American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull – which is your favorite?
The Amstaff is actually one of five Pitbull breeds. So, when we compare the American Staffordshire Terrier to a Pitbull, it could be to any one of the four other breeds.
Like other Pitbull breeds, the Amstaff was originally bred to be a fighting dog. But despite shared roots, the breeds developed differences in temperament and appearance.
Let’s take a closer look.
- Amstaff vs Pitbull history
- American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull appearance
- American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull temperament
- Are these breeds aggressive?
- Amstaff vs Pitbull training
- Amstaff and Pitbull exercise needs
- Health and care needs
- American Staffordshire Terrier and Pitbull puppies
- Which breed is best?
You can click the links above for specific information.
But first things first, we’re going to look at what a Pitbull is.
What is a Pitbull?
‘Pitbull’ is a broad term that actually refers to five different dog breeds.
Breeds that fall into the Pitbull category share a similar history and origin story. They all have some similar characteristics too, but we will explore that more throughout the rest of this guide.
Pitbulls may have all started in the same place, but they have developed some differences as time has gone on.
The five dogs classed as Pitbull breeds are:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- American Pitbull Terrier
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Bull Terrier
- Miniature Bull Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull History
All Pitbull breeds share the same roots, even the Amstaff. They each started out as fighting dogs in 18th and 19th Century England.
These Pitbull breeds were created using terrier breeds and the Old English Bulldog.
They were commonly used in bull baiting and dog fighting. Thankfully, these sports were banned, but underground dog fighting does still exist.
As Pitbull breeds became popular in America and elsewhere in the world, their purpose changed.
They were less used for fighting, and more common as companions and working dogs.
Where Differences Arise
In the mid-1800s, Staffordshire Terriers arrived in America. Here, breeders set out to create a larger version of the dog.
When this was achieved, the two breeds were recognised as distinct from one another.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Appearance
Because ‘Pitbull’ includes so many breeds, the best way for us to discuss differences in appearance is to look at each one individually.
All Pitbull breeds share an athletic and muscular general appearance. But there are some differences.
Let’s start with the popular Amstaff.
American Staffordshire Terrier Appearance
Amstaffs can grow from 17 and 19 inches tall as adults, weighing anywhere from 40 to 70 pounds.
They have broad heads, well defined muzzles, and dark, round, wide-set eyes.
This breed has a short, dense coat that comes in a massive variety of colors. The spectrum includes: brindle, black, blue, red, liver, fawn, white, and more.
They can have markings on their fur, or be a solid color.
American Pitbull Terrier
The American Pitbull Terrier is the breed most people refer to when they say ‘Pitbull’.
They can range from 17 to 21 inches in height, and from 30 to 60 pounds in weight as adults. So, they are usually a little taller and lighter than Amstaffs.
This breed has a wide, wedge-shaped head and a short, dense coat.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier looks almost identical to the American Staffordshire Terrier. Most people struggle to tell the two breeds apart.
The main difference between them lies in their size.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are considerably smaller than Amstaffs.
They can grow from 14 to 16 inches tall, weighing between 24 and 38 pounds as adult dogs.
Like the other Pitbull breeds so far, they have short, broad heads and a huge spectrum of coat colors.
The Bull Terrier looks the most different to the Amstaff. This breed has a long, egg-shaped head. Their muzzle is curved downwards if you look at their profile.
Bull Terriers have short triangular ears that stand upright on their heads.
They grow from 21 to 22 inches tall, weighing anywhere between 50 and 70 pounds. So, they’re often taller than Amstaffs, but just as stocky.
They’re often seen in white, but can come in a huge variety of other colors.
Miniature Bull Terrier
The Miniature Bull Terrier looks very similar to the Bull Terrier, but they are much smaller.
In fact, they are the smallest of all the Pitbull breeds. They grow from 10 to 14 inches tall, weighing anywhere from 18 to 28 pounds.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Temperament
Pitbull breeds all have very similar temperaments. In general, the Amstaff and other Pitbull dogs are friendly and affectionate, particularly with their family.
Most are great with kids, especially if they have been socialized well.
They may be wary of other dogs and protective of their owners. But, you can reduce any aggression with great socialization and training as a puppy. We will expand on aggression in a moment.
Bull Terriers, in particular, are known for having a cheeky, playful side. But all Pitbull breeds tend to be fun and enjoy playing with their families.
These breeds are all intelligent, so they need plenty of mental stimulation and social interaction.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Aggression
All Pitbull breeds, including the Amstaff have a reputation of aggression that leads back to their dog fighting days.
This has even prompted Pitbull breed bans in some states and countries.
But, many people disagree. Advocates for and owners of Pitbulls state that these dogs are friendly, affectionate, and great with kids.
So is there any evidence that Pitbull dogs are naturally aggressive?
What the Studies Say
There have been a lot of studies on Pitbull aggression to determine whether these dogs are more aggressive than any other breed.
This 2011 study found that Pitbull dogs were no more aggressive than any other breeds studied.
Another found that when Pitbulls do display aggression, it was more often directed towards other dogs rather than to humans.
Not all studies agree. One found that bites from Pitbulls were both more frequent and more severe.
It’s important to look into the method of any study. Look at sample sizes and how data is collected.
This is necessary to understand the information we’re given. For instance, the severity of Pitbull bites may mean that more are officially reported than bites from very small dogs.
What Causes Aggression?
Studies haven’t just looked at aggression statistics, but also potential causes. Can a dog’s breed really be a determining factor in how aggressive it will be?
Some dogs do show natural instincts, particularly working dogs. But, one study suggests that more importance should be given to the experiences of individual dogs that show aggression.
Dogs that are well socialized as puppies are less likely to show fear-based aggression as adults.
