Bull Terrier vs Pitbull – which breed is for you?

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull

If you are trying to compare Bull Terrier vs Pitbull breeds to see which breed may be better for you, you may find this article helpful. We’ll have a look at overall Bull Terrier and Pitbull qualities, how they compare to each other and which one could be a better dog for you and your life situation.

In this article:
Bull terrier vs Pitbull: history?
Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: size and stature
Bull terrier vs pitbull: temperament
Bull terrier vs pitbull: family and kids
Bull terrier vs pitbull: maintenance and grooming

Every dog breed is different and some may fit your lifestyle, your family, and your temperament much better than others. Equally, you may be an ideal fit for one breed and a total nightmare for another.

Both bull terrier and pitbull belong to the terrier family

Bull Terrier puppy

A border collie is great for someone who loves training and working with their dog, but not so much for a busy career person that only has a few hours a night to spare for the dog. (Honestly, that type of people shouldn’t be getting a dog at all, maybe not even a cat.)

A lap dog would suit you if you are a Netflix-loving couch dweller (no shame in that), but maybe not so much if you expect extreme intelligence and endurance of a working dog from your pup. 

Young adult pitbull

Young adult pitbull

Both bull terrier and pitbull belong to the terrier family. Some people even think they are the same breed, or take one for another. While they definitely aren’t the same breed, what are the similarities and differences between these two? Which one would be a better breed for you, in your particular circumstance? Let’s find out.

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: comparison matrix

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: comparison
Pitbull Bull Terrier
Country of origin USA England
FCI registration year Not registered 1862
Height 40-49 cm 44-50 cm
Weight 15-27 kg 20-36 kg
Breed Purpose Fighting/ Service dog Pet/ Companion dog


A little more about Pitbulls.

Pitbull is a short name for American Pitbull Terrier.  American Pitbull Terrier is a breed that doesn’t have a particular standard (unlike bull terrier). This means that Pitbulls don’t have a particular “template” of what they should look like. Little variances are completely fine. This is because Pitbulls, unlike bull terriers and some of the pit bull terrier types like American Staffordshire Terriers, was bred predominantly as a working dog, i.e. fighting dog. Only the fighting qualities were valued and bred for, such as power, endurance, the strength of jaws, intelligence in the pit, the sharpness of mind, persistence, etc. What the dog looked like did not matter as much.

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull

Due to regulations, you may not even be able to own a pitbull, depending on where in the world you live.

Due to its unfortunate (and untrue) reputation as a dangerous, aggressive breed, pitbull ownership is regulated in a lot of countries of the world: from certain restrictions to complete ban which exists in twelve countries of the world, including Canada, Brazil, the US, Belgium and a few others.

This is one of the key differences between Pitbulls and bull terriers. Due to regulations, you may not even be able to own a pitbull, depending on where in the world you live. 

Bull terriers don’t have as bad a reputation as Pitbulls and are bred and sold freely around most countries in the world.

Bull terrier vs Pitbull: history

Bull terriers have bull dogs and terriers in their lineage

Bull terriers have bull dogs and terriers in their lineage

Both bull terriers and Pitbulls have a, so to say, difficult past. Both, at different stages of their history, were used for dogfighting (and sometimes even bull fighting).

Pitbulls were created by cross-breeding bulldogs to terriers, with a specific purpose of creating a powerful, muscular dog capable of dominating over other dogs in the fighting pit.

They inherited their stubbornness and confidence from bulldogs, and extremely fast reaction from terriers. This combination, along with their powerful stature, well-developed musculature and intelligence, makes them an incomparable enemy in the pit.

Bull terriers also have bulldogs and terriers in their lineage, but dalmatians were also used to create this breed. Bull terriers have also been used extensively for fighting, but also for hunting rats, and killing rats in the pit as a type of entertainment for the crowd. (they used to gather huge crowds until ratting and later dog fighting was prohibited.)

Their fighting past defines the physical and temperamental traits of both of these breeds.

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: which one is a better dog for you

Proud Bull Terrier Profile

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: size and stature

If you are choosing a breed to adopt, it’s good to have an idea of how big your pup will be so you know you have enough space for them in your house/apartment, etc. Pitbulls are a fairly large breed: an adult Pitbull can weigh from 15 to 35 kg ( 30 to 70 lbs), although weight is also not strictly defined for Pitbulls as there is no standard.

Bull terriers range from 18  to 30 kg (36 to 60 lbs). On average, it’s a little smaller and more compact dog than a pitbull. A Miniature Bull Terrier would be even smaller, so if you are looking for a more compact dog with the same personality, go for a Mini Bull Terrier!

Both breeds are uniquely built, different from any other breed out there in their shape and stature. Both are extremely muscular, sturdy and powerful dogs. Both are fairly heavy and need a strong owner. (Not exactly the best breeds if you are planning on your small child walking them).

Pitbulls are larger than bull terriers

Pitbulls are larger than bull terriers

Both Pitbulls and bull terriers won’t necessarily be the best breeds if you plan to keep your dog in a small apartment. Both would be more suited for living in a house. These are two highly active breeds, and they require space to move, run and explore. Although both can be couch potatoes at times. Usually after a good long walk. 

One big way bull terriers differ from Pitbulls is that bull terriers have a clearly defined breed standard while Pitbulls do not.


