American Bulldog vs Pitbull: 5 Key Differences Explained

Written by Hannah Ward
Updated: October 28, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Pitbulls were bred for fighting and are the result of breeding terriers with bulldogs.
  • They are rather aggressive, unlike American bulldogs who may have a friendlier temperament.
  • Another key difference between both breeds in addition to temperament is size: American bulldogs are larger than pitbulls.

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

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.

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


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 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 are well-proportioned. Their muscles are better defined than 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 large, square-shaped faces. 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 slightly more rounded faces 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


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 dogs have a better temperament than 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 are still imperative to make sure that they learn 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 dog fighting, 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 toward them. However, just like with American bulldogs, good training and socialization as a puppy can go a long way toward lessening this behavior.

pitbull smiling

Pitbulls may have a reputation for ferocity, however, some owners assert that the breed can also be affectionate.

©Natthapot Chantaraviboon/

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 toward 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 a manner that has earned them a bad reputation.

Bonus: Why Do Some Countries Ban Pit Bulls?

Deadliest Animals in America

If your pit bull has a bad history or has been beaten and mistreated before, then they feel threatened and become defensive.


Pit bulls were bred to fight chained bulls and later other dogs – resulting in a strong, muscular canine with a powerful bite force and aggressive tendencies. They are also known for biting and hanging on – refusing to release their bite even if they are lifted off the ground. They have a bad reputation despite support from such organizations as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Pro-ban supporters cite evidence that pit bulls contributed to 66% of all dog attack deaths in the U.S. between 2005 and 2019. Pit bull supporters argue that a dog’s upbringing and environment have a greater impact on behavior than breed-specific tendencies. As a result of the controversy – many countries have chosen to play it safe and ban the breed altogether. Countries that have banned pit bulls include:

  • Argentina
  • Belarus
  • Bermuda
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Puerto Rico
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Venezuela

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Luxorpictures/

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About the Author

Hannah is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, marine life, mammals, and geography. Hannah has been writing and researching animals for four years alongside running her family farm. A resident of the UK, Hannah loves riding horses and creating short stories.

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