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APBT Breed Standard

I have listed both UKC & ADBA breed standards.  I have also indicated websites, addresses and phone numbers for both.


United Kennel Club    100 East Kilgore Rd.   Kalamazoo, MI., 49002-5584

phone = 269-343-9020            fax =      269-343-7037

Official U.K.C. Breed Standard      UKC website = www.ukcdogs.com
Revised October 21, 2004


Sometime during the nineteenth century, dog fanciers in England, Ireland, and Scotland began to experiment with crosses between Bulldogs and Terriers, looking for a dog that combined the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the Bulldog. The result was a dog that embodied all of the virtues attributed to great warriors: strength, indomitable courage, and gentleness with loved ones. Immigrants brought these bull and terrier crosses to the United States. The American Pit Bull Terrier's many talents did not go unnoticed by farmers and ranchers who used their APBTs for protection, as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as family companions. Today, the American Pit Bull Terrier continues to demonstrate its versatility, competing successfully in Obedience, Tracking, Agility, Protection, and Weight Pulls, as well as Conformation.

The United Kennel Club was the first registry to recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier. U.K.C. founder C. Z. Bennett assigned U.K.C. registration number 1 to his own APBT, Bennett's Ring in 1898.

General Appearance                                                          

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized, solidly built, short-coated dog with smooth, well-defined musculature. This breed is both powerful and athletic. The body is just slightly longer than tall, but bitches may be somewhat longer in body than dogs. The length of the front leg (measured from point of elbow to the ground) is approximately equal to one-half of the dog's height at the withers. The head is of medium length, with a broad, flat skull, and a wide, deep muzzle. Ears are small to medium in size, high set, and may be natural or cropped. The relatively short tail is set low, thick at the base and tapers to a point. The American Pit Bull Terrier comes in all colors and color patterns. This breed combines strength and athleticism with grace and agility and should never appear bulky or muscle-bound or fine-boned and rangy.


The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the APBT requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog. The breed's natural agility makes it one of the most capable canine climbers so good fencing is a must for this breed. The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. This breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work.

The American Pit Bull Terrier has always been capable of doing a wide variety of jobs so exaggerations or faults should be penalized in proportion to how much they interfere with the dog's versatility.


The APBT head is unique and a key element of breed type. It is large and broad, giving the impression of great power, but it is not disproportionate to the size of the body. Viewed from the front, the head is shaped like a broad, blunt wedge. When viewed from the side, the skull and muzzle are parallel to one another and joined by a well defined, moderately deep stop. Supraorbital arches over the eyes are well defined but not pronounced. The head is well chiseled, blending strength, elegance, and character.

SKULL - The skull is large, flat or slightly rounded, deep, and broad between the ears. Viewed from the top, the skull tapers just slightly toward the stop. There is a deep median furrow that diminishes in depth from the stop to the occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent but free of wrinkles. When the dog is concentrating, wrinkles form on the forehead, which give the APBT his unique expression.

MUZZLE - The muzzle is broad and deep with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose, and a slight falling away under the eyes. The length of muzzle is shorter than the length of skull, with a ratio of approximately 2:3. The topline of the muzzle is straight. The lower jaw is well developed, wide and deep. Lips are clean and tight.

Faults: Snipey muzzle; flews; weak lower jaw.

TEETH - The American Pit Bull Terrier has a complete set of evenly spaced, white teeth meeting in a scissors bite.

Fault: Level bite.

Serious Faults: Undershot, or overshot bite; wry mouth; missing teeth (this does not apply to teeth that have been lost or removed by a veterinarian).

NOSE - The nose is large with wide, open nostrils. The nose may be any color.

EYES - Eyes are medium size, round to almond-shaped, and set well apart and low on the skull. All colors are equally acceptable except blue, which is a serious fault. Haw should not be visible.

Serious Faults: Bulging eyes; both eyes not matched in color; blue eyes.

EARS - Ears are high set and may be natural or cropped without preference. If natural, semi-prick or rose are preferred. Prick or flat, wide ears are not desired.


The neck is of moderate length and muscular. There is a slight arch at the crest. The neck widens gradually from where it joins the skull to where it blends into well laid-back shoulders. The skin on the neck is tight and without dewlap.

Faults: Neck too short and thick; thin or weak neck; ewe neck; dewlap.


The shoulder blades are long, wide, muscular, and well laid back. The upper arm is roughly equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at an apparent right angle.

