Would the real “Pitbull” please stand up?


Sometimes I air-quote the word “Pitbull” in conversations. There are several reasons for this, the first being that “Pitbull” is not a breed.

“Pitbull” is simply a generic term used to describe dogs that look like  American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers, (the last of which are not actually even recognized by the AKC as an official breed.) So, the actual breed names of the dogs most people call Pitbulls are usually one of those three – or sometimes, none at all.

It can be quite difficult, if not impossible, to tell if a dog is descended from any of these breeds.  Below, I’ve devised a little test: Can you tell which of the above dogs are Pits? (The answers are below).

Discrimination against humans because of their looks is called racism; discrimination against dogs for the same reason? I’d call that breedism.  When we label a dog with no papers or history as a certain breed, we open the door to assigning breed traits (whether good or bad) based on appearance only. Anyone who’s heard the word Pitbull will have preconceived notions of what a dog labeled as such will mean. “Oh, that dog must be ____ because it’s a ‘Pitbull.’” Some may think of the unneutered chained-up dog behind a fence who guards its territory with a ferocity of bared teeth and barks because it has nothing else to do. Others may think of the ever loyal, friendly, wiggly-butt, couch-loving dog their friend adopted. Is it really fair to assign a term with such a strong connotation to dogs with no confirmed history?

All dogs (regardless of their breed) can have numerous and varied traits.

I vote we focus on the dogs as individuals and explore their personalities before assigning them a breed and lumping them into unspecific categories because of the way they look.ut they can ALL be accessed, enhanced and managed by their living situations and owners. The bottom line is that “genes are written in pencil” (as one of my animal behaviorist idols, Patricia McConnell,  once said.) They can’t be completely erased or undone but they can always be managed and enhanced or diminished by environment and the owner.

Kate Senisi is a dog trainer and pitbull owner in New York City. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog at katesenisi.com.


Answers:None of these dogs are “Pit Bulls” (aka: American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Pit Bull Terriers).

They are:

1. Alpha Blue Blood Bulldog

2. American Bully

3. Bull Terrier

4. American Bulldog

5. Fila Brasileiro

6. Dogo Argentina

7. Boxer

8. Great Dane

9. Cane Corso

10. Catahoula Bulldog

11. Dogue De Bordeaux

12. American Bulldog

13. Bullmastiff

14. Olde English Bulldogge

15. Presa Canario



5 Responses

  1. RNB252

    March 1, 2012 9:42 am

    While it’s true that the AKC does not recognize the American Pitbull Terrier, the UKC does. Fact is, the Amstaff and the APBT are almost identical.  AKC did not want the words Pitbull in any of their dog listings, so that is how the Amstaff came to be called.

  2. e-cig

    June 15, 2013 10:39 pm

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to produce a great article… but what can
    I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.


Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published