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American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier
Alternative names
Pit Bull
Country of origin
United States
UKC - Terriers
Breed standard (external link)
Many AKC registered ASTs can
also be registered with the UKC as

The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is a breed of dog in the terrier group. These dogs are known for their strength, loyalty, and “gameness,” or tenacity.



The APBT is the midsized breed of the three generally referred to as pit bulls (see also American Staffordshire Terrier (AST) and Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT)). Males should weigh 35 to 65 pounds, females 30 to 60 pounds, with height being proportional. The coat is short, single layered, and stiff but glossy. Any color is accepted. All eye colors are accepted except blue. Ears are rose or semipricked, and may be cropped, although uncropped is preferred. The tail is short and tapering. The body is solidly built and muscular, with a wide chest. The head is wedge shaped with forehead wrinkles.


APBTs can be sweet, loyal, intelligent, and stubborn. However, a firm hand and early obedience training are musts for this breed. APBTs often display some level of dog aggression , especially towards dogs of the same sex or level of assertivness. With early socialization and knowing each individual dog's limits, their aggression towards other dogs can be easily controlled. It is important to find a breeder who selects puppies for their good temperment and not for their aggression. Also research the breeder, ask for references and ask to see their facilities and other dogs they have raised. APBTs are very people-friendly, and are extremely attached to their owners. Inexperienced owners tend to find them to be too much to handle.


Originally bred from English Bulldogs and other breeds brought to America in the 1700s, they were used as working dogs on farms, but also for bullbaiting and dog fighting. When bred for fighting, the breeder would look for strength, gameness, and lack of aggression towards people. Any fighting dog that showed aggression towards its owner or handler would be culled. This created a line of strong dogs that, while being dog aggressive, would not turn on their owners. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeder's Association . After dog fighting was made illegal in the United States, many dog owners wanted to legitimize the breed and distance it from its fighting roots. The name “Staffordshire Terrier” was adopted by some owners and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936. Later, the word “American” was added to reduce confusion with its smaller cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not all breeders, however, agreed with the standard adopted by the AKC, and continued to use the name APBT for their lines. Much confusion still remains in regards to the APBT, the AST, and the SBT.

Why All the Confusion?

The three “pit bull” breeds all have nearly identical standards, with only the acceptable sizes and colors varying. Also, the AST and the APBT have the same heritage. Many people still consider them to be simply different types of the same breed. Dogs registered with the UKC as an APBT are often dual registered with the AKC as an AST. Adding to the muddle is the fact that many people refer to any dog of these breeds, as well as American Bulldogs, as “pit bulls.”

In jurisdictions where breed-specific legislation threatens ownership of Pit Bulls, owners are often advised by their peers to refer to their Pit Bulls and Pit bull crosses as 'Staffys' or 'Amstaffs', which are generally exempt from such regulations. Purists among American Staffordshire owners find this unethical, and resent it, perhaps fearing that the ultimate result of the subterfuge will be restrictions on their breed as well.

External Links


Popular Dogs Series: Bully Breeds magazine

Last updated: 12-15-2004 11:45:27