How to Identify a Pit Bull

By Simon Foden


The term pit bull is regularly used incorrectly. Traditionally pit bull is a shortened term for the American pit bull terrier, a United Kennel Club-recognized breed; but the term is erroneously used in reference to breeds that have similar stature and appearance to the American pit bull terrier. Incorrect use of the term is misleading, especially so when used to describe mixed breeds. Since legislation targeting so-called "vicious dog" breeds is a fact of life, it's important to correctly identify a pit bull. Know what makes a pit bull distinct from similar-looking crossbreeds.

Step 1

Observe the dog at play. This will give you a reliable idea of the dog's character. Pit bulls are characteristically friendly, alert and confident. A responsibly bred and well-socialized pit bull will happily accept stroking and demonstrates a gentle fondness for children. However, pit bulls are also instinctively tenacious and may be more inclined to attack other dogs unless correctly socialized from a young age. Dog trainer Cesar Milan, known from his cable show The Dog Whisperer, helps raise awareness of the pit bull's kindly temperament, frequently allowing his pet "Daddy" to freely interact with children.

Step 2

Observe the dog interacting with people. He should be inquisitive and obedient while showing an instinctive guarding instinct. A suspicion of unfamiliar people and dogs is typical of this breed. If the dog is snappy, timid or fearful of strangers, it is probable that he has either been mistreated or is not a true American pit bull terrier.

Step 3

Examine the forequarters. The chest should be muscular and barrel-shaped, giving the impression of strength and agility. The American Dog Breeders Association considers physical frailty and weakness to be a fault indicative of crossbreeding or poor genetics. Dogs demonstrating these qualities should not be used for breeding.

Step 4

Measure the head and shoulders with a measuring tape. The head should be two-thirds the width of the shoulders. The American pit bull terrier has a strong, defined jaw.

Step 5

Feel the neck. It should be solid and muscular, yet flexible. A weak neck is considered a fault, and dogs exhibiting this trait should not be used for breeding.

Step 6

Measure the height of the dog from the front paws to the shoulder. The typical height of a pit bull ranges from 14 to 24 inches at the shoulder, with females being slightly smaller than males. Any dog outside of this height range is likely not to be a purebred pit bull.

Step 7

Take the dog to a vet and have him weighed. A fully grown male should weigh no more than 78 lbs.
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