The forelegs are strong and muscular. The elbows are set close to the body. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are set moderately wide apart and perpendicular to the ground. The pasterns are short, powerful, straight, and flexible. When viewed in profile, the pasterns are nearly erect.

Faults: Upright or loaded shoulders; elbows turned outward or tied-in; down at the pasterns; front legs bowed; wrists knuckled over; toeing in or out.


The chest is deep, well filled in, and moderately wide with ample room for heart and lungs, but the chest should never be wider than it is deep. The forechest does not extend much beyond the point of shoulder. The ribs extend well back and are well sprung from the spine, then flattening to form a deep body extending to the elbows. The back is strong and firm. The topline inclines very slightly downward from the withers to a broad, muscular, level back. The loin is short, muscular and slightly arched to the top of the croup, but narrower than the rib cage and with a moderate tuck-up. The croup is slightly sloping downward.


The hindquarters are strong, muscular, and moderately broad. The rump is well filled in on each side of the tail and deep from the pelvis to the crotch. The bone, angulation, and musculature of the hindquarters are in balance with the forequarters. The thighs are well developed with thick, easily discerned muscles. Viewed from the side, the hock joint is well bent and the rear pasterns are well let down and perpendicular to the ground. Viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are straight and parallel to one another.

Faults: Narrow hindquarters; hindquarters shallow from pelvis to crotch; lack of muscle; straight or over angulated stifle joint; cow hocks; sickle hocks; bowed legs.


The feet are round, proportionate to the size of the dog, well arched, and tight. Pads are hard, tough, and well cushioned. Dewclaws may be removed.

Fault: Splayed feet.


The tail is set on as a natural extension of the topline, and tapers to a point. When the dog is relaxed, the tail is carried low and extends approximately to the hock. When the dog is moving, the tail is carried level with the backline. When the dog is excited, the tail may be carried in a raised, upright position (challenge tail), but never curled over the back (gay tail).

Fault: Long tail (tail tip passes beyond point of hock).

Serious faults: Gay tail (not to be confused with challenge tail); kinked tail.

Disqualification: Bobbed tail.


The coat is glossy and smooth, close, and moderately stiff to the touch.

Faults: Curly, wavy, or sparse coat.

Disqualification: Long coat.


Any color, color pattern, or combination of colors is acceptable, except for merle.
Disqualification: Merle

Height and Weight                                                          

The American Pit Bull Terrier must be both powerful and agile so actual weight and height are less important than the correct proportion of weight to height. Desirable weight for a mature male in good condition is between 35 and 60 pounds. Desirable weight for a mature female in good condition is between 30 and 50 pounds. Dogs over these weights are not to be penalized unless they are disproportionately massive or rangy.


The American Pit Bull Terrier moves with a jaunty, confident attitude, conveying the impression that he expects any minute to see something new and exciting. When trotting, the gait is effortless, smooth, powerful, and well coordinated, showing good reach in front and drive behind. When moving, the backline remains level with only a slight flexing to indicate suppleness. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward center line of balance.

Faults: Legs not moving on the same plane; legs over reaching; legs crossing over in front or rear; rear legs moving too close or touching; rolling; pacing; paddling; sidewinding; hackney action; pounding.


Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. Viciousness or extreme shyness. Unilateral or bilateral deafness. Bobbed tail. Albinism. Merle.

Note: Although some level of dog aggression is characteristic of this breed, handlers will be expected to comply with U.K.C. policy regarding dog temperament at U.K.C. events.


ADBA Conformation Standard

American Dog Breeders Association

PO Box 1771    

Salt Lake City, Utah, 84110                                                                

Phone = 801-936-7513  hours 10:30 am - 4:30 pm MST

Fax =     801-936-4229

ADBA Inc. Revised 2005     ADBA website = www.adba.cc

I. Introduction

       A. To truly understand any breed standard, one must know the history behind a breeds existence. 

       B. The purpose of a judge is the unbiased selection of quality breeding stock with true breed type.

       C. The responsibility of judging is to put up the dogs that conform most to the conformation standard leaving personal bias aside.

II. Overall Appearance         20 points

       A. Conforming to breed type

                  1. Should look like an American Pit Bull Terrier from across the ring

                  2. Sturdy, three dimensional. Giving the impression of strength, not slight or frail.

                  3. Appears square, with heavy boned, solid front end with a light and springy back end.

                  4. Should look athletic, not bulky. Musculature should be smooth but defined.

                  5. Presentation of an adult dog should be of a lean, exercised animal showing a hint of rib and backbone (without hipbones showing) with muscles firm and defined. Clean, glossy coat with short trimmed nails. Presentation of dogs in the puppy classes should be of a well nourished puppy, showing no ribs, backbone or hips. Coat should be glossy with short, trimed nails.


