American Pit Bull Terrier

Canis lupus

Last updated: January 24, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© David Robert Perez/Shutterstock.com

These dogs are very energetic and would be up for a game at any given point of time

American Pit Bull Terrier Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Canidae
Genus
Canis
Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

American Pit Bull Terrier Conservation Status

American Pit Bull Terrier Locations

American Pit Bull Terrier Locations

American Pit Bull Terrier Facts

Fun Fact
These dogs are very energetic and would be up for a game at any given point of time
Distinctive Feature
Small and sharply pointed ears
Temperament
Friendly, loyal, playful, affectionate, and slightly stubborn sometimes
Diet
Omnivore
Average Litter Size
8
Type
Mastiff
Common Name
American Pit Bull Terrier
Slogan
These dogs are very energetic and would be up for a game at any given point of time
Group
Working dog

American Pit Bull Terrier Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
  • Brindle
Skin Type
Hair
Lifespan
8 to 15 years

American Pit Bull Terrier as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Shedability
Trainability
Intelligence
Tendency to Chew
Size
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Moderate
Separation Anxiety
Moderate
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Moderate
Friendly With Other Dogs
Moderate
Pure bred cost to own
$500 to $1000
Dog group
Working
Male weight
35-70 lbs
Female weight
30-60 lbs

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American pit bull terriers are known to be forever excited and would be up for games at any given point in time. Their clownish nature is accompanied by quite a bright grin.

The American pit bull terrier is a dog breed that was originally bred in order to facilitate the baiting of bulls. Since then, they’ve become great family and companion dogs. In fact, they became a coveted breed to live with families because they love children and are just as loyal as they are protective. However, they are known to be slightly stubborn and widely clownish.

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These terriers are known to be very intelligent, making them easy to take to best use their strong build in many ways. They have short hair all over their bodies, showing off a variety of colors like red, blue, brown, grey, black, and white, though some of them feature a brindle pattern.

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Despite their reputation as a ferocious breed, these dogs are not actually dangerous. They make great family dogs and only have a bad, dangerous reputation because they were originally bred to survive in fierce environments.

These dogs are very similar to American Staffordshire Terriers in size as well as appearance. However, they are more often referred to simply as a “pit bull.”

3 Pros and Cons of Owning an American Pit Bull Terrier

Pros!Cons!
Loyal: These dogs make very loyal family pets.Not suitable for inexperienced children: While these dogs are great with children, it might not be a good idea to leave them alone with very young kids. Their playful nature can be problematic if provoked.
Active: These dogs are strong and active and are always up for a game.Require a lot of attention: American pit bull terriers require a lot of attention which could be a hassle for the owner in the long run.
Good with children: American pit bull terriers are known to be very playful with and protective of children.Require a great deal of training time: American pit bull terriers often need ample time with owners to get into a comfortable routine of training. They are known to be slightly stubborn.
Beautiful dog American Pit Bull Terrier in nature
American Pit Bull Terriers are always up for a fun game of tug.

©Ivanova N/Shutterstock.com

History and Origins

Historians debate the exact origins of the modern American Pit Bull Terrier, but it is clear that this breed has been around since at least the 1500s. Originally used for boar hunting and companionship, they were given the name “Bull Dogs” due to their popularity in the cruel sport of bull baiting. After this was outlawed in 1835, dog fighting promoters looked for other ways to make money, introducing different terrier strains to improve their prey drive, aggression, size, and agility.

Health and Entertainment for your American Pit Bull Terrier

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In the 19th century, a mix of both English and Irish dogs was brought to the US. These dogs had a strong instinct for catching prey but were gentle and loving with humans. Pit bulls became popular for their work as cattle dogs and “catch dogs” for pigs, although many were not used for fighting. Instead, they proved to be quick learners and eager companions, making them great family pets. By 1900, the American Pit Bull Terrier had earned a reputation for being courageous and loyal, leading to it being called the “nanny dog” in some areas.

