This article is from the American Pit Bull Terriers Breed FAQ, by Michael Bur with numerous contributions by others.
The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is a descendent of the original
English bull-baiting Bulldog and has historically been bred with
working/performance goals in mind. The challenge of describing the
American Pit Bull Terrier inevitably invites a long sequence of
superlatives. The APBT is a supremely athletic, highly versatile,
adaptive, gushingly affectionate, eager-to-please, all-around family
dog. In courage, resolve, indefatigableness, indifference to pain,
and stubborn perseverance in overcoming any challenge, the APBT has
no equal in the canine world. Although the APBT was once used as a
national symbol of courage and pride, the breed is largely
Even though the APBT has historically been bred to excel in combat
with other dogs, a well-bred APBT has a rock-steady temperament
and, contrary to popular belief, is NOT inherently aggressive
towards humans. However, as adults, some APBTs may show aggression
towards other dogs. This fact, along with the APBT's strength and
determination, should be taken into account when considering if the
APBT is the right breed for you. As with any companion dog,
socialization and consistent fair-minded training is a must from a
very early age.
Although some APBTs may be suspicious of strangers, as most dogs are,
and will protect loved ones if necessary, in general they do not
excel in protection/guard work. If your main reason for getting
a dog is for protection/guard work, perhaps a Rottweiler, German
Shephard, or a Doberman Pinscher would suit you better. Or, if you
really like the bulldog phenotype, look into an American Bulldog.
There are several types of dogs that are commonly called "Pit Bulls."
Primarly, these are the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American
Staffordshire Terrier (AST), and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT).
All three of these dogs share common ancestry but have been
subsequently bred emphasizing different breeding criteria. Due to
this divergence, some people feel that they are now different breeds.
Others choose to view them as different "strains" of the same breed.
Neither view is wrong, as it comes down to how one defines what a
"breed" is. This FAQ is primarily about the American Pit Bull Terrier,
specifically those dogs of relatively recent game-bred ancestry.
Some of the material may ring true for the AST and the SBT, but the
authors are biased toward the APBT from performance-bred lines, and
this bias will be clear throughout the FAQ.