The American Bully is a recently developed breed of dog which was bred to be a companion dog and show version of the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Stafford Terrier. First appearing in the 1990’s, the American Bully is rapidly increasing in popularity, more so than almost any other rare bred both in the United States and abroad. The American Bully is best known for its tough and intimidating appearance and its friendly but protective nature. American Bullies are not currently recognized by any major canine organization but a few smaller registries have recognized them and there are several breed specific clubs dedicated specifically to them. The American Bully is usually considered to be a type of Pit Bull, referring to the general type collectively known as Bully Breeds, not the specific breed.
Until the 1990’s, the American Bully did not exist at all. Its ancestors, however, have been very well known in the United States for almost two hundred years. For many centuries, blood sports were immensely popular in England. Two of the most popular were bull-baiting, where an Old English Bulldog was pitted in combat against a chained bull, and rat killing, where a Terrier-type dog would be placed in a pit with dozens of rats until either a certain amount of time had passed or all the rats were dead. By 1835, social attitudes had changed and bull-baiting was made illegal. Dog fighting was not banned, however, and this sport became immensely popular. The preferred dogs used in dog fighting were crosses between Old English Billdogs and Rat Killing Terriers, a mix known as the Bull and Terrier. Eventually, Bull and Terriers bred true, becoming two new breeds, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier. Staffordshire Bull Terriers were imported into the United States beginning in the early 1800’s and these dogs became incredibly popular across the country. In America, these dogs became known as American Pit Bull Terriers after the fighting pits in which they battled.
American Pit Bull Terriers were not only tasked with dog fighting in the United States, they also served as hog hunting dogs, vermin eradicators, and catch-dogs. Perhaps most importantly, after a day of fighting or work, these dogs came home to be much beloved family pets. The breed developed a unique set of physical and temperament characteristics as a result. On the one hand, the breed was very driven to work, eager to please, incredibly pain tolerant, absurdly determined, single-minded, very dog aggressive, and willing to fight to the death. On the other hand, the American Pit Bull Terrierwas intensely loyal, devoted, playful, energetic, extremely affectionate, one of the most human bite inhibited of all breeds, and very tolerant and fond of children. In addition to the many thousands of registered American Pit Bull Terriers, countless more were unregistered, and this breed was undoubtedly among the country’s most popular by the end of the 1800’s. In the 1930’s, the American Kennel Club (AKC) began registering American Pit Bull Terriers as American Staffordshire Terriers, although different breeding policies have led to most (but far from all) Pit Bull Fanciers to consider the American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier as separate breeds. Unfortunately, many thousands of Pit Bulls continued to be bred for dog fighting in addition to hunting and other jobs. In the 1980’s, the American Pit Bull Terrier began to be seen as the ultimate “tough guy” dog. As a result, many irresponsible owners and breeders trained or developed aggressive Pit Bulls while at the same time the breed’s popularity absolutely exploded. Several widely publicized serious dog attacks took place and the breed earned the most negative reputation of all dogs. Since that time, a constant battle has been waged by Pit Bull fanciers and detractors, which has often involved legal restrictions being placed on Pit Bull ownership or the breed(s) being banned outright. This is only those parts of the history of the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier that most impact that of the American Bully, for more information on those breeds please see the article on The Bully Breeds, a term used to describe a group of breeds often also called Pit Bulls.
In the 1990’s, a number of breeders around the country sought to develop a breed of dog from the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier that was strictly a companion animal and show dog. This was done for several major reasons. The work drive of the American Pit Bull Terrier is so high that the breed often exhibits behaviors such as very high energy and curiosity that cause problems for a pet. Also, Pit Bulls often exhibit such extreme dog aggression that they cannot be trusted around other dogs. Although the vast majority of Pit Bulls exhibit very low levels of human aggression, a few lines and irresponsible ownership had caused that to be a concern as well. It is unclear whether or not the initial goal was to develop an entirely new breed or just to alter the temperaments of existing dogs, but a new breed was the result either way. The American Bully was unusual for a new breed in that it was not developed primarily by one person or one breeding program, but rather dozens and perhaps hundreds of breeders across the United States, many of whom were working alone with almost no contact with other breeders. Early breeding efforts primarily (but not exclusively) centered on Virginia and Southern California, but quickly spread across the country. It is unclear exactly when the American Bully was first considered a separate breed or when that name first appeared. The breed was well-known to bully breed fanciers by the early 21st Century, and has become increasingly popular and recognized in the last five or six years.
