merican Pit Bull Terrier Breed Standards
Page updated on 2/6/2007

ADBA Conformation Standard
American Pit Bull Terrier Breed Standard



History of the ADBA

To truly understand any breed standard, one must know the history behind a breeds existence .
The purpose of a judge is the unbiased selection of quality breeding stock with true breed type
The responsibility of judging is to put up the dogs that conform most to the conformation standard leaving personal bias aside.

    The American Dog Breeders Association, Inc. was started in September, l909 as an exclusive association of American Pit Bull Terrier breeders. The residing president, Mr. Guy McCord, was an avid fancier and breeder of the dogs, and was a close friend of Mr. John P. Colby. Mr. Colby was the mainstay of the A.D.B.A. which prompted the boast of being the "home" registration office of the Colby dogs. All members, in good standing, could register their dogs and litters with the registration department upon the yearly payment of $2.50 dues fee. It seems that the exclusive members idea gradually was replaced into an open registry to all owners and breeders of purebred American Pit Bull Terriers, to act as an exclusive registry of the breed and insure the accuracy of this type of records keeping.

     The paper issued at that time, was a one page, pink paper which on the top listed the description of the dog and other pertinent information necessary to serve as a title of ownership on the dog. On the bottom, it listed the pedigree, owner and breeder. We thought it interesting to note that on the reverse side of this paper it read, in part: "The American Pit Bull Terrier is now recognized as a standard breed, where a few years ago, it was un-recognized as a breed. The majority of the American public carried the impression that the American Pit Bull Terrier was synonymous with dogs used for fighting purposes only. This idea has been dispelled by persistent efforts of the breeders who compose this association. Presently, classes for American Pit Bull Terriers can be found at almost every local dog show being held. With concerted effort, our faithful friend will in time be classed as the leading American dog, who will give his life if necessary in defense of his master/mistress. We trust that you will unite with us in our efforts to bring this dog to the destiny he deserves. "The Standard dog of the U.S.A."

     The A.D.B.A. passed from the hands of Mr. McCord to Mr. Frank Ferris in l951. He, along with his wife Florence Colby, (the wife of the late John P. Colby) continued to run the A.D.B.A. on a limited scale, but with ever increasing emphasis on the registration of the A.P.B.T. breed exclusively. In 1973, through the recommendation of Howard Heinzl, Ralph Greenwood and his family purchased the A.D.B.A. from Mr. Ferris, whose advancing age prompted his retirement. (Mr. Heinzl was a personal friend of Frank Ferris and a staunch supporter of the A.D.B.A., as he registered his dogs exclusively with A.D.B.A.) We often wish Frank could have lived to witness the growth of the present association. He would have been pleased.

      In 1976, the A.D.B.A. was petitioned by the owners of the breed, who possessed a very competitive spirit, to develop a standard on the breed by which conformation dog shows could be held. They did not want a standard that copied those of the UKC or AKC, but a standard for those dogs that they owned and continued to breed for the traits of intelligence, character, loyalty, and the athletic prowess that the breed was originally bred for hundreds of years ago. Thereby, they could continue competition, in a legal endeavor. Thus, the formation of the A.D.B.A. Conformation Standard.

     The publication of the American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette started about this same time, and the first issue (Volume 1 - Issue 1) was out of the printers August, l976. Our aim: To enlighten the public to the truth about the A.P.B.T. and promote the positive aspects of the breed, through the conformation shows and the weight pulling events. The Gazette is the official publication of the A.D.B.A. and offers articles of history, pedigrees, ads on dogs for sale and at stud, books on the breed that are available, a bit of humor, dog care, nutrition, show and pulling training, as well as a sounding board for those associated with the breed. We try to bring the past as well as the present to life for our readers, portraying our dogs as they were then, and are now today.

     Our association continues to grow in the U.S.A. and other countries overseas. The American Dog Breeders Association Inc. is the largest registration office of the American Pit Bull Terrier. The A.D.B.A. registered American Pit Bull Terrier is the #1 breed of dog exhibited in the U.S.A. today, through conformation dog shows and weight pulling events sponsored by the American Dog Breeders Show Inc.

