The Differences Between Boxers & Pit Bulls

A boxer's ears should be of moderate size and thin when uncropped.
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Popular for their bold friendliness and bravery, both boxers and American Staffordshire terriers, commonly known as pit bulls, have warmed the hearts of American families as valued companions. While both breeds are beloved for their loyalty, agility and athleticism, their striking differences go far beyond their physical appearance. Their versatility ensures that these breeds will remain among America's favorite dogs.

Terrier Group, Working Group

Dogs are categorized into groups according to their historic purpose, and the boxer and pit bull are no exception. As the pit bull is classified as a terrier, it shares its group with the likes of the miniature schnauzer, Cairn terrier and wheaten terrier. Terriers were bred to hunt and kill vermin, according to the American Kennel Club, and many specimens do not tolerate other dogs. They're energetic and lively but can be argumentative. The boxer is a member of the working group, along with the Newfoundland, Bernese mountain dogs and assorted mastiffs. The AKC states that dogs in the working group were bred for specific jobs, such as guarding property, performing water rescues and pulling sleds. Members of the working group are intelligent and sturdy but large and require thorough training due to their size.

Bred for a Purpose

American Staffordshire terriers were developed in England from 19th-century bull dogs and what is believed to have been fox terriers, according to the American Staffordshire Club of America. Although their early ancestors were certainly bred for fighting, the dogs were put to work on farms once they had crossed the Atlantic to America. Valued for their athleticism and courage, the terriers hunted large game such as wild pigs and even bears.

Boxers originated in what is now Germany, near Munich. Hunting dogs were simply referred to as "Doggen" and were typically short-haired dogs with large heads, powerful muzzles and a triangular drooping upper lip. The dogs utilized their strong bodies to tackle game animals from behind and subdue them until human hunters could catch up and dispatch them. Such dogs were highly prized, and from them, three types were developed: the heavy Bullenbeisser, or mastiff; the cross of the mastiff with wolf and deerhounds, which resulted in the great dane; and the small Bullenbeisser, selectively bred for its smaller size. The modern-day boxer is descended from this third type.

Build and Body

Both the boxer and the pit bull are powerful dogs, but their profound differences are apparent to keen observers. The boxer possesses a blunt muzzle that is, ideally, one-third the length of the head, according to the AKC. The pit bull's muzzle is longer, described as medium length. The ears of either breed may be cropped, though pit bull fanciers prefer uncropped ears. Boxers may reach heights of 25 inches at the withers, while pit bulls reach no more than 19 inches. Both breeds have a short back, but the tail of a boxer will always be docked, while pit bull tails are not.

Coat Colors

While the breeds share certain similarities, there are differences as well. The American Kennel Club allows only two colors in boxers, fawn and brindle, with white markings not exceeding one-third of the dog's entire coat. American Staffordshire terriers, however, may be any color without disqualification. Solid, parti-colored and patched coats are allowed, although coats that are more than 80 percent white, black and tan or liver are not encouraged in the show ring or for breeding purposes.