The range of available pit bull statistics paints a very different picture of this much-vilified dog. Pit bulls are one of the most misunderstood of all dog breeds. These big-hearted dogs have a fearsome reputation when really, they are one of the softer and more loving breeds.
I’ve never owned a pitbull myself, but some good friends of mine always had them; in my experience, they were gentle and well-behaved dogs. Very much part of the family, their pit bull terriers were gorgeous dogs.
The chance of being bitten is there with any dog. However, animal attacks often see pitbull-type dogs labeled as aggressive dogs. The truth is that smaller dogs are more involved in bite incidents than pit bulls. However, as these bites do not require medical treatment, they go unreported.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania discovered that 20% of Dachshunds had bitten a stranger. The majority of the six thousand people study claimed they believed their small dogs had problems with aggressive behavior.
Top 8 Eye-Opening Stats
- There Are Around 4.5 Million Pit Bulls in the US
- Approximately 1 Million Pit Bulls Are Euthanized Each Year
- Pit Bulls Are the Most Abused Dogs in the World
- Approximately 6% of All Dogs in the US Shelters Are Pitbulls
- Between 2000 and 2011, Pitbull Adoption Rates Decreased by 31%
- Between 2013 and 2021, Pitbulls Were Involved in the Most Dog Bites in 20 States
- 25% of the US Think Negatively about Pitbulls
- Scoring More than 85% on Temperament Tests, Pitbulls Are Not as Vicious as Imagined
Pit Bull Statistics
Below are twenty-seven pit bull statistics to provide you with a clearer picture of these misunderstood dogs.
1. Pit Bulls Only Had 43.5% DNA Makeup from Their Pitbull Ancestors
(Pitbullinfo.org, AVMA, NCBI)
Due to crossbreeding, most dogs are misidentified as pit bulls. With less than a 50% genetic match with true pit bulls, many modern pit bull-type dogs are a generic mixed breed.
Pit bulls remain one of the most commonly misidentified breeds.
2. There Are Around 4.5 Million Pit Bulls in the US
Despite their reputation, pit bull accounts for 6% of all dogs in the United States. In addition, over 4.5 million pit bull mixes live in the United States, many of which are used as service dogs or for guard dog duties.
3. Approximately 1 Million Pit Bulls Are Euthanized Each Year
Pitbull-type dogs account for approximately 40% of all dogs euthanized in shelters yearly. In addition, close to 1 million pit bulls are killed each year as many people do not want to rehome these animals.
This means 2,800 pit bulls are euthanized daily, mainly due to misinformation surrounding the breed.
4. Pit Bulls Are the Most Abused Dogs in the World
Many pit bull owners chose the breed for guard duties. Owners purposefully mistreat their pit bulls and starve them of affection in order to trigger their aggressive behavior.
The extent of pit bull abuse also contributes to the common myth that they are ferocious dogs.
5. Pitbulls Are Most Commonly Used in Dogfights
Pitbull-type dogs are strong and will become aggressive when abused and riled up. As a result, they are the most commonly used dogs in fighting rings.
Dog fighting is illegal in all fifty states yet continues under the radar. As a result, many pit bulls are abused, beaten, starved, and even mutilated to get them ferocious ahead of a fight.
6. In 2019, 7.9% of Pitbulls Were Advertised for Sale.
Backyard breeding is a big problem with pit bulls, which is why 7.9% of all advertised dogs in the US were pit bulls in 2019. This equates to over 1.3 million pit bulls and is indicative of the more significant problem within the US.
Pitbulls are readily bred yet frequently unwanted and left in shelters.
7. 51 Pit Bulls Recovered from Michael Vick’s Kennels
Michael Vick was an NFL superstar and had just signed a 10-year $130 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons when he was arrested for running a dog fighting ring. He was found to have 51 abused and mistreated pit bulls on his property.
Vick was sentenced to 19 months in prison and banned from owning dogs for several years. However, only one of the dogs had to be euthanized, and while two others died from their injuries, the other 48 were rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed.
8. Pit Bulls Spend Three times Longer in Shelters, Comparatively
(The Washington Post)
Due to a combination of factors, pit bulls spend three times more time in shelters than any other breed. Three core factors contribute to their lengthy shelter time.
- Many landlords expressly prohibit pit bulls as pets.
- The reputation of the pit bull makes people wary of adopting them.
- Many other dog breeds are mistakenly labeled as pit bulls simply because of their appearance.
9. Pit Bull Dogs Make up 32% of All Dogs Put up for Adoption in Shelters
Due to backyard breeding and a general love-hate relationship between American families and pitbull-type dogs, they often find their way back into the shelter system. As a result, more than a third of all dogs for adoption are pit bulls.