       B. Balance

             1. Equal angulation of front and rear assembly - judged best at the trot.

             2. Height to weight ratio - the tallest dog at a given weight

             3. Head size in proportion to the body, with a neck long enough to have the head appear above the top of the back when head is in a normal upright position.

       C. Presentation

             1. Dog is socialized , showing interest in things around him.

             2. Although some degree of dog aggressiveness is characteristic of the breed, unruly behavior will detract from the judges ability to accurately judge an individual dogs conformation.

        D. Health

             1.The vitality of the dogs spirit, the gloss of the dogs coat and the sharpness of the dogs eye, will exude the healthfulness of the individual animal.

             2. Colors or color patterns known to be genetically linked to health problems will be considered a serious fault . Major faults: merle color pattern, albinism(white dog with blue or pink eyes, pink nose, lips, no pigment present on pads, rims of eyes etc.)

III. Attitude             10 points

       A. Confident and alert

       B. Interested in things around them, in control of their space, not threatened by anything in their surroundings.

       C. Gentle with loved ones Faults: shy or timid

IV. Back end               30 points

       A. Loin

             1. Broad and long enough to square the dog. Too short can interfere with a dogs flexibility. Too long a loin causes the dog to carry excessive weight and affect a dogs agility and quickness..

       B. Hip

             1. Long and sloping with adequate width. This can be judged by the set of the tail, which should be low.

             2. Ideal slope of hip should be 30 degrees to the ground.

       C. Proportions of the back leg.

              1. The femur should be of a length so that the stifle joint is proportioned in the upper 1/3 of the rear assembly.

              2. The tibia-fibula is the longer bone of the rear assembly

              3. The length of the metatarsal is moderate, with muscles that attach equally on each side of the bone so that the hocks move parallel to each other, deviating neither in or out. The metatarsals bones, hock and lower part of the tibia will be light, fine and springy.

              4. Rear angulation - ratio between the lengths of the bones and the muscles which attach on these bones, causes a bent stifle which leads to a well bent hock. This contributes to the natural springiness that is desired in the rear assembly.

              5. The muscle attachment is long and deep, well past the joint , which causes the muscles to appear smooth, but defined. (Not bunchy).

Faults: short or flat hip, straight stifle, double jointed or slipped hock, cow hocked, bunchy muscles.

V. Front end            20 points

       A. Ribcage

              1. Deep and elliptical with a prominent breastbone or prosternum. From the side, the bottom of the ribcage should at least be even with the elbow joint.

              2. Well sprung at the top, tapering to the bottom, extending well back into the loin.

       B. Shoulders

              1. Wider than the ribcage at the 8th rib. Scapula well laid back, 45 degree or less angle to the ground, and broad and flat allowing for adequate muscular attachment for a heavy and sturdy front end.

              2. The humerus is angled at an opposite 45 degree angle and is long enough that the elbow comes to the bottom of the ribcage, elbows lying flat against the body.

              3. Forearms are slightly longer than the humerus and solid, twice the thickness of the metatarsal at the hock.

       C. Feet

              1. Small and tight, set high on pasterns.

              2. Pads thick, and well built up

              3. Dew claws are natural on front feet, and do not naturally occur on back legs.

Faults: barrel chest, narrow chest, fine bones, out at elbows, down in pasterns, splay feet, thin pads, back dew claws.

VI. Head and Neck       15 points

       A. Neck

              1. Heavily muscled to the base of the skull

              2. Long in length

       B. Head

              1. Head size balanced in relationship to the rest of the body

              2.  2/3 the width of the shoulders

              3. Wedge shaped when viewed from the top or side, round when viewed from the front.

              4. Cheeks 25% wider than the neck at the base of the skull

              5. The length from the nose to the stop should equal the length from the stop to the back of the head.

              6. The bridge of the muzzle is well developed. The fill in under the eyes should be wider than the head at the base of the ears.

              7. The head should be deep from the top of the head to the bottom of the jaw.

              8. Straight box like muzzle

              9. Lips tight

             10. Teeth, incisors should meet in the front in a scissor bite. Canines should be wide at the base and taper to the end, top canines fitting tightly together behind the bottom canines. They should be sound and healthy with none missing.

