How Strong Are American Pitbulls?

Many people believe that Pitbulls are insanely strong – the Incredible Hulks of the canine world. There are outrageous claims about their strength and the force of their bites. These ‘statistics’ have created a lot of fear about Pitbulls, and they have developed a negative reputation in many regions. To get to the truth, I want to examine how strong American Pitbulls are.

American Pitbulls are strong dogs with powerful physiques. They excel at weight pulling and have a considerable bite force. There are stronger dogs with larger bite forces than Pitbulls. They are determined, tenacious dogs that deserve respect but are also loving and loyal to their family.

I am a veterinarian with a special interest in American Bully Dogs, including the American Pitbull. I own a rescued Bully Dog, and it saddens me to see how Pitbulls are misunderstood by most of the public.

How Strong Are American Pitbulls?

American Pitbulls are strong, sturdy dogs. No one looking at an American Pitbull doubts that they are powerful dogs. Their muscling is clearly evident unless the dog has been allowed to become obese.

One of the reasons that American Pitbulls have a fearsome reputation is that their strength is combined with speed and stamina.

An important element in dog strength is the desire and willingness to complete a task. American Pitbulls have a high work drive and high energy. This makes them appear stronger as they generally throw their whole heart into a job.

American Pitbulls are more aggressive to dogs than most other dog breeds. Their willingness to fight enhances their reputation as strong dogs. They are fast and agile when fighting and often come out as the top dog in a fight.

Pitbulls are strong dogs in their weight category, but many mastiffs or livestock guardians ( such as Anatolian Shepherds and Great Pyrenees)  are stronger and can be fiercer when protecting their flock.

Are American Pitbulls Naturally Strong

American Pitbulls are naturally strong dogs, but just like people, this is affected by diet and exercise. If an American Pitbull has limited exercise and is overfed, it will become obese and have less muscle strength and stamina.

Generally, American Pitbulls have high energy, making them busy dogs that do not easily put on weight. This can change as the dog ages or if the environment is cramped and unstimulating.

American Pitbulls that compete in dog sports must be conditioned just like any athlete. Their cardio fitness, muscle tone, and muscle strength must be slowly and carefully built up to allow the dog to reach its maximum potential in the chosen sport.  

Pitbull owners that compete in dog sports spend many hours working on training their dogs to achieve peak physical condition. The diet is carefully structured to include sufficient proteins necessary for muscle building.

Why Are Pitbulls So Strong?

Pitbulls were first developed in England and Ireland by mixing two dog breeds that were both strong in their own right.

English Bulldog ancestors were used to drive and herd cattle, including bulls. These dogs needed to be strong to deal with blows from cattle. They also frequently bit unruly cattle on the face and sometimes hung onto their noses when working on the farms.

As time went on, farmers began bragging about the strength of their Bulldogs, and unscrupulous people started blood sports such as bull and bear baiting. To increase the agility and speed of the Bulldog, they were bred to Old English Terriers.

Terriers possess a supple, lithe strength, allowing them to catch vermin, sometimes bigger than they were. Old English Terriers were known for having a strong bite, allowing them to drag animals from holes and dens.

The combination of English Bulldogs and Old English Terriers produced Pitbull terriers – although they were originally called ‘Bull and Terriers.’

Bloodsports were outlawed in England in 1835, and the criminal element began using Pitbulls to catch rats in a pit and dog fighting. These two bloodsports were easier to hide from authorities.

Pitbulls were selectively bred to be strong so that they would win dog fights. This heritage is one of the reasons that American Pitbulls are strong dogs.

A Pitbull’s Size And Head Shape In Relation To Strength

Pitbulls have slightly brachycephalic faces. This means that the snout is shortened, giving a squashed facial appearance. They have broad heads similar to their ancestors, the English Bulldogs.

A study done in 2009 showed that the breadth of the skull and the size of the dog influenced the strength of the dog. A 2010 showed that dogs with some degree of brachycephalism scored higher on strength tests.

Medium to large brachycephalic dogs usually have short necks and broad chests, which increase their strength. American Pitbulls fit into this category as they have broad chests and short necks, increasing the power of their forequarters.  

American Pitbull Bite Force

Many myths and urban legends surround the bite force of American Pitbulls. Phenomenal bite force numbers are quoted, but these are usually inflated by proud owners or storytellers wishing to impress their audience.

Another common myth is that Pitbulls lock their jaw when they bite on something or another dog. Many methods of ‘unlocking’ their jaw are retold solemnly by people who believe they have inside knowledge.

The truth is that Pitbulls do not and cannot lock their jaws. They do not let go once they have bitten another dog because they were bred to have higher dog aggression levels. Tenacity was bred into them from the days when people used them to fight bulls and bears.

Pitbulls have a high tolerance for pain and do not respond to people beating them or other dogs biting them while fighting or attacking something.

