Pit bulls and American Staffordshire terriers, or AmStaffs, share a common history that goes back to the early 1800s in the Staffordshire region of England. Staffordshire bull terriers first arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1800s. They were used in dog fights, which was outlawed in the U.S. in 1900. Two breeds emerged from the common line: AmStaffs as show dogs and pit bulls as the fighting dog strain.
Both American Staffordshires and pit bulls have a fairly wide range of size. What is important for both is that they are muscular and extremely strong for their rather compact build. Generally, AmStaffs are smaller than pits; however, the pit bull has the widest variation in size as some breeders prefer smaller dogs over larger. AmStaffs are usually 18 to 19 inches and weigh up to 50 pounds. Pits are around 18 to 22 inches high, and weigh between 30 to 75 pounds. Pits that weigh in around 100 pounds have been crossed with other breeds.
Another difference between American Pit Bulls and American Staffordshires is in how they are built. While they have a similar build, closer inspection reveals that the front legs of the AmStaff are more robust and pronounced than in the pit. The American pit bull breed emphasizes the strength of the hind legs and their pushing power.
American Pits can appear in virtually any color except merle, which is a combination of colors, but usually a dark base with spots of lighter gray or blue. American Staffordshires come in a wide variety of colors as well, but black/tan, liver and white which covers more than 80 percent of the dog’s coat are not desirable shades. One clear-cut difference in coloring between pits and AmStaffs is in the nose. A red nose almost surely indicates a pit bull.
What is especially difficult to tease out about these two breeds is that they have a singular history. It is argued that they are not truly separate breeds at all. In fact, according to the United Kennel Club, they are one in the same. The main difference is not in genes, but rather in breeding. The pit was a working class strain, noted for its fighting ability while the AmStaff was a show dog. Most experts would be hard-pressed to identify many dogs as either breed. It often comes down to blood line and registration. Some American Kennel Club Staffordshires are dual-registered as pits with the UKC. In order to have dual registration, the owner must register the dog as AmStaff with the AKC first as they will not allow UKC registered pits to register as an AmStaff.