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Information on the APBT
Official U.K.C. Breed Standard
Revised October 1, 2000

Sometime during the nineteenth century, 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 and athleticism of the Bulldog. The result was a dog that embodied all of the virtues attributed to great warriors: strength, indomitable courage, and gentleness with loved ones. Immigrants brought these bull and terrier crosses to the United States. The American Pit Bull Terrier's many talents did not go unnoticed by farmers and ranchers who used their APBTs for protection, as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as family companions. Today, the American Pit Bull Terrier continues to demonstrate its versatility, competing successfully in Obedience, Tracking, Agility, Protection, and Weight Pulls, as well as Conformation.
The United Kennel Club was the first registry to recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier. U.K.C. founder C. Z. Bennett assigned U.K.C. registration number 1 to his own APBT, Bennett's Ring in 1898.


The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized, solidly built, short-coated dog with smooth, well-defined musculature. This breed is both powerful and athletic. The body is just slightly longer than tall, but bitches may be somewhat longer in body than dogs. The length of the front leg (measured from point of elbow to the ground) is approximately equal to one-half of the dog's height at the withers. The head is of medium length, with a broad, flat skull, and a wide, deep muzzle. Ears are small to medium in size, high set, and may be natural or cropped. The relatively short tail is set low, thick at the base and tapers to a point. The American Pit Bull Terrier comes in all colors and color patterns. This breed combines strength and athleticism with grace and agility and should never appear bulky or muscle-bound or fine-boned and rangy.

The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the APBT requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog. The breed's natural agility makes it one of the most capable canine climbers so good fencing is a must for this breed. The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. This breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work.
The American Pit Bull Terrier has always been capable of doing a wide variety of jobs so exaggerations or faults should be penalized in proportion to how much they interfere with the dog's versatility.


The APBT head is unique and a key element of breed type. It is large and broad, giving the impression of great power, but it is not disproportionate to the size of the body. Viewed from the front, the head is shaped like a broad, blunt wedge. When viewed from the side, the skull and muzzle are parallel to one another and joined by a well defined, moderately deep stop. Supraorbital arches over the eyes are well defined but not pronounced. The head is well chiseled, blending strength, elegance, and character.
SKULL - The skull is large, flat or slightly rounded, deep, and broad between the ears. Viewed from the top, the skull tapers just slightly toward the stop. There is a deep median furrow that diminishes in depth from the stop to the occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent but free of wrinkles. When the dog is concentrating, wrinkles form on the forehead, which give the APBT his unique expression.

MUZZLE - The muzzle is broad and deep with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose, and a slight falling away under the eyes. The length of muzzle is shorter than the length of skull, with a ratio of approximately 2:3. The topline of the muzzle is straight. The lower jaw is well developed, wide and deep. Lips are clean and tight.

Faults: Snipey muzzle; flews; weak lower jaw.

TEETH - The American Pit Bull Terrier has a complete set of evenly spaced, white teeth meeting in a scissors bite.

Fault: Level bite.

Serious Faults: Undershot, or overshot bite; wry mouth; missing teeth (this does not apply to teeth that have been lost or removed by a veterinarian).

NOSE - The nose is large with wide, open nostrils. The nose may be any color.

EYES - Eyes are medium size, round to almond-shaped, and set well apart and low on the skull. All colors are equally acceptable except blue, which is a serious fault. Haw should not be visible.

Serious Faults: Bulging eyes; both eyes not matched in color; blue eyes.

EARS - Ears are high set and may be natural or cropped without preference. If natural, semi-prick or rose are preferred. Prick or flat, wide ears are not desired.


The neck is of moderate length and muscular. There is a slight arch at the crest. The neck widens gradually from where it joins the skull to where it blends into well laid-back shoulders. The skin on the neck is tight and without dewlap.
Faults: Neck too short and thick; thin or weak neck; ewe neck; dewlap.


The shoulder blades are long, wide, muscular, and well laid back. The upper arm is roughly equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at an apparent right angle.
The forelegs are strong and muscular. The elbows are set close to the body. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are set moderately wide apart and perpendicular to the ground. The pasterns are short, powerful, straight, and flexible. When viewed in profile, the pasterns are nearly erect.

