10 Breeds Most Commonly Mistaken For Pit Bulls

American Pit Bull Terrier
American Pit Bull Terrier

There is so much confusion these days about the American Pit Bull Terrier. Are they a breed or are they a “type” of dog? Even owners can’t agree. The truth is that American Pit Bull Terriers are in fact a distinct breed; they are part of a group of working breeds that descended from the Molosser dog. Because of this, they look similar to many other breeds. This leads to a lot of misunderstanding about the breed, and sadly it has even led to people losing their beloved pets due to misidentification and breed-specific legislation which targets “types” of dogs.

The true American Pit Bull Terrier is people-friendly to a fault and weighs no more than 60lbs at the absolute largest. Thanks to the media, crossbreeding practices and well-meaning but incorrect information, it is very hard to be sure: is it a Pit Bull or isn’t it? We will clear up some of this confusion today by identifying the top 10 breeds that are mistaken for Pit Bulls.

Astute readers may notice the American Staffordshire Terrier is absent from this list. This is because though they are distinctly different, they are generally considered to be two types of the same breed.

10. The American Bulldog

Generally white or predominantly white with patches of color, these big friendly brutes can weigh in at over 100lbs. A working dog as all bulldogs are, the American Bulldog is a wonderful family pet equally at home on the farm working or in an apartment kicked back relaxing – provided he gets enough exercise and is properly socialized. The American Bulldog is an accomplished hunting and sport dog, as well as a favorite in the show ring. He comes in two types: standard and bully, with the bully type being stockier with a shorter muzzle. The American Pit Bull Terrier, while sharing many of the same wonderful traits, is much smaller than either type of American Bulldog and differs very much physically.

09. The Presa Canario

The Presa is a very large dog. He can reach 150lbs and he is very powerful. The Presa is a working dog, used for herding cattle and guarding. His temperament can be aggressive; he is only a good choice for a very experienced owner who can handle his size and attitude. This is a big dog that knows he’s a big dog. Aggression toward humans and other animals can be problematic if he is not socialized properly. The Pit Bull in contrast is much smaller than the Presa and has a much friendlier, more family-oriented temperament. The Presa Canario is a natural guard dog, with innate suspicion toward humans and the “alpha” type of assertiveness we see with guarding breeds. The Pit Bull possesses neither of these things; they are not guard dogs. The huge aggressive “pit bulls” we see walking around are often crossbred with the Presa.

08. The Cane Corso

The Cane Corso (pronounced kah-nay kor-so) is another very large dog. Also known as the Italian Mastiff, the Cane Corso weighs anywhere from 70-100lbs. His history is as a guard dog and a working dog, as most Molosser breeds are. The Cane Corso is not a fighting dog; he is not generally known to be aggressive toward other dogs but he is a guard dog by nature and is not recommended for any but the most experienced handlers because of his great size. He is a protective dog who bonds tightly with family members, often one family member in particular and he may become overprotective if he is not socialized very early and often. The Pit Bull is far less aloof with strangers and is typically very social in comparison to the Cane Corso. The Pit Bull is also much smaller than the Cane Corso, with very different physical features.

07. The Bull Terrier

Easily remembered as the Spuds McKenzie dog from the Bud Light commercials, the Bull Terrier is often mistaken for the American Pit Bull Terrier. Stubborn, tenacious and a true terrier at heart, the Bull Terrier is smaller in size than our previous entries but don’t let that fool you. He is stocky and muscular, with erect ears and a pleasant demeanor. As a terrier, he has a highly-developed prey drive and has been known to kill smaller animals if they challenge or harass him too much. He is the perfect blending of the bulldog-terrier lineage: strong, tenacious, stubborn and because of this, the Bull Terrier is not recommended for novice handlers. The Bull Terrier has a very distinct appearance, with an “egg-shaped” skull and triangular eyes, both of which are exclusive to the breed. He is very easily distinguished from the American Pit Bull Terrier because of these unique features.

