Does a Pitbull Jaw Really Lock? 

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People often have a negative impression of Pitbulls. One of the biggest reasons for this is that people believe that once a Pitbull bites, it won’t let go due to a jaw-locking mechanism within the dog. 

A Pitbull’s jaw doesn’t really lock. While lockjaw is a real condition that dogs can sometimes develop, the Pitbull as a breed doesn’t have the mechanisms that they need to lock their jaws by choice when they bite. 

Read on to learn more about Pitbulls and why their jaws don’t lock. We’ll also dive into times when a dog may experience lockjaw as a condition. Let’s get started! 

The Myth of Pitbull Jaw Locking

pitbull jaw locking

The myth of jaw-locking started when people observed that Pitbulls tend to refuse to let go of something they are holding on to. However, the idea that this means that they cannot let go of it has come from nothing more than ill-informed gossip over time. 

Let’s talk about Pitbulls for a moment, though. These dogs are known for their

tenacious spirit and luster for life and are incorrectly known to be aggressive. Often, this tenacity is confused with aggression. 

Originally, Pitbulls were bred as “gripping dogs,” meaning they were bred to bite and hold onto things. This adapted trait has been passed down as humanity has continued to breed them. Knowing this information, it’s not a surprise that people have taken the heavy grip of a Pitbull and turned it into the idea of jaw-locking. 

So, what happens with a Pitbull jaw?

Like any other dog, they can hold on to objects, or people in the right circumstances, with enormous intensity. Pitbulls have extremely powerful jaws, and once they get a good grip – well, you probably know how difficult it is to get them to release. 

Despite the heavy grip, the dog’s jaw isn’t locked. Instead, the Pitbull is putting down tremendous pressure, up to 240 lbs per sq inch (1655 kPa), which can feel like a locked jaw when you’re being attacked. 

However, the real problem with a Pitbull bite isn’t the amount of pressure. In fact, quite a few dog breeds and a whole range of other animals are significantly stronger than the Pitbull. 

For instance, the American Bully, a Pitbull’s close relative, has a bite force of 305 PSI (2103 kPa). On the other hand, the Kangal, which has the strongest bite of any dog, measures 743 PSI (5,122.8 kPa). That’s over three times the pressure that a Pitbull bites with. 

The real problem with a Pitbull’s bite is that they hold on to their prey and shake them. This tendency is the primary reason that people believe that Pitbulls lock their jaws. 

Given that Pits are a type of terrier, it’s not surprising that they are known to grip and shake, which is common with nearly any terrier breed. Once the dog bites, it latches its teeth into the skin and muscle and then begins to shake. 

The shaking motion allows the dog to maintain an even tighter grip because they constantly adjust in the bite as they move, enabling the Pitbull to hold on to prey for significantly longer than some other dogs. 

Still, when the object or prey is twisted right, the Pitbull will be forced to release it. No mechanism can keep the object in its mouth indefinitely.

Why Are Pitbull Jaws So Strong? 

american bully playing

There’s no argument that a Pit’s jaws are enormously strong, but it’s not just their jaws, either, as the dog as a whole is enormously strong. A few factors play into this. 

Pitbull jaws are so strong because of the head and jaw size, which directly affects how strong the jaw is. Larger dogs typically have greater jaw strength. They are also bred to have strong jaws.

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In addition, one must consider the dog’s history – what they were bred for and what its background looks like. This plays a huge role because animals are constantly adapting to new environments. 

Let’s look at each of these in more detail. 

Size of the Dog

The dog’s size plays a huge role in whether or not it has strong jaws. A smaller dog will have less bite force than a larger one. The Pitbull, which can weigh between 30 lbs and 90 lbs (13.6 and 40.8 kg), definitely has size on its side. 

Head and Jaw Size

The head and jaw size is another critical factor in jaw strength, as Pitbulls have almost disproportionately large heads compared to their bodies. Not only are their heads quite large, but their jaws are also large. 

They can open their mouths fairly wide, which gives them the ability to chomp down with significantly more strength. This is similar to how a heavy object that drops from a high place will crash harder than one that falls from a lesser height. 

In most cases, a larger jaw translates to a stronger jaw.

The Pitbull’s Ancestry

While it’s not thought about very often, the Pitbull’s ancestry plays a major role in why they have such a strong jaw. They may not have always had as strong of a jaw as they do today, but this trait has developed over time because they were bred to be both guard dogs and grip dogs. 

The Pitbull has frequently been used as a hunting assistant, which requires them to have a massively strong jaw. 

What Is a True Lockjaw? 

Lockjaw is a real thing, but it’s not specific to Pitbulls. Instead, lockjaw is a disease that can affect any breed of dog and is primarily caused by a bacterial infection, leading the dog to lose control of its jaw muscles along with a range of other symptoms. 

This isn’t very common in dogs, but it’s somehow become associated with Pitbulls. Perhaps this is because of the enormous strength and refusal to let go of objects that Pits tend to have. 

Final Thoughts

It is a myth that a Pitbull’s jaw locks when they bite, which came about because of the history of the Pitbull and because of the way they tend to hold onto objects or prey once they’ve latched on.

However, rarely would anyone disagree with how strong the dog’s jaw is. Once Pits get a good grip, they will shake the prey. It can take a very specific type of twisting to get the dog to release. 


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