American Bulldog vs Pitbull: 5 Key Differences Explained

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: February 14, 2022
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American bulldogs and pitbulls are pretty well known, but not always for a good reason. They’re often mistaken for each other. They have a lot of similarities, so it’s easy to see why it happens.  They’re both stocky, muscular dogs that have a lot of energy.  However, despite their similarities, there are actually quite a few points which make it easier to tell them apart.  Join us as we discover all of the key differences between American bulldogs and pitbulls.

Comparing Pitbull vs American Bulldog

American Bulldog vs Pit bull

A-Z-Animals.com

Both pitbulls and American bulldogs are considered to be descended from Old English bulldogs.  However, pitbulls are also descended from terriers which were crossed with bulldogs to create an agile and strong dog well-suited for fighting. In fact, the term “pitbull” is often quite loosely used to describe several dogs which are used for dogfighting – such as Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American pitbull terriers, and any other similar dog.

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Due to their use in dog fighting, and historically for bull fighting, pitbulls have earned a reputation as being particularly aggressive dogs and are even completely banned in some countries.  Not only that, but as a result of the confusion that there is between American bulldogs and pitbulls, American bulldogs have also earned that reputation by association, rather than through their own actions as such.  However, as we discover more about these dogs we find that they are actually very different.

Check out the chart below to learn a few of the main differences.

PitbullAmerican Bulldog
SizeWeight – 30 to 60 pounds
Height – 17 to 20 inches
Weight – 60 to 120 pounds
Height – 19 to 28 inches
ColorAny color and any patternSolid colors, although usually white with black, brown, or red patches
BuildLean, muscular, well-proportionedStocky with broad shoulders and a wide chest
FaceSlightly rounded with a wide jaw. No underbite and no facial wrinklesLarge and square, has a slight underbite and facial wrinkles
Tolerance for other animalsCan be aggressive towards othersGood tolerance
Bite Force235 pounds305 pounds
Lifespan12 to 14 years10 to 12 years

The 5 Key Differences Between American Bulldogs and Pitbulls

American Bulldog vs Pitbull: Size

American bulldog standing in the park
American bulldogs are around twice the weight of pitbulls

PixieMe/Shutterstock.com

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.

In contrast, pitbulls are only around half of the weight of bulldogs and weigh between 30 and 60 pounds. Females are usually slightly smaller than males at 30 to 50 pounds. Pitbulls are also smaller than American bulldogs in height and stand between 17 and 20 inches at the shoulder.

American Bulldog vs Pitbull: Color

Another major difference between these two dogs is their coat color. The appearance of pitbulls varies widely within the breed and pitbulls can have a coat that is any color or pattern. However, American bulldogs are considerably different. Their coats are usually solid colors, although white with black, brown, or red patches is common.

American Bulldog vs Pitbull: Build

Both American bulldogs and pitbulls have a strong and muscular build, but with slight differences. Bulldogs are stocky and have broad shoulders with a wide, deep chest. Pitbulls are slightly leaner and and are well-proportioned. Their muscles are better defined that those of American bulldogs, but their chest is not as wide.

American Bulldog vs Pitbull: Face

One of the more noticeable differences between American bulldogs and pitbulls is the shape of their faces. American bulldogs have a large, square shaped face. The muzzle is broad and they sometimes have a slight underbite. One of their most distinguishable features is the facial wrinkles which are easily visible on their cheeks and around the mouth. Their ears can be folded forwards or can be stood straight.

Pitbulls have a slightly more rounded face with high set ears. Their jaw is wide and the nose is slightly tapered upwards. They don’t have an underbite, nor do they have any facial wrinkles.

American Bulldog vs Pitbull: Temperament

pitbull crouched down on path
Pitbulls have less tolerance for other animal than American bulldogs and might see other dogs and cats as prey

Luxorpictures/Shutterstock.com

As we’ve already mentioned, American bulldogs have a reputation for being aggressive because of their confusion with pitbulls. However, they are not actually aggressive dogs. Instead, they are energetic, eager to please, and very loyal. Even pitbulls in general are not considered to be loyal and loving dogs.

Although both breeds of dog have a better temperament that you would probably expect, one of the most noticeable differences between American bulldogs and pitbulls is their tolerance for other animals.  American bulldogs generally have a much better tolerance for other animals such as cats and dogs than pitbulls do. However, good training and socialization as a puppy is still imperative to make sure that they learn that good behavior from a young age.

Pitbulls, on the other hand, are almost the complete opposite of bulldogs towards other animals. This is because they have frequently been used for dogfighting, so they are naturally more aggressive to other animals and have a high prey drive.  This means that they often see cats, dogs, and other small animals as their prey and are more likely to be aggressive towards them. However, just like with American bulldogs, good training and socialization as a puppy can go a long way towards lessening this behavior.

FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do pitbulls have a locking jaw?

No, that’s a myth. Although they have a reputation for having a locking jaw, there is absolutely no difference in the shape, structure, or formation of their jaw to any other dog. Pitbulls don’t have a locking jaw, or the ability to lock it. However, they do have a tendency to be determined, so they hold onto things longer than other dogs might, which is where the locking jaw theory comes from.

Are American bulldogs dangerous?

Although any dog can react badly if not treated correctly or given the correct training, American bulldogs are not considered to be dangerous dogs. However, they do have a lot of energy and require a lot of exercise every day to keep them happy and healthy.

Are pitbulls dangerous?

Despite all of the negative press that they get, pitbulls are generally not naturally aggressive towards people.  In fact, they are actually considered to be highly affectionate and loyal dogs. Instead, it is when they have owners who encourage aggression and use them for fighting that pitbulls act in the manner that has earned them their bad reputation.

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About the Author

I'm an avid animal lover, and when not writing I can be found on my farm surrounded by dogs, horses, and sheep.