             11. Eyes, small and deep set. Elliptical when viewed from the front, triangular when viewed from the side.

             12. Ears- no preference should be given to cropped or uncropped ears, except to enhance the overall attractiveness of the individual dog.

Faults: short neck, cheeky, underdeveloped muzzle, lippy, missing canines, overshot or undershot to the extent that the canines do not fit tightly together.

VII. Tail and Coat              5 points

       A. Coat

             1. Skin thick and loose around neck and chest, tight fitting elsewhere, showing vertical folds around the neck and chest even in a well exercised animal.

             2. Short and bristled, the gloss showing overall health of the animal.

             3. Color or any combination of colors, except for colors or color patterns known to be genetically linked to health problems.

        B. Tail

             1. Thick at the base, tapering to the point. It’s length should have the tail extending to the point of the hock.

             2. Hang down like a pump handle when relaxed.

Major faults: Merle color pattern or albinism. (White dog, blue or pink eyes, lacks pigment)

Faults: Longer coat, fringed hair on tail or elsewhere, bobbed tail or any tail other than straight.

Disqualifications: Man aggression, one sided or both sided cryptorchid, spayed or neutered dogs

Above all, the American Pit Bull Terrier should appear to be an all around athlete. His body is called upon for speed, power, agility and stamina. He must be balanced in all directions. Too much of one thing, robs him of another. In his ideal form, he is a thing of beauty.

Official U.K.C. Breed Standard* American Pit Bull Terrier (1978)

Terriers Group
Revised January 1, 1978
© Copyright 1978, United Kennel Club, Inc.
Medium length. Brick like in shape. Skull flat and widest at the ears, with prominent cheeks free from wrinkles.


Square, wide and deep. Well pronounced jaws, displaying strength. Upper teeth
should meet tightly over lower teeth, outside in front.


Cropped or uncropped (not important). Should set high on head, and be free from wrinkles.


Round. Should set far apart, low down on skull. Any color acceptable.


Wide open nostrils. Any color acceptable.


Muscular. Slightly arched. Tapering from shoulder to head. Free from looseness of skin.


Strong and muscular, with wide sloping shoulder blades.


Short and strong. Slightly sloping from withers to rump. Slightly arched at loins, which should be slightly tucked.


Deep, but not too broad, with wide sprung ribs.


Close. Well-sprung, with deep back ribs.


Short in comparison to size. Set low and tapering to a fine point. Not carried over back. Bobbed tail not acceptable.


Large, round boned, with straight, upright pasterns
, reasonably strong. Feet to be of medium size. Gait should be light and springy. No rolling or pacing.


Long with muscles
developed. Hocks down and straight.


Glossy. Short and stiff to the touch.


Any color or marking permissible.


Not important. Females preferred from thirty to fifty pounds.
Males from thirty-five to sixty pounds.


General appearance, personality,
HEAD, muzzle, eyes, ears 25
NECK, shoulder, and chest 15
Body 15
Legs and feet
TAIL, Coat and color 10
Total 100
American Pit Bull Terrier Standard
Approved by The United Kennel Club, Inc., 1936

HEAD:  Meduim Length, bricklike in shape, skull flat and widest at the ears, with prominent cheeks, free from wrinkles.

MUZZLE:  Square, wide and keep, well pronounced jaws, displaying strength.  Upper teeth to meet tightly over lower teeth, outside in front.

EARS:  Crp[[ed or uncropped, (not important) should set high on head, and free from wrinkles.

EYES:  Dark and round; should set far apart low down on skull.

NOSE:  Black preferred with wide open nostrils.

NECK:  Muscular, slightly arched, tapering from shoulder to head, free from looseness of skin.

SHOULDERS:  Strong and muscular with side sloping shoulder blades.

BACK:  Short and strong, slightly sloping from withers to rump.  Slightly arched at loins which should be slightly tucked.

CHEST:  Deep but not too broad, with wide sprung ribs.

RIBS:  Close, well sprung, with deep back ribs.

TAIL:  Short in comparison to size, set low and tapering to a fine point, not carried over the back.

LEGS:  Large round boned, with straight upright pasterns reasonable stong.  Feet to be of medium size.  Gait should be light and springy.  No rolling or pacing.

THIGHS:  Long with muscles developed.  Hocks down and straight.

COAT:  Glossy, short and stiff to the touch.

COLOR:  Any color or marking permissable.

WEIGHT:  Not important.  Females preferred from thirty to fifty pounds.  Males from thirty-five to sixty pounds.

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