American Pit Bull Terrier

Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club

The American Pit Bull Terrier originated in the British Isles and descends from the Mastiff-type dogs introduced to England in antiquity. The breed was brought over to the United States by English immigrants in the 1800s, and quickly became one of the most popular and widespread breeds there.

Fun Fact

One of the most famous American Pit Bull Terriers is Pal, the dog who played the beloved Petey in The Little Rascals.

  • American Pit Bull Terriers at a glance

    The American Pit Bull Terrier is one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world. In fact, it is the #1 most common breed in Embark-tested dogs. American Pit Bull Terriers are very loving toward people and can make excellent family dogs. They're considered intelligent, enthusiastic, strong, and eager to please. Having these admirable attributes has made them diversely useful. American Pit Bull Terriers work as therapy dogs and search and rescue dogs, and they excel at dog sports involving pushing and pulling.  The American Pit Bull Terrier is the perfect example of a breed with a tough exterior but a soft heart. Learn more about the American Pit Bull Terrier and get information on the genetic health risks tests that Embark Veterinary provides.
  • About the American Pit Bull Terrier

    American Pit Bull Terriers—or Pit Bulls, as they're also called—actually originated in the British Isles. The now extinct Old English Bulldogs and Old English Terriers were crossbred in an attempt to combine the work ethic of the Terrier with the athleticism of the Bulldog. At the time in England, "bear baiting" and "bull baiting" were popular, and the new Bull-and-Terrier breed was used in this blood sport until it was outlawed in 1835.  English immigrants brought the Bull-and-Terrier breed to America around the time of the Civil War, and it instantly became popular. Many portraits of and with this breed can be found dating back over a century. Working-class Americans began to see the American Pit Bull Terrier as they saw themselves: hardworking, friendly, brave, and loyal. American Pit Bull Terriers became so beloved that America made them the nation's mascot during World War I and World War II.   In both America and the British Isles, this breed was used in "ratting" and dogfighting events. Despite this misuse by their owners, they became an integral part of shaping the nation. This breed herded and guarded livestock against wild animals and thieves, helped on hunts, and protected their families, especially the children.  Finally, in 1976, America amended the Animal Welfare Act, outlawing dogfighting in all 50 states and its outlying territories. American Pit Bull Terriers now fulfill many needed positions in the world. They work as explosive-detection dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs, and caring companions. They are one of the most multifaceted dog breeds out there.  Due to some breed-specific legislation, American Pit Bull Terriers are not allowed in certain countries and certain cities. It’s important to check the local laws before welcoming one of these dogs into a home.
  • Physical characteristics

    The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-to-large-sized dog with a stocky, well-defined muscular build. Their size and color vary considerably because of the variety of bulldog and terrier breeds used in their foundation. They are long with a short, whip-like tail and a short and smooth coat that comes in many colors and patterns. Their heads are broad and flat with a wide, deep muzzle and small-to-medium-sized ears that are set high. Typically, males of this breed are 18 to 19 inches in height and weigh 35 to 65 pounds, while females usually measure 17 to 18 inches in height and weigh 30 to 60 pounds. The size of an American Pit Bull Terrier depends on a combination of breeding, diet, and exercise.
  • Nutrition

    In order to thrive, a Pit Bull requires a balanced diet that consists of 35%-40% protein, 14%-17% animal fat, 20%-30% carbohydrates, and 1%-1.5% calcium. However, while they're puppies they will require extra nutrition, and high-quality puppy food is recommended. Use wet food in moderation, as too much can lead to plaque formation on their teeth. Additionally, avoid the temptation to feed them human food and too many treats, as this can lead to digestive health problems. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet.
  • Grooming

    Fortunately, Pit Bulls do not require too much grooming. Their short coat sheds minimally, and a once-a-week brush will help them to shed excess hair while stimulating the production of natural oils, helping their coats to maintain a shine. Regular baths, ear cleaning, tooth brushing, and nail trimming are needed, and the quality of their skin and coat is enhanced by a healthy diet. Regular veterinary visits to assess the need for a professional dental cleaning, detect skin problems, and provide parasite preventatives will help them to thrive.
  • ‌Playtime and training

    American Pit Bulls are known for their playful nature and friendly manner. Their eagerness and intensity can lead to some stubborn behavior, and it will help for owners to establish themselves as the alpha—in a peaceful way—early on in training. The early human and canine socialization that puppies experience is important in the development of their temperament.  Like most dogs, bored Pit Bulls can become troublesome, and plenty of exercise and attention are required to avoid this behavior. A professional trainer or training course can be helpful in establishing a gentle yet firm structure that allows them to make the most of their playtime while also remaining safe and behaved. This breed also enjoys sturdy chew toys and toys that challenge their intellect and can occupy them while they're not outside; however, outside playtime is key for them to be happy.
  • Health and aging in American Pit Bull Terriers

    This breed typically lives between 8 and 15 years old.

    An Embark Dog DNA Test looks at the following health conditions in this breed:

    With proper care, American Pit Bulls can live long and productive lives as the companions they were idolized to be during their time as America's mascot. Learn more about your dog with an Embark Dog DNA Test, the most accurate on the market.
  • Health Conditions

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