Faults: Upright or loaded shoulders; elbows turned outward or tied-in; down at the pasterns; front legs bowed; wrists knuckled over; toeing in or out.


The chest is deep, well filled in, and moderately wide with ample room for heart and lungs, but the chest should never be wider than it is deep. The forechest does not extend much beyond the point of shoulder. The ribs extend well back and are well sprung from the spine, then flattening to form a deep body extending to the elbows. The back is strong and firm. The topline inclines very slightly downward from the withers to a broad, muscular, level back. The loin is short, muscular and slightly arched to the top of the croup, but narrower than the rib cage and with a moderate tuck-up. The croup is slightly sloping downward.

The hindquarters are strong, muscular, and moderately broad. The rump is well filled in on each side of the tail and deep from the pelvis to the crotch. The bone, angulation, and musculature of the hindquarters are in balance with the forequarters. The thighs are well developed with thick, easily discerned muscles. Viewed from the side, the hock joint is well bent and the rear pasterns are well let down and perpendicular to the ground. Viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are straight and parallel to one another.
Faults: Narrow hindquarters; hindquarters shallow from pelvis to crotch; lack of muscle; straight or over angulated stifle joint; cow hocks; sickle hocks; bowed legs.


The feet are round, proportionate to the size of the dog, well arched, and tight. Pads are hard, tough, and well cushioned. Dewclaws may be removed.
Fault: Splayed feet.


The tail is set on as a natural extension of the topline, and tapers to a point. When the dog is relaxed, the tail is carried low and extends approximately to the hock. When the dog is moving, the tail is carried level with the backline. When the dog is excited, the tail may be carried in a raised, upright position (challenge tail), but never curled over the back (gay tail).
Fault: Long tail (tail tip passes beyond point of hock).

Serious faults: Gay tail (not to be confused with challenge tail); kinked tail.

Disqualification: Bobbed tail.


The coat is glossy and smooth, close, and moderately stiff to the touch.
Faults: Curly, wavy, or sparse coat.

Disqualification: Long coat.


Any color, color pattern, or combination of colors is acceptable.

The American Pit Bull Terrier must be both powerful and agile so actual weight and height are less important than the correct proportion of weight to height. Desirable weight for a mature male in good condition is between 35 and 60 pounds. Desirable weight for a mature female in good condition is between 30 and 50 pounds. Dogs over these weights are not to be penalized unless they are disproportionately massive or rangy.

The American Pit Bull Terrier moves with a jaunty, confident attitude, conveying the impression that he expects any minute to see something new and exciting. When trotting, the gait is effortless, smooth, powerful, and well coordinated, showing good reach in front and drive behind. When moving, the backline remains level with only a slight flexing to indicate suppleness. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward center line of balance.
Faults: Legs not moving on the same plane; legs over reaching; legs crossing over in front or rear; rear legs moving too close or touching; rolling; pacing; paddling; sidewinding; hackney action; pounding.


Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. Viciousness or extreme shyness. Unilateral or bilateral deafness. Bobbed tail. Albinism.
Note: Although some level of dog aggression is characteristic of this breed, handlers will be expected to comply with U.K.C. policy regarding dog temperament at U.K.C. events.


General appearance, personality, obedience 20
Head, muzzle, eyes, ears 25
Neck, shoulder, and chest 15
Body 15
Legs and feet 15
Tail, coat and color 10


Total 100

Taken from www.ukcdogs.com, UKC standard

ADBA standard

Professionals look for an animal that can get the job done. Amateurs, because they have no way to test their theories, wind up feeding their imaginations. So lets get to the point of establishing a conformation standard for the American Pit Bull Terrier. Due to todays laws and social standards, breeding practices are dictated to breeding a dog for looks rather than performance. In the interest of preserving the most extraordinary animal that man has ever created, let's take a good look at what the American Pit Bull Terrier was suppose to do.