Breed-specific legislation also plays a large factor in the number of pit bulls left behind in shelters.
10. Approximately 6% of All Dogs in the US Shelters Are Pitbulls
Despite so many pit bulls being placed in shelters, the breed accounts for 6% of the US shelter dog population. With backyard breeding and large litter sizes creating a swell in numbers, every fresh wave of negative media time also sees more dogs surrendered to shelters.
Pit bull statistics show that 25% of Americans are wary of pit bulls, and 50% of families with small children would not consider offering a pit bull their home.
11. 75% of the Time, Pitbull Breeds Are Wrongly Labeled at Animal Shelters
When animals arrive at a shelter, they are often labeled quickly. Breed identification is often based on appearance; however, because of extensive crossbreeding, up to 75% of dogs are labeled as pit bulls incorrectly.
The pit bull is not considered a breed but rather a collective of several breeds, making it a loose definition and easily open to individual interpretation.
12. 64% Increase in Adoption after the Removal of Identification Tags
(The Washington Post)
After analyzing 17,000 adoptions, researchers discovered that pit bulls were 64% more likely to be adopted once their breed identification labels were removed.
The research also showed that other dog breeds were also more likely to be adopted when labels were taken out of the equation.
13. Between 2000 and 2011, Pitbull Adoption Rates Decreased by 31%
As negative press surrounded the pit bull, the rate at which people wanted to offer them a home decreased. Across an eleven-year period (2000-2011), the pit bull, once called America’s dog, became one of the most hated dogs.
14. From 1979–1998, 60% Pit Bull Involved Deaths in the USA
Together with Rottweilers, the pit bull was involved in 60% of dog bite-related fatalities involving humans between 1979 and 1998.
However, these pit bull aggression statistics only represented a small portion of dog bite injuries and thus painted the pit bull in an unfavorable light.
15. Pitties Are Ranked Second on the List of Biting Dogs
(AAHA, National Canine Research Council)
Research showed that pit bulls were responsible for 22.5% of dog bites. Mixed-breed dogs were next, being involved in 21.2% of fatal dog attacks.
Dog bites are often a result of some form of provocation. So when factoring in the high rate of abuse and baiting behavior, it’s unsurprising there are a high number of pit bull attacks. However, these statistics do not include all of the incidents that do not get reported.
You can learn more about the dog biting laws by clicking here.
16. Pit Bull Bites Were Responsible for 26% of Deaths Between 1981 and 1992
Pit bulls were implicated in almost a third of all fatal dog attacks from the 1980s into the early 90s. The study further confirmed that a total of twenty-five different breeds were responsible for fatal attacks on humans during those years.
The pit bull gained a bad reputation for these statistics; however, the number of dog bite-related injuries far eclipsed the number of fatalities.
17. Pit Bulls Killed 36 Americans in 2018
Studies confirmed that pit bulls were responsible for 72% of fatal dog attacks involving humans in 2018 in the US.
Furthermore, 69% of those disfiguring and fatal attacks involved family members as opposed to strangers.
18. Pit Bulls Reportedly Killed 346 Americans from 2005–2019
In the fifteen years that elapsed between 2005 and 2019, pit bulls were responsible for 66% of American deaths as a direct result of dog attacks.
19. Pitbulls Were Implicated in Fatal Dog Attacks Between 2016 and 2020
While pit bull statistics show that pit bull attacks have resulted in human fatalities between 2016 and 2020, the research also concluded that a dog attack is not a breed-specific problem.
Instead, pit bulls and other dogs are likely to attack based on their behavior as a direct result of their environment.
20. Between 2013 and 2021, Pitbulls Were Involved in the Most Dog Bites in 20 States
In many states, pit bulls are responsible for almost half of all dog bite injuries. Research conducted in Harris County, Texas, also concluded that pit bull bite incidents were 213% more likely to be severe than other breeds.
21. 2/3rd of Dog Bite-related Injuries in a Philadelphia Hospital Involved Pitbulls
A study published in 2009 examined 5 years of dog bite incidents involving children and confirmed that almost two-thirds of dog bites came from pit bulls (51%) and a further 9% from Rottweilers.
22. 25% of the US Think Negatively about Pitbulls
While research shows at least a quarter of the US population thinks negatively about Pitbulls, and up to 50% of people are wary of the breed, they are still the 19th most popular dog breed in America.
Due to being bred for bear and bull baiting and other aggressive pursuits, the pit bull is tarred with a brush that speaks more of breed ownership traits than dog characteristics.
23. Pit Bulls Ranked Lowest in All Categories According to a 2016 Survey
(The Washington Post)
A small survey of 49 California college students saw pit bulls rank lowest in terms of friendliness, intelligence, and adaptability. However, along with the small niche test group, the results were based on images rather than any real dog interaction.