American Pit Bull Terriers descended from Irish pitties that were nicknamed “The Old Family Dog”.

©sweetfrenchpea/Shutterstock.com

Reproduction, Lifespan, and Babies

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a strong and sturdy breed known for its athleticism and adaptability. This hardiness contributes to their average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, which is longer than most similar-sized breeds.

When pregnant, the gestation period of an American Pit Bull Terrier is approximately 63 days from conception. However, this can vary by several days in either direction, so it’s important to monitor carefully during this time. When born, litters usually consist of 5-10 puppies who weigh 7-10 ounces each. At birth, they are both blind and deaf, but they quickly develop those senses. They stay with their mothers for 8-12 weeks while nursing, and it is important not to separate them until weaning occurs naturally.

Two American Pit Bull puppies on a white background
Pit bulls weigh 7-10 ounces at birth.

©iStock.com/GlobalP

Size and Weight

American pit bull terriers are medium-sized dogs that have a strong build. The female American pit bull terriers are about 17 to 20 inches in size while the males are about 18 to 21 inches.

As far as their weight, the female pit bulls weigh around 30 to 50 pounds. Males only reach a slightly higher weight, averaging about 35 to 60 pounds.
They come in a host of colors like red, blue, brown, grey, black, and white, though they sometimes have a brindle pattern instead. Their physique and coloring are fairly close to that of an American Staffordshire Terrier.

Height (Male)18-21 inches tall
Height (Female)17 to 20 inches tall
Weight (male)Weight (male): 30 to 50 pounds, fully grown
Weight (female)35 to 60 pounds, fully grown
American pit bull terriers are between 35-70 pounds when full grown.

©Dante Alighieri / Creative Commons

Common Health Issues

American pit bull terriers tend to be at risk for many common issues that exist in dogs of their stature. One of the most common conditions is hip dysplasia, which occurs when there are abnormalities in the development of the hip bones and connecting muscles.

Obesity is a potential problem in these dogs as well. They need the opportunity to be active, and their breeding as a working dog puts them at a particular disposition for certain health concerns like this one without activity.

Pet owners need to be vigilant in the dental care of their pit bull, since they are also at risk for dental diseases that can impact the health of their teeth and gums. Thyroid disorders and other viral/bacterial diseases are also possible.

Overall, some of the common diseases include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Dental diseases
  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Thyroid problems
  • Obesity
American Pitbull terrier standing on grass
American Pit Bull Terriers are prone to dental diseases. Owners need to start dental cleanings early.

©Marthy – Public Domain

Temperament

The American pit bull terrier is known to be protective in its temperament, especially towards children, and is also known for its playful nature. It makes a great and friendly family and companion dog. They are known for their courageous and clownish temperament, which is why so many owners push to make their peaceful nature more publicized. However, when provoked or when their owner is in danger, it is possible for them to show aggression.

These dogs are highly energetic and are often looking to please their owners. Even though some people believe they are dangerous, these dogs are naturally not aggressive and can be very affectionate However, these dogs can get stubborn sometimes when they are having too much fun or are hyper-focused on the task at hand.

They can sometimes show aggressive behavior towards other dogs. However, with the right training, these dogs learn to control such behaviors.

American Pitbull terrier lying down
American Pit Bull Terriers are highly energetic and are often looking to please their owners.

©Kpo!:D – Public Domain

Care

For anyone that wants to own an American pit bull terrier, you need to be fully prepared for the road ahead. Regardless of whether you purchase a pup from a breeder or adopt one from a shelter, these dogs need some TLC, so here’s some tips on the best ways to feed, groom, and train them.

The Best Dog Food

Like any other dog, always stay away from pork, grapes, onions, garlic, and similar foods. These foods can be incredibly dangerous for their digestive system.

