8 Muscly Dogs That Look Like Pit Bulls

Closeup of the American Pit Bull Terrier lying on the floor.
© Wirestock/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Kristin Hitchcock

Published: December 16, 2023

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Pit Bulls aren’t really a dog breed. Instead, this is more of a type of dog. Many breeds may fall into the “pit bull” category, and which dogs are considered pit bulls depends on the person. In most cases, the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier all fall into this category.

8 Muscly Dogs That Look Like Pit Bulls
These dog breeds are often mistaken for pit bulls.

If you want a dog similar to a pit bull, you also have several options. You should consider exactly what you’d like similar, such as the dog’s appearance or temperament. Some dogs act like pit bulls but may not look like one.

This article will focus on dogs that look like pit bulls.

1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

A brindle staffordshire bull terrier sitting on a hill

These dogs look very similar to pit bulls, so much so that they’re often mistaken as one.

©everydoghasastory/Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, these dogs are put into the “pit bull” category. Other times, they’re left out. Either way, they’re very similar to what people think of when they imagine a pit bull. They’re a bit shorter than most other muscular breeds, though. Therefore, they can be a good option for those who want a smaller, pit-bull-like dog.

These canines are exceptionally active. They need a lot of rigorous exercise. They have great muscle tone, making them very similar to pit bulls.

Bull terriers are people-oriented and need plenty of companionship. They aren’t best for those who work for much of the day, as they can only deal with being alone for a few hours. They’re prone to separation anxiety, as well.

Staffordshire bull terriers notoriously display dog-on-dog aggression. They’re often very willing to fight other dogs, which needs to be considered if you already own a dog.

2. American Bulldog

White dog american bulldog on a background of autumn park

These dogs look and act like pit bulls, but it is important to purchase them only from a quality breeder.

©Golland/Shutterstock.com

American bulldogs used to be extremely popular after one starred in Homeward Bound. They’ve decreased somewhat in popularity, but the surge in demand did lead to some poor breeding decisions. Many backyard breeders and puppy mills jumped on the train to make a few bucks.

If you decide to adopt one, ask about hip certification and temperament tests (of the puppies or parents). Double-check everything, as scams are abundant.

When bred properly, these dogs possess tenacity and confidence. They shouldn’t be aggressive, especially when well-socialized. However, they are sometimes standoffish with strangers. Early socialization can help ensure they have a stable temperament.

You do need to ensure you have enough time for exercise and companionship. These dogs require quite a bit of care and time.

3. Bull Terrier

The portrait of a white with a brown patch Miniature Bull Terrier dog with a black collar posing outdoors in summer

While their face doesn’t look much like a pit bull, they’re very muscular like one.

©Eudyptula/Shutterstock.com

English bull terriers are also very muscular, like pit bulls. However, they look very different in the face. They also come in two different sizes: standard and miniature. Both are rather small dogs, though, and they’re technically considered different breeds.

Both breeds have similar temperaments. They’re very fiery and clownish, like most terriers. However, they’re also sweet-tempered and can make great family pets when properly cared for. Plan to take several brisk walks daily and complete immersion into family life. They’re very companion-oriented, so they don’t do well with being alone for much of the day.

If left alone for too long, these dogs can easily become bored. Boredom makes them especially rambunctious, and they’re prone to destructive chewing.

Bull terriers tend to be especially rambunctious when greeting strangers. They can be a bit too excited. However, some lines do present aggression and timidity, so choosing a good breeder is necessary.

4. Dogo Argentino

white Dogo Argentino dog in the snow

These muscular white dogs are easily some of the most imposing out there.

©Hanna Dymytrova-Kaihila/iStock via Getty Images

You honestly can’t get more muscular than a Dogo Argentino. If you’re basing your decision solely on how much muscle the dog has, a Dogo would win every time.

Of course, you shouldn’t only base your decisions on what a dog looks like. They aren’t great for families that are just looking for a pet. They need tons of exercise – preferably hiking or swimming several times a week. A few walks around the block won’t cut it. Therefore, they do best when you have a plan for your canine, like agility or weight-pulling.

