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Pit Bull Standards

American Pit Bull Terrier Breed Standards


Sometime during the nineteenth century (1800’s), dog fanciers in England, Ireland and Scotland began to experiment with crosses between Bulldogs and Terriers, looking for a dog that combined the gameness of the terrier with the strength, drive and athletic abilities of the Bulldog. The result was a dog that was the epitome of strength, unwavering courage, gentleness, loyalty stamina and an undying love and devotion to it’s owner. Immigrants later began to bring this newly forming dog breed cross to the into the United States. The American Pit Bull Terrier’s intelligence, drive and strength did not go unnoticed by plainsmen and cattle herders who used the APBT as catch dogs for cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as a closely loved family companion.

In the late 19th century to early 20th century, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association. The United Kennel Club was founded in 1898, and was the first registry to recognize the breed, with the owner assigning the first number to his own APBT.

The dog was bred first to bait bulls and bears. When baiting bulls was deemed inhumane, ratting (a sport where a number of rats were placed in a pit for a specified time with the dog) and dog fighting became more popular. The APBT was used in both sports, and its prevalence in being put in pits with rats or other dogs led to "pit" being added to its name.

In America, farmers and ranchers used their APBTs for protection, as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, and to drive livestock.[6] The dog was used during World War I and World War II as a way of delivering messages on the battlefield.

Today, the American Pit Bull Terrier continues to demonstrate these same characteristics even using such to compete successfully as a fierce competitor in Obedience, Rally Obedience, Tracking, Agility, Lure Coursing, Dock Jumping and Weight Pulls dog shows, as well as Conformation dog shows and events.

D. Caroline Coile, Pit Bulls for Dummies, ( Wiley Publishing Inc., 2001)
Wikipedia, (Wikipedia.org)
ASPCA, (aspca.org)


The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is typically a medium-sized, solidly built and lean dog with a very short and thin coat. The APBT is also known for it’s lean and solid muscular structure. The body of the APBT should be slightly longer than it’s tall, usually about the length of an average full grown man’s forearm. The Bitch can sometimes be a little longer in the main torso than the Studs. The length of the front leg (measured from point of elbow to the ground) should be about equal to one-half of the dog’s height at the withers.

The head is of medium length, with a broad, flat skull across the top just behind the brow. The muzzle (nose/mouth) of the APBT is usually wide and possess a strong jaw line that widens into the base of the lower head and upper neck. The ears of the APBT are typically set just aside the flat part of the skull and appear to be more on top of the head than towards the back of the head.

The APBT can be found in a diverse number of color and color patterns except merle. This breed should never appear lanky, boney or overly leggy.


  Head :
The head is usually large, wide and well-rounded when not considering the muzzle. The head should never be anything other than anatomically correct in proportion to the neck and shoulder mass.

The head is slightly triangular from a top view, like a short, rounded wedge shape. The brow arches are typically slightly defined and thick looking. The head size is usually measured in circumference around at the largest point just BEFORE the ears and typically measure between 16” to 20” in circumference.

The APBT muzzle is somewhat broad, with a pronounced appearance of strength. From the eyes onward, the muzzle is already taking form, slightly slopping downward off of the face then quickly widening out before slightly narrowing at the base of the nose.

The length of muzzle should be shorter than the length of head, with a range of length from approximately 3” to 5” in total length. (measured from below the eyes to the tip of the nose). Lips are clean and never loose, floppy or saggy. The upper lips should never overhang excessively, giving a flappy skin look.

The face of the APBT should always be tight and young looking. There should never be excessive wrinkles under the eyes caused form excessive skin folds. There should never be any wrinkles where the muzzle meets the face. The skin on the face should appear to be custom made for each individual dog.

Eyes well rounded and set well apart and low on the face, usually just on the edge of the sides of the head. All color or eyes are acceptable by the UBKC except for blue/grey. Haw should also never be not be visible.

The nose of the Pit Bull is typically large with wide, open nostrils. Acceptable colors of the UBKC are any shades of grey, charcoal or black. Any red/pink noses or spots are considered a flaw and a genetic defect.

The Pit Bull Terrier has evenly spaced teeth meeting in a scissors-like bite. Over or under-bites are considered a genetic flaw.

The ears of the APBT are typically set just aside the flat part of the skull and appear to be more on top of the head than towards the back of the head. Wide ears and floppy ears are not desired, but are not considered a defect.

The neck of the American Pit Bull Terrier is of moderate length, well-round, thick and muscular. There is a slight upward curve at the crest just before the withers. The neck appears to be thick and can-shaped where it joins the back of the skull. It then gradually widens out considerably to where it joins the withers.

  Forequarters: (front shoulder area
The shoulder are long, wide, muscular, and deep reaching, much like that of a horse. The shoulders should never arch outward like an upside down letter “U” causing the legs to have an outwardly bull-legged appearance. This is a serious disqualifying breeding defect. Instead, the shoulders should be in line with the body, tightly set inward with only the muscular structure pronouncing outward.

The upper legs before the lower joint are the same approximate length as is the shoulder blade and joins it the shoulder blade at an apparent strong right angle.

