American Pit Bull Terrier Facts & Dog Breed Information

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Pit Bull’? Do you think of an angel in dog form, or does it make you imagine a canine demon?

The Pit Bull has been a subject of controversy in many countries, the first being the name itself.

‘Pit Bull’ is a term used to refer to the American Pit Bull Terrier breed, but it is also a dog type encompassing some other breeds. For clarity, our subject is the American Pit Bull Terrier breed, not the Pit Bull type. 

The next controversy is in the way people view the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Besides their fighting origin, there have been cases of American Pit Bull dogs biting people on the street. The media has helped fuel the public fear of this breed. Thus, they are banned in many countries. 

This has made owning an American Pit Bull Terrier somewhat rebellious, even in places where the breed isn’t banned.

The stigma affects owners too, and it can be embarrassing when people give you a wide berth because you own a Pit.

Is the stereotype justified? Should we take placards and demand total banning of this breed?

These questions and more would be answered as we go into the American Pit Bull Terrier Facts and Dog Breed Information. 

American Pit Bull Terrier Facts & Information

American Pit Bull Terrier Facts & Dog Breed Information
Dog Breed GroupTerrier
Height17 to 19 inches
Weight30 to 85 pounds
CoatSmooth, thin
Color(s)Red, black, buckskin, other combinations
Life Expectancy12 – 16 years
Temperament / BehaviorFriendly, courageous, enthusiastic
OriginUnited States
Bred ForBullbaiting, farming
Nickname(s) / Other Name(s)Pit, APBT
Recognized by the AKC, ANKC, CKCNo
Recognized by the UKCYes

American Pit Bull Terrier Characteristics

  • Adaptability: They are highly adaptable dog breeds who can live in different environments.
  • Friendliness: Pits are friendly with both family and strangers.
  • Kid-Friendly: The Pit Bull Terrier is gentle with kids.
  • Pet-Friendly: They may be aggressive to other pets if not socialised.
  • General Health: They are healthy breeds, but suffer from some medical conditions.
  • Grooming Needs: Their grooming need is low. 
  • Trainability: They are trainable, but stubborn.
  • Intelligence: The American Pit Bull Terrier is very intelligent.
  • Playfulness: Pits loves to play.
  • Exercise Needs: They require constant exercise.
  • Energy Level: They are highly energetic.
  • Tendency to Bark: They barks sometimes.
  • Tendency to Drool: They drool, especially at the sight of food. 
  • Tendency to Snore: The Pit Bull Terrier snores from time to time. 
  • Tendency to Dig: Pits hardly digs.

Interesting facts about American Pit Bull Terrier

Fact #1: The American Pit Bull is seen as aggressive

The American Pit Bull has a bad reputation that makes people hostile to him and has even led to some states placing a ban.

This reputation stems from their bullbaiting and dogfighting days. Unfortunately, the American Pit Bull has always been a fighter. It doesn’t help that he looks like one, too.

However, this reputation is unfounded and blinds many from the many beautiful qualities of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

The American Pit Bull is not a wild dog and is trainable. Of course, without adequate training, any dog will become aggressive. 

Fact #2: They can climb walls

Pits have a long list of strong attributes and are bosses when it comes to agility and strength.

One thing they do well is climbing walls, a feat many dog breeds can not achieve. A Pit is capable of climbing up to 10 feet, if not more. 

Fact #3: They make good therapy dogs

Pit Bulls can be trained to offer the services of therapy. Their friendliness, love, and emotional nature make them a source of comfort for people with anxiety.

They’ve been instrumental in helping people cope with terminal illnesses and traumatic events. 

Fact #4: They are good at finding things—and people

Another good skill of the American Pit Bull Terrier is their ability to sniff.

Pits have a strong sense of smell that enables them to sniff out objects, including bombs and drugs. Definitely a life-saving skill.

In addition, they played a good role in search and rescue operations. They’d go all out to discover a missing person, and their sense of smell gives them a good tool to do this. 

