Free Information on American Bulldogs

 

No, American Bulldogs are Not Pitbulls
A Guide to Assist in Identifying Pitbulls From American Bulldogs
And the Many Genetically Unique Dog Breeds Pitbulls Are Commonly Confused With

Daniel Blasco, Blasco Family Bulldogs©
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Introduction...

Few things frustrate or even offend American Bulldog owners more, than to have their American Bulldog mistaken for a Pitbull, or the new vernacular to overshadow widespread public ignorance, "a Pitbull type dog." Imagine if you heard someone call a motorcycle a car, or a car a bus, or a Rose Bush an Oak tree, or a BLT sandwich a meatball sandwich, you'd think those people were idiots, or at the very least, did not have a functional grasp of the English language. Imagine going to a lumber store to purchase a 2x4 and being given a 1x2 instead. Imagine asking your waiter for a Greek salad and being given a shrimp salad. If you opened a carton labeled milk and poured out vodka onto your kid's cereal, would that be acceptable, or would you maybe have a complaint with that mislabeling? Ignorance, when identifying a specific thing, is not accepted in basically any instance... not until we start talking about Pitbulls and "Pitbull type dogs." Then, being factually incorrect doesn't matter, right? After all, everyone knows what you're talking about. Sort of like wrongly applying the terms, "Chinese type guy," in reference to a Korean gentleman, or "Mexican" to a woman from El Salvador. Similarly, the American Bulldog, as well as other breeds of dogs commonly confused with the Pitbull, have their own rich cultural identities, with different physical characteristics, as well as different temperaments and needs.

This then is an article aimed at educating the reader about the clear and distinctive differences, between Pitbulls and "Pitbull type dogs," from American Bulldogs, and other dogs that Pitbulls are commonly confused with. The information being provided herein, while DNA lab analysis is commercially available and should be utilized when question remains, is nonetheless a definitive and authoritative publication, that can easily make genetic testing unnecessary for the larger majority of dogs that come into question. This article can and indeed should be used by apartment managers, home owner's associations, animal control authorities, police and the Courts, in helping to determine the breed of any "Pitbull type dog" in question.

Dr. Victoria Voith and colleagues from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., surveyed animal adoption agency personnel, asking that they identify the breed or breeds of dogs whose origins they did not know. DNA analysis of the same dogs concluded that these supposed community animal "experts," who are regularly called upon by the Courts, to either fine or not fine an owner, to either confiscate or not confiscate a citizen's dog, to make life and death decisions, to either kill or not kill a dog, based upon its breed... typically COULD NOT correctly identify the breed or breeds of dogs they were being called upon to assess. (1)

What Exactly is a Pitbull?

The term "Pitbull" refers to three breeds of dog: The American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and crossbred dogs between any of the three. In an effort to create small, very strong, agile, and tenacious working dogs for cattle management, all three dogs, as well as their genetic progenitors, were similarly developed by crossbreeding various Terrier dogs to Bulldogs.

The Bulldog most commonly used was the short, squashed nosed lapdog, known as the English Bulldog, and NOT the American Bulldog. This is an important historical distinction. The English Bulldog of that time, was a direct and recent descendent of fighting dogs, a sport in the process of being outlawed in England. Those English Bulldogs - or what was in that era in England and Ireland, simply called a Bulldog, bred to equally aggressive Terrier specimens, created the original, and previously much more aggressively bred Pitbull.

In contrast, an American Bulldog is a Mastiff offshoot, cousin to the Bullmastiff and descendent of other Mastiff bred dogs. The American Bulldog's Mastiff bred progenitors were not primarily used in dog fighting at all, but for hunting, homestead protection and cattle management. Obviously in more recent American history, both dogs were once misused in dog fighting, however, among those well known characters doing the dog fighting in early 1900s America, the American Bulldog was considered not fit for the sport, because of its much lesser instinctive inclination towards dog-on-dog fighting. In other words, the American Bulldog was not successfully bred for dog fighting, even by those who tried it.

