Pitbulls vs. Other Bully Breeds: What’s the Difference?

Pitbulls are always confused with popular dogs such as staffies and bull terriers, so let’s dispel the myths by looking at the differences between pitbulls and other bully breeds.

Dec 3, 2023By Lisa Szymanski
pitbulls vs other bully breeds difference

You get the large and in-charge American bully, the short and stout Staffordshire terrier, and the lean machine that’s the American pitbull terrier. These dogs are only a few of the bully breeds that refer to terrier-type dogs. However, it’s the pitbull that’s frequently muddled with other bully breeds, including the AmStaff, Dogo Argentino, and Bull Terrier. In this guide, we look at pitbulls vs. other bully breeds: What’s the difference? This includes an investigation into their appearances and personalities as we get to know the pitbull.

What are Bully Breeds?

white pitbull and brown pitbull playing outside
Pitbulls are large and strong dogs

If we go back in time, specifically to the 1800s, we can better understand the origin of the bully breeds. It all started with a German bulldog called the Bullenbeisser. They looked similar to boxers but with pointy and upright ears and a larger, more muscular body.

These dogs of the past were mighty and were used to bring magnificent bulls down, which was a very cruel and ancient practice. Over time, Bullenbeissers were crossed with smaller breeds, including bulldogs.

The American pitbull terrier (APBT) is one dog that has been linked to the cross of the English bulldog and the British terrier. In fact, every one of the modern bully breeds can be traced back to the great bull-biting dog from Germany. These breeds include the bull terrier, American bulldog, American bully, French bulldog, and staffy among others. Each of the bully breeds has its own temperament, personality, and stature. That’s because specific dogs were selected to develop desired traits for companionship or fighting.

How is the Pitbull Different from Other Bully Breeds?

blue pitbull lying on green grass
A blue pitbull with a broad head and smiling face

Some of the most common bully breeds that pitbulls are confused with include the American bully, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog, bull terrier, and the Dogo Argentino. All these breeds can act aggressively without obedience and good leadership, but the stubborn pitbull definitely needs socialization to prevent problems.

The bull terrier and staffy are working dogs that are commonly used on farms and are slightly smaller in size than the pitbull. Bull terriers have elongated faces, while boxers and French bulldogs have significantly shorter and flatter heads and snouts than pitbulls.

The American pitbull terrier is very similar in appearance to the feared Dogo Argentino, but the Argentino breed tops them in height and weight. Pitbulls are described as incredibly friendly and playful, while other breeds, such as the American bulldog and the Dogo Argentino are more wary around strangers.

Is the American Bully a Pitbull?

american bully standing with black lead
The American bully is a large-set and powerful dog

When you first look at an American bully, you may confuse them with a pitbull because of their similarly shaped eyes, muzzles, and cropped ears. While these dogs do share DNA, they are two distinct breeds with unique physical features and personality traits. Let’s start by describing the American bully. These colossal dogs have broad chests and muscular bodies with very wide-set legs that create a rather intimidating appearance. They are not oversized pitbulls and were developed as an independent breed in the early 1990s.

American bullies are also classified in size, from pocket and standard to the impressive XL bully. Pitbulls are taller than American bullies and have a more slender appearance, with forward-facing ears that can also be cropped. They’re generally half the weight of an American bully, at 30-60 lbs, and are described as exuberant dogs. Both American bullies and pitties are family dogs but require a fair amount of dog training to avoid the aggression typically associated with the breed.

Pitbulls are Confused with American Staffordshire Terriers

american staffordshire terrier dog
The AmStaff is not a pitbull but they do share genetic traits

There is quite an overlap between the American Staffordshire terrier (AmStafff) and the American Pitbull terrier and you only need to look at their appearances to see why. Both dogs have broad muzzles and blocky heads, and it might not be a surprise to discover that the American staffy is the pitbull’s cousin.

Pitbulls share their muscularity and loyal temperament with AmStaffs, but they are leaner and taller. Both breeds require constant exercise and training, or you might be dealing with aggression and a dog that’s a nightmare to handle. Whether dog walks or visits to the vet, a poorly socialized dog with the strength of a pitbull places other people and their pets at risk. Interestingly, the AmStaff was used in dog fighting much like the APBT. But their intelligence and stamina led to the staffy becoming a farm dog and family pet.

While pitbulls love to spend all of their time with you, most of them adapt when left alone for short periods of time. This is where a pit and a staffy differ. An AmStaff becomes so attached to their family that they can suffer from separation anxiety when you leave them alone for too long. Both dogs are lovable and benefit from obedience training from young, but the pitbull is more athletic, faster, and has a strong sense of independence.

Are Pitbulls the Best Bully Breed?

tan pitbull with sand over its face
Pitbulls are strong and high-energy dogs.

One thing is for certain: the pitbull terrier is the most popular of all the bully breeds. Despite having a bit of a dark reputation and a history of dog fighting, the APBT has many qualities that people absolutely adore. While all of the bully breeds share some traits and physical features, it is the APBT that most are familiar with. There’s no doubt that a well-bred pitbull that is fully trained and raised with other pets and people is a well-rounded and stable dog.

You just need to look at the results from the American Temperament Test Society to understand why. The temperament of pitbulls exceeded that of more than a hundred other breeds. There’s no doubt that of all the bully dogs, there’s something truly special about the pitbull.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.