How Can I Prove My American Bulldog Is Not a Pit Bull?

by Valerie A. Modreski
This American bulldog puppy takes to paper training.

This American bulldog puppy takes to paper training.

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Thanks to popular reality based television and true crime shows, everybody knows about human deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Dogs also have DNA. These genetic markers can be used to determine the breed of your dog and trace his parentage.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid Testing

Proving your dog is an American bulldog, rather than a similar bully breed, is easier than ever. Because some neighborhoods are not zoned for certain breeds and insurance companies often require breed authentication for your dog prior to issuing you a policy, more people are resorting to DNA testing. When deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is taken from your dog, the information can determine his exact genetic makeup. When choosing a canine DNA test kit, keep in mind that not all products are created equal. Essentially, the more breeds in the manufacturing company’s database, the greater the accuracy of your results. Nathan Sutter, Ph.D., professor of medical genetics at Cornell University, says most dog DNA tests require a cheek swab sampling. Some of the more expensive kits require a blood test taken at a veterinarian’s office.

American Bulldog or Pit Bull

First recorded in England, the American bulldog's origins are a subject of conjecture. In England, bulldogs were used as cattle dogs and property guardians. This original bulldog began to disappeared from Britain, and the smaller English bulldog we know today was introduced. All but gone from England, the larger bulldog breed was preserved by immigrants who brought the big dog to America. Because of breeding programs established in the late 1940s, American bulldogs became prominent in the U.S. and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886. The American bulldog is distinctly different from other bulldog types because of his height and weight. Males reach heights of 22 to 27 inches, and females about 20 to 25 inches. A male American bulldog weighs 77 to 125 pounds. and females 60 to 100 pounds. Sometimes confused for bulldogs, pit bulls are smaller than American bulldogs and weigh in at 35 to 60 pounds for mature males; females weigh 30 to 50 pounds. Pit bulls stand approximately 18 to 21 inches for adult males and from 16 to 18 inches at the withers for females. The head shape of the American bulldog is box-shaped and his jowls are loose. Pit bulls heads are streamlined toward the neck and his mouth and lips are firm and tight.

Visual Identification vs DNA Testing

Because of the science in canine DNA testing, it is preferred over veterinary visual identification. For visual identification a dog's breed is judged by a breed's physical traits, such as body size, coat color, skull shape and whether the ears are floppy or erect. These encoded physical traits are common to many different breeds, and only incorporate about 50 of the more than 20,000 genes that generate a dog breed. Dr. Victoria Voith, DVM, professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Western University prefers DNA testing over visual identification and rates its accuracy at roughly 84 percent. If your dog is a registered purebred, the accuracy of DNA testing rises to 90 percent.

What to Expect When DNA Testing Your Dog

The DNA test kit results are not a legally binding document; most kennel club officials rely on pedigree documentation. Single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP-based DNA testing, is commonly used with these kits. Most DNA test kits come with a data sheet for your dog's known history and description, a DNA cheek swab collecting apparatus, collection instructions and a prepaid USPS return mailing envelope. In two to four weeks you'll receive your certificate of DNA breed analysis results; some manufacturers offer to print your dog's photo on the certificate. For legal documentation, judicially recognized canine paternity testing requires veterinary assistance. Canine DNA testing kits range in price, $60 on the low end and $100 for the higher end. The AKC has a DNA test kit that is available at no charge, and the $50 processing fee is due only after they test the sample and retrieve results.

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