American Bully breeders primarily used American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers, and many used these breeds exclusively. Although it has apparently never been openly admitted, it is almost universally agreed that other breeds were used as well. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the English equivalent of American Bully Breeds, was almost certainly used, especially to develop the smaller sizes of American Bully. The English Bulldog was also almost definitely used, and some have speculated that is was used very heavily. This breed would have provided a calmer, less aggressive temperament, as well as a tough, bulky body and massive head. American Bulldogs are also widely thought to have played a significant role, and other breeds which have been suggested include the Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, and mixed breed dogs.
Because so many breeders worked to develop the American Bully, most without a clear standard or goal in mind, the American Bully became quite variable in appearance. The breed can be significantly smaller than a true American Pit Bull Terrier, but it can also be several times larger. The dog also comes in a wide variety of coat colors and patterns. Body shape, type, and proportions are also more variable than in most modern pure bred dogs, although this breed is generally very thickly built, quite stocky, and absurdly muscular. Head shape and type seem to be considerably more uniform, but are still somewhat variable. In many ways the American Bully is very similar to the breeds from which it is descended, and the casual observer would probably mistake one of these dogs for an American Pit Bull Terrier. However, experienced Pit Bull fanciers would never confuse most American Bullies for a pure bred American Pit Bull Terrier and the breed definitely has a distinctive appearance and look.
Much like the Pit Bulls from which they are descended, American Bullies have a number of registries which were developed specifically for them in addition to being recognized by several small multiple breed registries. The American Bully is currently recognized by the American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC), United Bully Kennel Club (UBKC), Bully Breed Kennel Club (BBKC), and the United Canine Association (UCA). Due to the popularity of American culture overseas, especially the hip hop and urban culture in which Pit Bulls play a major role, American Pit Bull Terriers have been growing rapidly in popularity around the world, even though they face bans in many countries. The American Bully has piggy backed on this popularity, and is now found in a number of European countries. The European Bully Kennel Club (EBKC) was founded to promote and protect the breed internationally, and currently has offices in Malta, France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Belgium, and Italy.
In recent years, the American Pit Bull Terrier and a few other breeds have come under increasing legal pressure. Many municipalities and counties in the United States have placed substantial restrictions on their ownership, and many others have outright banned their ownership altogether. Some entire states are currently considering banning Pit Bulls, a process already completed in several entire countries around the world, especially in Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Known as Breed Specific Laws (BSL) such bans are extremely controversial and have usually been shown to be ineffective at reducing dog bite incidents. There is also a great deal of confusion surrounding which breeds are banned by the term Pit Bull. In the United States, Pit Bull bans usually include American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and any dogs meeting their standards. In Europe, American Pit Bull Terriers are usually banned but not American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers. This has created an immense confusion as the three breeds are so similar that they are easily mistaken for each other, and many of the same dogs are registered as both American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers. It is entirely unclear whether the American Bully would be subject to most such bans. Most American Bullies have pedigrees showing that they are not a specifically banned breed. Additionally, most individual American Bullies do no closely meet standards of another breed. However, depending on the wording of the individual ban, American Bullies may be subject and legal advice may be required.