His existence today was not because he was bred only for gameness. He was not bred only for power. He sure as hell was not bred only for his intelligence, loyalty, boldness, round eye, rose ear, red nose or his inclination for dragging children from the paths of speeding trains. He was bred to win. That's right folks, he was developed for sporting competition.

The professional dogfighters have made him what he is. The professional dogfighters improved him, and now, when the professional dog fighters are gone, the real Pit Bull Terrier will gradually fade away. What we will have is something the amateurs will have preserved that reminds us of the gladiators of old. Thank God for the amateurs. Professional dogfighting is a fast dying occupation. Preservation of this grand athlete that was bred to go to war is going to be in the hands of the amateurs. So, lets look to the profession of the dog in establishing our standard, so that our grandchildren will at least see an authentic physical reproduction of a fighting dog.

If we start with the premise that conformation should reflect the ideal for the dogs usage and that this particular animal was suppose to win a dogfight, we come naturally to the question, what did it take to win? Most of those who have backed their judgment with hard-earned money would agree on the following to some degree or another. 1. Gameness 2. Attitude 3. Stamina 4. Wrestling ability 5. Biting ability Note that only one of these qualities; wrestling ability, is directly related to conformation. One other, stamina may be partly due to conformation, but is probably as much reliant on inherited efficiency of the heart and circulatory system. Some people seem to feel that the shape of the head determines hard bite, but in practice, it seems there are a lot of other factors involved. Earl Tudor said that the great "Black Jack", who killed 4 opponents in 7 big wins in big money fights, bit hard "because he wanted to bite hard". That about sums it up. Good biters seem to be where you find them regardless of the shapes of their heads.

When we talk of conformation we really only mean one thing - - wrestling ability. This is the reason the American Pit Bull Terrier varies so much in conformation. His wrestling by itself was not nearly as important as the sum total of gameness, aggressiveness, bite and natural stamina, none of which are directly related to conformation.
Any old-time dogfighter would have told you, "If you've got a game dog with good air, he's worth a bet." I might add, "if he can also bite, put a second mortgage on the house and take him to a convention." In other words, never mind what he looks like. However, wiser men than I have said, "The only dead game dogs are dead ones." Also, "Under certain conditions most dogs will quit." I believe there's a lot of truth to that, and to reinforce the fact that conformation is important, remember that conformation and wrestling ability are very closely related and it's usually the bottom dog in the fight that quits. It's hard to stop even the rankest cur if he can stay on top. The dog whose muscle and bone structure doesn't permit him to wrestle on even terms, needs more of everything else to win. He's always coming from behind. His career is short because each "go" takes so much out of him. So I believe that wrestling ability (and therefore conformation) is a very important ingredient in a fighting dog.

Our Standard of Conformation can not be based on what someone who never saw a dogfight thinks a fighting dog should look like, but should be based on those physical attributes displayed by winning pit dogs of yesteryear.

Look first at the overall profile of the dog. Ideally, he should be "Square" when viewed from the side. That is, about as long from the point of the shoulder to the point of his hip as he is tall from the top of the shoulder, to the ground. Such a dog will stand high and have maximum leverage for his weight. This means that standing normally with the hock slightly back of the hip, the dog's base, (where his feet are) will be slightly longer than his height. Using the hip and shoulder as guides will keep the viewer from being fooled by the way the dog is standing.

Height to weight ratio is critical. Since dogs were fought at nearly identical weights, the bigger the dog you have at the weight, the better your chances. Hence, stocky dogs with long bodies, heavy shoulders and thick legs usually lose to taller, rangier opponents. Nature usually blesses a tall rangy dog with a fairly long neck which is a tremendous advantage in that, it enables him to reach a stifle when his opponent may have his front leg, take an ear to hold off a shorter necked opponent, or to reach the chest himself when the other dog is trying to hold him off. The neck should be heavily muscled right up to the base of the skull.