Temperament-wise, as you already know, Pitbulls don’t have the best reputation out there, although that is slowly starting to change as more and more breed lovers speak out the truth about their pets. The mainstream opinion, supported by governments of 12 countries where Pitbulls are banned, is that Pitbulls are aggressive, bloodthirsty animals that can attack anyone at any time without any reason.

Pitbull's jaws are extremely strong

Pitbull’s jaws are extremely strong

Over the years, there were enough incidents, highlighted by the press, that have portrayed Pitbulls in this way, and helped create their unfortunate reputation. The truth about these animals is that they are indeed extremely powerful and definitely capable of seriously hurting another dog or a human.

They were also bred to be particularly stubborn and brave: both of those qualities used to be highly valued in the fighting pits. However, this doesn’t mean that Pitbulls are inherently aggressive or dangerous, simply that they need really good, dedicated owners to keep them in check.

Any dog can become aggressive, unmanageable or dangerous – even really small dogs. The difference is that a small dog can only bring so much damage, while a dog like a pitbull (or, for that matter, a bull terrier), can be very dangerous if it isn’t controlled by the owner.

Pitbull’s jaws (just like bull terrier’s jaws) are extremely strong and it can be very hard to get such a dog to let go if it decides to bite into another dog (or human). The sheer strength of the dog, combined with natural stubbornness, can make a poorly controlled pitbull (or an aggressive bull terrier) a real danger to the public.

Bull Terrier in play

Bull Terrier in play

Because of this, both bull terriers and Pitbulls need a really strong owner, able to put enough effort into learning about their dog and how to correctly manage it.

Of course, all dogs are very different, and so are pitbulls (and bull terriers.) Although Pitbulls were originally bred to be dogfighters, the level of aggression towards other dogs in today’s Pitbulls may vary from negligible to very high. Bull terrier temperament may also be variable from dog to dog, but, in general, they are calm, confident dogs with stable personalities. 

It depends on the dog’s natural predisposition, its history, the way it was raised and the atmosphere in its home, whether it was socialized enough or not, and other factors.

Due to their active past, both bull terriers and Pitbulls prefer and generally do better in active households. This is especially true for Pitbulls.

Hiking, running at the dog park, playing with other dogs – these would be a favorite activity for both Pitbulls and bull terriers.

Having said that, a lot of bull terrier owners know that bull terriers are sometimes total couch potatoes in the house. They love long cuddle sessions and watching Netflix on your favorite sofa. 

Bull terrier vs pitbull: family and kids

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: little bull terrier

Bull Terrier vs Pitbull: little Bull Terrier

Despite their reputation, both bull terriers and pitbulls do well in families with kids. If your dog is generally a happy dog, well socialized, well raised and is psychologically healthy, they will be great to have around your kids. These two breeds can boast high patience and high pain threshold. This means that playing and screaming kids around them will not trigger any negative behavior from a dog. A bull terrier or a pitbul will let the kids pull their ears or tail and won’t flinch. One danger is that both pitbulls and bull terriers are fairly heavy dogs and can knock a small kid off of their feet in the heat of the game. 

All of this, of course, is only valid if your dog is happy and mentally healthy and well-behaved. An uncontrolled, frustrated or aggressive pitbull, as well as bull terrier, can be a big danger to kids as well as adults.

Maintenance and grooming

Pitbulls are not very needy when it comes to grooming

Pitbulls are not very needy when it comes to grooming

Despite being a fairly large dog, pitbulls are not very needy when it comes to maintenance. In fact, grooming-wise, they are easy to care for. Owners should pay thorough attention to their pittie’s ears, which have to stay clean and dry. It’s a good idea to clean them once a week. While you are at it, you could also brush and groom your pitbull’s coat. There isn’t a particular bathing schedule, but your pup should be bathed on an “as needed” basis, for example, if it’s muddy outside and they are visibly dirty.

If your pittie’s nails look long, they need clipping to prevent discomfort during walks.

It is also important to watch the state of your dog’s mouth: regular vet checkups will help prevent tooth decay. You can also help by giving your pup bones to chew, which helps clean their teeth. A pittie’s eyes also need to be cleaned from time to time.

Otherwise, the most important thing to remember is that any dog, and especially your pitbull (and bull terrier) need a lot of physical activity, regularly. This means walks, hikes, dog parks, or access to a gated back yard.

All of these will help you make sure your dog gets regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental health.

Bull terriers are not that different from pitbulls in terms of maintenance. Their short coats make it easy to groom them (even if you have a white bull terrier). As with a pitbull, you will need to take care of your bull terrier’s eyes and ears, as well as their teeth. You can read more about grooming your bull terrier here.

Overall, bull terriers and pitbulls have a lot in common. Both are powerful breeds with a history rooted in dogfighting. Both love their owners and are extremely devoted, provided the owner has a desire and ability to raise the dog well and control it, being the real leader of the pack. Both dogs are notoriously stubborn and strong-willed, but not inherently aggressive or dangerous. Both dogs need about the same level of activity and thrive in active households. Both dogs can make a great friend and companion for any family.


You can also read:

Bull terrier pros and cons – are you sure a bull terrier is for you?
Bull Terrier Temperament: things to know before getting a bull terrier
Miniature bull terrier: why should you consider a mini bull terrier

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