Why Pitbulls Are Not Recognized by the AKC?

pitbull not recognized by the american kennel club

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Many Pit Bull owners are surprised not to see their breed featured in events—like the Westminster Dog Show.

The reason is that the AKC doesn’t recognize American Pit Bulls as a breed, but things get confusing as you learn more about what’s behind that decision.

It’s unclear why American Pit Bulls are not recognized by the AKC. However, it’s likely that the organization doesn’t consider these dogs distinct enough to be a separate breed from the American Staffordshire Terrier. However, the AKC recognizes other breeds in the “pit bull” family.

This subject can get a little bit confusing, and APBT owners have been trying to make sense of it for a while. Here, I’ve attempted to do exactly that and shed light on some of the misunderstandings surrounding American Pit Bulls. Keep reading.

It’s Unclear Why the AKC Doesn’t Recognize American Pit Bulls

american pitbull pup

The thing about calling a dog a pit bull is that it’s an umbrella term that doesn’t refer to a specific breed. My dog is sometimes called a pit bull because he fits many of the physical traits associated with pit bulls: almond-shaped eyes, a muscular neck, a broad chest, and a smooth and short coat.

However, if we’re being precise, he isn’t really a pit bull—he’s an American Bully. There isn’t a breed called “pit bull”; rather, many dog breeds fit our perception of a pit bull, American Bullies being one of them.

The breed that comes to most people’s minds when they think of a pit bull is usually an American Pitbull Terrier. This short, energetic, and affectionate breed is similar to the American Bully.

It’s expected for the AKC not to recognize pit bulls since they aren’t a proper breed but rather a generalizing term. What’s surprising to many owners is that the American Pit Bull Terrier isn’t recognized either.

The same is true for other breeds that fall into the pit bull category, just as it happens with my dog. He’s an American Bully, a breed that isn’t recognized either by the AKC.

Other associations have included the American Pitbulls in their list of recognized breeds. The United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Associations are the most notable ones.

But this only begs the question: why is the AKC still leaving American Pit Bulls out?

AKC Thinks APBTs Aren’t Different Enough From ASTs

pitbull eating

I think part of the reason might date back to when the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier were essentially the same breed. This original breed was supposed to combine the gameness of terriers and the athleticism of bulldogs.

Since the 1930s, dogs from this original breed have been bred for different purposes. However, they remain extremely similar. Sometimes not even experts can’t find the differences between the three breeds.

Today, out of the three breeds that came out of this original breed, only the American Pit Bull Terrier isn’t recognized.

If you ask around in forums, you’ll get many answers from folks trying to make sense of this confusing decision. If I had to guess, it seems like AKC doesn’t consider the American Pit Bull Terrier as a pure breed, but rather as an imprecise category akin to “Pit Bull.”

The AKC recognized American Staffordshire Terriers as a breed in 1972. At the time, the AKC let into their register a few American Pit Bulls that fit their standards for American Staffordshire Terriers, which further suggests that the AKC sees American Pit Bulls more like a deviation for AST than a separate breed.

But the fact is that, since that time, ASTs have been bred separately from APBTs, so it’s safe to say they are different breeds by now.

Pit Bulls Were Raised for Dog Fighting

Another reason could be that the AKC didn’t want to be associated with dogfighting. Dogfighting indeed was one of the original purposes of American Pit Bulls. However, over time, they became beloved for their other talents and traits, and now they’re genetically far from their fighting ancestors.

Dogfighting was banned in 1976 in the US. Although this horrible practice is still held in illegal circles, regular Pit Bulls aren’t as associated with it as they once were.

How the AKC Decides on Registering a New Breed

Since none of these reasons convinced me, I took a look at the AKC’s guidelines for recognizing a new dog breed.

The AKC decides to register a new breed by following these rules:

  • The breed must have at least 100 household members that are part of their specific National Breed Club.
  • There must be at least 300 to 400 dogs of the breed in the country.
  • The dogs and their owners must be located across at least 20 states.
  • The AKC club must approve the club’s breeding practices.