Secondly, look at his back end. That's the drive train of any four legged animal. A Bulldog does 80% of his work off his hips and back legs. A long sloping hip is most important. By its very length, it gives leverage to the femur or thigh bone. A long hip will give the dog a slightly roached backed appearance. Hence the "low set" tail so often spoke of. The hip should be broad. A broad hip will carry with it a broad loin and permits a large surface for the attachments of the gluteal and the biceps femoris muscles, the biggest drivers in the power train. The femur or thigh bone should be shorter than the tibia, or lower leg bone. This means that the stifle joint will be in the upper one third of the hind leg. It is not uncommon to see dogs with a low stifle. They are usually impressively muscled because of the bigger biceps femoris, but are surprisingly weak and slow on the back legs because of leverage lost by the long thigh. A short femur and long tibia usually means a well bent stifle, which in turn leads to a well bent hock. This last is a really critical aspect of wrestling ability. When a dog finds himself being driven backward, he must rely on the natural springiness of the well bent hock and stifle to control his movement. Dogs with a straight or the frequently seen "double jointed" hock of many of the Dibo bred dogs, will wrestle well as long as muscle power can sustain them, but if pushed, will tire in the back end more quickly and soon lose their wrestling ability.

Thirdly, look at the front end. He should have a deep rib cage, well sprung at the top but tapering to the bottom. Deep and elliptical, almost narrow is preferred to the round or barrel chest. The rib cage houses the lungs which are not storage tanks, but pumps. The ribs are like a bellows. Their efficiency is related to the difference in volume between contraction and expansion. A barrel chested dog, in addition to carrying more weight for his height, has an air pump with a short stroke. He must take more breaths to get the same volume of air. Depth of rib cage gives more room for large lungs. Shoulders should be a little wider than the rib cage at the eight rib. Too narrow a shoulder does not support adequate musculature but too wide a shoulder makes a dog slow and adds unnecessary weight. The scapula (shoulder blade) should be at a 45 degree or less slope to the ground and broad and flat. The humerus should be at an equal angle in the opposite direction and long enough that the elbow comes below the bottom of the rib cage. The elbows should lie flat, the humerus running almost parallel to the spine; not out at the elbows which gives a wide "English Bulldog" stance. This type of shoulder is more easily dislocated or broken. The forearm should be only slightly longer than the humerus and heavy and solid-nearly twice the thickness of the metatarsal bones at the hock. The front legs and shoulders must be capable of sustaining tremendous punishment and heaviness can be an asset here. The relationship between front and back legs should be, at first appearance, of a heavy front and a delicate back. This is because in an athletic dog, the metatarsal bones, hock and lower part of the tibia will be light, fine and springy. The front legs will be heavy and solid looking. The experienced bulldog man however, will note the wide hip, loin and powerful thigh, which makes the back end the most muscular.

The head varies more in the present day pit bull. More than any other part of the body, probably because its conformation has the least to do with whether he wins or loses. However, there are certain attributes which appear to be of advantage. First it's overall size. Too big a head simply carries more weight and increases the chances of having to fight a bigger dog. Too small a head is easily punished by a nose fighter and is especially easy for an ear fighter to shake. In an otherwise well proportioned dog, the head will appear to be about two thirds the width of the shoulders and about 25% wider at the cheeks than the neck at the base of the skull. From the back of the head to the stop, should be about the same distance as from the stop to the tip of the nose. The bridge of the nose should be well developed which will make the area directly under the eyes considerably wider than the head at the base of the ears. Depth from the top of the head to the bottom of the jaw is important. The jaw is closed by the Temporal Fossa muscle exerting pressure on the Coronoid process. The deeper the head at this point, (that is, between the zygomatic arch and the angular process of the bottom of the jaw) the more likely the dog is to have leverage advantage both in closing the jaw and in keeping it closed. A straight, box-like muzzle and well developed mandible will not have much to do with the biting power but will endure more punishment. "Lippy" dogs are continually fanging themselves in a fight, which works greatly to their disadvantage. Teeth should meet in the front, but more importantly, the canines or fangs should slip tightly together, the upper behind the lower when the mouth is closed. Fangs should be wide at gum line and taper to the end. Soundness and healthy with none missing. The eye elliptical when viewed from the front, triangular when viewed from the side, small and deep set. In general, such a head will be wedge shaped when viewed either from the top or side, round when viewed from the front.