The forelegs are strong and muscular and should never be lanky, boney or tall and skinny. The elbows are set close to the body, tucked neatly inset. Viewed from the front, the front legs are set modestly apart giving the appearance of a wide chest, without crossing the line of being bull-legged. Providing the legs stay inset to the body and not bull-legged, there are no limits to the width the front shoulders and legs can be set apart. The lower legs are relatively short in length, although still thick and strong, noticeably thinner than the upper legs. They should be straight and loosely flexible.

  Hindquarters: (rear legs)
The hindquarters of the APBT are always strong, muscular and superbly thick in mass. Again, the appearance should resemble that of a strong and healthy race horse. The hindquarters poses such mass that it’s difficult to tell where they stop and the rump begins.

The rump is also very thick from side to side (not outwardly form behind). The rump area is deep reaching all the way from the pelvis to the crotch. The bone mass angulation, and muscular structure can seem somewhat slightly large for the body. Viewed from the side the hock joints are well bent even when resting. The rear upper legs almost flow down into their position. Viewed from the back, the legs are straight and parallel to one another never set outward more than the muscle mass it’s self.

The body of the Pit Bull Terrier is usually barrel chested around the rib cage, or evenly rounded like that of a coffee can. A sagging or “U” shaped rib cage is not a desirable quality and is considered a flaw by the UBKC breed standards.

The chest of the APBT is wide, somewhat flattened from the front and deep reaching into the upper rib cage, however the chest should never be any more wide than it is deep. Additionally, the chest should graduate down into a smooth transition into the rib cage. The ribs should extend back about two/thirds of the torso length. The rib cage should be a slight oval shape coming off of the spine before rounding out on the bottom.

The back of the Pit Bull Terrier is strong, thick and very firm with no excessive skin. The loin is short generally about one/third of the total length of the torso. A high rear end is not a desirable trait, however the rear end can appear high because of the low point of the back caused form the muscular shoulders.

The American Pit Bull Terrier tail extends perfectly outward from the top center line of the back as if the spine it’ self just decided not to quit, The tail is thick at the base and slightly tapers to a well-rounded point at the tip of the tail.

When the Pit Bull is relaxed the tail will hang at an approximate 4 o’clock angle to just slightly downwards from the back line. When the dog is active to any degree, the tail is carried level with the backline or just ever so slightly upward. When the Pit Bull is excited or anxious the tail may be carried in a raised and upright position with a very slight upward curve. The tail should never curl up over the back, this is referred to as “Gay Tail” and is a undesirable trait.

  Coat / Color:
The coat of the Pit Bull should be shiny with a slight sheen giving it the appearance that it was just conditioned. The coat should be stiff and course to the touch but smooth and not rough. The coat should be very short and somewhat thin. The coat should also resist water well.

The UBKC finds that any color pattern or combination is acceptable except for merle or the tri-pattern, which originated with the English Bulldog. A Tri-pattern color is considered a disqualifying trait by the UBKC as it shows signs of genetic contamination through breeding.

  Height & Weight:
The UBKC finds that the preferred weight for an adult male Pit Bull of sound health should be between 30 to 75 lbs according to height/weight proportion.

The UBKC finds that the preferred weight for an adult female Pit Bull of sound health should be between 30 to 65 lbs according to height/weight proportion.

The desirable height for a healthy mature male Pit Bull is approximately 17 to 21 inches tall at the withers; for mature females the desired height is from 16 to 20 inches tall at the withers.

  Gait / Movement:
The Pit Bull is a confident dog breed. The Pit Bull will move with a carefree, yet cocky stride. When the Pit Bull is in a relaxed mode and trotting, the gait is seemingly effortless, smooth, and well-coordinated like that of a gymnast. Viewed from any position the legs will never bow in or out or become wobbly, even on unstable terrain. As the Pit Bull speed increases, the feet may converge toward center line of balance as if the Pit Bull is planting the feet on a straight and narrow board.


Over or under-bit, flews or weak jaw line or level bite
Loose wrinkle skin on face or around muzzle
Too short or too long of a muzzle
A neck that is too short or too long
A neck that is too thin and not proportionate to the body mass
Overly large heads that do not match body mass proportion
Pigeon toed feet, known as Easty-Westy feet, splayed feet or feet abnormally bent over
Hindquarters too narrow or set too high, bow legged, cow hocks or sickle hocks
Drooped rib cage, or a “U” shaped rib cage hanging lower than proportionately correct
Over weight or underweight
Overly long, too short of a tail
Curly, wavy, patchy of a coat
Legs not moving in sink while in gait, too short or too long of strides, legs crossing paths
Legs touching during gait, paddling, sidewinding; hackney action, or hard pounding.
Overly wide ears, flat ears or unevenly shaped ears
Bulging or displaced eyes


Bowed legs, legs pointing outward, otherwise known as Bull-legged
Legs too long or too short
Screw tail, Bobbed tail and Kinked tail,
A coat that is too long or too short
A color pattern or genetic history containing tri-color genetics, merle color, Albinism
Overly massive dogs that are just “large” or “freaks”, not dogs that are just overweight
Front legs from elbow to ground shorter than half the total height at the withers.
Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid ( missing or irregular testicles)
Viciousness towards dogs or people, timid personality or extreme shyness around strangers
Deafness in either or both ears
Blindness at birth
Red, pink nose or a spotty nose with red or pink colorations
Eyes not matching in color