Have you ever heard of a case of mistaken identity? Or of a doppelganger?
It’s when someone looks just like you. The similarity is often so striking that many people confuse you with the other person.
But your closest friends will know what’s up. They don’t even have to look twice, they can tell by your smile, the sound of your voice, or the way you walk that it's you.
The same thing applies to the American bulldog and American Pit Bull Terrier.
While some people confuse the two breeds, saying that they look exactly alike, purists will understand that there are major differences between the two breeds.
These key differences are found in their size, temperament, and social skills.
Before we even begin to compare the two, let’s get one thing straight.
When we talk about an American Bulldog, we talk about a specific breed. A purebred dog that has genetic traits that make it completely unique. That is precisely what an American Bully is.
A Pit Bull, however, is something completely different.
Pitbull doesn’t refer to a dog breed at all. Instead, it’s a term to describe a kind of dog… so it’s an umbrella term.
Pitbulls are descendants of the English Bulldog and include breeds such as the American Staffordshire, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and in some cases, even the American Bulldog.
In this article, we’ll refer to the American Pitbull whenever we speak of a Pit Bull.
That being said, here's an in-depth look at the major differences between these dogs.
The physical traits of a dog are what we can visually identify a dog with.
It includes their weight, size, height, muscle mass, and even coat color. Here’s an overview of the physical differences between these two dogs.
American Bulldogs are large dogs.
Males are slightly larger than females and stand about 20-27 inches tall. This measurement is taken from their front paws to the top of their shoulders.
They’re also quite heavy due to their dense bone structure and muscular build. When fully grown, expect a male Bulldog to weigh between 75 and 100 pounds.
These dogs have deep chests, broad shoulders, and muscular legs.
The American Pitbull terrier is a medium-sized dog.
Pitbull males stand about 18 - 21 inches tall at the shoulder, and their bodies are only slightly longer than it is tall. They have an extremely stocky build, often described as athletic and powerful. They also have strong jaws and an exceptional bite force.
Pitbull males weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. Females, though stocky, are clearly smaller than their male counterparts and weigh between 30 and 50 pounds.
Coat type and color
The American bulldog is generally known as having a white coat. But their coats are also mixed with patches of brown, brindle, tan, and black.
They have a short, smooth coat that is easy to groom. They don’t shed much, making them popular house dogs.
Pit bulls also have a short coat, smooth to the touch and glistening in the sunlight. Their coats come in many colors: red, fawn, blue, white, tan, grey, brindle, and brown.
Short hair makes their coats easy to maintain, with a thorough brushing every other week usually doing the job.
Temperament is the word used to describe a dog's personality traits. It doesn't refer to their physical traits, nor does it refer to their behavior when taught to do something.
American Bulldogs have been described as alert, confident, and loyal to their owners.
Pit Bulls are known for being playful, willing to please, and moderately active.
The American Bulldog’s strength is that it is widely considered a very versatile dog. They can be used as farm dogs to herd large farm animals, carry out search and rescue operations and even work with search and rescue teams.
This suggests that they are intelligent enough to adapt to different environments and have the ability to learn new commands.
But experts will argue that they’re a one-trick pony.
American Bulldogs seem to take a long time to learn new tricks and only get commands absolutely correct, consistently, after a number of tries.
But if you’ve already welcomed a Bully to the family, don’t let this put you off. They’re still smarter than most other large dog breeds.
On the other hand, experts will say that pit bulls are average or slightly above average intelligence. They seem to take on new commands and have the ability to learn new tricks fairly quickly.
But pit bull owners shouldn’t let this discourage them.
While Pit Bulls don’t have a large repertoire of tricks that they can perform, they do have great problem-solving abilities…
Just try to leave your dog locked up with a clip-open style lock in the backyard and see. They’ll be out of there quicker than Michael Scofield in S2 of Prison break.
American Bulldogs aren’t known to be overly aggressive toward people.
They display great patience with children, especially when they are socialized and exposed to kids from a young age.
They will, however, show aggression towards humans while feeding, protecting their food with everything they have.
They are also less tolerant of other animals and do, at times, allow their instinctive behaviors to chase and grab hold of anything to take over. So it would be wise to keep your cat out of harm's way or supervise their time together.
American Pit Bull Terriers result from selective breeding to create a dog breed with the aggression and courage to bite and hold on to large animals like bulls and bears.
