Pit Bull

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Mary Swift/Shutterstock.com

It is a myth that pit bulls have locking jaws.


Pit Bull Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Pit Bull Conservation Status

Pit Bull Locations

Pit Bull Locations

Pit Bull Facts

Fun Fact
It is a myth that pit bulls have locking jaws.
Most Distinctive Feature
A stocky, muscular build and a short, smooth coat.
Stubborn, loyal, friendly, obedient, intelligent
Average Litter Size
United Kingdom

Pit Bull Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
  • Black-Brown
Skin Type

Pit Bull as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Warm climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
$500-2,500 (95% pure, pets only); $2,500-6,000 (well-known breeder)
Dog group
Male weight
29-80 lbs
Female weight
24-75 lbs

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Pit Bulls are too big to be lap dogs, although they try to be.

“Pit Bull” is an umbrella term that includes several dogs developed from bulldogs and terriers rather than a single dog breed. The facts about such dogs show that they are all “bully” types with a common origin in ancient Molossers and share traits of loyalty, protectiveness, and affection. They were originally used to pull down large game such as wild boars, bull baiting, bear baiting, cattle herding, and pit dog fighting. They are also “terrier” types, that is, medium and large-sized terrier breeds used as working farm dogs to kill vermin, hunt, and guard property and people.

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The 5 Different Types Of Pit Bulls And Pit Bull Mixes

The facts about pit bull ancestry show that their origin is from bulldogs and terriers. Here are the types of pit bull dog breeds:

Here are a few common pit bull mixes that exist:

  • Pitbull Lab
  • Pitbull Mastiff
  • Old Pit Bulldog

3 Pros And Cons Of Owning Pit Bulls

Pit bulls are family dogs: This type of dog is social and develops very strong bonds with its people. They appreciate having someone who is usually around.Pit bull owners experience breed discrimination: These dogs are the most misunderstood due to their history of being used as fighting dogs and abused, as well as discrimination that is common among medium and large-sized dogs in general.
You can find healthy pit bulls at shelters: Due to breed discrimination, many are abandoned at, or rescued by, shelters. 2 years old is a good age that is still young but old enough to let you know the dog’s personality and behavior.
Pit bulls need strong owners: Any of these breeds should always be on a leash when around other dogs and have early training and socialization to keep this behavior under control. Although they love people, it is a bad idea to keep small animals around them due to their having an average prey drive.

They are determined, smart, and athletic: They love playing and learning new things. If you are someone who will spend a lot of time with their dog, one of these breeds could be right for you.
They’re big and can run away. Owners should keep them in houses with backyards and strong fencing so they don’t escape since they have wanderlust. Never allow them off-leash.
Blue Pit Bull
Stocky with almond-shaped eyes, the pit bull is a medium-sized dog that can be found in a variety of colors.

©Sophia Tr/Shutterstock.com

Size And Weight

This breed is medium-sized with short hair and an average height of 15 to 19″ for males and 14 to 18″ for females. Males weigh 29 to 80lbs fully grown, while females weigh 24 to 75lbs fully grown. The puppies weigh 4 to 8 lbs on average at 8 weeks and are typically fully grown between 12 to 18 months.

Height (Male):14-24″
Weight (Male):29-80 lbs fully grown
Height (Female):13-23″
Weight (Female):24-75 lbs fully grown

Common Health Issues

Pit bulls are usually healthy dogs but each breed may encounter specific health issues. The American Pit Bull Terrier in particular tends to have more health issues than other breeds and encounters them more often, such as demodectic mange, skin allergies, and hip dysplasia. The English Bull Terrier’s health issues are deafness, heart disease, skin problems, lens luxation, hereditary nephritis (kidney disease), and OCD-related spinning behavior. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier‘s health issues are cataracts, distichiasis (eyelash deformity), mastocytoma (a type of tumor), and persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (an eye issue). Its American counterpart, the American Staffordshire Terrier, has health issues dealing with skin problems, allergies, tumors, and cerebellar ataxia. The American Bully’s health issues are hip and elbow dysplasia, heart disease, and allergies. In sum, the common health issues among these breeds are:

  • Heart disease
  • Skin problems
  • Eye problems
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Allergies
  • Cancer

These dogs have average to long lifespans. The American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bully all have a lifespan of 12-14 years. The lifespan of the American Pit Bull Terrier is 10-14 years, and the English Bull Terrier is 10-15 years.