06. The Boxer

The Boxer is one of the most popular breeds of dog in the United States. He is a working dog and a hunter, as well as an excellent guard dog. Tall and proud, the Boxer can weigh up to 80lbs and is often recognized by his fawn-colored coat. However, he can be white, brindle or multi-colored. This probably adds to confusion with the Pit Bull, as many people have not seen Boxers of any color other than fawn. The Boxer is intelligent and high-energy. He is great with children but can be stubborn and protective. He’s prone to mischief such as excessive barking, chewing and other nuisance behaviors if he is not exercised enough. They have some temperament similarities, as the Pit Bull can be stubborn, high energy and is excellent with children but the Pit Bull is smaller than the Boxer and does not possess the Boxer’s distinctive shape.

05. The Dogo Argentino

A super-athlete bred for hunting wild boar, killing mountain lions and to protect his human to the death, the Dogo is a fierce hunter and a brave guardian, excellent for use in military and police applications. He is very large, heavily-muscled and white in color, weighing close to 100lbs. A fairly new breed that originated in Argentina and still largely resides there, these dogs are relatively rare in this country but they are growing in popularity due to their stamina, loyalty and exceptionally beautiful appearance. They are a great choice for people looking for a very active breed they can hike, camp, climb and work outdoors with. They have been described as similar to the Pit Bull Terrier, even though the Pit Bull is much smaller than the Dogo. This adds to the confusion surrounding the Pit Bull “type” and has led to the Dogo Argentino often being misidentified as a pit bull.

04. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Besides the Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier or “Staffy” is probably the most similar to the American Pit Bull Terrier of all the breeds listed here. He is still very distinguishable from the Pit Bull Terrier, possessing the trademark “Staffy smile” and a blocky, squared head. The Staffy is an affectionate dog, very friendly and wonderful with children. He loves to love and is an excellent family pet. He loves people and adapts to strangers very well. Like Pit Bulls, the Staffy possesses lower-than-average aggression toward humans. Staffies are mistaken for Pit Bulls frequently, with many people believing the two breeds are the same. This is because up to a certain point in history, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier were all the same breed of dog. They no longer are, however; they are now three very distinct and separate breeds.

03. The Bullmastiff

A very large dog, the Bullmastiff is an excellent guardian and watchdog. He is a breed that needs no training in protection; he will react on instinct to any threat which presents itself. He is powerful and formidable, making him a great choice for activities such as pulling carts, which he greatly enjoys. He is smart and independent, making him a great agility competitor and a wonderful tracker in the field. He requires a somewhat special method of training because of his intelligence – he dislikes repetitive tasks – and he requires a firm hand due to his size. The Bullmastiff is often confused for other breeds, including the Pit Bull. For instance, despite what many people think, the dog from Turner & Hooch was not a Bullmastiff. He was a Dogue de Bordeaux. The Pit Bull is much smaller than the Bullmastiff, possessing a very different temperament and very different physical characteristics.

02. The Olde English Bulldogge

A fairly new breed, the Olde English Bulldogge is a throwback. This breed was an attempt to re-create the old bulldog of the 1800’s, which was very different from modern bulldogs. This breed was created in the 1970’s with foundation dogs that were ½ English Bulldog, and Bullmastiff, American Pit Bull Terrier, and American Bulldog, breeds that all have the old Bulldog in their lineage. The Olde English Bulldogge is tenacious, agile, eager to work and far less aggressive than the bullbaiter from the 1800’s. He is muscular and strong, a true bulldog in every sense. This is a respected breed that thrives in pulling competitions, therapy work and obedience competitions. The Olde English Bulldogge, while similar to the Pit Bull Terrier and sharing a lineage, is a very distinct and different breed. The Olde English Bulldogge is generally thicker, with a larger head and a shorter, trademark bulldog muzzle.

01. The Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog

You may have never heard of this breed, but it is an old breed, surviving since the 1800’s in isolated places in the South until 1979 when the breed was resurrected with a passion. The American Pit Bull Terrier we know and love today was created in part from this breed, as were a few other breeds like the Black Mouth Cur and the Catahoula Leopard Dog. The Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog is a loyal, loving family member, as bulldogs are. He loves children and he is a wonderful guardian and companion. He’s beautiful, spirited, tenacious and eager, possessing the bulldog personality in spades. He can be aggressive if encouraged and because of this, he makes a wonderful protection dog but must be socialized well to prevent too much aggression. This is in contrast to the American Pit Bull Terrier; without training they generally won’t become naturally aggressive toward people.

