Breed VS Breed

American Pit Bull Terrier vs. American Staffordshire Terrier: Can You Tell Them Apart?

In the last comparison blog, we discussed the Alaskan Malamute vs. the Siberian Husky. This time, we will understand the differences and similarities between the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier!

Once feared for their tough looks and used for their fighting abilities, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier have come a long way throughout history. They are believed to have descended from ancient bulldogs and molossoid dogs used to catch and hold big game. These dogs found their way into fighting rings during the days of the Roman empire. In fighting pits, they would fight against everything from humans to elephants for entertainment. When animal fighting was outlawed in 1835, underground dog fighting rings became the home of these dogs. The fighting pits were where many beloved breeds, such as the Boston Terrier and the Bull Terrier, started. Today, however, with the help of breed enthusiasts and breeders, these dogs are now better known for being great companions and watchdogs. They love to be with their families and will do anything to please them. 

Brief History of the American Pit Bull Terrier

The American Pit Bull Terrier was originally bred from Old English Bulldogs in the United Kingdom in the 1800s. They became “American” before the Civil War when immigrants came to the United States. The “Pit” part of their name came from when the Cruelty to Animals Act was reinforced in 1835, prohibiting the sport of bull baiting and turning people’s attention to using the dogs for ratting in pits for entertainment, but dogfighting was preferred. For both sports, dogs needed more speed and agility, so Bulldogs were crossed with Terriers. Thus, they were named the American Pit Bull Terrier. The American Pit Bull Terrier breed was officially recognized as an official breed in 1898 by Chauncey Bennett.

Even though far removed from its origins today, the American Pit Bull Terrier is still marred by its dark past. Due to that past in the fighting ring and because of their terrier genetics, the American Pit Bull Terrier can often develop dog aggression issues. However, thanks partly to law enforcement efforts to crack down on dogfighting and responsible breeders, along with more resources available than ever to guide owners with scientifically proven training techniques, the breed is now thriving in many new positive roles. 

Brief History of the American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier breed was also used to catch big game and fight in pits. Yet, this breed was developed from the American Pit Bull Terrier in the United States. Joe Dunn headed up the effort to establish a new name and new way of life for his dogs and others like them. The name “Staffordshire Terrier” was first used and recorded, but it did not become widely popular with other owners and breeders. Eventually, the name was changed to American Staffordshire Terrier to differentiate from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a separate but similar breed from England, and was officially recognized as a breed in 1936.


The temperaments are almost identical for the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. It is both of these breeds’ best attributes. They are confident, intelligent, watchful, alert, self-composed, courageous, and hopelessly devoted to their families. Their terrier ancestry and bulldog size make socialization and training necessary to ensure that they serve as goodwill ambassadors to their breed. They serve as excellent family companions and hard-working dogs while also fulfilling roles in law enforcement, therapy work, and trained assistance.


They are both considered medium-sized dogs, but the American Pit Bull Terrier is taller and more slender, whereas the American Staffordshire has more of a shorter, stocky build. American Pit Bull Terrier males can weigh 30 to 75 pounds and stand 17 to 22 inches in height. Females can weigh 30 to 60 pounds and stand 17 to 22 inches in height. American Staffordshire Terrier males can weigh 56 to 67 pounds and stand 18 to 22 inches in height. Females can weigh 56 to 67 pounds and stand 17 to 21 inches in height.

The coat color varieties of these breeds also differ greatly. The American Pit Bull Terrier comes in all coat colors and patterns except merle. The American Staffordshire Terrier comes in solid colors of white, black, blue, gray, fawns (with black, blue, or gray mask), buckskin, cream, tan, red, and brindles, all with or without white markings (white on marked dogs must not exceed 80% of the body).


These dogs are a great example of the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and deserve all the love and attention as any other wonderful dog breed, big or small! It is amazing to think that these dogs started with such a rough history and yet are now seen as some of the most loving and loyal dogs. 

It can be easy to confuse the two since they are so similar in looks, but noticing their difference in build and coat color can help identify the two breeds. Just like with any other dog breed, early socialization and training are a must to make sure that the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier remain positive representations of their breed.

Click here for the complete American Pit Bull Terrier breed standard.

Click here for the complete American Staffordshire Terrier breed standard.

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