Red Nose Pit Bull Looking Up

Pit bulls are an active, loyal, and friendly breed.

©David Cohen 156/Shutterstock.com

Pit bulls are active, loyal, friendly, affectionate, easygoing, intelligent, strong-willed, and courageous pets. The “pibble” personality has playful, social, and protective traits. These dog types are a popular choice for families given their temperament, especially those with older children. Their behavior is silly, obedient, and stubborn, so they act like puppies into adulthood. The origin of their friendliness is in their development since they weren’t initially bred to be guard dogs.

This does not mean that because of their personality, they cannot be watchdogs or guard dogs, though. These dog types were used to herd cattle, watch livestock, and pull down bulls and bears. Their behavior can be dangerous if they want to be and attack people with indifference or insensitivity to pain, making them fearless and tenacious to anyone that threatens their family. These traits along with their physical strength make them all-around great working dogs and companion animals.

How To Take Care Of A Pit Bull

Although pit bulls are a dog-type group, they all share some similarities in their physical makeup and constitution. Owners should be aware of them and read up on the details of the specific breed they wish to have. Whether it’s joint dysplasia, or heart, eye, and skin problems, they have special needs for their diet and care.

Food And Diet

Pit bulls are medium-sized stocky dogs that enjoy being athletic and playful. They, especially puppies, have unique health considerations as a dog-type group. New owners should consider the following facts when choosing food for their pets:

Puppy dog food: Pits have big appetites and puppies are no exception. You’ll want a diet that provides clean animal protein as the first and main ingredient, along with some amount of vegetables or whole grains and fruit for additional nutrients. Additional calcium and phosphorus support growing bones. Feed your puppy 2-5 times a day.

Adult dog food: Animal protein and fat are incredibly important to keep your adult dog healthy. The inclusion of probiotics, eggs, brown rice, or a combination of meat and fish meal is ideal. Look also for fatty acids and DHA. The fat-to-protein ratio should be a minimum of 50%, while a lack of high-risk preservatives minimizes the risk of cancer.

Our review team at A-Z-Animals found that the top choice for food for Pitbulls is Annamaet Ultra 32% Dry Dog Food. This food is high in protein and low in carbs, creating a perfect balance for your Pit’s diet. There’s a nice touch of Omega-3 fats that can be beneficial to your dog’s vision, joints, coat, nails, and skin.

Annamaet Ultra 32% Dry Dog Food
  • Great for dogs of all ages, including puppies
  • High in protein and low in carbs
  • Made without wheat, soy, or corn
  • Contains plenty of probiotics
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Maintenance And Grooming

All pit bulls have a short coat and need little grooming. Although they have minimal shedding, they are not hypoallergenic.


pit bull playing tug

Training and socialization should begin at an early age.

©iStock.com/Ksenia Raykova

It’s true that this breed tends to act aggressively around other dogs, but they can learn tolerance after training and on-leash meet-and-greet with other dogs. The earlier you have your pup trained and socialized for a variety of dogs, people, and situations, the better. They exceed with training, even as adults.


This breed needs a minimum of 1 hour of exercise a day, although they wouldn’t say no to more. They love stimulating activities, so you’ll want to include something other than walking and running. Examples are a treadmill, playing fetch, a spring pole, a joy ball, hiking, high jumping, and obstacle courses. However, they do get tired and sometimes they just want to lay on the couch. Let your dog tell you if it wants to exercise or not rather than forcing it.


Even as a puppy, the pit bull is strong and fast. You’ll want to start exercising early on, with 5 minutes per month of age. Include toys and add stimulating activities as your puppy grows.

Pit Bull Puppy
Pit bulls can make wonderful family dogs, thanks to their loyalty, intelligence, and affection.


Pit Bulls And Children

This breed is very good with children. Never leave small children around them unsupervised, since pit bulls are big and can accidentally hurt them. You’ll want to make sure the environment is safe for the children and never mix their toys together.

Dogs Similar To Pit Bulls

Dogs that are similar to pit bulls include bulldogs, bully kuttas, and bull mastiffs.

  • Mastiff – Descending from the Molossus, mastiffs are more laid-back than pit bulls and have jowls.
  • Boxer – The result of crossing the now-extinct mastiff-type Bullenbeisser with an English bulldog has similarities to pits, such as body shape and being used for hunting, but boxers are larger.
  • Rottweiler – Another breed that is often discriminated against, rottweilers are descended from mountain dogs and have a stronger bite than pit bulls, but pits are faster and more athletic.

