The Fascinating History of the American Bully Breed

Short history

The American Bully breed is known as an offshoot of the American Pit Bull Terrier. However, there is a rather interesting history behind the evolution and recognition of this very popular and young breed. According to official breed standards, the American Bully evolved through selective breeding of the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and various bulldog breeds.

Whether the breeders’ motivation was to develop a dog with impressive muscular attributes or to outbreed the dog aggression and thus give the American Pit Bull Terrier a new direction, one we know for sure. The American Bully breed has become a phenomenon all over the world thanks to its powerful appearance and friendly, affectionate temperament.

The American Bully breed was first recognized by the American Bully Kennel Club, in 2004. The United Kennel Club followed on July 15, 2013. 

Ancient Roots of American Bully

Fierce, loyal, and brave dogs were considered valuable assets from ancient times. Dogs were used to guard homes, and flocks, and as war dogs. There is a specific ancient breed called the Molosser group, which is considered one of the ancestors of the bully breeds. This breed was established in Greece by the Molossi tribe, who used him for guarding and as a war dog. They were heavy-boned dogs with large heads, short muzzles, and muscular necks. From around 50 AD when the Roman Molossers have been imported and exported throughout Europe, which introduced a genetic melting pot for the Molosser group. Molosser-type dogs fought lions in the Roman amphitheaters and the Colosseum [1].  They were sometimes used against each other or gladiators. The Bulldog breed split from the Molossers in England and spread to the New World with colonization as well as Western Europe.

Persian warrior Iman Maleki with Mollosser statue in the background from
An ancient Molosser-type dog of war in battle from


Bloodsports such as bull-baiting, bear-baiting, and cockfighting were common in Europe before the 19th century. 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 was placed in a pit with dozens of rats until either a certain amount of time had passed or all the rats were dead[2]. It served as entertainment for both royalty and commoners.

Sometime during the 19th century, dog breeders in England began to mix Bulldogs and Terriers, looking for a dog that combined the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the Bulldog. Although pit bull breeds are most frequently cited as being bred originally in England, the defining characteristics of this breed type – strength, large head, and wide jaw – are linked to a now-extinct Molosser. 

Eventually, by mixing Bulldogs and Terriers, two new breeds came into being, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier. In America, Staffordshire Bull Terriers became known as American Pit Bull Terriers after the fighting pits in which they battled. They became extremely popular across the country. 

United States of America

American Pit Bull Terriers assumed the role of an all-purpose dog in the United States as they were also guarding the cattle, protecting families, and catch dogs.  Perhaps most importantly these dogs came to be much-beloved family pets. Therefore, the breed developed a unique set of physical and temperament characteristics. 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 Terrier was intensely loyal, devoted, playful, energetic, extremely affectionate, very tolerant, and fond of children. 

The AKC understandably refused to endorse anything related to dogfighting, so this kennel club began registering American Pit Bull Terriers as American Staffordshire Terriers breeds.  In 1898 an alternative kennel club was formed – the United kennel club to certify breeds that were not eligible for certification by the AKC.

The interesting thing about the history of the AB breed is that in the ’90s, several breeders across the USA independently started to develop a dog breed from UKC-registered American Pit Bull Terriers and AKC-registered American Staffordshire Terriers. The goal of the breeders was to outbreed the characteristics, which caused the APBT such a bad reputation, just as the high work drive typical for terriers and the dog aggression. The result was a dog with a specific build and unique temperament, which had to be recognized as a separate breed. The American Bully breed was first recognized by the American Bully Kennel Club, in 2004. The United Kennel Club followed on July 15, 2013. The American Bully is also recognized by the Bull Breed Coalition Registry. The European Bully Kennel Club (EBKC) was founded to promote and protect the breed throughout Europe.

Because this breed is still very young, it‘s evolving. Some breeders want to branch off, and some stay true to the first specimens. Some hybrid clubs are using the names American Bully Pit or Bullypit for a cross of an American Pit Bull Terrier and an American Bulldog. However, the American Bully is different.

American Bully breeders primarily used American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers. Many others used these breeds exclusively.  Although it has never been openly admitted, it is almost universally agreed that other breeds were used as well.  The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the English equivalent of the American Bully breed, was almost certainly used, especially to develop smaller sizes of the American Bully.  The English Bulldog was also almost definitely used, and some have speculated that it 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, 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.  

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. These breeds face bans in many countries. The American Bully has piggybacked on this popularity and is now found in many 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.

American Bullies are still a very new breed and have not yet experienced wide recognition.  However, they can be found in surprisingly large numbers all over the world.  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 many tasks and the American Bully has been used for personal property protection, law enforcement, therapy, obedience, agility, and dog sports.



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