The development of the American Bully has been met with mixed reactions from the general bully breed community. Most breeders of American Pit Bull Terriers consider the American Bully to be inferior to their breed due to its appearance and lack of working ability, opinions shared by much of the American Staffordshire community as well although generally less strongly. However, it appears that a sizable majority of the fanciers these dogs do not object to the American Bully as a distinct breed, in and of itself, but rather it being classified as a Pit Bull. American Bullies do not closely match the standards of other Bully breeds, nor do they possess anywhere near the working drive or ability. Fanciers of other bully breeds feel that associating the American Bully with their breeds is unfair to both animals. American Pit Bull Terrier breeders are most concerned that some careless and inexperienced breeders have crossed American Bullies with their breed and passed the offspring off as pure American Pit Bull Terriers (occasionally pure bred American Bullies have also been advertised as American Pit Bull Terriers as well), which they feel has seriously compromised the integrity of the older breed. If such practices were stopped, the American Bully would probably be welcomed warmly just as other newly developed Bully breeds have been in the past. However, many fanciers of other bully breeds now derogatively refer to any bully-type dog that does not match their standards or is thought to be a mix as an American Bully. Many dogs are now considered to be American Bullies which may have no real relation to the breed, a situation that continues to cause confusion.
American Bullies are still a very new breed, and have not yet experienced wide recognition. However, they can be found in surprisingly large numbers across the United States. This breed not only has a sizable registered population, but a population of unregistered dogs that is likely significantly higher. Although it does not appear that any population studies have been conducted on the American Bully, it is very likely that there are already far more American Bullies alive in the United States than many breeds which have achieved full recognition with the United and American Kennel Clubs. The breed’s population is also growing rapidly overseas, primarily in Europe. The American Bully was bred primarily as a companion animal and show dog, and that is where the breed’s immediate future almost certainly lies. However, the breed retains the ability to perform a number of tasks and the American Bully has been used for personal an property protection, law enforcement, therapy, obedience, agility, and dog sports.
The American Bully is similar in appearance to its ancestors the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, but is usually considerably bulkier, squarer-headed, shorter muzzled, and muscular than those breeds, as well as exhibiting greater variation in size. American Bullies range widely in size, with some registries recognizing four different size varieties, the Standard, Classic, Pocket, and Extra Large. Standard American Bully males stand between 17 and 19 inches tall at the shoulder while females usually stand between 16 and 18. Classic males stand between 18 and 19 inches tall at the shoulder while females stand between 17 and 18. Pocket males stand less than 17 inches tall at the shoulder, and females stand under 16. Extra Large males stand over 20 inches, and females of that variety stand over 19 inches. The weight of an American Bully is completely dependent on its height and builds and can range from 30 to 150 pounds.
In general, this breed is extraordinarily heavy for its size, and many American Bullies in good condition weigh more than double what an average dog of the same height would. This weight is not bulk, far from it. Most of it is pure muscle, and this breed is almost certainly the most muscular of any dog. American Bullies are built like professional body builders. Most breed members have relatively short legs and are often significantly longer than they are tall. The tail of this breed is identical to that of other bully breeds, long, thin, and held outwards with a slight curve. Some of these dogs may have their tails docked but that is not especially common.
The head and face of the American Bully look like the halfway point between that of the American Bulldog and the American Pit Bull Terrier. The head is generally of medium length but immense width, and is usually very square and flattened. The muzzle is usually significantly shorter than the skull, but in no way is it brachycephalic (pushed in). The muzzle is generally quite wide and usually ends quite abruptly, although it may either be square or rounded depending on the dog. The head and muzzle are quite distinct from each other and connect abruptly. This breed should have a scissors bite and lips that are close fitting but not necessarily tight. Although not excessively wrinkly, many of these dogs do have noticeably wrinkles on their faces, especially larger individuals. The ears of the American Bully naturally fold down close to the sides of the head, but many owners choose to prick their dogs to an erect triangle. The eyes of this breed should be medium to small in size, set relatively deeply, and be round or slightly oval in shape. Their color is determined by the coat of the dog but they usually give off a very intense, protective expression.
The American Bully has a short, tight-fitting coat that is stiff to the touch and has a noticeable shine. This breed is found in every color and pattern found in domestic dogs, and is so variable that none seem to predominate. Some registries exclude merle dogs, but this is far from universal and in such dogs are identical to other American Bullies in all other respects
The American Bully was developed as a companion dog from breeds that are widely recognized as being among the most human oriented of all dogs. This breed is known for being extremely affectionate, often fawningly so. Although American Bullies have a tough exterior, most of them are complete softies with their families, always eager to snuggle and lay on a lap. Definitely not a one-person dog, breed members have a tendency to form very close bonds with all members of family. This breed has among the best reputations of any dog with children. American Bullies are incredibly pain tolerant and can handle virtually any amount of rough housing with a waging tail of rolling tongue. This breed is also very bite inhibited and unlikely to snap. Many of these dogs are to be acutely aware that children provide endless amounts of playtime and affection and become their best friend. As is the case with any breed, proper socialization with children is required to achieve the desired temperament.
