How Strong Are American Pitbulls?

american pitbull showing strength by pulling a truck

The American Pit Bull Terrier and other pitbull-type breeds have a stoic demeanor, muscular build, and incredible strength.

Unfortunately, their strength is often cited as a reason for fearing the breed due to misconceptions regarding aggression.

As such, there’ve been skewed numbers regarding the strength of the American Pitbull and other pitbull-type breeds.

How strong are American Pitbulls?

American Pitbulls are incredibly strong canines (but not the strongest) with a bite force of 235 PSI. Their slightly brachycephalic heads indicate a stronger bite than those with narrower heads. Pitbulls make up the majority of breeds in weight-pulling competitions and naturally excel at the sport.

In this article, I’ll look at the American Pit Bull’s strength and how it plays a role in the breed’s history. I’ll also cover how a dog’s size and cranial structure contribute to its bite force.

Finally, I’ll discuss the breed’s involvement in weight-pulling competitions, so read on to learn more.

The American Pit Bull’s Strength Plays a Role in Its History

It’s unfortunate, but the American Pit Bull Terrier and other pitbull-type breeds have a bad reputation due to their history and strength.

Centuries ago in England and Ireland, people bred the now-extinct Old English Terriers and Old English Bulldogs to create a strong, athletic bulldog capable of performing multiple tasks, including cart pulling and hunting.

Old English Bulldogs were notoriously strong with extremely well-developed muscles and described as “the most ferocious and unrelenting of the canine tribe,” whereas the Old English Terrier had significant jaw strength.

Sadly, due to their impressive strength, people also selected the breed for more nefarious reasons, including bloodsports like bull-baiting.

After Britain outlawed bull-baiting and other bloodsports in 1835 with the introduction of animal cruelty laws, many bull-baiting proponents switched to dog fighting.

Since dogs involved in dog fighting required more agility than their bull-baiting counterparts, people bred the heavy, muscular bulldogs with terriers to create a faster, more agile breed that retained its strength.

People brought these dogs to the United States in the mid to late 1800s — as such, these are the direct ancestors of the American Pit Bull Terrier. By the early 20th century, people used pitbull-type breeds as catch dogs and to drive livestock. Many also began breeding the aggressive tendencies out of the breed to create family companions.

Today, reputable breeders continue to make it their duty to produce only quality stock without aggressive behaviors. As such, they’ve created a powerful, strong yet gentle breed that’s intelligent, companionable, and easily trained.

Unfortunately, their negative history continues to follow the breed. They’re often feared due to their strength, despite being gentle canines.

A Dog’s Size and Head Shape in Relation to Strength

pitbull muzzled

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized dog weighing between 30 and 90 pounds as an adult. They’re solidly built with strong skeletal systems and well-defined muscles.

In terms of strength, it appears that size plays a role. Generally, larger breeds are overall stronger than smaller breeds.

However, a dog’s head shape plays a more significant role relative to its strength. In “Behavioural Processes,” a scientific journal regarding research on animal behavior, researchers note that dogs with broader heads (brachycephalic) are significantly stronger than dogs with more narrow heads (dolichocephalic), regardless of body mass.

American Pit Bull Terriers have slightly brachycephalic cranium shapes, according to the Continental Kennel Club.

With that said, it’s safe to say that the American Pit Bull Terrier is likely much stronger than dogs with more narrow craniums. So, despite their medium size, the American Pit Bull Terrier and other pitbull-type breeds are incredibly powerful creatures.

American Pitbull Bite Force

Research is limited in the area of pitbull bite force, but there have been enough studies to get a decent idea of how strong these dogs truly are.

However, the methods aren’t exactly foolproof. Most studies utilize one of three methods to measure bite strength, including geometrical analysis, electrodes, and transducers.