In some countries, pit bull terrier is banned due to their aggressive nature. (1)
But not all experts agree with the idea that every pit bull is dangerous.
The American Temperament Testing society is a well-known and respected organization that tests the temperament of different dog breeds temperament when exposed to natural stimulation when out on a walk or a play in the park.
The test aims to gather information such as a dog's stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat.
The organization tested 870 Pit Bulls; of those, 755 passed the test, while 115 did not.
That’s right, Pit Bulls had an 86% pass rate.
In comparison, the organization also tested 785 Golden Retrievers under the same circumstances. Of those, 669 passed and 116 failed, leaving Golden Retrievers with an 85.2% pass rate.
So, according to this test, Pit Bulls are less likely to show aggression to people than those big, golden fur balls that American households have come to know and trust. (2)
The American bulldog and pit bull terrier can be trained and show obedience.
That is one thing that makes them so endearing to their owners.
American bulldogs crave leadership and training sessions can be very satisfactory to them and their owners. Start training from an early age to ensure success.
American Pitbulls are energetic dogs and thus need regular training to stay active and happy. They enjoy the outdoors and running around in open spaces.
Start their training early and socialize them with other dogs to ensure they don’t show aggression when exposed to new dogs.
Veterinary bills can be extremely expensive.
Some breeds have genetic traits that put them in danger of life-threatening diseases more than others.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect with these two breeds' health.
American Bulldogs live for 10 to 15 years and generally enjoy a healthy life, while the American Pitbull is a healthy dog that can live for anything between 12 and 14 years.
Both dog breeds enjoy a long life if they have regular visits to the vet in addition to the love and affection they receive from their owners.
Noteworthy Health Issues
Some of the most common health problems that American Bulldogs face include hip dysplasia and skin problems.
VCA animal hospitals give a good description of Hip dysplasia:
“…a deformity of the hip that occurs during growth. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. During growth, both the ball (the head of the femur, or thighbone) and the socket in the pelvis (acetabulum) must grow at equal rates. In hip dysplasia, this uniform growth during puppyhood does not occur.” (3)
American Pit Bull Terriers, on the other hand, often suffer from Patella Luxation, a disorder commonly occasioned by genetics and the structure of bones in your dog.
You’ll notice your dog limping slightly whenever it runs and comes to a complete stop. Although not a life-threatening disease, it will cause him discomfort, so seeking veterinary attention is advised.
How are they with other dogs?
Both American bulldogs and PitBulls are good with other dogs when introduced from a young age.
They are social animals and tend to enjoy the company of others.
But this is only true if they are socialized, meaning they have been taught to play well and interact with other animals or people. Socializing a dog starts when they are a puppy, between the ages of 3 and 14 weeks old.
In this sense, the American Pitbull is less tolerant of other animals or pets and will show aggression toward other pets in the house.
How are they with other people?
The American Bulldog has a strong sense of dominance and protection.
They will guard their owners against anyone that poses a threat and can, at times, confuse the lines of friend and foe.
Owners must take caution to introduce them to new people at the right time, i.e., not feeding time and in the correct environment when their dogs are relaxed and in a playful mood.
American Pit Bull Terriers are loyal to their owners and will protect them with their lives. But they won’t go out of their way to show aggression to strangers, contrary to popular belief.
Are they good with kids?
American Bulldogs are very tolerant of children when raised together. They don’t mind playing for a couple of hours and will protect children they see as siblings.
Due to their extremely strong jaws and large size, they can pose a danger to younger kids though, especially around feeding time and when excited. Therefore it is recommended to supervise playtime.
Pit bulls likewise will play well with children that they know well and shy away from newer kids that they don’t know.
Read On: Boxers vs. Pit Bulls - The Main Similarities and Differences
Frequently asked questions
Are Pit bulls aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club?
In an attempt to distance itself from dog fighting as a cruel sport that many of these dogs are used for, they decided to avoid recognizing dogs that would fit into this category as pit bulls but rather classify them as Staffordshire Terriers. (4)
Are American bulldogs Pitbulls?
No, American Bulldogs aren’t Pitbulls. While both dogs stem from the English Bulldog, the American Bulldog is a specific breed of dog, while the term PitBull is an umbrella term often used to describe a type of dog.
Is the American Bulldog a good family dog?
The American Bulldog is a great companion and family dog. They show a lot of patience with children and are well-suited to active families.
3 - VCA Hospitals
4 - AKC on Pit Bulls