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American Bulldog vs Pitbull - Differences, Similarities, and Which Is Right for You

American Bulldog vs Pitbull - Differences, Similarities, and Which Is Right for You

The American Bulldog and the Pitbull Terrier are like twins that look so much alike that people confuse them. But these are different dog breeds with different personalities and physical attributes.

One has a clean history, while lots of misconceptions surround the other. Even the adoption fees vary wildly. This guide clarifies the differences and similarities between the American Bulldog and Pitbull and outlines which breed is right for you. 

Differences, Similarities, and Which Is Right for You

Surprisingly, Pit Bulls aren't a specific breed, like Poodles or Dachshunds. They're a team name for tough pups with blocky heads. These dogs were bred in England from the 16th to 19th century for the barbaric bull-baiting sport. The dogs would wrestle a tethered bull in a fenced-in area.

The whole thing looked like fighting in a pit. That's where the name Pit Bull came from. Because of the viciousness of the sport, these breeds needed to be strong, courageous, and muscular. Fast forward to today, and the term Pit Bull gets thrown around for any dog with that stocky build and a wide head.

There are actually three recognized breeds that fall under this umbrella: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Pit Bull Terrier usually gets all the attention when people talk of Pit Bulls, and that's what this article explores.

American Bulldog Overview

American Bulldogs' history goes back to when English Bulldogs set sail with colonists in the 17th century. These early Bulldogs were tough pups, descended from even tougher ancient mastiffs. They helped herd cattle, wrangled stubborn hogs, and guarded property.

By the way, these weren't today's short, wrinkly Bulldogs. Sadly, by World War II, the breed's numbers had dwindled. Breeders like John D. Johnson stepped in, looked for dogs with the old-school working Bulldog spirit, and started breeding them again.

This new breeding gave birth to the modern American Bulldog—still strong and athletic, but with a gentler side that makes them awesome family companions. The American Kennel Club even recognized this shift in 2019 by adding the American Bulldog to its Foundation Stock Service program.

American Pitbull Terrier Overview

The American Pitbull Terrier was one of the dogs bred for the nasty bull-baiting sport in England. It's the breed that ended with the term Pit Bull in its name. The dog is a cross between Bulldogs, known for their strength, and Terriers, known for their agility.

The result is a dog with a lot of heart, courage, and athleticism. Fast-forward to the 1800s in America, and immigrants brought these Pit Bulls along. The dogs became all-around helpers for herding cattle, going on hunting trips, and guarding properties.

Over time, major kennel clubs such as the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association have recognized the breed. However, the American Kennel Club doesn't recognize the dog as a distinct breed.

Differences Between American Bulldog and American Pitbull Terrier

American Bulldogs and Pitbulls easily fool people at first glance. They have that muscular build and blocky head that shows they are tough guys. But when you look closer, you'll see the following key differences.

Face Looks

Face looks are probably the first thing you'll note when looking at American Bulldogs and APBTs closely. American Bulldogs have a bit of a squished face, thanks to their short snout and prominent wrinkles. It's what you would consider an old grandpa with a kind smile and a bit of drool.

The wrinkles are prominent around the eyes, nose, and forehead. American Bulldogs have wide and expressive eyes that can be round or almond-shaped. Their Heads are blocky, with the lower jaw sticking out a bit further than the upper jaw.

Combined with their large size and broad muzzles, these dogs have a powerful look compared to the APBTs. The ears either fold forward or stand straight up. On the other hand, APBTs have a more athletic-looking face compared to the American Bulldog.

Their snouts are longer and less squished, and they have fewer wrinkles. Their heads are more rounded and wedge-shaped than those of the American Bulldog. The ears are naturally high-set and pointy, although some people crop them. 


If you have ever gone to a dog park and seen two dogs that look almost the same, but one is a hefty with a powerful build and the other a more compact muscle machine, you're probably seeing an American Bulldog and an American Pit Bull Terrier.

American Bulldogs are large, clocking in at 60-110 pounds for males and 50-80 pounds for females. They stand tall, too, with males reaching 20-27 inches at the shoulder and females at 20-24 inches.

The size of an adult male American Bulldog's head is roughly the size of a buoyancy basketball. These guys are like the gentle giants of the bully breeds. On the other hand, APBTs are built for agility and athleticism. They're noticeably smaller than American Bulldogs, with males weighing 35-60 pounds and females 30-50 pounds.

When it comes to height, males stand 18-21 inches tall and females 17-20 inches at the shoulder. On average, the size of an adult male APBT is the size of a carry-on suitcase. They are shorter, but don't underestimate their strength though.  

Coat Color

The American Bulldog has a dominant white color, but it's not amazing to see it mixed with patches of black, tan, brindle and brown. The color combinations can be black patches on white, rich brown markings on a white base or bold brindle patches like stripes of black and brown.

APBTs come in a wider range of colors compared to the American Bulldogs. The common colors include brown, brindle, gray, tan, white, blue, fawn, and red. Keep in mind that APBTs are a mashup, and so there are no standard coat colors for the breed.   


