fundamentally playful" with the people in their social circle. It also notes that boxers should be "patient and stoical with children." These traits make the breed a good choice for families; however, as noted, they are best suited for families with dog-owning experience.