Is A Staffy A Pitbull? – A Short History

The history of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Pitbulls can be tough to untangle. Staffies and Pitbulls are considered by some to be one in the same, and by others to be completely separate dogs. I myself have had trouble explaining this to people in the past when they asked about my Staffy being a Pitbull.

Is a Staffy a Pitbull? The English Staffy is not a Pitbull. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is considered a separate breed from the American Pitbull terrier. However, when referring to Pitbulls as a group of breeds, a Staffy would fall under this label due to a similar heritage in pit fighting type sports.

This is where things get tricky. Depending on who you ask you will get a couple different answers. Some consider the Pitbull to be a group of dogs descended from the bull-and-terrier breed of the 1800’s. Others like to make a clear distinction that a Staffy is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and there is no such breed as a Pitbull.

I was confused as you may be right now. There are a lot of overlaps between the two terms, and a few differentiations worth explaining. Let’s dig in to why English Staffies are not Pitbulls, but why many still say English Staffies are Pitbulls

Are Pit Bulls And Staffies The Same?

beautiful staffy profile

As a whole Pitbulls and Staffies are not the same. Pitbulls are not considered a breed of dog by kennel clubs such as the AKC. The American Pit Bull Terrier is a dog breed recognized by the UKC and the ADBA. In either case, whether recognized as a breed or not, there is a clear distinction drawn.

The Staffy is recognized as a totally separate breed from the American Pit Bull Terrier by the UKC and ADBA. Though these two dogs are fairly similar in appearance, temperament, and history, they are uniquely different dogs.

Pitbull is a loose term used by many to describe a certain group of breeds. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier being one of those breeds. The term Pitbull when used in this context is referring to Bully breed dogs that originate from the bull-and-terrier pit fighter dogs of 1800’s England.

This use of the term is why people often think that Staffies are Pitbulls, and in a certain sense are right. When speaking generically about a type of dog like Pitbulls, and not the specific breed of American Pitbull Terrier, a Staffy would be considered a Pitbull. This all has to do with the history of the Staffy, and Pitbulls as a whole.

What Dogs Are Considered Pit Bulls?

bully group

There are 4 different breeds of dogs that are primarily associated with the label of Pit Bulls. The American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bully. Occasionally people include a couple additional breeds like the American Bulldog and Bull Terrier.

Each of these dog breeds has a similar history and shared bloodlines from the bull-and-terrier era. Though dogs such as the Staffy and AmStaff are recognized as distinct and separate breeds by all major kennel clubs, they are still considered by many to be Pitbulls.

Many breeders of the Staffy, AmStaff, and American Bully are staunchly against any association with the term Pit Bull. And for good reason. These breeds have been carefully and selectively bred over decades to develop unique traits. 

Linking these breeds to the old days of pit fighting is not only damaging to the reputation of the breed, but harbors undesired attention towards these breeds from owners with bad intentions. 

All reputable breeders love these dogs because of their strength, personality, courage, and loving nature towards families. By linking them to the term Pit Bull they bring much unwanted baggage and misconceptions towards their breed of choice.

Are Pit Bulls And Staffies Related?

Pit Bulls and Staffies are related. The American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier come from the same era of the bull-and-terrier cross breedings in 1800’s England. These dogs were a mix of the Old English Bulldog and various Terrier type dogs. 

These bull-and-terrier dogs were used primarily as entertainment in blood sports such as bull baiting and pit fighting. As these “sports” began to become illegal across England, the bull-and-terrier pit fighting dogs began to take on the role as more companion family animals.

Short History Of The Staffordshire Bull Terrier

staffy on a bench

With pit fighting made illegal it is at this stage in the bull-and-terrier history is where the divergence in breeds begins. James Hinks is credited with the development of two breeds from this era. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier. Hinks aimed to create a more socially acceptable companion animal with all the courage and less aggression.

Those who favored the look of the dog now known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It is believed these dogs gained their name from the region where they were further developed from Hink’s initial breeding. This region being Staffordshire, England.

Among the many variations of the now extinct bull-and-terrier breeds, the Staffy thrived as a breed. Once arriving in America a larger offshoot of the breed was developed, now known as the American Staffordshire Terrier. Both breeds being recognized separately by the AKC.

Short History Of The Pit Bull Terrier

The Pit Bull Terrier shares a very similar and interwoven history as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. In fact their origin is the same. Descending from the now extinct bull-and-terrier breeds of 1800’s England. 

How the American Pit Bull Terrier became an officially recognized breed by the UKC and not the AKC is an interesting one. Initially the larger American pit bull type dogs tried to become registered with the AKC, but wanting to distance themselves from the blood history of these dogs, they were rejected under this name.

The UKC however decided to recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed, and the AKC took another approach by renaming the dog the American Staffordshire Terrier. At the time the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier were the same dog, with different names.

Since then however both breeds have diverged to become very distinct stand alone breeds. Each has a particular set of traits and features that are desired by advocates and set in modern breed standards.

american pit bull terrier in a harness


Back to the question at hand. Are English Staffies Pitbulls? There are two answers that we have uncovered in this article, and in this writer’s opinion, both are correct answers to the single question. Depending on how we are framing the discussion.

The English Staffy is not the same breed of dog as the Pit Bull Terrier. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a unique breed that is shorter in stature, physical appearance and temperament to an American Pit Bull Terrier.

Both the English Staffy and the American Pit Bull Terrier have different breed standards assigned to them by the UKC. Furthermore the AKC doesn’t even recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier, and even when considering the early name change they did accept, American Staffordshire Terriers are totally separate from English Staffies as well.

For this reason English Staffies are not Pit Bulls.

However, as we pointed out earlier, Pit Bull can be used as a term to loosely categorize certain breeds. Based on the shared history stemming from the bull-and-terrier dog pit fighting days of England. The English Staffy would be considered a “Pit” bull terrier. Due to this shared history and use of the term.

The term Pit Bull when used in this context is not referring necessarily to a specific breed, but to a common history. This is why many still consider the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and American Bully to be “Pit Bull” type dogs.

When it comes to speaking about my Staffy to others who are curious, I always call her a Staffy. To me that is what she is, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or English Staffy for short. She has a very distinct look and personality that many people adore. 

Though I also love American Pit Bull Terriers, and “Pit Bulls” in general, I find it can be a term that still carries a negative connotation. I prefer to refer to the breed by the name, and educate where I can about the amazing similarities and differences each dog possesses.

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