American Bullies are generally accepting and tolerant of strangers. Human aggression has been seen as highly undesirable in the breeding of both the American Bully and its immediate ancestors for almost two hundred years. With proper training and socialization, this breed will usually be very polite and friendly. Although some dogs are considerably more suspicious, more are openly excited to meet new people and consider everyone a potential friend. Training is a necessity as even though this breed is rarely aggressive, it is so immensely powerful and determined that even the slightest aggression can be a serious problem. American Bullies do tend to be naturally protective, but in calm way that is more similar to an English Bulldog or Mastiff than a Rottweiler or American Bulldog. This breed can make a tolerable watch dog, but some are more alert than others. American Bullies have been trained as personal protection animals with great success, but this breed is probably not aggressive enough to make a good guard dog (although its appearance alone would likely intimidate wrong doers). This only applies to property not family or friends, and an American Bully would absolutely not tolerate physical harm coming to someone it cared for. When it deems necessary, an American Bully is absolutely fearless no matter the opponent, and one of these dogs defending its family would not be a dog to mess with.
Despite the best efforts of breeders, American Bullies have significantly more issues with other animals than humans. It has long been a goal of American Bully breeders to substantially reduce the dog aggression found in other breeds. In many ways they have been successful, and most American Bullies are considerably more tolerant of other dogs than either the American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier. However, many of these dogs are still quite dog aggressive, especially unneutered males, and exhibit all forms of dog aggression including territorial, possessiveness, same-sex aggression, dominance, and prey-driven. Training and socialization will substantially reduce issues, but they will not necessarily eliminate them. Even the least dog aggressive American Bullies are probably not going to back down from a fight that comes their way, which will almost always be disastrous for the other dog. Breeders have also worked to eliminate the prey drive of the American Bully, and this dog will generally tolerate non-canine animals after it has been socialized with them. Some individual American Bullies may be significantly more prey driven, and any dog that has not been exposed to other animals will probably pursue and potentially attack them.
Although the American Bully was bred to be a companion dog, trainability and intelligence remained very important in its development. This breed tends to be both highly intelligent and very eager to please, and many are capable of learning great amounts. American Bullies have successfully competed at a number of different dog sports, and are considered quite versatile. This may not be the easiest breed for all owners. Although American Bullies are not usually a breed that will constantly challenge for authority, they will generally not obey any command blindly. Owners must maintain a position of dominance at all times, and this breed is probably not ideally suited to a novice dog owner. Additionally, some of these dogs have a tendency to be extremely stubborn. Many believe that a Pit Bull type dog cannot be trained without physical force, but this is very far from the truth. These dogs actually respond far better to rewards based training methods, and many American Bullies will do anything for a treat. Because of a negative public perception of all Pit Bull type dogs, it is of the utmost importance for American Bully owners to have their dogs extraordinarily well-trained to avoid potential personal, financial, and legal difficulties.
Perhaps the biggest difference between American Bullies and their relatives regards energy level and work drive. Whereas most Pit Bulls are always ready and eager to go, American Bullies are considerably more relaxed and calm. This certainly does not mean that an American Bully is a couch potato, and this breed probably needs more exercise and activity than most common companion breeds, at least 45 minutes to an hour every day. It does mean that the average committed family will be able to provide the exercise that an American Bully needs without too much difficulty and that a properly exercised breed member will be relatively calm indoors. This exercise is necessary, because otherwise most breed members will develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, excessive barking, hyperactivity, and over-excitability. American Bullies are generally willing to perform whatever task is presented them and make good working dogs, but they are not constantly driven to do so. Whereas an American Pit Bull Terrier may drop a ball in your lap every few seconds, an American Bully would probably only do so for a short while.