Skin should be thick and loose, but not in folds. It should appear to fit the dog tightly except around the neck and chest. Here the skin should be loose enough to show vertical folds even in a well conditioned dog.

The set of the tail is most important. It should be low. The length should come just above the point of the hock, thick at the base and tapering to a point at the end and should hang down like a pump handle when relaxed.

The feet should be small and set high on the pasterns. The gait of the dog should be light and springy. Most of the above relates to the skeletal features of the dog. When we look at muscles, from the breeders standpoint, it is much more important to look at the genetic features of musculature than those features due to conditioning. A genetically powerful dog can be a winner in the hands of even an inept owner, but a genetically weak dog needs a good matchmaker to win. Conditioning won't do much for him. Think of bones as levers with the joints as the fulcrum and the muscles being applied to the power source. The power being applied to the lever is more effective the farther away from the fulcrum it is applied. Muscles should be long, with attachments deep down on the bone, well past the joint. Short muscled dogs are impressive looking but not athletic. A muscle's power value lies in it's ability to contract. The greater the difference between its relaxed state and it's contracted state, the greater the power.

The coat of the dog can be any color or any combination of colors. It should be short and bristled. The gloss of the coat usually reflects the health of the dog and is important to an athletic American Pit Bull Terrier.

Above all, the American Pit Bull Terrier is an all around athlete. His body is called on for speed, power, agility and stamina. He must be balanced in all directions. Too much of one thing robs him of another. He is not an entity formed according to human specialists. In his winning form he is a fighting machine...a thing of beauty. In judging the American Pit Bull Terrier 100 points will be possible for the ideal dog. The break down is as follows.
Overall appearance....... 20 pts
height to weight ratio
overall body shape
health of dog

Attitude of dog.......... 10 pts
carriage of dog

Head and neck............ 15 pts
size and shape
of head/neck

Front end of dog......... 20 pts
front legs

Back end of dog.......... 30 pts
back legs and feet
set of tail

Tail and coat............. 5 pts
length and shape of tail
gloss & length of coat

by Edward Hinkle

MYTH: Pit bulls bite more people than any other breed.
FACT: It is hard to pin down, as accurate records by breed are seldom kept. Those records available show what a myth this is. Farmers Branch, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, has kept accurate records since 1980. During a 7 year period from 1980 through 1987, this is what was recorded. Total bites: 1,593. Pit bulls, 30 bites, or 1.89% of the total. Other studies tend to show the same results and because of so many mongrels that have similar features to the American Pit Bull Terrier, it seems reasonable to assume that the figures are actually much lower.

MYTH: American Pit Bull Terriers are born mean. FACT: In a letter to James Huffman of Columbus, Ohio, Alfons Estelt of the American Temperament Test Society, Inc., an international dog temperament test organization, wrote the following: "The American Pit Bull Terriers participating in our temperament evaluation have thus far shown a passing rate of 95%. The other 121 breeds of dogs in our tests showed the average passing rate of 77%. While the heredity factor is of measurable importance, these results show that a dog, even if used for dogfighting, is not pre-disposed as such, but is brought by his environment."

MYTH: American Pit Bull Terriers have 1600 P.S.I. in jaw pressure.
FACT: Dr. 1. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia states, "To the best of our knowledge, there are no published scientific studies that would allow any meaningful comparison to be made of the biting power of various breeds of dogs. There are, moreover, compelling technical reasons why such data describing biting power in terms of "pounds per square inch" can never be collected in a meaningful way. All figures describing biting power in such terms can be traced to either unfounded rumor or, in some cases, to newspaper articles with no foundation in factual data." Need more be said?

MYTH: American Pit Bull Terriers lock their jaws to the death.
FACT: Again from Dr. Brisbin: "The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of "locking mechanism" unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier."

MYTH: All American Pit Bull Terriers are bad and should be banned.
FACT: On July 17,1987 on ABC's "Good Morning America" program, Mr. Marc Paulhaus, S.E. regional director of the Humane Society of the United States stated: "Serious dog problems tend to be cyclical in nature."

taken from ADBA website, www.members.aol.com/bstofshw

Freedom 9 weeks, side view


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