Pitbull Vs Bulldog: Defining The Differences
These two dogs are fearlessly lovable, sweet, and protective. In spite of their somewhat menacing looks, they’re great family dogs and are very smart. If you’re torn between these two breeds, check out today’s in-depth article. Maybe one of these gentle giants will be your next puppy!
Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine
Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here
Interested in learning about the characteristics of an English Bulldog & Pitbull Mix? Check out our guide:
Pitbull vs Bulldog: Similarities
Bulldog vs Pitbull: Differences
History Of The Bulldog & The Pit Bull
Bulldogs and Pit Bulls have a similar history. In fact, breeders created Pit Bulls by crossing Bulldogs with other breeds!
Bulldogs are an all-purpose breed, as they were created to be! Originally, Bulldogs were English mastiff-type working dogs. Their main purpose was driving and catching cattle, as well as guarding the farmer’s property.
The Bulldog’s strong build and courageous attitude eventually led Englishmen to use it in Bull baiting. Bull baiting was a popular “sport” in the UK. As the name suggests, it consisted of throwing together dogs and enraged bulls, with the goal of getting the dog to snatch onto the bull’s snout. Only the stronger dogs managed to win, and the Old English Bulldog was one of the best at this bloody competition. Luckily, bull baiting was banned in England in 1835.
After the ban, Old English Bulldogs started to dwindle. Bull baiting had been a popular sport and Old English Bulldogs were mainly bred as sports props. However, in the second half of the nineteenth-century dog fanciers started to breed the few remaining bulldogs, and the modern English Bulldog we know was born.
This English bulldog is shorter than its predecessor, as well as being less athletic, slower, and stockier. The American Kennel Club recognizes the breed as “Bulldog” .
While the Bulldog was rising in popularity in England, some of the Old English Bulldogs arrived in the US with working-class immigrants. Old English bulldog crosses were used as farm dogs in the American South, but the breed almost went extinct during WW2.
After the war, dog lovers in the US set to breed this versatile working dog, and the American Bulldog appeared! In the US, there are two main bulldog types: the Johnson and the Scoot types . So-called “Scott dogs” are also known as “standard Bulldogs”. These dogs are athletic, with longer muzzles and taller than the Johnson type and the English bulldog we know today. On the other hand, the “Johnson type dogs”, also known as bullies, are bulkier and heavier. Johnson pit bulls are also more muscular than other types.
Nowadays, most bulldogs in the US are a mix of these types, and they’re all considered “American Bulldogs” according to the AKC .
Now that we covered the history of Bulldogs both in Europe and in America, it’s time to talk about the American Pit Bull.
Surprisingly, the AKC doesn’t recognize American Pit Bulls. On the other hand, the United Kennel Club (from the UK) recognizes the breed since 1898.
The term “Pit Bull” is somewhat confusing. In fact, when someone refers to a Pit Bull” in the US, they can be talking about a variety of “Pit Bull type” dogs, that officially are different breeds altogether.
Pro Tip: Although some laws even refer to “Pit Bulls” as a whole, in reality, they usually refer to several breeds at once: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bulldog (or Bully), the Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. All but the American Pit Bull Terrier are breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.
In spite of the confusion, in today’s article, we’ll only talk about the American Pit Bull Terrier recognized by the UKC .
“Ironically, the American Pit Bull Terrier is only recognized by the United Kennel Club from the UK, and not by the American Kennel Club.”
Based on the Old English Bulldog we already mentioned, dog breeders in the US started crossing dogs to create a well-rounded dog. They wanted a pup with a terrier attitude and the athletic disposition of the traditional Bulldog.
In order to do this, they bred Old English Bulldogs with Old English Terrier. The result? A versatile dog that served farmers in the South to hunt, to catch semi-wild cattle, and as loyal family companions. This is the American Pit Bull Terrier we know and love today.
The Difference Between American Pitbulls & American Bulldogs
Although their names sound similar, these aren’t the same dog!
On the one hand, we have the American Bulldog. These strong, muscular dogs are descendants of the English Bulldogs. They are taller and more athletic than their English counterparts are, but retain that signature Bulldog muzzle and character.
Then, we have Pitbulls, also known as American Pitbull Terriers. As the name indicates, these dogs have a bit of terrier as well as Bulldog in them. They have a taut muzzle, mostly wrinkle-free body, but share many personality traits with the American Bulldog.
Is The English Bulldog The Same As A Pit Bull?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: these are two completely different breeds, from their looks to their abilities. English Bulldogs are stocky, short, and very square. In contrast, Pit Bulls are athletic dogs, slightly taller than English Bulldogs.
Of course, when it comes to loyalty and friendliness, they’re equally great.
Pitbulls & Bulldogs: How To Tell Them Apart?
When it comes to telling Pitbulls and Bulldogs apart, it’s important to understand which type of Bulldog we’re comparing them to.
On the one hand, we have the Pitbull (AKA American Pitbull Terrier). These medium-sized dogs have a muscular body, with a uniquely large and broad head. Their head is one of the signature elements of this breed. They have a well-defined skull in proportion with the rest of their bodies, as well as high-set ears. Their ears can be either prick or flat.
Then, there’s Bulldogs. As we already mentioned, English and American Bulldogs are very different. However, many people mix up the standard American Bulldog with the American Pitbull.
The main difference between these two breeds is that Bulldogs have looser skin on their heads and bodies. This is especially noticeable in the muzzle: Pitbulls have tight cheeks that showcase their bone structure, while standard American Bulldogs have slightly droopy cheeks that almost cover the lower jaw.
Among American Bulldogs, the “Bully” type is significantly stockier than the standard and looks a bit more like its Mastiff ancestors. In addition, bulldogs usually have an underbite.
