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American Bulldog vs Pitbull: Key Differences and Comparisons

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American Bulldogs are often mistaken for Pitbulls (also known as the American Pitbull Terrier). In reality, when you look at an American Bulldogs vs Pitbull, they are two very different dogs.

So, what are the differences in a Pitbulls vs American Bulldogs? And how do you know which breed would be a better pet for you? 

Let’s take a look at an in-depth comparison.

What Is a Pitbull?

What Is a Pitbull

The term “Pitbull” sometimes refers to a group of dogs with similar characteristics. Dogs that may be referred to as Pitbulls include the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, and American Pit Bull Terrier. For this article, we are referring to the American Pit Bull Terrier when we refer to “Pitbulls.”

Breed History

These two breeds have very different histories that have contributed to the development of their personalities. Since this is one of the most significant differences between American Bulldog vs. Pitbull, let’s start there. 

American Bulldog

Working-class immigrants brought the Old English Bulldog from Europe to North America, then developed a breed with the best qualities for all-around farm work. The new American Bulldog could do anything from herd cattle to hunt wild pigs. 

Since the American Bulldog was bred to work all day long, they have very high energy and require a lot of exercise. 


The Pitbull was initially developed in England for the popular sports of bear and bull baiting. When the blood sports were outlawed in 1835, the Pitbull became popular in dogfighting. 

One thing that makes the Pitbull unique is its bite inhibition with humans. Human handlers needed to be able to remove their dogs from fights without being bitten.

Thanks to this tremendous bite inhibition ability, the Pitbull has more recently been developed as a “nanny dog.” Pitbulls are known to be extremely gentle with children. That may make them better family dogs than the American Bulldog. 

American Bulldog vs Pitbull Temperament and Behavior

American Bulldogs and Pitbull are loyal breeds with similar personalities but significant differences. This is important to know if you are thinking about adding one to your family. 

American Bulldog Temperament and Behavior

American Bulldogs are intelligent, affectionate, and friendly with their families. However, they can be territorial and wary of strangers. They need a lot of socialization as puppies to avoid becoming aggressive as adults

The American Bulldog is very intelligent and trainable. However, it’s essential to keep in mind their exercise requirements. Without enough exercise, they can become destructive and difficult to manage. 

If they are properly socialized as a puppy, American Bulldogs can get along well with other animals. However, they still may not be safe to take to a dog park.

While your dog may not start a fight, they may very well be the one to finish it. That’s a risk many American Bulldog owners aren’t willing to take. 

Pitbull Temperament and Behavior

Pitbull Temperament and Behavior

The Pitbull generally LOVES people. They won’t be effective guarding your home because they don’t have the same protective instincts that the American Bulldog has. The Pitbull has even been referred to as a “nanny dog” thanks to their gentle nature with children. 

The Pitbull is smart and loving like the American Bulldog. However, they can be aggressive toward dogs or small animals if they aren’t properly socialized as a puppy.

Physical Appearance

The first difference between American Bulldog and Pitbull is their size. The American Bulldog is significantly larger than the Pitbull. Let’s look deeper at the physical appearance of both breeds. 

American Bulldog

American Bulldog

The American Bulldog is quite a large dog, weighing between 60 and 120 pounds. 

There are several different varieties of American Bulldog, so their shape isn’t very consistent. However, they all have short, smooth coats that shed a moderate amount. Historically, white was the primary coat color with a variety of additional markings. However, American Bulldogs now come in a variety of colors. 


The Pitbull is a medium-sized dog that weighs 30 to 85 pounds. Like the American Bulldog, Pitbulls have short coats in a variety of colors (including black, blue, brown, and red) that shed moderately. 

One of the best ways to distinguish American Bulldogs from Pitbulls is to look at their lips. American Bulldogs typically have flappy lips, while Pitbulls have lips that stay tight to their faces. 

Grooming Needs

Both American Bulldogs and Pitbulls are easy to groom. Regular brushing with a rubber brush can help reduce shedding, and the occasional bath will keep them clean. Be aware that both breeds can be prone to skin issues, and washing them too frequently can cause dry skin and other problems. 

Other parts of grooming that people often neglect are trimming the nails and brushing the teeth. Overgrown toenails can cause your dog pain in the short-term (if they embed themselves in a paw pad, for example). Nails that are always overgrown can also cause long-term pain because they twist your dog’s toes unnaturally and can cause arthritis. 

You should trim your dog’s nails at least once a month. For the shortest, smoothest nails that won’t scratch you, file or grind the nails once a week.

80% of dogs over the age of 3 have some form of dental disease. Dental disease is about more than just bad breath – it can cause a lot of pain for your dog as teeth crack, fall out, or become infected. Additionally, bacteria from under the gumline can travel through your dog’s bloodstream and affect their heart and other organs. 

