STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER VS PITBULL
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Let’s jump straight into the – very similar and rather violent - history of these awesome dogs. The ancestor of both breeds is no other than the fearsome Old English Bulldog. Bred to boldly attack and kill raging bulls – and even bears - for sport, these now extinct dogs are not to be confused with the gentle, mellow English Bulldog that we have today.
In the early nineteenth century, breeders aimed to create a fighting dog that would be as ferocious in battle as the bulldog, but smaller and more agile. They also aimed for a dog that would be fierce whilst fighting, but gentle and friendly with humans. To achieve this, these early English breeders crossed terriers with the Bulldog. In the years to come, they shaped the new breed into what we know today as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The Staffy was first recognised as an autonomous breed in England in the year 1835 (so, in the same year that blood sports such as bull baiting were banned). But it was not until 1975 that they received their recognition by the American Kennel Club.
As we said before – and contrary to its name -, the American Pitbull Terrier also originates from England. In the years following the ban of blood sports in 1835, people turned to “ratting”: Instead fighting bulls and bears, the descendents of the Old English Bulldog now had to destroy rats that were thrown into pits to prevent them from escaping. Hence the name “Pit Bull”. Unfortunately, people soon discovered there was more profit to be made in underground dog fighting than in ratting. As well, they found that working in those same pits required dogs of less bulk than the Bulldogs. To achieve this, they created a crossbreed between the Bulldog and Terriers. These new dogs became the direct ancestors of the present-day bully breeds. As we said above, one variation of these early Bulldog-Terrier crosses came to be the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, whereas another, lighter variation was developed into the Pitbull Terrier that we know today.
The first Pitbulls to enter the United States were the companions of British immigrants who relocated in the years preceding the Civil War. As these dogs had been bred to fight, the early Americans soon discovered their natural aptitude in various roles: Apart from being highly effective guard dogs, they were also used as hunting companions and livestock guardians. Since then, the “American Pitbull Terrier” has become its own individual breed that is recognized by the United Kennel Club.
DIFFERENCES IN LOOKS
When it comes to their looks, the Staffy and the Pitbull can be difficult to tell apart for the uninitiated. However, when you know what you are looking for, you will be able to see which is which quite easily.
Let’s begin with their overall appearance: Both dogs have very muscular bodies, broad heads with prominent cheekbones, rosebud ears and rather thin, whip-like tails. However, Staffies are considerably smaller and lighter than Pitbulls – whilst being more compact and stocky.
Adult male Staffies can stand at between 36 and 41 cm high at the withers - and weigh between 13 and 17 kg, with females being slightly smaller. (That is between 14 and 16 inches and weighing between 29 and 37 pounds).
Male Pitbulls can reach between 45 and 53 cm at the withers and weigh between 16 and 30 kg – again, with the females being slightly smaller. (Which is between 18 and 21 inches and weighing between 35 and 66 pounds).
Both breeds have beautiful short, tight, and shiny coats. According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard, the Staffy’s coat can come in brindle, black, white, red, fawn, or blue. White markings are permissible. The Pitbull, on the other hand, has almost no restrictions in this regard: According to the United Kennel Club, their coat can come in any pattern or colour – except for merle.
INTELLIGENCE & TRAINABILITY DIFFERENCES
Now it gets even more interesting, as we are coming to the intelligence and trainability of these popular bully breeds. And right away, we can say that both breeds are highly intelligent and trainable. These dogs absolutely love to work – and are a pure pleasure to work with. They always strive to please their owners, which, of course, is a wonderful trait makes living and working with them even more enjoyable.
However, there are slight differences in their trainability, with the Pitbull being slightly more difficult to teach – which is due to its tendency to be slightly stubborn at times. Also, the Pitbull has an extremely high prey drive, which, again, can make training more challenging. This instinct to chase, catch - and hold on to whatever has been caught – is so very pronounced in the Pitbull that diligent training is not optional for this breed.
In all likelihood, many of the accidents, and even tragedies, that we hear about in connection with Pitbulls could have been avoided – if only their owners had taken the time to training and socializing them.
Despite their fearsome reputation, Pitbulls are actually quite sensitive dogs, as many handlers and owners will attest: Whilst you can easily teach them high levels of obedience- and guardian work, heavy-handed methods will get you nowhere. A gentle, patient approach usually works best, as, again, these dogs are very intelligent, AND very eager to please you.
Both Staffies and Pitbulls are excellent family dogs who are absolutely devoted to their loved ones. By nature, these highly social breeds are deeply loyal, kind-hearted and friendly to humans – even to strangers, which makes them not the best natural guardian breeds in the world.