In any event, the Pitbull is a Terrier, most typically with all the associated and relatively well known "small dog" tendencies of the dogs in the Terrier group, tendencies not typically shared with the larger, and somewhat less energetic American Bulldogs.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) is the oldest and traditionally the primary registry for the Pitbull, registering the Pitbull as an American Pitbull Terrier since 1898. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has registered the Pitbull as an American Staffordshire Terrier since 1936. These are not two different breed versions of similar dogs. Owners of AKC registered American Staffordshire Terriers sometimes argue that their dogs are not Pitbulls. Owners of UKC registered American Pitbull Terriers sometimes argue that their dogs are not American Staffordshire Terriers. In reality, it is a fact that AKC registered American Staffordshire Terriers are also automatically eligible for UKC registration as American Pitbull Terriers. In other words, they are recognized as the same dog by those who actually breed Pitbulls at a professional level, i.e., the actual manufacturers of the dogs in question. Mentionable is that the UKC also registers the American Bulldog, and while making no distinction between different types of Pitbull Terriers, the American Bulldog is recognized as a genetically unique breed of dog, with a vastly different set official Breed Standards, as well as different history.

According to the UKC Breed Standard for the American Pitbull Terrier, the size of a male is 35 to a maximum of 60 pounds, female 30 to 50 pounds. The UKC does not have a specific height standard, but does talk about overall balance of the dog, meaning that at its 60 pound maximum weight, an American Pitbull Terrier would certainly never exceed 19 to 20 inches at the withers (shoulders). According to the AKC, the American Staffordshire Terrier does not exceed 19 inches in height. The AKC does not have a specific weight standard, but they too discuss the overall balance of the animal, and thus, no American Staffordshire Terrier should ever exceed 60 or so pounds, maximum weight. The AKC also registers the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, assigning a maximum weight of 34 pounds.

So, from the start we see that a Pitbull is a dog not over 60 pounds and 19 inches at the withers, regardless of its type or title. Obviously a fat, out of shape dog might weigh a bit more, as might a crossbred dog, but 60 pounds is the outside maximum, and a good first litmus test to determining the breed. Further, we see that the Pitbull is a Terrier bred dog, with a distinctively different history from the American Bulldog and all other "bully type" breeds.

By Comparison, the American Bulldog is BIGGER

In contrast, the American Bulldog, with three different types, Bully type, Standard type and Hybrid type, and multiple bloodlines per type, is almost always a much larger dog than a Pitbull. The American Bulldog has four primary registries, the American Bulldog Association (ABA), the United Kennel Club (UKC), the American Bulldog Registry & Archives (ABRA), and the National Kennel Club (NKC). Other registries recognizing the American Bulldog are the Animal Research Foundation (ARF) and the International Designer Canine Registry (IDCR). Drawing across the board from all the registries with height and/or weight standards for the American Bulldog, it is a dog that is a MINIMUM of 60 pounds, a maximum of 125+ pounds, a minimum of 20 inches in height at the withers, and a maximum of 27 inches in height at the withers. So, again, a much larger dog than a Pitbull.

In general, it can be said that the maximum size a Pitbull is supposed to be, is roughly the minimum size an American Bulldog is supposed to be, and nonetheless, (assuming properly bred purebred dogs), an American Bulldog of any type or bloodline should be a notably thicker, meatier dog than a Pitbull, with much heavier bone and muscle, and not looking like a large Terrier bred dog, but more akin to a Bullmastiff, or in his more athletic Standard version, the now extinct Alaunt.

And It's More Than Just a Size Difference...

Apart from the significant size difference between Pitbulls and the American Bulldog, there are other specific traits easily identifiable between both dogs. For instance, the head and snout...

A Pitbull of any type has (or should have) a roughly 50/50 head (skull/snout), ranging up to a 40/60 head. That is, with a 50/50 head, half the length of the dog's head is skull, the other half snout, and as is the case with Pitbulls, they may have a significantly longer snout than skull, i.e., up to a 40/60 head.

By comparison, the American Bulldog ranges from roughly a 55/45 head (skull/snout) to an 80/20 head (that's 80% skull and 20% snout). You'll notice that range goes the opposite direction of the Pitbull. In other words, American Bulldogs, while having a wider acceptable range of head types than a Pitbull (because of their various types, not a loose, inconsistent standard), American Bulldogs still should always have a shorter snout than skull.