  • Geometrical Analysis – This method, perhaps the least accurate, uses the scientific theory to determine the potential maximum force that could theoretically be applied by a canine’s jaws (based on bone structure). With that said, no creature applies the maximum amount of pressure when biting —  doing so could cause broken teeth, torn muscle tissue, or a fractured jaw.
  • Electrode Method – In studies using the electrode method, researchers placed canines under anesthesia and attached electrodes to stimulate jaw movements. Because the dogs weren’t conscious during the study, they couldn’t control the bite force to preserve their oral health as they would in normal circumstances. As such, it’s safe to assume that the test resulted in bite forces significantly higher than applied in a natural situation.
  • Treat Wrapped Transducer – This study utilized transducers wrapped with treats to determine the bite force of canines. Instead of measuring a defensive or protective bite force, the study measured the dogs’ casual chewing force. The results of this study likely resulted in inaccurate bite force estimations on the lower end of the spectrum.

More accurate studies involve bite force meters strategically placed on protective sleeves. Dogs are provoked to bite the sleeve in defense. Based on the method used, these studies are likely more accurate than the three mentioned above.

Based on several of these accurate scientific studies, pitbull-type breeds have an average bite strength of 235 pounds per square inch (PSI). This measurement is no more or less than other canine breeds of the same size and weight. It’s also significantly lower than large dog breeds, including the Mastiff and the Rottweiler.

There is a common misconception that pitbull-type breeds are the strongest dogs in the world, but this is clearly false. That doesn’t, however, negate the fact that pitbulls are very strong.

It should also be noted that there is quite a variation in the size of American Pit Bull Terriers and other pitbull-type breeds, even within the same litter. For example, an 80-pound pitbull likely has a bite force much greater than a 40-pound dog of the same breed.

As such, bite force is merely an average estimate, not an exact science determining the bite force of the breed as a whole.

American Pitbulls and Weight Pulling

During the 1970s, the American Dog Breeders Association developed canine weight-pulling competitions in hopes that it would become a replacement for dog fighting.

The activity doesn’t harm the canines, and gives them a release for any pent-up energy. After all, dogs love having a job because it gives them purpose, and it’s another way for them to please their owners.

Pitbull-type breeds are incredibly well-suited for weight-pulling competitions. In fact, pitbull-type breeds make up the majority of breeds that participate in weight pulling.

On the Unified Weight Pull Federation’s website, there are over 600 American Pit Bull Terriers listed as part of the competition. Additionally, they list 60+ American Bullies, 40+ Staffordshire Bull Terriers, 30+ American Staffordshire Terriers, and 50+ “Working Pit” bulldogs.

The American Pulling Association lists 270 American Pit Bull Terriers and 32 Staffordshire Terriers as national champions in different years and divisions.

In this sport, specially trained, harnessed dogs pull carts loaded with a certain amount of weight. The goal is to pull the weight within the shortest possible time frame. If the dog successfully pulls the cart, more weight is added.

The American Staffordshire Terrier has been known to pull over 2,866 pounds (1,300 kg)!

Does The American Pitbull Have The Strongest Bite?

baby pitbull biting a toy

The American Pitbull does not have the strongest bite of all dog breeds. A pitbull’s average bite force is 235 pounds per square inch (PSI). The rottweiler exceeds that with a bite force of 328 PSI. The strongest breed is the Mastiff, with a bite force of 552 PSI, comparable to a lion.

For whatever reason, people have commonly misrepresented the strength of the pitbull’s bite force. There’ve been numerous rumors stating that a pitbull’s jaws have a bite force up to 2,000 PSI — that is comparable to an alligator (2,125 PSI). Needless to say, these claims are wildly inaccurate.

To achieve such a force, the amount of pressure exerted on the top jaw would exceed the weight of a Toyota sedan. No canine’s bone structure is physically capable of handling this amount of pressure without serious and potentially fatal consequences.

Conclusion

The American Pit Bull Terrier and other pitbull-type breeds have a long, tough history, but it doesn’t deter them from standing tall with dignity and literal strength. While their strength is not indomitable (there are several breeds much stronger than the pitbull), they have an impressive bite force and show incredible tenacity and capability in weight-pulling competitions.

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