Famous Pit Bulls

This breed is widely known through military advertising and children’s comedies. Some examples of pits that made the spotlight are:

  • Bud, the dog that came with Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson when he made the first road trip across the United States.
  • Sergeant Stubby, a dog that captured a German spy and was the most-decorated dog of WWI.
  • Petey, the mascot of the Little Rascals shorts from the 1920s.
  • Grunt, the dog that played the role of Alex’s companion in the 1983 movie Flashdance.
  • Champion, the three-legged dog April and Andy adopt from the pound on the NBC show Parks and Recreation.
  • Buddy
  • Champ
  • Buster
  • Max
  • Prince
  • Bella
  • Luna
  • Daisy
  • Honey
  • Molly

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What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?
About the Author

Melissa Bauernfeind was born in NYC and got her degree in Journalism from Boston University. She lived in San Diego for 10 years and is now back in NYC. She loves adventure and traveling the world with her husband but always misses her favorite little man, "P", half Chihuahua/half Jack Russell, all trouble. She got dive-certified so she could dive with the Great White Sharks someday and is hoping to swim with the Orcas as well.

Pit Bull FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a pit bull?

A pit bull is a bull-and-terrier type dog breed.


Are pit bulls dangerous?

They can be, as can any medium or large-sized dog.

How do I stop a pit bull attack?

Grab the dog’s tail and pull it backward, or grab its back legs and flip it onto its back.


What is a pit bull terrier?

A pit bull terrier is a specific breed of pit bull, the original “pit bull.”

How do I get a pit bull to release?

Use a stick to put into its mouth and break its bite.

Are pit bulls good family dogs?

Yes, they are especially good with families.

Why are pit bulls banned?

They are banned or restricted in many areas due to being dangerous when they attack other dogs or humans.

Are pit bulls naturally aggressive?

They are naturally dog-aggressive.

Why are they called pit bulls?

The name refers to their dog type as a group with similar molossoid features and descent from bulldogs and terriers.

Do pitbulls jaws lock?

No, it’s a myth, because they don’t have the mechanism to lock their jaws. Instead, they hold on in their bite and shake, not wanting to let go.

How long do pit bulls live?

Anywhere from 10 to 15 years depending on the breed.

Are bulldogs pit bulls?

No. Although bulldogs were used in the creation of the breed, it is not a pit bull-type dog.

What is the difference between a Cane Corso and a pit bull?

In physical appearance, the Cane Corso and the pit bull are unlikely to be confused for each other. The Corso is a large breed, while the pit is a medium-sized dog.

What is the difference between a pit bull and an American bulldog?

One of the main differences between American bulldogs and pitbulls is size.  American bulldogs are much larger than pitbulls and weigh between 60 and 120 pounds. Males are generally larger than the females and weigh between 66 and 120 pounds, while females are usually 60 to 90 pounds. American bulldogs stand between 19 and 28 inches high at the shoulder, with males again the larger of the two.

What is the difference between a staffordshire bull terrier and a pitbull?

The main differences between Staffordshire bull terriers and Pitbulls are size, color, temperament, and the shape of their face.

What's the difference between a bull terrier and a pitbull?

The pitbull is larger than the average bull terrier, while the bull terrier has an egg-shaped face compared to the round face of the pitbull. Additionally, the bull terrier is an older breed compared to the pitbull.

What's the difference between a pitbull and an akita?

The pitbull is smaller than the akita, and the akita has a fluffy double coat compared to the single layer fur of the pitbull. Additionally, the akita is an older breed compared to the pitbull.

What's the difference between the Pitbull and the Dogo Argentino?

The Dogo Argentino is larger than the Pitbull, though the Pitbull comes in far more colors compared to the white Dogo Argentino. Additionally, the Pitbull lives a slightly longer life on average compared to the Dogo Argentino.

What's the difference between the Pitbull and the Pocket Pitbull?

The main differences between a Pocket Pitbull and a pit bull are their size, breed origin, and living requirements.

What's the difference between the Pitbull and the Belgian Malinois?

The key difference between a Belgian Malinois and a pit bull is size. Belgian Malinois dogs are large while pit bulls are medium.

Other differences include coat, lifespan, temperament, and breed recognition.

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