Without enough socialization, these dogs can also become overly suspicious. We don’t recommend them for families with children, as they’re often a bit too protective of the children. They may protect “their” children from other children.

That said, these dogs are very good options for very active families. They also don’t require much grooming and look imposing (despite having a pretty calm temperament).

5. Cane Corso

Cane corso in the forest. Big black dog

As mastiffs, these dogs are very imposing and can make good guard dogs.

©Natalia Fesiun/Shutterstock.com

Cane Corsos easily out do most other dogs in terms of muscle. They’re also very agile and energetic. They’re great for energetic families who want a dog that can keep up with them. They require a lot of companionship and interaction. If you leave them alone too much, they can easily develop problem behaviors (and, for a dog this size, this is not a good thing).

When properly socialized, these dogs can be very discerning. Puppies are often friendly, but they become more aloof with age. As with all mastiffs, socialization is necessary to ensure they aren’t overprotective and aggressive.

Unfortunately, many breeders don’t focus on temperament, and owners don’t always provide enough socialization. Over the past few decades, this has led to some of these dogs being aggressive.

Cane Corsos are more easily trained than most other breeds on this list. They’re more likely to be attentive to their owner and obedient.

6. Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rear view of Rhodesian Ridgeback, 2 years old, sitting in front of white background

This breed is known for there ridge of fur on their back, where their fur runs in the opposite direction.

©Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Rhodesian Ridgebacks don’t look a ton like pit bulls. However, they are one of the more muscular dogs out there. These dogs are a combination of a scenthound and sighthound, which makes them very different from pit bulls temperament-wise. They’re very energetic and will chase just about anything.

Because of their strong prey drive, you must keep these dogs secured by a fence or a leash. These dogs aren’t great for families that aren’t home for much of the day. They cannot be left in the yard alone all day without developing problem behaviors.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are also very independent, which makes them harder to train. They’re known for “testing” their owners and pushing boundaries a lot. Consistent training is a must to ensure these dogs are raised properly.

If you have the time and ability to exercise and socialize them properly, they can be great dogs. However, otherwise, they can be “too much.”

7. Boxer

side view of dog looking at river

This breed is fun-loving and can be a very entertaining dog to own.

©Jaimie Tuchman/iStock via Getty Images

Boxers are interesting dogs that are also very energetic and muscular. They may not look much like pit bulls, but they’re muscular and can be imposing. They’re also fun-loving and have a confident temperament. Once upon a time, they were considered one of the best family dogs you could get.

Boxers are exceptionally animated and playful. They can be a bit crazy, so training and socialization are exceptionally important! They can make loyal companions for life when raised properly.

Exercise is necessary, but how much your dog needs will vary. Some require very long walks several times a day, while others may be more laid back. Because of their shortened snouts, these dogs can be prone to heatstroke, so care should be taken when exercising in warmer climates.

8. American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier standing in water

Whether or not this breed counts as a “pit bull” depends on who you ask.

©Aneta Jungerova/Shutterstock.com

American Staffordshire Terriers are closely related to pit bulls. However, they are slightly smaller, though they have a fairly similar build. They’re very muscular and “block-shaped.” They’re often mistaken as pit bulls, but they are not American Pit Bull Terriers. (In America, at least, if you look at UK standards too, things get confusing.)

This breed has exactly the same origin as the American Pit Bull Terrier. However, the American Staffordshire Terrier broke away in the 1930s when breeders started breeding them for conformation shows.

While these dogs are very muscular and imposing, they’re good-natured and very loyal. They’re athletic, so they do best with an active family. Otherwise, they can be a bit too hyperactive.

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About the Author

Kristin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering dogs, cats, fish, and other pets. She has been an animal writer for seven years, writing for top publications on everything from chinchilla cancer to the rise of designer dogs. She currently lives in Tennessee with her cat, dogs, and two children. When she isn't writing about pets, she enjoys hiking and crocheting.

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