24. Pit Bulls Actually Involved in Fewer Human Attacks than Other Breeds
Some will argue that the introduction of breed-specific legislation is responsible for the drop in the number of pit bull attacks on humans.
The truth is that since 1998, no nationwide system has been used to track dog breed-specific bite incidents.
25. Between 1965–1975, There Was Only One Pitbull Reported Attack
The pit bull was once America’s dog. From 1965 through 1975, pit bull owners were common, and attacks were scarce.
However, demonizing the breed began with the crackdown on dog fights and the hive mentality that any dog that looked mean was automatically a pit bull.
26. Scoring More than 85% on Temperament Tests, Pitbulls Are Not as Vicious as Imagined
Studies by the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) confirmed that pit bulls are in the top 23% of best-tempered dogs.
Three different pit bull breeds were included in the test and got an average score of 87.9%.
- American pit bull terriers scored 87.4%
- American Staffordshire terrier scored 785.5%
- Staffordshire bull terrier scored 90.9%
27. Pit Bulls Are Not a Great Threat to Humans
(The National Canine Research Council)
While there is no denying that pit bull attacks happen, it is also a fact that all dogs bite. Unfortunately, Pitbull statistics are often overrepresented in the media.
In August 2007, there were four dog bite incidents in four days. One involved a pit bull; the others were other breeds.
The three attacks not involving a pit bull were covered by no more than one local paper. The pit bull bite was covered by 230 different national and international news agencies in some form.
Fascinating Pit Bull Facts
Below are three fascinating facts about pit bulls.
- Pitbulls are one of the best dogs with small children. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Pitbull Terrier are two of the best dog breeds for families.
- Pitbulls were originally bred in the United Kingdom and came to America with the British.
- The American pit bull terrier is not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club.
Below are six frequently asked questions about pit bulls.
Does Breed-specific Legislation Stop Me from Owning a Pit Bull?
Yes, breed-specific legislation can stop you from owning a pit bull. Many US states have banned pit bulls or have legislation in place controlling pit bull ownership. However, many states are becoming more aware that breed-specific legislation does more harm than good.
Is a Pit Bull a Good Family Dog?
Yes, pit bulls are great family dogs. When treated correctly and provided with proper training, Pitbulls are loving and highly loyal dogs. In recent scientific studies, pit bulls landed in the top 23% of best-behaved dog breeds.
Pit bulls are loving companions, and while the concept never existed, they were often considered nanny dogs before their bad reputation gained media acclaim.
How Many Pit Bull Bite Incidents Happen per Year?
There are no centralized dog bite statistics tracking the correlation between dog breeds and bite incidents. However, between 2010 and 2021, pit bulls were reportedly responsible for 65% of fatal and disfiguring attacks on humans.
Are Pit Bulls Aggressive Dogs?
No, pit bulls are not naturally aggressive dogs. On the contrary, they are very gentle and loving animals. In fact, the American veterinary medical association is keen to remind people that small breeds are more likely to be aggressive.
Beagles, Jack Russells and Daschunds are all considered more naturally aggressive dogs than pit bulls. However, because other dogs do not inflict as much damage when they bite, they are excluded from the dangerous dog breed lists.
Does a Pit Bull Have Locking Jaws?
No, the concept of a locked jaw is another of the pit bull common myths that are perpetuated through misinformation.
The bite force of an American bully or an English Bull terrier is not even the strongest bite of all domestic dogs. The Mastiff, Cane Corso, and Kangal are all domestic dogs with stronger bites than Pitbulls.
Do Shelters Euthanize All Pitbull-type Dogs?
No, shelters do not routinely euthanize dogs just because of their breed. However, close to 1 million pit bulls in shelters are put to sleep each year, as other dogs and other breeds are selected for adoption above pit bulls.
Due to misinformation and the twisting of pit bull statistics, many people shy away from pit bull adoption.
Is a Pit Bull a Purebred Dog?
No, the pit bull is not a purebred. Pitbulls originated in the United Kingdom and were a cross between the old English bulldog and a terrier. Originally, the pit bull was bred as a rat-hunting dog.
Modern Pitbulls share less than 50% genetic link to their ancestors.
Pit bull attack statistics paint this gentle dog in a bad light. However, the statistics rarely tell the full story and are often misleadingly represented by the media.
For centuries, humans have bred dogs for temperament rather than looks. Dogs serve a functional purpose.
The pit bull gained a reputation for being an aggressive animal, not because of its nature but because humans wanted to cultivate that persona for the breed. There is no denying that pit bulls bite from time to time. But other dogs do too.
The plethora of pit bull myths will not go away unless more is done to protect this beautiful breed.