When to spay your pitbull

“The truth is that Pitbulls do not and cannot lock their jaws

— Anna Wong, Volunteer

How Strong Is A Pitbull’s Jaws?

American Pitbulls have strong jaws, as many criminals have unhappily discovered when trying to enter the dog’s property illegally.

The bite force of an animal is a measure of how much force is applied when the animal bites. Studies have shown that Pitbulls have a bite force of 235 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). This figure is an average bite force for American Pitties, although each dog will vary slightly around this number.

Most people will be astonished to hear that many other dog breeds have larger bite forces. American Pitbulls only rank nineteenth in the bite force stakes. Here are a few other breed bite forces for you to compare to the Pitbull:

  • Great Dane And German Shepherd – 238 PSI
  • Siberian Husky -320 PSI
  • Akita-Inu 350 to 400 PSI
  • Dogo Argentino – 500 PSI
  • English Mastiff – 556 PSI
  • Cane Corso – 700 PSI
  • Kangal -743 PSI

How To Measure A Dog’s Bite Force?

There have been various methods used to determine bite force over the years. The most reliable method is to use a bite-sleeve with sensors in it.

The bite-sleeve method gives the most accurate results as the dog is intentionally biting with a maximum force that does not harm its oral structures. The sensors in the bite sleeve feed information into a computer program that calculates the bite force.

What Affects A Bully’s Bite Force?

A Bully’s bite force is influenced by its size and the shape and dimensions of the skull. Muscle disorders, problems in the temporomandibular joint, and dental malocclusions (underbite, overbite, or crossbite) affect the bite force negatively.

Head And Jaw Size

Pitbulls have strong jaws due to their slight brachycephalic faces and broad heads. Other Bully Dogs have more brachycephalic features than Pitbulls, increasing the bite force.

The science behind this is quite complicated, involving levers and muscle positioning. You can look at a 2020 study in the Journal Of Experimental Biology to learn more about bite forces.

Bully Dogs are distinguished by their large head circumference. A larger head has larger muscle structures and jaws, increasing the bite force.

American Pitbulls And Weight Pulling

A popular sport among American Pitbull owners is weight pulling. All dogs are capable of pulling about three times their own weight. American Pitbulls can pull much more than that, especially after being carefully trained and conditioned by their owners.

How Much Weight Can A Pitbull Pull?

Some Pitbulls can pull more than ninety times their weight. This can be four to five thousand pounds. The dogs compete in different size divisions as not all American Pitbulls weigh the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Pitbull’s Bite Break Bones?

Bones in the human body vary in size and strength. A person’s age, the condition of their bones, and the amount of muscle and fat coverage will also affect the ease with which a bone can be broken.

A Pitbull could probably break the arm or leg of a small child. Similarly, old, frail people with osteoporosis would also be at risk of potentially having a bone broken by a Pitbull bite.

A Pitbull may break some bones in healthy human adults depending on the dog’s size, but it is more unlikely. Human femurs take about 1700 PSI of force to fracture, and a Pitbull bite is less than that. A Pitbull could break arm bones, fingers, and hand bones.

Can A Pitbull’s Bite Kill A Person?

A Pitbull or any other medium to large breed dog bite could kill anyone if it breaks a major blood vessel, rips the throat, fractures a skull, or snaps the spine. Obviously, children, frail elderly people, and small-built women would be more at risk.

Deaths usually occur when there is more than one bite, and the dog continues attacking a person. Blood loss, muscle and tissue tearing, deep puncture wounds, lacerations, and fractures are common in prolonged fatal dog attacks.

Do American Pitbulls Have The Strongest Bite?

Although urban legend says American Pitbulls have the strongest bite, this is untrue. There are many dogs with stronger bites. 

Are American Bullies Stronger Than Pitbulls?

American Bullies have a stronger bite force than Pitbulls. The bite force is 305 PSI for the standard-size American Bully Dog. Pitbulls have a bite force of 235 PSI.

XL and standard American Bully Dogs can often pull more weight than a Pitbull. Their build is better suited to pulling.

Are Pitbulls The Strongest Dogs In The World?

Pitbulls are not the strongest dogs in the world. A Kangal Shepherd Dog has a much higher bite force than a Pitbull. Many Mastiff breeds and Huskies may pull more weight than Pitbulls.

Why Do Pitbulls Shake When They Bite?

Pitbulls shake when they bite, as it is part of evolutionary dog behavior. Biting and shaking the prey is a killing method as it easily breaks the spine or neck of a smaller animal.

My Final Thoughts

American Pitbulls are strong dogs for their size, but they are not the strongest dogs in the world, nor do they have the strongest bite force. They are still more than well-equipped dogs to guard your property or protect you. They have tenacity and drive, which make them formidable foes or a valued friend. 

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Emily Andrews