An adult American pit bull terrier requires about 18% protein and 5% fat in the balance of their diet, which helps to keep up their muscle tone and prevent obesity. Chicken, duck, and salmon are excellent sources of protein, though it is best to cook them without oils or other fats before serving them. Protein is excellent for their energy levels, though owners can pair these meals with sweet potatoes, green beans, and some other vegetables.

The food and nutrition requirements of the American pit bull terrier puppies are different as they require about 22% protein and 8% fat in their diets. However, the puppies should ideally be fed smaller amounts of food as they have smaller stomachs and can digest only small portions at once.

At A-Z Animals, the protein-packed dog food we like for American Pit Bull Terriers is CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Adult Dry Dog Food, Beef & Chicken.

The first ingredient here is chicken, and this food has a whopping 34% protein for your strong American Pit Bull Terrier. Since it’s grain-free and made with premium ingredients, it may help keep your dog’s weight under control. Plus, the calcium is good for their teeth, bones, and joints.

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Best Overall
Crave High Protein Adult Grain Free Dry Dog Food

•Delicious, high-protein grain-free recipe

•Quality ingredients

•Options for dogs of differing sizes

•Various protein options

Check Chewy Check Amazon

Maintenance and Grooming

American pit bull terriers require minimal grooming, though it can be soothing to their skin. You would need to brush your dog’s coat once a week in order to remove dead hair and allow the coat to straighten out. After you have brushed the coat, wipe the coat with a damp cloth, removing any excess hair that stick to the body of the dog.

Besides that, you would also need to clean the ears and brush the teeth this dog as they become dirty. The nails would also have to be trimmed twice a month.

American Pitbull terrier puppies should be taught about teeth brushing early in life.

©Texaspit – Public Domain

Training

These dogs are very energetic. However, it can take time for them to settle into a comfortable training routine. You could start early with the puppies to acclimate them as soon as possible. The best way to train the American pit bull terrier is to use positive training techniques. Being aggressive towards them would hardly ever help, and they may only respond to this type of trigger in the future.

Consistency is the key with these dogs. You can and should allow them to have fun to make these training sessions more fun.

A friendly looking Pit Bull dog sitting on a white backdrop
Start training puppies as early as possible.

©Susan Schmitz/Shutterstock.com

Exercise

These dogs are very energetic and require daily exercise. These are working dogs and are great at several dog sports. These dogs often require about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise per day.

Puppies

American pit bull puppies are cared for in the same way as you would care for an adult dog. However, they require more nutrients than adult American pit bull terriers. As stated above, their meals require a little more protein, supporting their brain development and the health of their muscles as they get older.

Due to the small size of their stomach in puppyhood, they cannot digest the large bowls of food that adult pit bulls can. They will need to be fed multiple small meals throughout the day to prevent vomiting and obesity.

American Pit Bull Terrier puppy
Puppies and adult dogs have different nutritional requirements.

©Ivanova N/Shutterstock.com

American Pit Bull Terriers and Children

American pit bull terriers are great towards children, earning them the nickname “nanny dog” in the past. They tend to be relatively protective of children in their owner’s family, showing off their playful nature around them. Their clownish nature helps to engage children, which is why they make great family and companion dogs.

Dogs Similar to American Pit Bull Terriers

Since the American pit bull terrier is not for everyone, people who want to have a similar pet may be interested in one of the following dogs instead.

  • American Staffordshire Terrier: Affectionately known as a “staffie,” the American Staffordshire terrier is the closest it comes to the pit bull. Their behavior and even their look are the same, and they share the same brindle pattern in some dogs.
  • Boxer: With a slightly more social disposition, the boxer is one of the top watchdogs for any family. Their playful nature comes with significantly less risk of being bitten than the pit bull, but they are also much better suited to an apartment.
  • American Bulldog: The American Bulldog has a much meatier physique than the American pit bull terrier, but they also tend to get tired. For families that may not be able to keep up with the need for constant energy use, the American bulldog is a good match.
American pit bull terrier standing on ledge
American Pit Bull Terriers are called pitties or pit bulls for short.