Fact #5: They were the US Army’s Mascot 

In the course of both World Wars, Pit Bull Terriers were used to encourage and motivate soldiers.

They stood for courage, loyalty, and bravery. They also participated in the wars. 

American Pit Bull Terrier History & Origin

During the days when bullbaiting was the rage, strong dogs were used for this sport. One such dog was the American Pit Bull Terrier, known at that time as the Bull and Terrier in Britain.

Bred from the Old English Terrier and Old English Bulldogs—both of whom are now extinct, the American Pit Bull Terrier was developed for his strength and athletic traits.

The Bulldog, Terrier mix made the American Pit Bull Terrier a formidable opponent against bulls.

In 1835, bullbaiting and other blood sports involving animals got outlawed with the introduction of animal welfare laws.

In its place, people turned to dogfighting games. The American Pit Bull Terrier was a favorite contestant for this sport.

When they come into America in the 19th century, dogfighting raged on. 

Unfortunately, both bullbaiting and dogfighting made Pits inclined to aggression towards other dogs.

This aggression doesn’t flow towards humans, though, regardless of the myths and suspicions. The American Pit Bull Terrier was bred with a reluctance to bite humans.

In 1898, the United Kennel Club formally recognized the breed as the American Pit Bull Terrier. At that point, the fighting reputation of the American Pit Bull Terrier gave this breed a bad image.

To avoid that, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in a different name, the American Staffordshire Terrier. 

Many other name changes were offered. The United Kennel Club once tried to insert the ‘pit’ in brackets.

Noble intentions, but it didn’t last. In 1996, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also tried renaming the breed “St. Francis Terrier”, which didn’t last too. 

American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament & Intelligence

Brown Female American Pitbull Terrier

The American Pit Bull proves naysayers wrong with his many beautiful qualities. A friendly, confident dog breed, Pits relate with anybody, including people they don’t know. Pits are not wary of strangers.

On the contrary, they’d want to make a new friend out of your visitors. They bark at strangers, not to scare them, but to welcome them. This makes them good watchdogs, but crappy guard dogs. 

In addition to their friendliness and extroverted nature, they are loyal to their families.

When endangered, the American Pit Bull Terrier will stand in defense of their loved ones. They don’t back down from a fight. 

Pits love being around people, and would sometimes want to cuddle and climb on your laps.

That’s a situation that could turn awkward as they are bigger than the average lapdog. Busy people will not fit with the American Pit Bull Terrier as they require a lot of attention. 

 Pit Bull Terriers also love to please their owners, a great attribute that make them good companion dogs. Meanwhile, don’t let the muscles and bravado fool you. The American Pit Bull Terrier is a softie inside. 

Overall, while an ill-trained Pit can be dangerous, this breed is generally a loving, gentle dog you’d be glad to have with you.

Is a Pit Bull a good family dog?

On the contrary to controversies, the American Pit Bull Terrier makes an excellent family dog. He has some affection of his own to give. Their outgoing nature makes them polite, gentle, and affectionate, even with strangers. Aggression towards humans is considered a defect with this breed. 

Every family would enjoy having a friendly pet, which would make the American Pit Bull Terrier more than qualified for this role. This isn’t the dog that would shy away from your affection.

However, this doesn’t mean everyone should own one. The world can do without more poorly raised Pits. 

Are Pit Bulls good with kids?

The American Pit Bull Terrier is so kid-friendly, these dogs once played the roles of nannies. The stereotypes have made people stop them from doing this, but their gentleness towards children did not change. Pits are patient and tolerant, even with rowdy children. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be carefree. Be sure to supervise whatever interaction a dog has with a child.

This is an act of caution, however, not an obligation. Kids should also learn good character by respecting dogs. 

Are Pit Bull Terriers good with other dogs and pets?

Unfortunately, the fighting days of the American Pit Bull Terrier have made him wary of other dogs. They tend to be aggressive towards other canines, so they may not be the best option for a multiple-dog family.

Cats aren’t spared, too. You can socialize them to be polite towards your pets, but it is a long shot. 