Furthermore, while the Breed Standards for the Pitbull call for a wide, flat head and a tapering snout, those for the American Bulldog identify a boxier shaped, wider (and again, shorter) snout, and not a wide, flat head at all, but a well muscled and round head.

A Wrinkle in the Program

American Bulldogs also generally have wrinkles on their heads and around their mouths. This is a telltale characteristic of their Mastiff lineage. A Pitbull being a Terrier bred dog, has much tighter skin and rarely any facial wrinkles at all. Even when crossbred together, American Bulldog to Pitbull, or Pitbull to American Bulldog, the wrinkles of the American Bulldog almost entirely vanish, leaving a tight skinned face easily identifiable as that not of Mastiff lineage, but of Terrier lineage. This then becomes another good litmus test in telling the difference between Pitbulls and all the other "bully type" breeds of dogs, even crossbred dogs. None of the other "bully type" breeds are of Terrier lineage, and as such, they all have wrinkles the Pitbull Terrier does not. Further, it is very rare in any dog bred to a Pitbull, to observe the "bully type" facial wrinkling of the other "bully type" breeds. The Pitbull's tighter facial skin is a dominant allele, a distinctive phenotype of the Pitbull, indicative of its Terrier classification.

Study the photographs above and you will see that these differences are clear and obvious. You simply cannot mistake an American Bulldog for a Pitbull, taking even a casual glance, as long as you know what you're looking for between them. They are altogether different animals.

And It's More Than Just Skin Deep Too...

Apart from the somewhat stark visual differences, there are also other less obvious, but still very important differences between Pitbulls and American Bulldogs. As mentioned previously, a Pitbull is a Terrier. Proper purebred American Bulldogs don't have a drop of Terrier blood in them, (any very limited and long previous outcrossings now long bred away). As mentioned, American Bulldogs, of all distinct types and bloodlines, are classified as a direct Mastiff offshoot. Just as the Bullmastiff, an American Bulldog is German Bullenbeisser and Mastiff bred dog, a Molosser, bringing with them the stable temperament, "big dog" confidence, and a complete lack of the Terrier's associated "small dog," tendencies.

Where Pitbulls can have a tendency towards hyperactivity, and tend to require a great deal of exercise to keep them out of mischief, and not frustrated, the American Bulldog, similar to other Mastiff dogs, tends to be more of an energy conservationist. They have energy, of course, they're true working dogs after all, but they're not typically found running in circles chasing their own tails, in an effort to burn off steam. They're a more purposeful, laid back dog, in most cases, than Pitbulls tend to be. There are exceptions, examples of both lazier Pitbulls and the rare American Bulldog with an inordinate amount of energy, but even then, it's not nervous energy, and such exceptions in no way disprove the rule.

American Bulldogs generally enjoy exercise and do well in jobs requiring energy and determination. Pitbulls truly need exercise, have an abundance of energy that must be regularly burned off, or they can sometimes become hyper active and/or aggressive as a frustrated response. The most active and energetic Performance Line American Bulldogs in the world, active catch dogs still used in catch combat against feral hogs, these dogs still make excellent pets in small apartments, with no more than a short walk every day. That is not the case for the typical Pitbull, who has a specific breed requirement of exercise.

Other Breeds Sometimes Confused With Pitbulls

The American Bulldog is not the only dog confused with the Pitbull. Owners of other types of Bulldogs and "bulldog type" dogs across the country have complained of discrimination against them, based upon Pitbull ownership, when they in fact did not own Pitbulls at all, but other genetically unique types of dogs. These are cases that have often found themselves being decided in Court, at some initial expense to the dog owner, but often with apartment complexes, landlords, and even animal control and police authorities in the end footing the bill for their mistakes.

It can be categorically stated, that while discrimination against non-Pitbull owners accused of owning Pitbulls is a type of gross violation of those persons' rights, a harmful inconvenience, and sometimes even a tragedy to the dog owner, it is just as often a serious public embarrassment that quickly becomes a legal liability to those doing the discriminating. In short, it can cost you a great deal of money being wrong, when discriminating against a breed of dog.

As such, it is in everyone's best interest to simply identify breeds of dogs more correctly. Below are short profiles of breeds often confused with Pitbulls. If you can find a dog in this list very similar to one you are considering barring from a rental agreement, confiscating from an owner, or euthanizing without an owner's consent, there may be some wisdom in restraint. These breeds are well established as being genetically unique from the Pitbull, and it can, and sometimes is proven in Court, where the winner can stand to gain substantial damages against you for wrongful discrimination.