Conformation Standard

ADBA Conformation Standard

The ADBA APBT Heritage Conformation Standard now includes an ideal conditioned show weight to be
between 30 and 75 pounds.

I. Introduction
A. To truly understand any breed standard, one must know the history behind a breed’s 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, trimmed

B. Balance
Balanced 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 2/3rds of the head appear above the topline of the back
when head is in a normal upright position.
C. Presentation
Dog is socialized, showing interest in things around him.
2. Although some degree of dog/animal aggressiveness is characteristic of the breed, unruly behavior will detract from the
judges ability to accurately judge an individual dog’s conformation.
D. Health
1. The vitality of the dog’s spirit, the gloss of the dogs coat and the sharpness of the dog’s 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.
Major Fault: 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 dog’s 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 nor 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 ideal for leveraged power, 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
for structural support of the upper canines.
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. Its 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

The ADBA APBT Conformation Standard now includes an ideal conditioned show weight to be between 30 and 75 pounds.
American Dog Breeders Association
Featured "Ace" with this photo as their centerfold dog in the Fall 2005 Issue of the
American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette Volume 30 Issue 1


United Kennel Club
American Pit Bull Terrier Breed Standard



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.


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.

Above all else, the APBT must have the functional capability to be a catch dog that can hold, wrestle (push and pull), and breathe easily while doing its job. Balance and harmony of all parts are critical components of breed type.

Eliminating Faults: Any disproportionate overdone characteristic (such as short legs, excessive bone or massive head or body) that would interfere with physical activity or working ability.

Disqualifications: Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. Dwarfism.



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. Disqualifications: Viciousness or extreme shyness.

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.
Very Serious Fault: Overly large, heavy heads.

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 top line 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.
Eliminating Faults: Muzzle so short and blunt as to interfere with normal breathing.

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.
Disqualifications: Unilateral or bilateral deafness.



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.
Very Serious Fault: A short, thick neck that would interfere with functional ability


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.
Eliminating Faults: Front legs (measured from elbow to ground) shorter than half the total height at the withers. Front legs so bowed as to interfere with normal movement.


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 fore chest 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 top line 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.
Very Serious Fault: Overly massive body style that impedes working ability.
Eliminating Fault: Chest so wide as to interfere with normal movement.


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. Dew claws may be removed.
Fault: Splayed feet.


The tail is set on as a natural extension of the top line, 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 back line. 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.

Eliminating Fault: Bobbed tail.
Disqualification: Screw 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.
Disqualifications: Albinism. Merle


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.
Very Serious Fault: Excessively large or overly massive dogs and dogs with a height and/or weight so far from what is desired as to compromise health, structure, movement and physical ability.


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 back line 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; side winding; hackney action; pounding.


(An Eliminating Fault is a Fault serious enough that it eliminates the dog from obtaining any awards in a conformation event.)
Any disproportionate overdone characteristic (such as short legs, excessive bone or massive head or body) that would interfere with physical activity or working ability.
Muzzle so short and blunt as to interfere with normal breathing.
Front legs so bowed as to interfere with normal movement.
Front legs (measured from elbow to ground) shorter than half the total height at the withers.
Chest so wide as to interfere with normal movement.
Bobbed tail.


(A dog with a Disqualification must not be considered for placement in a conformation event, and must be reported to UKC.)

Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid.
Viciousness or extreme shyness.
Unilateral or bilateral deafness.
Long coat.
Screw tail

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

The docking of tails and cropping of ears in America is legal and remains a personal choice. However, as an international registry, the United Kennel Club, Inc. is aware that the practices of cropping and docking have been forbidden in some countries. In light of these developments, the United Kennel Club, Inc. feels that no dog in any UKC event, including conformation, shall be penalized for a full tail or natural ears.
General appearance, personality, obedience 20
Head, muzzle, eyes, ears 25
Neck, shoulder, and chest 15
Body 15
Legs and feet 15
Tail, coat and color