What We've Learned

As this list unequivocally demonstrates, it is no easier to tell a dog’s genetic heritage just from looking at him than it would be to know a person’s heritage just by looking at them. Breed misidentification plays a huge part in the stigma attached to Pit Bulls, and because of this thousands of animals lose loving families, are banned from cities or are euthanized in shelters because they are incorrectly identified as “pit bulls” or “pit bull-type” dogs based on how they look. Even experienced shelter personnel can’t get it right just by looking. DNA testing is the only way to be sure, but since that just isn’t feasible, to prevent needless deaths we must judge them based on their individual qualities instead of how they look.

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Comments 12 comments

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 17 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Beautiful dogs and the photos are quite majestic looking. I love the looks of the Boxer and the Pit Bull Terrier. I have an old photograph from the early 1900s of my Grandfather with two dogs that look like these two breeds.

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 17 months ago from Northern California

Voted up. These days, there's far too much Pitbull paranoia, and not enough real information, which you have kindly provided. I regard Breed Specific Legislation as mindless.

I read about a case in Canada, where their goobermint attempted to confiscate a pure-bred Lab (with papers!), because he looked too bully.

The law should target individual dogs that have actually bitten people. Unfortunately, this is a difficult concept for many legislators.

My neighbor's younger daughter had a Staffie, named Mack. Nice dog!

DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 17 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

Voted up and interesting. Welcome to HP, looking forward to reading more of your work.

SinDelle profile image

SinDelle 17 months ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Author

Thanks to everyone! This is a topic I feel very strongly about so thank you for reading and sharing your opinions.

felish 7 months ago

this is so cute

Vmez 5 months ago

People tend to make judgements against dogs too fast without studying and talking to other knowlegable people that have dogs.they take things for granted don't appreciate an animal for it just being an animal.people are not perfect.why should animals,(all) animals be them for what they are.they are just animals. 4 months ago

I am impressed! This is the most educated article on bullies I have ever read. I soooo want to shove this in my hater boss's face. I work at a boarding kennel, where I was told I was wrong about what I know about these dogs. I would say more , but I want to share this on my Facebook, and I actually love my job. Anyway,this article comes as a relief that there are educated people who are willing to make sense and share their knowledge. Especially after reading a particularly foul piece of crap on a website called stating the most dangerous dog breeds are "pit bulls" (the picture wasn't even of a pit bull) and basically any dog that weighs over 100 lbs. Oh, it was infuriating. Thank you, SinDelle, for brightening my mood and providing me with some well-researched info.

Unknown 3 months ago

Sorry to be mean but to many people are just stupid. So many people say pit bulls are dangerous and they don't even know any about them. They only say it because they hear other people talk about it. Nobody even cares to do research. Any dog breed can be dangerous. Any dog breed can hurt people. It's how the dog is raised, trained and treated.

Wolf 2 months ago

this is what happens when people live to much of their life by fear and ignorance and with technology today why should people use their brains at all and it will only get worse......

Dale Beyrent 8 weeks ago

It's so hard for me to find a place to live because no one will let us, with our Stafford shire terrier. She is so sweet.. It makes life hard. :(

DogFam 2 weeks ago

The amount of inaccurate information on this breed is wild! People need to READ! Things like this article lol.. Make informed decisions based on legitimate, reputable research, statistics, etc. Not news articles.. Like ??? Blows my mind! I've always since I was very very little been such a huge fan of bully breeds especially pitbulls. Every one I've ever delt with has been so smart and trainable.. They are such perfect dogs when with responsible owners

Sg503 13 days ago

Thats true. Leave the pit bulls to those with a compasionate heart to raise and bring out an angel from a beast body. I love my pit bull. I am truly blessed to have her in my life. And id never give her up for anything.

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