PitBull vs. American Bulldog: The 8 Differences

american bulldog vs pitbull

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American Bulldogs and American Pit Bull Terriers, or pit bulls, have many similarities on the surface.

They have a similar ancestry and even resemble each other at a glance. However, they are not the same breed or type of dog.

If you are looking for Pit Bull vs. American Bulldog differences, then this list should help you out.

1. “Pit Bull” Is a Term, “American Bulldog” Is a Type

While “American Bulldog” refers to a specific breed of canine, the term “pit bull” does not. A pit bull is an American term that refers to several types of dogs descended from both bulldogs and terriers.

These dogs mostly include the American Staffordshire, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and sometimes the American Bulldog. In England, the phrase “pit bull” is shorthand for the American Pit Bull Terrier.

This is also the type of dog that people typically mean when they say a dog is a “pit bull.”

2. The American Bulldog Is Pure Bulldog

american bulldog

As their names imply, the American Bulldog is a full and pure bulldog breed. A pit bull means certain types of dogs that could be terriers or bulldogs. However, if “pit bull” is in reference to the American Pit Bull Terrier, then its name speaks for itself for its genetic makeup.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a cross between both a bulldog and a terrier. Its terrier lineage comes from the Old English Terrier, which is now extinct. Both the American Bulldog and a pitbull get their bulldog genes from the Old English Bulldog, which is also now extinct.

Both breeds were bred for hunting, working, and farming, so they are both high-energy and tough. Sadly, they were both also bred for horrific blood sports such as bull-baiting, from which they get their names.

3. The American Bulldog Is Larger

An American Bulldog generally weighs between 60 and 120 pounds and are 20 to 28 inches high. Pit bulls, or an American Pit Bull Terrier, only get as heavy as 35 to 60 pounds, with a height of 18 to 21 inches. 

American Bulldogs may even exceed their average dimensions, depending on the breed and other genetic factors. Female American Pit Bull Terriers are slightly smaller than their male counterparts, weighing an average of 30 to 50 pounds and reaching heights of 17 to 20 inches.

American Bulldogs also tend to have a stockier build, with broader shoulders and giving off a more “square” appearance. Pit bulls have leaner bodies and more defined muscles.

They also tend to have different head shapes. A pit bull’s head is more V-shaped than the American Bulldog, giving them their signature blocky look.

4. They Have Slightly Different Coat Coloring

The American Bulldog and the American Pit Bull Terrier have similar appearances. They are both extremely short-haired and often end up being similar colors. However, American Bulldogs are often white, sometimes with solid patches of brown or black on different parts of its body.

The American Pit Bull Terrier, on the other hand, is likelier to be a solid color but not necessarily white. They are often light brown or gray and sometimes have a different and lighter-colored belly, called a “tuxedo” coat. They are not limited to these colors and can be a wide range of them.

It is less common for pit bulls to have color patches the way American Bulldogs do, but it’s not out of the question.

5. American Pit Bull Terriers Are Friendlier Towards People

american pitbull with a curious face

Both types of dogs can be friendly and loving companions. However, pit bulls are generally friendlier, even with people they do not know well. Both breeds struggle with dealing with small animals, however.

American Bulldogs are large and strong dogs. If they are scared or extremely restless, they can grow agitated and are prone to destructive behaviors, like ruining furniture or shoes. Pit bulls require an energy outlet, as well, but are less likely to become destructive in the same way.

Both breeds require particular care to manage their energy and intensity. American Bulldogs tend to be warier of other dogs and strangers. Pit Bulls are less so on both counts. Both are known for liking and being protective of children, but pit bulls are especially fond of them.

Unlike American Bulldogs, pit bulls are not recommended as watchdogs by the United Kennel Club. Pit bulls are considered too friendly to be effective despite their harsh stereotype, even when confronted by strangers.

6. American Bulldogs Are Friendlier Towards Other Dogs and Cats

While pit bulls have the asset of being exceptionally friendly towards people, they fall a little short in their dealings with other animals. Pit bulls have been bred for dogfighting for at least a century, maybe more.

Because they were bred and cultivated for dogfighting for so many years, their fighting instinct tends to rear up with other small dogs and cats.

While American Bulldogs are still generally not ideal companions for other pets and animals, they still are more amicable towards them than pit bulls are. American Bulldogs have a high prey drive that may act up if left alone with other small creatures, but pit bulls are still not considered as tolerant of other animals as the American Bulldog.

7. American Bulldogs May Live Longer

pitbull jumping

Pit bulls and American Bulldogs both have a life expectancy that can go all the way up to 16 years. However, American Pit Bull Terriers generally live between 12 to 14 years, while American Bulldogs live from around 10 to 16 years.

Both breeds are considered hardy, though, despite the ailments that may accompany each breed. They share some genetic issues, such as facing dysplasias in the hips or elbows. 

They each may suffer from some problems that the other does not, though. Bulldogs are uniquely prone to bone cancer, kidney issues, and cherry eye. Pit bulls’ specific problems include heart disease, diabetes, and mange.

8. American Bulldogs Almost Became Extinct At Least Twice

American Pit Bull Terriers have always had some kind of role in history, from being police or farm dogs to unsettlingly being a common participant in dogfights. American Bulldogs, on the other hand, have faced near-extinction at least twice. Two separate events kept them afloat.

Although it sounds strange, the American Bulldog has lasted as a breed due to the dogs being effective against feral pigs. In the “New World” of America, feral pigs ran wild with no natural predators, especially in the south. The feral pigs were large and threatening vermin. Settlers and farmers turned to bulldogs to keep the pigs away from their settlements and crops.

During World War II, the breed nearly died off again. This time, John D. Johnson actively saved them. He searched the south of the United States, looking for prime dogs to use to keep the breed alive. With the help of a man named Alan Scott, he succeeded.

While the American Pitt Bull Terrier has had many uses in its history, its primary role has been in dogfighting for years. The cruel sport finally became outlawed in all fifty states in 1976, and pit bulls now mostly serve as pets or even therapy dogs.


Although similar, the American Bulldog and the American Pit Bull Terrier each have unique personal features that set them apart. Differences aside, they are both energetic and loyal dogs that unfortunately often get stereotyped as violent. With the right care and love, as with any dog, both breeds can be excellent companions.

6 thoughts on “PitBull vs. American Bulldog: The 8 Differences”

  1. GREAT ARTICLE! And I love them both, and have been blessed to spend some of my life with both . . . and sometimes both taking up lots of room in my bed. LOL!

    I fully admit that I’m in the “pit bulls are pit bulldogs” camp. 🙂

    Your comparisons and contrasts, though, are spot on in my experience. Thanks for this article!

  2. Can’t deny what you’ve said, I have an autistic child and the pit, which ain’t ours, seem to understand him even though never met before. No such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners.

  3. My dog is a mystery. He weighs between 90 and 100 pounds and is taller than a pit bull. He has a blocky body, with a very broad chest. He has a pit bull’s head and his coloring is more pit bull than American bulldog. Can I say he is a pit bull/American bulldog mix?

  4. Hi,
    I took my 13 week old Bully pup into hospital to see my Mum 3 days before she passed away, she opened her eyes and smiled then reached out to stroke him.
    Baker lay by her side for a full 20 minutes and did not move once, quite incredible for a pup of that age, he gave my Mum joy which was wonderful to see and I will never forget the connection they formed in that short moment in time.
    What a fantastic dog!!

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