Staffordshire Bull Terrier vs. Pitbull: What Are the Differences?

Written by Hannah Ward
Updated: October 12, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Staffordshire bull terriers are a genetic blend of bulldogs, mastiffs, and terriers, while pitbulls contain the genes of their bulldog and terrier forebears.
  • Both breeds were originally bred for the purposes of bullfighting and dogfighting, however, Staffordshire bull terriers are energetic and good-natured, while pitbulls have a brooding personality.
  • Staffordshire bull terriers are the stockier of the two, while pitbulls tend to be leaner and more muscular.
Staffordshire bull terrier puppy in leaves

Staffordshire bull terriers have a lot of energy and need plenty of activity to prevent destructive behavior.

©Aneta Jungerova/

Staffordshire bull terriers and Pitbulls are both stocky and muscular dogs known because of their reputation – which isn’t always a good one. They have similar appearances, and both have a lot of energy, so it’s easy to confuse the two. However, when it comes to Staffordshire terrier vs pitbull, there are some key differences that make it much easier to tell them apart.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Staffordshire terriers and Pitbulls, including how big they are, what they look like, and their temperament.

Comparing Pitbull vs. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

A Pitbull differs from a Staffordshire bull terrier in size, color, and build.

Pitbulls are descended from terriers that were crossed with bulldogs to create an agile and strong dog for the purpose of fighting. In fact, the term “pitbull” is often used quite loosely and can describe several dogs used for dog fighting. Such dogs include Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American Pitbull terriers. Historically, Pitbulls were used for dogfighting and bullfighting and are still used for illegal dog fights today. This has earned them a reputation as aggressive dogs and led to them being completely banned in some countries.

Staffordshire bull terriers (also known as Staffies) are an English breed that are descended from mastiffs and bulldogs. They were also originally used for dogfighting and bullfighting – this sport required large dogs in the 100-120 lb range. However, eventually, the terrier was added into the mix to produce smaller dogs that we know today as Staffordshire bull terriers. Despite staffies often being described under the term “pitbull,” there are a few differences between them.

PitbullStaffordshire Bull Terrier
SizeWeight: 24 to 80 pounds
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 24 to 38 pounds
Height: 13 to 16 inches
ColorAny color and any patternBlack, white, fawn, red, brindle
BuildLean, muscular, well-proportionedMedium-sized, stocky, muscular
FaceSlightly rounded with a wide jaw and high-set earsShort, broad head. More rounded
TemperamentCourageous, stubborn, low tolerance for other animalsEnergetic, boisterous, playful
Bite Force235 pounds328 pounds

The 5 Key Differences Between Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pitbulls

Isolated Staffordshire bull terrier

Staffordshire bull terriers are smaller than pitbulls but have a stocky and muscular build.

©Eric Isselee/

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

Pitbulls are much larger and taller than Staffordshire terriers. They also have a lean and muscular build and various colors and markings. Staffordshire terriers often have more solid colors and are usually better behaved with other animals than Pitbulls are.

Let’s discuss all of these differences in more detail below.

pitbull crouched down on path

Pitbulls are known to be somewhat stubborn yet courageous.



One of the most noticeable differences between Staffordshire terriers and Pitbulls is their size. Pitbulls are much larger than Staffordshire terriers and weigh between 24 and 80 pounds while standing between 17 and 20 inches high. Staffies only weigh between 24 and 38 pounds and stand between 13 and 16 inches high. The males tend to be larger than the females in both breeds.


Both Staffordshire terriers and Pitbulls have strong and muscular builds, but there are some slight differences in their shape. Pitbulls are lean and muscular but well-proportioned. They also have a short, muscular tail, often described as being like a whip. Staffies are medium-sized but stocky and muscular. They have a particularly wide and muscular chest.

Pair of Staffordshire bull terriers

The Staffordshire terrier is known for its playful nature, and short, broad head.



Pitbulls have slightly rounded faces with high-set ears. Their jaw is wide, and their nose is slightly tapered upwards. They don’t have any facial wrinkles. Staffordshire bull terriers often appear to have a more rounded head than Pitbulls. Their head is also short but broad, and this is particularly noticeable in the width of their forehead. Their ears are not quite as high-set as those of Pitbulls.

Two American Staffordshire Terriers sitting in the park

A Staffordshire terrier has a coat usually of solid colors (black, white, red, etc.), though white is sometimes seen.



The appearance of Pitbulls varies widely within the breed: Pitbulls can have a coat that is any color or pattern. However, Staffordshire terriers are considerably different. Their coats are usually solid colors such as black, white, fawn, red, or brindle. However, white with any of these colors can also sometimes be seen.


dog food for Pitbulls

Pitbulls are much larger than Staffies and have a tendency to become aggressive toward other animals.

©Sophia Tr/

Pitbulls are courageous but stubborn and have little tolerance for 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.

Despite their appearance, Staffordshire terriers are actually more loving than you might expect. They are energetic and boisterous and love to play, yet are eager to please. They are sometimes nicknamed “nanny dogs” because of their patient and caring attitude towards children, Staffies tend to be well-behaved with dogs and other animals that they know but can be wary of dogs they don’t know. In these situations, they can attack if they feel as though they are threatened.

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 © Sophia Tr/

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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.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do pitbulls and Staffordshire bull terriers have a locking jaw?

No, locking jaw is actually 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.  Therefore, they don’t have a locking jaw, or the ability to lock it.  However, both dogs do have a strong bite and do have a tendency to be determined so therefore hold onto things longer than other dogs might, which is where the locking jaw theory comes from.  Their strength and determination comes from the dog and bull fighting that they were historically used for.

Are pitbulls dangerous?

Despite all of the negative press that they get, pitbulls are actually not considered to be naturally aggressive towards people.  In fact, they are generally considered to be highly affectionate and loyal dogs.  However, if they are not properly trained and socialized, or have owners who encourage aggression or use them for fighting then pitbulls can become dangerous.

Are Staffordshire bull terriers dangerous?

Staffordshire bull terriers tend to have a bad reputation because of the confusion between pitbulls and staffies and their association with bullfighting and dog fighting.  However, despite having a much higher bite force than pitbulls (328 pounds to pitbulls 235 pounds), they are not considered to be naturally dangerous dogs.  Studies have actually found that they are no more aggressive than any other breed of dog.  Rather, it is their upbringing and what role their owners use them for that influences whether they are dangerous or not.

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