On the other hand, American Bulldogs have very different ears than Pitbulls. When their owners don’t cut their ears, they have small-to-medium-sized ears, high set and in different shapes: either drop, semi-prick, or rose-shaped. In contrast, Pitbulls only have prick or flat ears.
Besides these differences in body composition, American Pitbulls and Bulldogs aren’t all that different when it comes to their coat and colors.
These two breeds have short, dense coats usually stiff to the touch. Because of their naturally short hair, they don’t shed a lot.
On the other hand, they come in almost any color and color combination. Pitbulls are officially recognized in any color except for Merle. In contrast, American Bulldogs cannot officially compete if they are solid black, blue, merle, or tricolor. Nevertheless, all other combinations are possible.
Pro Tip: Think about whether you want to show your pup professionally before picking them. A breeder might be selling a puppy that will make a great family pet but wouldn’t be able to compete due to their natural coat color. If showing your dog doesn’t interest you, go ahead and pick whichever puppy you like best.
Bulldog & Pitty Grooming & Health Analysis
When it comes to grooming routines, these two breeds have very similar needs. Their short, slightly stiff hair needs weekly brushing with a soft brush, as well as a monthly bath.
Nevertheless, each of these dogs has very distinct health needs you need to be aware of.
For starters, Pit Bulls are very sensitive to Demodex mites. Many puppies get mange (caused by mites) and eventually grow out of it. Nevertheless, when mange becomes general, it’s important to take the pup to the vet. Pit Bull’s mite sensitivity is a genetic condition passed from parents to puppies. This breed is also more susceptible to parvovirus, so vaccination is a must starting at 40 days old.
Besides that and as other medium-sized breeds, you should look out for hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as congenital heart defects. Nevertheless, a careful breeder will always test the parents to ensure a healthy litter without genetic conditions.
As for Bulldogs, this is also a generally healthy breed. Like other medium-sized pups, look out for hip and elbow dysplasia. Deafness and eye troubles are somewhat common as well.
Pro Tip: Before buying a puppy, ask your breeder for their health certificates. The AKC states American Bulldogs should be screened for canine multifocal retinopathy, degenerative myelopathy, hyperuricosuria, and ichthyosis, among others.
Behavior & Training Needs Of Pitbulls & Bulldogs
Due to their looks and bull-fighting pasts, both the Pitbulls and Bulldogs have been misunderstood for decades.
This is especially true in the case of Pitbulls. In spite of the breed’s reputation, these dogs are as tough as they are lovable. Of course, because of their character, they need consistent training since puppy-hood. Once they have the basics down, both Bulldogs and Pitbulls are delightful family pets that easily get along with children, pets, and guests alike.
Both breeds are lovable, smart, and full of energy. They usually have a funny side, and love to play jokes on their people. They are dependable, loyal, and love to have a consistent schedule. These two breeds can work independently but would rather spend quality time with their owners.
Both Pittys and Bulldogs need a consistent schedule with regular play and exercise time to be happy and well behaved.
When looking at them, it’s easy to forget these are working breeds. That means you can’t expect them to sit at home and sleep all day long. They need moderate exercise on a consistent basis. This can be whatever you want: playing in the backyard, learning agility, going for a walk/run around the block, or even hiking with the family. Whatever it is, it’s important to get in at least 45 minutes to an hour of exercise a day, and more if your dog is young and fit.
They both are people-pleasing breeds and respond well to praise and attention. That makes them relatively easy breeds to train. Nevertheless, if you’ve never had any other dogs, consider enrolling in a training club. It will lay the right foundation to make your relationship with your new pup healthy and strong.
The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. – American Pit Bull Terrier, United Kennel Club, Breed Standard.
Training is vital to ensure your dog is well behaved at home and out. Both Pitbulls and Bulldogs have strong guarding tendencies, so training should focus on getting them to trust you to manage uncertain situations. If not, your dog will want to take charge and that’s when things can get out of hand.
The American Bulldog is a gentle, loving family companion who is fearless enough to face an angry bull or a human intruder. – American Bulldog Breed Standard, UKC.
Through positive reinforcement, you’ll quickly rip the benefits of a well-behaved dog that can go with you to any kind of social setting.
Pro Tip: If your Bulldog or Pit Bull is acting out or getting a bit mouthy with other pets or guests around the house, try offering more structured play with the best pitbull toys, as well as regular training and exercise time. A bored Pit Bull or Bulldog won’t behave great, and the mouthiness can escalate.
Pitbull vs Bulldog: Which One Is Right For Your Family?
So now that we’ve covered the main differences between these two breeds, are you ready to make up your mind? Here’s our final roundup to help you decide:
A Bulldog Might Be A Better Choice If You:
A Pitbull Might Fit Better If You:
In all cases, if you have kids they shouldn’t be in charge of training the dog. An adult will have the consistency needed to train the dog to be well behaved, and kids can always help as they’re able to!
Are you interested in a Pitbull but still want to keep your options open? Then maybe check out a Pitbull crossbreed. Our in-depth articles on the Akita Pitbull mix and the Rottweiler Pitbull mix might give you some food for thought.
- American Kennel Club. American Bulldog. Consulted on June, 2021. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/american-bulldog/
- American Kennel Club. Bulldog. Consulted on June, 2021. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/bulldog/
- United Kennel Club. American Bulldog. Consulted on June, 2021. https://www.ukcdogs.com/american-bulldog
- United Kennel Club. American Pit Bull Terrier. Consulted on June, 2021. https://www.ukcdogs.com/american-pit-bull-terrier
Vedrana Nikolić (B.A. in Cultural Anthropology) - Professional Writer.
Vedrana is a writer, anthropologist & dog lover. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying, among other things, the communication between animals and humans.
For more info on Vedrana click here