What is a "Pit Bull"?

What is a "Pit Bull"?

So, let's start with the basics: What is a "Pit Bull"?  Well, the truth here depends on who you ask.

You may have noticed that when we mention "Pit Bulls" on our site, we put the term in quotes. This is because there is technically no such breed as "Pit Bull".

In the U.S., the term "Pit Bull" is most commonly associated with one of four unique breeds: American Pit Bull Terriers (the only breed with "Pit Bull" in their name), Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and American Bullies.

"Pit Bulls", as qualified above, account for close to 5 million of the roughly 90 million dogs in the United States.

While distinct, these breeds all have similar appearances and personalities, and they generally originate from "Bull and Terriers" (a heterogeneous grouping of dogs created primarily from Old English Bulldogs and Old English Terriers). These "Bull and Terriers" were in fact the first to receive the label "Pit Bull" in the early 1800's, as their primary use was bull baiting. (MORE)

"Pit Bull" purists, however, will argue that the American Pit Bull Terrier is the only "true Pit Bull".  They note that it is the only breed with "Pit Bull" in the name, and that when the other related breeds (such as the American Staffordshire Terrier) diverged around the mid 1800's, their breeders intentionally left behind the "Pit Bull" name and bred their lines away from fighting/bull baiting.

And, in much of the world, these varied breeds are indeed referred to by their specific names. "Pit Bull", in many countries, is merely a nickname for the American Pit Bull Terrier.

In the United States, however, "Pit Bull" has, over many decades, become a colloquially accepted umbrella term used to describe these varied breeds of a similar appearance and origin.  Large animal organizations in the US have adopted this umbrella definition, as have many animal professionals, and most average folks will use the term.

The result of these two divided perspectives is a great deal of confusion in the general public as to what a "Pit Bull" actually is, and an ongoing debate between breed purists and those who accept the colloquial definition. This causes serious consequences for the dogs, as a fluctuating definition of "Pit Bulls" results in misrepresented statistics and inaccurate information.

For example, 30+ other breeds - such as the Dogo Argentino, and even some mixed breeds - are regularly confused or lumped in with "Pit Bull" type dogs.  As a result, actual "Pit Bulls" are frequently misidentified and are often unfairly accused in reported incidents. 

At the same time, rescues and advocacy groups are in a desperate race to reach people and save lives.  Many have chosen to adopt the umbrella term for "Pit Bulls", as changing decades worth of entrenched, colloquial understanding is far more difficult and involved than speaking to people in terms they understand.

At BullyArmy, we've chosen to adopt the more generic term "Bully" for our name to do our part to help clarify this distinction and to be as inclusive as possible of all related breeds. We do not shy away from using the term "Pit Bull", however, as we understand and acknowledge its colloquial acceptance, and we hope to use it reach people and further educate them.

Interested in how you can help? Learn More

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