 

Dogo Argentino: Originally developed in Cordoba, Argentina, by Dr. Antonio Nores Martinez, DVM, the Dogo Argentino is a pure white dog, with only a small patch of color allowed near the eye, never being greater than a 10% coverage of the head. Compared to the Pitbull, the Dogo Argentino is much larger, its minimum height being 23.5 inches at the withers, a maximum height of 27 inches, and most commonly in the 90 to 100 pound range, with many males far exceeding that. Further, the dog is noted for its much more shallow stop (the sloping area between the eyes) than that typified by Pitbulls, and for having a significantly longer head as well. The dog is not a Terrier breed. The Dogo Argentino is a Mastiff bred dog. It is known for having a friendly and amiable personality, allowing it to live and work cooperatively. These dogs are a pack-hunting breed of dog, bred for the pursuit of big-game such as wild boar and puma, and possessing the strength, intelligence and quick responsiveness of a serious athlete. Because they are very purposefully developed as a pack-hunting dog, they are reputed to have very low dog-on-dog aggression.

 

English Bulldog: Also known simply as a Bulldog by the American Kennel Club, the English Bulldog is a very short, squat, very wide and non-athletic dog, ranging in size from 40 to 50 pounds. If you can confuse and English Bulldog with a Pitbull, you are in need of eye glasses. Where the Pitbull should have no facial wrinkles and be a slim, well muscled dog, with good legs for running, the English Bulldog is exactly opposite to that. This dog has the shortest, most squashed and wrinkled face of all dogs, of any breed, anywhere on earth. The dog's legs are so short and thrown out away from the body, as to give it a specific type of shuffling gait that makes truly running essentially impossible for the breed. They are known for loud, rasping breathing, sloppy, wet mouths, flatulence and huge personalities. Some bloodlines can also be natural protection dogs, committed to guarding their human loved ones and even the family cat from harm, and also sometimes being mildly dog aggressive. If you ever see an English bulldog that reaches 20 inches at the withers, it's not likely a purebred English Bulldog. They are much shorter and much wider than any Pitbull, and again, fully opposite the Pitbull's clean, tight, streamlined appearance.

 

Johnson or "Bully" type American Bulldog: Imagine a Bullmastiff. Now, add a bit more facial wrinkle, and make it white, often with splotches of color. That roughly describes a Johnson or "Bully" type American Bulldog. Ranging in size from the very rare (and not preferable) 60 pound MINIMUM weight, to over 125 pounds, standing at the very rare (and not preferable) 20 inch MINIMUM at the withers, to sometimes over 27 inches, this dog is far larger than any Pitbull Terrier should ever be. As described above, the head structure is radically different from that of the Pitbull Terrier. This dog has a short, somewhat squashed looking face, but not as exaggerated and squashed a face as an English Bulldog. It is very wide chested, creating an appearance of significant power. Where the Pitbull's ears tend to be erect, an American Bulldog's ears of any variety are never erect. The Johnson or "Bully" type American Bulldog can be both dog and man aggressive, depending upon the bloodline. In all cases it should be well socialized and trained. It is a natural, self-initiating protector, larger males known specifically for being man-stoppers, not simply a hindrance to a bad guy. They are loyal and particularly loving and protective towards the children in their families. If the dog reaches maturity with its natural extreme confidence in tact, there is no man or animal alive that will frighten it, or make it back down when it has committed itself to a guarding scenario. It is generally a less athletic dog than the other types of American Bulldogs, often thought of as the "Olympic power lifter" of the breed.