Although the American Bulldog is intelligent and can easily learn new commands and adapt to new environments, it's a bit independent. It loves figuring things out on its own terms. For instance, an American Bulldog might figure out how to open a pesky latch on a gate alone.

That is why they are excellent candidates for search and rescue. Although this intelligence is great for problem-solving situations, it also means these dogs need some extra patience during training.

On the other hand, APBTs are always ready to learn new tricks and impress their owners. Although their intelligence can't match that of the American Bulldogs, this eagerness to please makes them easier to train, especially in obedience training.


American Bulldogs were bred for farm work, needing strength and protectiveness, but not necessarily aggression. These dogs get along well with children, especially if they have been around since puppyhood. One thing to watch out for with American Bulldogs is food guarding. They are possessive of their food bowls!

Things are a little different for the APBTs. These dogs were specifically bred to have the courage and aggression to bite and wrestle large animals like bears and bulls. You can tell these dogs' aggression levels right from the breeding objective.

According to the Center for Disease Study, there are about 4.7 million dog bites yearly. Pit bulls constitute around 60% of these attacks. Remember that pit bulls are around 6% of the dog population, so you can tell their biting rate is high. In fact, these dogs are banned in countries like Australia, France, Belgium, and Germany and regulated in certain provinces in Canada.

However, not all experts agree with this aggression narrative. The American Temperament Testing Society is one association that has worked to debunk the misconception of aggression. They put different dog breeds through a doggy obstacle course, like a walk in the park with twists and turns.

The testers watch how the pups react to loud noises, strangers, and things like a toy squirrel. The aim is to see the dog's friendliness, shyness, stability, and aggressiveness in the face of threats. The ATT tested 785 Golden Retrievers and 870 Pit Bulls.

669 Golden Retrievers passed the test, and 755 Pit Bulls passed the test. That means 86% of Pit Bulls passed the test, which is a better score than the 85.2% pass rate of the Golden Retrievers. So, excessive aggression from APBTs seems to be a misconception.     


An elephant cruises along for decades compared to a mouse who's lucky to see its first birthday. This holds even for little critters. Dogs throw a wrench in this animal kingdom rule.

Larger dogs have shorter lifespans than their small counterparts. For instance, giant breeds like Saint Bernards only live 5 to 8 years, while smaller pups like Yorkshire Terriers live up to 16 years.  

According to Professor Mark Elgar, a biologist from the University of Melbourne, big dogs are like giant engines. The extra body means their insides must work harder to keep them going, and eventually, those bigger bodies wear out a bit faster.

This rule applies to American Bulldogs vs. American Pitbull Terriers. American Bulldogs have a lifespan of around 10 to 15 years, which is shorter compared to APBTs, which can stay by your side for around 12 to 14 years.


The cost of adopting a Pitbull is way more affordable. For instance, 15% to 20% of dogs in animal shelters are Pit bulls. Adopting one from these shelters costs around $150 to $500. On the other hand, it's hard to find American Bulldogs in animal shelters. Adopting an American Bulldog from a breeder costs around $1,000 to $1,500. 


Although these dogs differ in physical size and facial appearance, they look similar in body proportions, muscles, and energy levels. Here are some things that these two breeds have in common.

Care Needs

Both breeds boast short, smooth coats. It's like a soft, velvety layer that's perfect for petting sessions—no worries about mountains of fur tumbleweeds rolling around your house. A good brushing once a week will keep things tidy for both of these pups. However, both breeds tend to unleash a bit more fur during spring and fall shedding seasons.


Both American Bulldogs and APBTs get a rap for being aggressive. Both breeds are less tolerant of other furry friends. Their instincts might kick in, making them want to chase or grab hold of smaller animals. So, if you have a cat or other small pet, supervise playtime closely and introduce them slowly and carefully.

Exercise Requirements

Both American Bulldogs and APBTs were bred for physically demanding jobs—one for demanding farm things like herding cattle and the other for wrestling big animals. As a result, both breeds are full of energy.

An under-exercised American Bulldog or APBT might resort to barking or destructive behaviors out of sheer boredom. It's advisable to take these dogs for at least 1 to 2 hours of exercise per day.

Which Breed Is Right for You

Although both breeds look almost the same, they excel in different ways and suit people differently. Remember, suitability is subjective, just like deciding what fruit to pick at the grocery store. There is no right or wrong breed. But here is an overview of where each breed suits best.

  • Since APBTs have a slightly higher energy level, they are a perfect fit for people who love adventures, hikes, and long walks.
  • American Bulldogs suit better homes with a yard due to their size. They are large dogs that need a room to roam.
  • It's advisable to get an American Bulldog if you have young children because of their gentle nature. However, you shouldn't leave the pup with children unsupervised.
  • If you are looking for a guard dog to protect your home or property, go for the APBT. They are loyal and courageous and will do anything to protect their owners. The American Bulldog's gentleness doesn't make them great guard dogs.

Final Thoughts

The American Bulldogs and the American Pitbull Terriers are closely related, both having stocky and muscular builds. However, these dogs differ in temperament, physical size, and lifespans. In a nutshell, the American Bulldog is larger and more gentle compared to the APBT.