Breed Standards & Appearance

There are many breeds and mixes that have been mistaken for Pit
Bulls, yet very often the “real deal” isn’t even recognized. Even dogs
reported to be Pit Bulls in bite cases have on occasion, upon further
investigation, turned out to be something else entirely (there is a quite infamous case of an attack committed by an Akita that was originally identified as a Pit Bull by the news media).  This page will help you learn to identify Pit Bulls, understand variations within the breed, help you figure out what is incorrect, looks-wise in the breed, as well as identify what’s NOT a Pit Bull at all.

Pit Bulls have always been bred more for attitude and
temperament rather than looks. Because of this,
there is lots of variation in appearance in the breed. Some
breeds are always easy to recognize. They share similar
colors and markings, and height, weight, and ear set are
uniform. The standards for such breeds call for this
uniformity. The Pit Bull standards (set forth by the breed clubs), however, allow for more variation.

Even though variation is permissible, the Pit Bull “standards”
(see below) specify certain physical requirements in the
breed. The standards have been written by people who
have spent many years with the breed, and understand
what the breed should look like. The standards have been
approved and adopted by national organizations. Standards
identify the “ideal” Pit Bull, and breeders look to the
standard when making decisions about which dogs to
breed. The goal of any ethical breeder is to produce the
“perfect dog”. In the Pit Bull world, there is a huge problem
with unethical breeders who are breeding Pit Bulls with no
regard for the standards. They breed what they like, what
they think a Pit Bull should look like (big, or short, or stocky,
etc.), and what appeals to the general public (which seems
to believe bigger is always better). These dogs do not
conform to the standards. These dogs also add even more
variation to the breed, looks-wise, which makes it all the more difficult to properly identify the breed.  This can cause problems when attempting to ID breeds in shelters, when BSL is enforced, and so on.

So what exactly does a Pit Bull look like? First start with the breed be concerned with. The first standard is the United Kennel Club standard, the second is the American Dog Breeders Association standard, and the third is the All American Dog Registry standard. The fourth standard is the AKC standard for the American Staffordshire Terrier. The UKC and AKC standards are similar; American Staffordshire Terriers can be registered with the UKC as “American Pit Bull Terriers”, and can then compete in UKC shows.

“Real” Pit Bulls aren’t typically oversized, bulky, or ‘wide’ – they are a “balanced” dog; here is Hailey, owned by Marthina McClay.
Another example of Pit Bull size This is Lagniappe owned by Lanni is 43 lbs.

The Standards:

Standards are the ‘blueprints’ breeders use when ‘building’ the perfect
dog.