Training and socializing a puppy well has also been shown to improve their obedience as adults.
Amstaff vs Pitbull Socialization
The American Staffordshire Terrier, just like every other Pitbull breed needs plenty of socialization as a puppy.
All Pitbull breeds, including the Amstaff, should be socialized and trained to reduce any potential for aggression and disobedience as adults.
If you don’t socialize a Pitbull puppy, they may react aggressively out of fear when faced with a new situation, or an unfamiliar person or animal.
All Pitbull breeds are very strong. So, if they do bite, it can be severe, if not fatal.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Training
We’ve spoken a little about the importance of training, but how easy is it to train Amstaffs vs Pitbulls?
American Staffordshire Terriers and Pitbull dogs are all intelligent. They are usually very eager to please and love working with their human families.
However, using force-training or punishment-based methods can increase potential for aggression and distrust.
So, stick with consistent, positive reward training for the best results.
Amstaffs and other Pitbull breeds are often popular candidates for working dog roles, which means they have the potential to be very well trained.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Exercise
The American Staffordshire Terrier is an athletic, muscular dog. But, so are the other four Pitbull breeds we identified earlier in this article.
This means that all five breeds need plenty of exercise. They won’t be well suited to apartment living if they never get the chance to run and stretch their legs as well as their minds.
These breeds need a safe, enclosed space to play and exercise off the leash.
Training can offer some exercise. But, Pitbulls and Amstaffs also make great candidates for dog sports like agility and obedience.
Exercise will also help to keep them a healthy weight. Both American Staffordshire Terriers and other Pitbulls have pretty similar exercise breeds.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Health and Care
All dog breeds are prone to certain health issues. But which is the healthiest dog – the American Staffordshire Terrier or the Pitbull?
There are some issues that affect all Pitbull breeds. You should be aware of the following:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Heart disease
- Eye diseases, including retinal dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
There are some other health issues that affect individual Pitbull breeds, on top of the problems mentioned above.
Owners of the American Staffordshire Terrier should also watch out for cerebellar ataxia. This condition is a genetic brain disorder that causes muscular degeneration.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is prone to a hereditary metabolic disorder called L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria. This issue can cause seizures, ataxia, dementia, and tremors.
These three issues will also affect the Miniature Bull Terriers.
American Staffordshire Terriers and other Pitbull breeds all have dense, short coats. So, they don’t have intense grooming needs.
Regular grooming and bathing will keep their coat looking shiny and healthy, and help you to keep on top of shedding.
All five Pitbull breeds need a great diet. Because these dogs are prone to allergies, you might need to choose a food designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs or sensitive skin.
American Staffordshire Terrier and Pitbull Puppies
The same rules apply when looking for Amstaff or Pitbull puppies. The most important thing is to choose a responsible breeder.
But, first off, check that you are allowed to own one of these dogs where you live. Some states and countries have laws against Pitbull breeds, including the Amstaff.
If you are legally allowed to own one of these dogs, great! Now you need to find a good breeder.
Don’t buy a puppy from puppy mills or pet stores. These dogs are often unhealthy and poorly treated.
Meet the parents of any puppy if possible to make sure the pup is coming from friendly dogs. And ask to see health certificates.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull – Which is Best?
So which breed is right for you?
If you’re looking for a big dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a great choice. It was bred to be a big Pitbull breed!
Other Pitbull breeds share the Amstaff’s muscular, athletic appearance. These dogs are all loving towards their family, but need plenty of dedicated socialization and training.
All Pitbull breeds, including the Amstaff share certain health problems. But, there are some issues that affect each breed individually. So, do your research before dedicating your home to a particular dog.
If you’re looking for a smaller breed with a similar personality and needs as the American Staffordshire Terrier, consider the Miniature Bull Terrier or the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Summary
So, which is your favorite – the lovable Amstaff or one of the other 4 Pitbull breeds?
These dogs are all pretty similar, but the Amstaff is bigger than its other Pitbull cousins!
If you own one of these breeds, make sure to tell us what they’re like in the comments!
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References and Resources
- MacNeil-Allcock, A. (et al), ‘Aggression, Behavior, and Animal Care Among Pit Bulls and Other Dogs Adopted from an Animal Shelter’, Animal Welfare (2011)
- Duffy, D. (et al), ‘Breed Differences in Canine Aggression’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2008)
- Casey, R. ‘Human Directed Aggression in Domestic Dogs (Canis Familiaris): Occurrence in Different Contexts and Risk Factors’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2014)
- Essig Jr, E. (et al), ‘Dog Bite Injuries to the Face: Is there Risk with Breed Ownership? A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis’, International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology (2019)
- Kutsumi, A. (et al), ‘Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog’, Journal of Veterinary Medical Science (2013)
- Howell, T. (et al), ‘Puppy Parties and Beyond: the Role of Early Age Socialization Practices on Adult Dog Behavior’, Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports (2015)
- Duxbury, M. (et al), ‘Evaluation of Association Between Retention in the Home and Attendance at Puppy Socialization Classes’, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2003)
- Olby, N. (et al), ‘Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration in Adult American Staffordshire Terriers’, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (2008)
- Abramson, C. (et al), ‘L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria in Staffordshire Bull Terriers’, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (2008)
- Strain, G. ‘Deafness Prevalence and Pigmentation and Gender Associations in Dog Breeds at Risk’, The Veterinary Journal (2004)
- Smits, B. (et al), ‘Lethal Acrodermatitis in Bull Terriers: A Problem of Defective Zinc Metabolism’, Veterinary Dermatology (1991)
- Hood, J. (et al), ‘Bull Terrier Hereditary Nephritis: A Model for Autosomal Dominant Alport Syndrome’, Kidney International (1995)
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