Male vs Female American Pit Bull Terrier

The male and female American Pit Bull Terrier differ in many ways, but the differences aren’t much.

The male American Pit Bull Terrier has more pounds than the female Pit Bull Terrier and more inches. The males weigh 35 to 60 pounds and grow up to 21 inches.

The females, in contrast, weigh 30 to 50 pounds and is an inch shorter. The female Pit has a longer back. 

Both genders are friendly, extroverted, and good with children. Males tend to be more aggressive towards other dogs than females.

The unfortunate cases of aggression towards humans have been predominantly male. Neutering and proper socialization can reduce this tendency. 

Females are easier to house train than males. Unneutered males tend to ‘mark’ the house, that is, urinate in the interior to define territory.

This also makes the male American Pit Bull Terrier more territorial. The unspayed female Pit has her challenges too, especially during her estrus cycle. 

Clearly, the removal of organs (known as neutering or spaying) has numerous advantages for the male and female American Pit Bull Terrier.

However, it comes with some side effects. Make the decision with the help of a veterinarian. 

Caring for an American Pit Bull Terrier

The first way to take care of your Pit Bull Terrier is to protect him from haters. The Pit Bull Terrier has no bad blood for anyone. Sadly, his love is not always reciprocated.

Don’t be surprised or hurt if people cross the street or look away when they see you approach with a Pit Bull Terrier. Dealing with hate and fear comes with the territory.

What’s more, the hostility against this breed is not entirely unfounded. Bad training and neglect leave the American Pit Bull Terrier susceptible to developing bad habits, including aggression towards humans.

Don’t let this discourage you, though. If anything, you should be motivated to have a well-mannered Pit. You need to have time and willingness to commit to the training of this dog.

Pits need exercise, as well. While this is not an outdoor breed, it has a lot of energy. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense, but it has to be regular and interesting.

The American Pit Bull Terrier has a strong emotional need for attention and companionship. Left alone for long, they can get anxious. You should give adequate time to your Pit. If you know you’ll be out for long on a particular day, consider hiring a dog sitter.

Grooming American Pit Bulls isn’t a chore, neither is feeding them. You do have to do both regularly to keep them shining and healthy. Regular checkup is necessary too. 

The best place for the American Pit Bull to be is indoors, especially during cold climates. They are not friends of winter. 

American Pit Bull Terrier Food and Diet

This strong doggy needs high-quality food to maintain its strength. Good feeding begins when the American Pit Bull is still a puppy.

That’s when you put him on a beneficial diet that would help him grow into a sturdy adult. 

Feeding an American Pit Bull Terrier puppy has a few guidelines. As a general rule, avoid feeding them human food, even if they want it. It may be detrimental to their growth.

Adult food should be counted out too. Feed them only with puppy food. The American Pit Bull puppy needs more food than a fully grown Pit. Three times a day is a recommended start.

When the American Pit Bull becomes an adult, it is recommended that you feed him 1½ to 2½ cups per day. The American Pit Bull shouldn’t be allowed to eat at his whim or he’ll gain weight, which would lead to obesity. Have a schedule for feeding your Pit. 

The best nutrient for an American Pit Bull is animal protein. You can get those from animals like chicken, pork, beef, and lamb meat.

Note that some meat—like beef—comes with fat and should be fed in a manageable quantity. Fruits and vegetables are also good for the American Pit Bull Terrier. 

An older Pit Bull Terrier may be picky with food and has a sensitive stomach. They need fewer calories than the adult as they are more prone to obesity than the adult and puppy. 

American Pit Bull Terrier Exercise

Another important need of this muscular dog breed is enough exercise to keep him fit. American Pit Bull Terriers don’t appreciate being left inactive and may find other less desirable ways to use up that energy. When satisfied, they can remain calm and indoors for the rest of the day.

It is recommended that you start slow with the American Pit Bull puppy. Puppies are energetic, but delicate, even for a strong breed like the Pits. This is because they haven’t fully developed.