American Pit Bulls seem qualified in all respects. Their breed club is alive and well, and Pit Bulls, in general, make 20% of all the dogs in the US. That’s why I’m surprised that the AKC doesn’t recognize American Pit Bulls.

Are Pit Bulls Banned in the US?

pitbull puppy playing with a tennis ball

Pit Bulls are banned in many municipalities in the US. These municipalities are concentrated in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Arkansas, Michigan, Louisiana, and Kentucky. Most other states prohibit or don’t enforce Breed Specific Legislations.

Sadly, as popular as American Pit Bulls are, they’re also one of the breeds more frequently found in dog shelters.

American Pit Bulls face a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding. There’s the belief that they’re irremediably aggressive and a bad choice for families. But American Pit Bulls—and Pit Bulls in general—are actually very affectionate toward humans and even especially friendly with children.

This prejudice is undoubtedly fueled by Breed Specific Legislation, mostly known as breed This prejudice is undoubtedly fueled by Breed Specific Legislation, mostly known as breed bans.

There are 75 banned or restricted breeds in the United States alone. In some states, this includes the pit bull—as fuzzy as that term is.

The issue with breed bans is that they don’t fix the issue. In fact, they only make it worse. They are driven more by public perception than the real nature of a breed.

Often, breed bans are enforced after a tragic accident involving a dog by said breed. But by punishing the dog, we’re not getting any closer to fixing the issue, which is irresponsible owners. Banning breeds is unfair for dogs and responsible owners, and it doesn’t do much against irresponsible owners that foster dangerous behaviors in their pets.

From my experience with my dog, I’m convinced Pit Bulls are a great addition to a family. Stories about aggressive Pit Bulls can often be attributed to abuse when they were young, but a well-cared and behaviorally sound pit bull is no more dangerous than any other large dog.

Should You Add a Pit Bull to Your Family?

You may add a Pit Bull to your family if you put care into socializing it with other dogs. Pit Bulls are great with children but can become aggressive toward other dogs after they reach adulthood.

That’s why, although they’re loving and great with children, I wouldn’t recommend owning a pit bull to someone who’s away all the time. Pit bulls have a lot of energy to spend, and being impeded to do so could lead to behavioral issues.

But if you have the time or enough people in your household to keep them busy, an American Pit Bull will make a loyal and joyful friend.


It’s not clear why the AKC doesn’t recognize American Pit Bulls. The dogs seem to meet most of the AKC’s criteria, and they have a dedicated following.

It’s possible that, at some point, the AKC wanted to avoid the breed’s association with dogfighting. But those fighting ancestors are genetically far from today’s Pit Bulls, and the AKC has come to accept other dogs in the “Pit Bull” family.

Whatever the case, APBT remains a popular, loving, and athletic dog breed across the country.

3 thoughts on “Why Pitbulls Are Not Recognized by the AKC?”

  1. AST and APBT are the same dog, the DNA has never changed just more selective breeding on the AST side but it’s all the same gene pool, the way you’re saying it is like you can get a separate new breed of dog by only selectively breeding Rottweilers.

    The AST was called the Staffordshire Terrier in 1936, the used APBT’s so if it’s different from the APBT why did UKC APBT have to be used?

    I think the name is a disassociation with dog fighting.

  2. The pitbull is not an umbrella term, the APBT is its own breed and even recognized by the UKC. The term for all bully breeds is simple, bullies. You wouldn’t claim all shepherds are german shepherds just because it is a shepherd, just like you shouldn’t call bullies a pitbull just because its a bully. The reason for the APBT not being recognized by the akc is because of the fact the breed was bred for “dogfighting” or blood sports. The akc does not associate with breeds bred for dogfighting, even if the breed doesn’t do it anymore they were still BRED for it. The APBT is not a common breed and most people claiming they one usually always have bully mutts.

  3. Severiano Thornton

    The American Pitbull Terrier IS a defined breed who’s history is older than many breeds recognized by the AKC… do you require.org/edu links?

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