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Is A Pitbull a Breed or Are They Technically Mutts? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kelly Pulley

Last Updated on March 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

A Pit Bull looking sad.

Is A Pitbull a Breed or Are They Technically Mutts? Facts & FAQ

Ever hear of a “pibble”? According to Urban Dictionary, a pibble is:

“A kinder, gentler term that better reflects the true nature of these great friends (Pit Bulls).”

There are several pibble rescues including Pibbles and More as well as Pibbles to the Rescue. There are blogs that list the traits and skills of pibbles without using “Pit Bull” at all.

What about “New Yorkie?” In 2004, some New Yorkers tried to rename Pit Bulls “New Yorkies.” This created quite a stir in New York City’s Yorkshire Terrier community, which apparently didn’t want people to mistake Yorkies for Pit Bulls. The renaming was unsuccessful (some say because of the Yorkie owners’ connections with the underground).

Why all these attempts to avoid the term “Pit Bull”? To create a new image for them, of course, one that doesn’t hinge on people’s misinterpretation of “dog aggression” or myths such as “locking jaws.” Has it worked? Not yet.

What might work is pointing out to the less-than-savvy public that Pit Bulls are a “type” of dog. They are also mutts, which means at least 1 percent of a Pit Bull and as much as 99 percent of a Pit Bull is another breed or breeds. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call it their “other half.”

What about the influence of this other half? Just like people, dogs are a sum of their parts. Or, just like a person’s Irish side influences a person’s German side, so the sides of a Pit Bull influence each other in temperament and look. Why on Earth don’t Pit Bull opponents realize this? Because “Pit Bull” has become synonymous with “dangerous dog,” and the fact that they’re more than just fighters doesn’t matter.

The most egregious example of condemning Pit Bull for their ancestry alone (and some dogs were labeled Pit Bulls even though they had none in them) is Denver’s Pit Bull ban. calls it the “beacon” of breed specific legislation (do not visit this site unless you want to be angry). The hysteria against Pit Bulls started in 1989 in Denver, before other cities and towns followed. Denver’s law was broadened in 2004 when all Pit Bull “type” dogs were to be seized and destroyed. For one thing, it makes no sense because a Pit Bull Is a type of dog (as we’ve already learned) but what it really meant is that any dog with Pit Bull characteristics was fair game. So, Boxer and Mastiff mixes, for example, were singled out as well, even though their Pit Bull-like traits weren’t Pit Bull at all.

What’s the point? That maybe by pointing out that Pit Bulls have other breeds in them, we might avoid or change BSL. If you have a Pit Bull, look at him. He probably has some bully breed traits such as a flat, broad head; a wide chest; and defined muscles. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know he’s a Pit Bull.

But what about the rest of him? (List the characteristics of your Pit Bull’s other half, then see which type, breed or breeds those match the most. Some examples follow.)

A photograph of a Pit Bull. Photography courtesy Zulily.
A photograph of a Pit Bull. Photography courtesy Zulily.

The 10 Steps to Identify Your Pit Bull’s Other Half

1. What color is he? What type of coat does he have?

Some dog breeds have colors that are almost unique to that breed, such as the blue/gray coat of the Blue Heeler. Some breeds also have a type of coat that is mostly limited to them such as the hypoallergenic coat of the Poodle.

2. Are his eyes big or small, wide apart or close together?

Wide-set eyes could indicate a spaniel; closer-set eyes might mean a herding breed.

3. Are his ears pricked or floppy?

Many terriers have pricked ears while many hounds have floppy ears.

4. Does he have long legs or stumpy ones?

Legs longer than the length of the body could indicate a sighthound. Stumpy legs might mean Basset or Dachshund.

5. How big is he?

If your Pit Bull is really big, he could have Great Dane or any of the giant dog breeds in him. A smaller Pit Bull usually means a very small breed is mixed in such as a Chihuahua. (Yes, Chihuahua/Pits do exist.)

6. Is his gait long and lanky, or does he take short, quick steps?

A hound has a steady, long gait while a terrier covers territory with shorter strides.

7. What’s his bark like?

Hounds bay, toy dogs yip, and guard dogs have a deep bark.

8. Is he naturally really game or is he more laid back?

The bully side of a Pit Bull already makes him game but, if he also has terrier or other prey driven types of dogs, he’ll be even more so.

9. Does he learn quickly, is he smart but stubborn, or does he stare at the wall when you tell him to sit?

Learning quickly with the desire to please might indicate Doberman or Rottweiler. Smart but stubborn, a northern breed or Poodle. A denser (but still lovable!) Pit Bull might have hound or Mastiff.

10. When he has free reign, does he try to bolt through the nearest gate, or does he lie down and sniff the grass?

Breeds that want to run — and try to escape in order to do so — include the Siberian Husky. If your Pit Bull is content to stay put, he might have a lap dog breed in him.

You can also guess about your Pit Bull’s other half if you know what part of the country he comes from. Southern Pit Bulls probably have hound in them. Northern Pit Bulls probably have some sort of spitz in them. West coast Pit Bulls probably have a smaller breed, such as the Pug, in them. Almost all Pit Bulls (and all mutts, for that matter) have some Lab in them.

A new name for Pit Bulls is a nice idea but, even if it caught on, people would eventually catch on, too. Denver’s massacre of dogs is so insane, it’s possible no argument can change that. But we can, perhaps, prevent further BSL by showing the public that Pit Bull are mutts (which they are) and that they have many, sometimes dominant, characteristics other than their bully breed half. And maybe, just maybe, we can put an end to the discrimination against Pit Bull.

Featured Image Credit: Demure Dragonfly/Thinkstock

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