Get to know each breed and why these dogs deserve a closer look. (Spoiler: They're big sweeties.)
man holding an American Pitbull Terrier; types of pitbulls
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Are you considering getting a pit bull? If so, you should know that there are many types of pit bull dogs. The word "pit bull" is a catch-all term for breeds that trace their lineage back to the crossing of bulldogs with terriers. People also apply the term to mutts who have one of these "pit bull" breeds in their mix.

"A pit bull could be a combination of 35 different breeds and crosses that share some of the same physical characteristics," says Hank Greenwood, president of the American Dog Breeders Association, a registry for American pit bull terriers.

Read on to learn if some of the most popular types of pit bull breeds might be a good fit for you and your family.

Characteristics of Pit Bull Breeds

Pit bull breeds are stocky and strong with deep chests and blocky heads. They have the strength, courage, and friendliness of a bulldog combined with the smarts and determination of a terrier.

Pit bull breeds earned a fierce reputation because they were originally bred for bull baiting. When that was outlawed in the mid-1800s, many pit bull breeds became working farm dogs and companions. Others, unfortunately, were bred for dogfighting, which, while illegal, still occurs today. But responsible breeders have worked in recent years to lessen any aggressive traits and bring out the naturally sweet dispositions of these breeds.

"These are excellent breeds that, like many others, thrive with appropriate training and socialization," Brandi Hunter Munden, spokesperson for the American Kennel Club, says. "They do well with families and children. Though the breeds may have originally been bred to fight or guard, that's no longer their use. For decades upon decades, responsible breeders have bred them for a friendly and lovable temperament that owners genuinely love and trust."

Let's meet the five types of pit bull dog breeds.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffy)

staffordshire bull terrier standing by water
Staffordshire bull terriers are loyal and eager to please, so they can pick up cues easily. Keep training sessions short to hold their attention!
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The Staffordshire bull terrier breed packs a lot of personality into a small, stocky body. Weighing 24 to 38 pounds, these English-bred dogs easily fit in the car or on the couch. And they're happy to be anywhere as long as it's by your side.

Staffies are up for an adventure, whether that's blazing a new running trail with you or letting tots dress them up—they're known for being patient and loving with kids. And while they're incredibly devoted to their people, they may prefer being the top (and only) dog in the house.

"Properly bred Staffies are sweet-tempered and flourish with a lot of affection. They say once you own one, you're hooked," Munden says.

American Pit Bull Terrier

man holding an American Pitbull Terrier; types of pitbulls
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Despite the name, the American pit bull terrier originated in Ireland and Scotland. These medium-sized pitties range from 35 to 70 pounds and are considered easy to train.

"They're intelligent, loyal, and their desire to please is second to none. They'll do anything that you want them to do," says Greenwood, who grew up with the breed.

Pitties have a playful nature and enjoy spending time with their families. With the proper training and daily exercise, they make great pets.

American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff)

american staffordshire terrier lying on grass
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Cousin to the brawny Staffy, the American Staffordshire terrier is bigger but just as muscular. These dogs can weigh up to 80 pounds and are full of energy. They're also smart, which means they need lots of physical and mental stimulation.

AmStaffs can be a lot to handle for a first-time dog owner. But if you're willing to put in the time and effort to train and socialize your dog—good manners are everything when you have a dog this strong—AmStaffs are good-natured and trustworthy companions, Munden says.

American Bully

couple walking an American Bully dog; types of pitbulls
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The American bully is the grab bag of pit bull breeds. According to the United Kennel Club, they're a combination of the American pit bull terrier crossed with different types of bulldogs, like Frenchies or English bulldogs. Bullies come in small, standard, and extra-large sizes but all maintain a muscled physique.

Though they look like the ultimate tough guys, the American Bully Kennel Club says that they're really big softies. Bullies are known for being gentle and friendly with everyone: strangers, children, and other animals.

Bull Terrier

side view of bull terrier on hill with couple; dogs with long snouts
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You'll never be bored with a bull terrier. These egghead dogs are big clowns full of silly spunk. Sometimes they cause mischief, and they can be stubborn. But if you can play along, train them early, and laugh at their antics, you'll be happy to have this canine as a part of your family.

People don't think of bull terriers as pit bulls, but they're actually one of the oldest pit bull breeds—a terrier and bulldog cross that the AKC officially designated its own unique breed in 1885. "Many people recognize this breed from Target ads," says Munden. "Bull terriers are a great breed that really love their owners. They have big personalities and are a joy to own."

Special Considerations of Owning a Pit Bull Breed

Pit bull breeds are a hardy group that doesn't have a lot of health issues—they can live up to 16 years. Because they're athletic, pitties need at least 45 minutes a day of vigorous exercise (think: running or hiking). Count this as a pro if you're looking for a workout buddy. But if a couch potato is more your speed, they probably aren't the breed for you. (Might we suggest a shih tzu or a cat instead?)

Consider too that the terrier part of pitties gives them a powerful prey drive. The job of the terrier dog group was originally to hunt mice and rats. According to Marin Humane, pitties may chase after squirrels, cats, and small dogs. Even fast-moving people—like joggers or running children—and objects such as bikes and skateboards can trigger their instincts. So it's incredibly important to have a yard with a physical fence no less than 6 feet tall and to always keep your dog on a leash when you're out and about.

Positive reinforcement training is also key when it comes to being a responsible pet parent to a pit bull breed. Early training and socialization are essential. These help pitties learn good manners and feel comfortable and confident in a variety of settings.