 

Standard, Scott or Performance Line American Bulldog: Imagine a very large Pitbull Terrier. Now make it larger, taller and longer, give it a more pronounced stop (the sloping area between the eyes), let its ears droop and shorten the snout. The Standard, Scott or Performance Line American Bulldog is the fellow most often confused with Pitbulls, of all the American Bulldog strains. It is not, however, a Pitbull Terrier. As mentioned previously, it has facial wrinkles, not as much as a Johnson or "Bully" type American Bulldog, but nothing like the tight, smooth facial skin a Pitbull should have. The dog is also almost always quite a bit larger than a Pitbull, again, not as large as a Johnson or "bully" type American Bulldog, but very clearly not Terrier sized either. These dogs are the "Olympic track stars" of the American Bulldog breed. They are much more athletic and lighter in weight than either the Johnson type or Hybrid type American Bulldog, but they remain very much American Bulldogs. They are loyal and particularly loving and protective towards the children in their families, but while technically able to be trained for protection, they are not particularly known for either man or dog aggression. This is a happy working dog, ready for commercial field work with all forms of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, or to hit the Everglades running on Saturday morning, heading out to hunt wild hogs.

 

Hybrid American Bulldog: This dog, as you might imagine, often provides the best of both characteristics from the other two types of American Bulldog, Johnson or "Bully" type and Standard. It is usually bigger, wider and stronger than a Standard, Scott of Performance Line American Bulldog, yet far more athletic and agile than a Johnson or "Bully" type American Bulldog. This is the kind of American Bulldog we usually breed here at Blasco Family Bulldogs©, making me a bit prejudiced towards them, but having seen all three types side-by-side, people wanting highly athletic protection dogs do generally choose a hybrid. These dogs basically always inherit the Johnson type American Bulldog's heavy drive towards family protection, and extreme confidence. They are also often as big as Johnson type American Bulldogs, but in a well maintained state, really don't tend to run out of steam any sooner than A Standard, Scott or Performance Line American Bulldog. Compared to a Pitbull, they are far larger, almost always in the 100+ pound range, with larger males every bit as large as the larger Johnson type dogs. They are rarely shorter than 24 inches at the withers, often taller than 27 inches They have a clearly defined stop, much deeper than a Pitbull, and notable facial wrinkle.

 

White English Bulldog (WEB): Ranging from 23 to 25+ inches at the withers, 70 to 95+ pounds, the White English Bulldog or WEB is the progenitor to the American Bulldog. Once known as Old Southern Whites or Alabama Bulldogs, the WEB is much more similar to a Hybrid type American Bulldog than to either the Johnson type or Standard type. This is not an all inclusive statement, as WEBs vary in appearance based upon particular bloodline, geographic location and their particular utility use, but it is to say they are very clearly not Johnson type American Bulldogs, and also don't typically look like Standard, Scott or Performance Line American Bulldogs. WEBs have that clear appearance of power like a Johnson type American Bulldog, and the athleticism of a Standard type. Somewhere a breeder of the Old Southern White just started screaming at his computer and looking for my phone number. There ARE Old Southern Whites that do more resemble the Standard, Scott or Performance Line American Bulldog, but what is today called a WEB is not that version of Old Southern White. These dogs are possibly the ultimate American homestead dog, with a great balance of power and stamina. The dog is a low key self-initiator in protection, not given to truly being man aggressive or putting on threat displays, but willing to protect. Much like the three American Bulldog types, the WEB cannot easily be confused with a Pitbull, for the same reasons of size and radically different head type.

 

English Bull Terrier: 20 to 24 inches in height at the withers, 45 to 80 pounds, and with easily one of the most memorable and easy to distinguish head types in the dog world, the English Bull Terrier, as the Pitbull, was once a fighting dog. Its breeders took the dog a different direction sooner, and it is long mellowed and no longer the fighting dog it once was. As all Terriers, they thrive on human contact, and will follow you everywhere. The distinctive head is the primary and crystal clear difference between an English Bull Terrier and a Pitbull. Almost flat at the top, head and face slope evenly down to the end of the nose with no stop at all, a perfect wedge shape. Similar to Pitbulls, this breed can be a wonderful pet if thoroughly socialized, trained and part of an active family lifestyle. They are fond of both grown-ups and children, but can be very protective and willful. Just as with the Pitbull, care must be taken to meet this dog's emotional and energetic needs. They need firm training, lots of exercise and a lot of companionship, or they can become destructive. If the English Bull Terrier sounds a lot like a Pitbull Terrier, it's because it is; they were once the same dog. That is no longer the case.