©David Robert Perez/Shutterstock.com

Famous American Pit Bull Terriers

The lovable smile and disposition of the American pit bull terrier have given them a place in the hearts and homes of many celebrities. Kaley Cuoco, Jessica Alba, and Jennifer Aniston have all voiced their support for this breed by adopting American pit bull terriers of their own.

Here are a few common names for American pit bull terriers:

  • Rocky
  • Luna
  • Bella
  • Daisy
  • Blue

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

American Pit Bull Terrier FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much does an American Pit Bull Terrier cost to own?

You could get an American pit bull terrier for $500 to $1000. Additional costs come up to $1500 annually.

Is an American Pit Bull Terrier good with kids?

These dogs are very playful and protective around kids. They are very affectionate and loyal and make great family and companion dogs.

How long does the American Pit Bull Terrier live?

The lifespan of these dogs is about 8 to 15 years.

Is the American Pitbull Terrier dangerous?

While many people believe that these dogs are dangerous, they are rarely aggressive.

Is a pit bull a good family dog?

Yes, these dogs make great family and companion dogs. They are loyal and affectionate towards their children and are highly protective and playful towards the children in the family.

Is an American Pitbull Terrier the same as a pit bull?

While the American pit bull terrier is a breed, the pit bull is just a dog name reference and is not a breed. However, the term “pit bull” is sometimes used as a nickname.

How big do American pit bull terriers get?

Female American pit bull terriers get about 17 to 20 inches long while the males get 18 to 21 inches long.

What is the lifespan of an American pit bull terrier?

The lifespan of these dogs is about 8 to 15 years.

Are American Pit Bull Terriers herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

American Pit Bull Terriers are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do American Pit Bull Terriers belong to?

American Pit Bull Terriers belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What class do American Pit Bull Terriers belong to?

American Pit Bull Terriers belong to the class Mammalia.

What phylum to American Pit Bull Terriers belong to?

American Pit Bull Terriers belong to the phylum Chordata.

What family do American Pit Bull Terriers belong to?

American Pit Bull Terriers belong to the family Canidae.

What order do American Pit Bull Terriers belong to?

American Pit Bull Terriers belong to the order Carnivora.

What genus do American Pit Bull Terriers belong to?

American Pit Bull Terriers belong to the genus Canis.

What type of covering do American Pit Bull Terriers have?

American Pit Bull Terriers are covered in Hair.

What are some distinguishing features of American Pit Bull Terriers?

American Pit Bull Terriers have small and sharply pointed ears.

How many babies do American Pit Bull Terriers have?

The average number of babies an American Pit Bull Terrier has is 8.

What is an interesting fact about American Pit Bull Terriers?

American Pit Bull Terriers are very energetic and would be up for a game at any given point.

What is the scientific name for the American Pit Bull Terrier?

The scientific name for the American Pit Bull Terrier is Canis lupus.

What are the key differences between Amstaffs and Pit Bulls?

The key differences between Amstaffs and Pit Bulls are physical characteristics, personality, and behavior.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Pit_Bull_Terrier
  2. Hill's Pet, Available here: https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/dog-breeds/american-pit-bull-terrier
  3. Mental Floss, Available here: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/66062/10-friendly-facts-about-american-pit-bull-terriers
  4. Dog Breeds 911, Available here: https://www.dogbreeds911.com/medium-dog-breeds-american-pit-bull-terrier.html
  5. Animal Health Center, Available here: https://animalhealthcenternh.com/client-resources/breed-info/american-pitbull-terrier/
  6. Pet MD, Available here: https://www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/c_dg_american_pit_bull_terrier
  7. Breedsy, Available here: https://breedsy.com/best-pitbull-dog-foods/
  8. WikiHow, Available here: https://www.wikihow.com/Groom-Your-American-Pit-Bull-Terrier

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