You should brush your dog’s teeth as often as possible (daily is best) with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs. Never use human toothpaste, as it can make your dog sick. 

Health Differences

All breeds have some conditions they are more prone to than others. American Bulldogs and Pitbulls are prone to some of the same health conditions, including:

  • Hip dysplasia – a painful joint condition
  • Allergies – caused by environment or food
  • Hypothyroidism – a lack of thyroid hormone that leads to many symptoms

Additionally, American Bulldogs are prone to the following:

  • Cataracts – an eye condition that can cause blindness
  • Mange – an overpopulation of a specific mite that causes baldness
  • Trouble breathing and maintaining their temperature due to a short snout

Pitbulls are prone to the following:

  • Heart disease that may have no symptoms, yet cause sudden death

Exercise Comparison

Both Pitbulls and American Bulldogs need a lot of exercise. However, American Bulldogs require more exercise, and since they’re larger, that exercise usually needs to happen outdoors. 

The caveat to this is that they can be prone to overheating thanks to their shortened nose. If you live in a hot area, plan on exercising your American Bulldog in the mornings and evenings to avoid the hottest time of day.


American Bulldogs and Pitbulls are both relatively easy to train. Both breeds are smart enough to understand what you’re asking them to do. However, Pitbulls are a little more eager to please, so they win the battle about who’s easier to train. 

Both breeds can be prone to stubbornness, which may complicate training efforts. They respond best to positive reinforcement rather than punishment-based training methods. 

American Bulldogs vs Pitbulls: Which Breed Is Right for Me?

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to bring an American Bulldog or Pitbull into your family.

The most significant factor to think about is the size difference. The American Bulldog is roughly twice the size of the Pitbull. If you love big dogs, the American Bulldog may be the perfect choice. However, large dogs cost more to feed and are more difficult to handle if they aren’t trained well. That could make the Pitbull right for you. 

Another thing to consider is your tolerance to drool. With their flappy lips, American Bulldogs are more prone to drooling than Pitbulls. 

Do you have children? While no dog should be left unsupervised with children, the Pitbull is often referred to as “nanny dogs” with nearly endless patience for little ones. While American Bulldogs are also usually good with children, their sheer size can be intimidating for small kids. 

Your local area’s breed-specific legislation, if any, may dictate which breed you’re allowed to own. There are still many places where the Pitbull is banned, while American Bulldogs may be permitted in many of the same places. 

One more thing you should think about is how much exercise you can provide a dog. American Bulldogs have higher energy levels than Pitbulls and do best with a chance to run every day. The Pitbull also has high energy levels. However, their smaller size means they may be happy with a couple of long walks and some indoor fetch. 

Should I Get a Puppy or Adopt from a Shelter?

While you may not see many American Bulldogs in shelters, the Pitbull is one of the most common dog breeds you’ll find at a shelter or rescue. There are too many breeders and too few good homes for Pitbulls, so it’s worth looking into adopting a Pitbull.

If you’re looking for an American Bulldog or Pitbull puppy from a breeder, be very careful and do plenty of research to avoid supporting a backyard breeder or puppy mill. These places are very cruel “puppy factories” that are only interested in money and not the health or wellbeing of the pets in their care. 


Which Breed Is the Better Guard Dog?

Both breeds tend to be too friendly to make good guard dogs. However, the American Bulldog’s size and tendency to be territorial mean it would be more likely to defend you than a Pitbull.

Which Breed Barks More?

Neither American Bulldogs nor Pitbulls are prone to barking unless they are excited or bored. However, the Pitbull uses a variety of other vocalizations to communicate with their humans. You could find that either adorable or obnoxious. 

Do Pitbulls Have Locking Jaws?

No, it’s a myth that the Pitbull has locking jaws. There is nothing about their jaw structure that’s different from any other dog. What the Pitbull DOES have, however, is tenacity. They will hold onto something until they decide they are good and ready to give it up. 

Which Breed Sheds Less?

The American Bulldog and the Pitbull are both moderate shedders. Neither breed sheds more or less than the other. 

Can an American Bulldog or Pitbull Live in an Apartment?

Both dog breeds need lots of exercise and may not be welcome at dog parks. If you don’t have access to a fenced yard, you must commit to walking or jogging your Bulldog or Pitbull for at least an hour every day. These dog breeds do best with a large fenced-in yard to run around in. 

Which Breed Is the Best?

No dog breed is any “better” than any other dog breed. The question is which pet is better suited to your family. 

Do you prefer the larger American Bulldog with the higher exercise requirements? Or do you prefer the smaller Pitbull with the (undeserved) bad reputation? Only you can decide which breed is better for your family. 

Wrapping Up: American Bulldog vs Pitbull

As you can see, there are some similarities between the American Bulldog and the Pitbull. Either dog breed can make an excellent family dog. However, they are two different breeds with different personalities, appearances, and exercise requirements. 

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