So, prevent them from running or engaging in some other exercise that would be detrimental to their well-being. A simple stroll of 25 minutes is a good start. As they grow older, slowly increase the minutes. They’d love having toys, as well.

The adult American Pit Bull Terrier needs a least an hour of physical and mental exercise, with a lot of interesting activities to keep him jolly.

Walks should go for at least 45 minutes, and it is best to schedule these walks as dogs like routine. Expect your Pit to bring his leash and wag his tail at the scheduled time.

Nobody says you should limit exercise to walking, though. There are other activities you and your dog will enjoy. Sports-based on strength is ideal for this breed.

Weight pulling is a good example of a strength-based activity. Many other fun games like fetch, flirt pole, and tug of war can be incorporated in a Pit’s list of exercises.

At 8 or 9 years, the American Pit Bull joins the senior category. Exercise for the senior Pit should be more mental than physical.

Don’t completely neglect physical exercise, however. A walk can help curtail arthritis and other age-related complications. 

American Pit Bull Training and Socialization

Training is crucial for the American Pit Bull Terrier. As earlier stated, the only chance you have to break the negative stereotype of the American Pit Bull Terrier is to train him. Invest in his development, and you’d be marveled at the gift a Pit Bull can be. 

The American Pit Bull Terrier loves to delight and satisfy his pet parent. However, you’re in for a big surprise if you assume this means he’s easy to train.

Besides the strength and energy that can be overwhelming, the American Pit Bull Terrier will be stubborn in the face of a leader who isn’t firm enough.

A new pet parent with no idea how to be confident with a dog may run into a wall of frustration while training this breed. 

Training is an early process and should begin when your Pit is still a puppy. Don’t make the mistake of waiting till they grow before you start. Socialization is key in the Pit Bull Terrier’s training.

Their fighting days have left them inclined to antagonism towards other dogs, and you must control that. 

Obedience training is also crucial for the American Pit Bull. You can sign him up in a puppy kindergarten, or handle it yourself. The important thing is that he learns how to obey simple commands like:

  • Sit
  • Go to the corner
  • No
  • Stay
  • Comedown

The last command should be used to control the Pit’s habit of jumping on people. He means no harm when he does this, but it can be undesirable (and risky).

Other undesirable habits include chewing, pulling at a leash, and digging. 

American Pit Bull Terrier Grooming Needs

The American Pit Bull doesn’t ask for much when it comes to grooming. He’s not high maintenance and doesn’t require long hours of brushing to look good.

They are moderate shedders, though. While you won’t deal with an overhaul of dog fur, you will need that vacuum cleaner sometimes.

Use a stiff brush to brush their short coat and wipe it with a cloth to give your Pit a sweet shine. Bathing should be an every-now-and-then event.

It should not be kept minimal, but it shouldn’t be every day, too.

In addition to brushing and bathing, there is some other dog hygiene that should not be overlooked.

The first is your Pit’s nails. Remember, the Pit Bull has a habit of jumping on people. While you work to curb that, it wouldn’t hurt to be safe.

Plus, long nails make your dog comfortable. You may do the trimming yourself or hire a groomer to take care of it. 

Those strong teeth need to be brushed, as well. Get a good toothbrush and approved toothpaste, then get your Pit to say ‘cheese!’. Dental care helps prevent weak teeth, toothache, and even tooth decay.  Don’t forget the ears. 

Dogs take some time to get used to being touched, even friendly dogs like the Pit Bull.

You need to be patient and gentle while grooming. It is best to start grooming when they are puppies. Grooming shouldn’t be a tedious experience for you and your dog. Make it fun! 

American Pit Bull Terrier Health Conditions

The Pit Bull Terrier is healthy and strong with a relatively long life span. They do suffer from some illnesses that are common to the breed.

Some can be avoided from the onset, others need early diagnosis and treatment for your dog to be okay. You should know these illnesses and their symptoms. Frequent check-up helps, too.