Of course, they do need lots of socialization in order to become the perfect canine companions that we want them to be. Whilst both do quite well with children, the Staffy outshines to Pitbull when it comes to naturally loving children and being extraordinarily patient with them. So much so that they have earned the nickname “nanny dog”. These gentle, deeply affectionate dogs are so attached to their humans that they should be allowed to share the house with their owners: Having to live outside in solitude can easliy cause them considerable emotional suffering.
Whilst Pitbulls share many of the same characteristics, it is worth noting that – due to their history as combatants in dog-fights – they are very prone to dog-aggression. Also, their immense prey drive can cause problems, such as them accidentally sinking their teeth into someone’s hand during playtimes – rather than into the toy they are playing with.
EXERCISE AND GROOMING DIFFERENCES
In their exercise and grooming requirements, the Staffy and the Pitbull are as good as equal, with the Pitbull requiring much more activity on the exercise front – which is due to their much higher energy-levels and prey drive.
The Staffy no doubt LOVES to go out for walks and enjoy play sessions with you several times a day. However, 1 to 2 hours of exercise a day is usually enough for them, as they are the more sedentary of the two breeds we are comparing today: Staffies are far more laid-back and can relax on the couch for hours and are always up for a cuddle.
If you have a Pitbull on your hands, however, you will not get away so easily! Normal walks and low-key play are nowhere near enough to satisfy their need for working their muscles.
So, how do you ensure you provide your Pitbull with sufficient physical and mental stimulation? This is a good question to ask yourself before bringing a Pitbull into your house, as they are prone to chewing when bored. And you would be surprised how much havoc these powerful jaws can wreak on people’s possessions: Within a few short hours, a Pitbull can easily rip apart perfectly good dog-beds, duvets and sofas. When it comes to items that you have sitting on easy-to-reach shelves - such as DVDs, books or pictures -, Pitbulls will happily engage all the considerable biting power they have to their disposal. By the time you come back home, your possessions will be chopped up into little pieces. Of course, carpets, door frames, windowsills and even indoor shutters can easily suffer a similar fate.
Hence, the need for serious exercise! Now, to safeguard your belongings as well as your peace of mind, here are a few, fairly straightforward, ways to work out your Pitbull:
- Number 1 - runs off-leash: Make sure you let them enjoy at least one good run off-leash a day – either in a securely fenced-in area or in nature, once you have perfected your recall under distraction.
- Number 2 – Toys: You will not regret investing in a variety of extra-durable toys, especially those of the popular Kong kind – not only to play fetch and tug-of-war with your Pitbull, but also to give them something constructive to do in your absence. One option is to simply let your dog play with their toys. Another option is to fill the Kongs with small treats or peanut butter. Option number 3 involves your freezer: Again, fill the Kong with some desirable kind of substance – peanut butter, meat pate or similar -, then, put it in the freezer. About 1 hour later, you have a ready-made “Kongsicle” that will keep your Pitbull busy for a while.
- Number 3 - Canine cardio: The dog treadmill! Research them, pick a good one and have it delivered to your home. Dog treadmills are a Heaven-sent for owners of high-energy bully-breeds such as the Pitbull, as they allow your dog to get an excellent cardio-workout in a safe environment - without you having to break a sweat.
- Number 4 - Spring-pole: This is another fun way for your Pitbull to use their muscles – without requiring any activity on your part: Spring poles can be easily installed in your back yard and can keep your dog occupied for hours.
- Number 5 – Flirt-pole: The flirt-pole is a great tool for working out your dog, whilst staying relatively stationary yourself. Your Pitbull will absolutely love it. For your own safety, just make sure you keep your eyes on the dog at all times during play – mainly to avoid them crashing into you by accident.
In terms of grooming requirements, both breeds are as low maintenance as it gets: Their short, tight coat hardly accumulates any dust or dirt, even if the dogs spend a lot of time outside. As well, they barely shed – that is, of course, outside of shedding season, which occurs every spring and autumn.
For these reasons, both breeds hardly require any brushing at all to stay clean: A good weekly once-over with a mitt or a natural, soft bristle brush is more than sufficient. Because of their natural tendency to stay clean, you do not need to bathe your Staffy or Pitbull regularly. However, should they have gotten themselves really dirty, you may want to spray them down with a garden hose. In case you live in an apartment and do not have access to a garden or a hose - use your bathtub or shower cubicle to wash them down, but be careful to only apply a mild dog shampoo to avoid skin irritations.
And this brings us to the end of our discussion of these two stunning bully breeds who have many wonderful characteristics in common – ranging from their awesome looks and reaching all the way to their gentle, loyal and affectionate disposition.