 

Renaissance Bulldogge: This dog is intended to be a recreation of the larger, healthier and more athletic Bulldog that existed from roughly 1820-1900, in other words, a correction of what was done to the English Bulldog. 17 to 23 inches in height, 60 to 105 pounds, the primary distinguishing feature of the Renaissance Bulldogge from the Pitbull is its head. When viewed from the side, the skull and muzzle are parallel to one another and joined by a very well defined stop, with a short muzzle very similar to an English Bulldog. However, this dog is a dramatic improvement over the English Bulldog in all respects. It is healthier and less prone to genetic illnesses. In is a clear breather, a free breeder and far more athletic. It is also bigger, both bigger than and English Bulldog, and bigger than a Pitbull. The dog's disposition is outgoing and happy. While a watchful nature may be expected at home, human aggression without provocation is a disqualifying fault, and the Renaissance Bulldogge makes an excellent low maintenance family pet.

 

Victorian Bulldog: 55 to 75 pounds, 16 to 19 inches at the withers, the Victorian Bulldog, similar to the Renaissance Bulldogge is an attempt to recreate the Bulldog of times past, having been reduced to the strange and unhealthy little creature known as the English Bulldog. Also similar to the Renaissance Bulldogge, the feature which most distinguishes the Victorian Bulldog from a Pitbull in the classic Bulldog head, characterized by being round, muscular, with a short snout and notable facial wrinkle. The Victorian Bulldog is a fit, healthy, and kindly natured dog, excellent for any peaceful and loving domestic situation. The actual real article, however, the Victorian Bulldog developed by Ken Mollet, is a dog that was built using only British Kennel Club dogs, specifically Staffordshire Bull Terriers (a type of Pitbull), Bullmastiffs, English Bull Terriers and English Bulldogs. In other words, there's a lot of fighting blood in the Victorian Bulldog, though they are in no way considered a particularly dog or man aggressive dog.

 

Presa Canario: 22 to 26 inches at the withers, 85 to 100+ pounds, the Pero de Presa Canario is one of many breeds of dogs originally developed as a guard dog and cattle wrangler. These though, tend to have a bit more edge to them. Presa Canarios tend to be man aggressive and dog aggressive, and you should not do business with any breeder who tells you differently, talking about his or her much milder mannered dogs. A Presa is originally bred to be confrontational towards human beings, and they are big, fast and capable. When not properly trained, they can be dangerous dogs, at a level that few people are able to envision. This dog is highly dominant, aggression always just below the surface exterior of the dog, untrusting of strangers, self willed, determined and very tenacious in its guard duties, and always capable of besting a grown man in a conflict. The essential characteristics of the Presa are those which enable it to drive and hold cattle, and to guard its home and family: very powerful, agile, courageous, with a large head and powerful jaws. The Presa is extremely affectionate, docile and well behaved with its owner and family, but is wary of strangers and basically always aggressive with other dogs. It's far too large to be a Pitbull, has a massive, cuboid head and facial wrinkles, and its body is longer than it is tall.

American Bulldogs, as well as many other breeds of dogs, are often confused with Pitbulls by the public. The Pitbull is a decent dog, and responsible breeders have done a fantastic job in eradicating the dog's formerly much more aggressive nature - to the point that we do not ourselves consider the Pitbull to be a particularly aggressive breed these days. Each of the bully breeds have different traits and characteristics, strengths and in some cases weaknesses. Our personal opinion is that American Bulldogs are best, because they are still often used for what they were bred for: Farm work. So, that's what we primarily breed - and we never breed Pitbulls.

We have nothing against the American Pitbull Terrier or cross breeds containing Pitbull blood such as Bandogs. We've both owned and loved the occasional Pitbull and Pitbull mixes through rescues and whatnot, and we are pleased to advocate for the breed. Blasco Family Bulldogs© is steadfast in our opposition to breed specific legislation and strong proponents of individual dog owner responsibility - regardless of the breed. If you are interested in Pitbulls, or the issue of breed specific legislation, seeking to heavily regulate, and in some cases, outright ban the Pitbull, I'd like to recommend my article of the topic, The Pitbull Advocacy Article.

(1) MISTAKEN IDENTITY, Many shelter dogs mislabeled ‘pit bulls,’ DNA analysis shows guesses often subjective, Tanya Irwin, Toledo Blade (toledoblade.com), March 18, 2012

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