Here are some illnesses the American Pit Bull is vulnerable to:

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one illness that can be avoided while getting a puppy as it is hereditary. Be sure to get medical records of the Pit’s parents to ensure that hip dysplasia was bred out. 

Hip dysplasia occurs when the femur (also known as the thigh bone) doesn’t fit in with the pelvis.

It leads to the bone degrading over time. Left untreated, it engenders lameness and atrophy.

Symptoms include inactivity, an abnormal gait, pain, and a decreased desire to exercise. 

Aortic Stenosis

This is a form of heart disease common in dogs, including the American Pit Bull Terrier. It occurs when the aortic valve of the dog’s heart gets narrow, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the remaining parts of the body. 

Symptoms include sluggishness, fatigue, and breathing difficulties. Do note that symptoms vary based on the severity of the heart issue in question.


Hypothyroidism is a dysfunction that happens when the thyroid gland (which is responsible for the thyroxine hormone), is deficient. Symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, loss of hair, and intolerance to cold.

Related: American Bully Facts and Information


Pit Bull

What are American Pit Bull Terriers known for?

American Pit Bull Terriers are known for their qualities of confidence, bravery, and strength. This is why they were mascots of the US army. They also have been used for search and rescue and as therapy dogs.

Pit Bulls were bred to bullbait, then were later used for dogfighting. Both activities affected the Pit Bull in a lot of ways. However, they aren’t only fighters.

How big do American Pit Bull Terrier get?

The American Pit Bull Terrier weighs 30 to 85 pounds and grows as tall as 17 to 19 inches when fully grown. 

Do American Pit Bull Terriers like to cuddle?

Pits are affectionate dogs who love being indoors and close to their owners. They like cuddling and may even want to climb on their owner’s laps. 

Is it hard to train and care for an American Pit Bull Terrier?

In some aspects, the American Pit Bull Terrier presents challenges. They are fairly difficult to train and need an active owner to exercise them. They also are prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long.  However, they are not hard to take care of. 

Why are American Pit Bull Terriers banned?

Due to the actions of some badly trained Pit Bull Terriers and the fighting roots of this breed, some states in America have banned them. They are also illegal in countries like the UK and Brazil. 

How long do American Pit Bull Terriers live?

American Pit Bull Terriers have a long life span and can live healthy if taken care of. They have a life span of 12 to 16 years. 

How much do American Pit Bull Terriers cost?

The American Pit Bull Terrier is costly, though not as much as other popular breeds. A puppy can be bought for around $500. 

Do Pit Bull Terriers shed?

American Pit Bull Terriers are moderate shedders and let out fur on a regular basis. They have no shedding seasons, however, so it is manageable. 

What do Pit Bulls prey on?

American Pit Bull Terriers have a high prey drive and prey on small animals. They may be a problem for rodents and cats. 

Are American Pit Bull Terriers aggressive?

American Pit Bull Terriers were not bred to be aggressive towards humans. However, they tend to be aggressive towards other dogs because of their fighting days. They may be aggressive towards humans, but only when they were not well trained. 

Is the Pit Bull Terrier right for you?

A friendly, loving dog, the American Pit Bull Terrier makes pet parenting fun by being jovial, loyal, and affectionate. The American Pit Bull loves humans and thrives in the company of those he loves.

The ideal owner of an American Pit Bull Terrier is someone who has the time and willingness to train this breed and take care of him. If this is you, then the American Pit Bull is right for you. 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you found this American Pit Bull Terrier facts and information helpful.

For a notorious dog breed, the Pit has nothing but love for everyone, family and strangers alike.

While some other dog breeds will be suspicious of strangers, the American Pit Bull will want to give a hug.

We need to accept that aggression towards humans isn’t a predisposed quality in the American Pit Bull. There are so many myths that aren’t true.

Take time to train your Pit, and you’ll enjoy being a pet parent to this breed.

Related: Complete Alphabetical List of Dog Breeds

Useful Resource

Official Breed Standard & Profile: American Pit Bull Terrier Dog Breed Information

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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