The Big Family of Bully Breeds

If you have seen our Sparkpaw's blog, you know that we love our pit bulls, but there is a big wide family of bully breeds out there! You might just be surprised how many bully dog breeds exist and how many popular breeds you know fall under that bully bracket.

What are Bully Breeds?

Bully dog breeds are the descendants of the original bull-baiter dogs [1]. Bullbaiting was a widely known and popular sport. Dogs were bred to be agile and muscular, able to hold down and even kill large game-like bulls.

When this cruel sport was outlawed, there were a lot of bull-baiters left over who got a new purpose in life as guard dogs, farm dogs, and household pets. Over time, and by region, these dogs bred into the different bully breeds we know today.

Tracing their ancestors back even further, most bull breeds are believed to come all the way from the original Ancient Greek Mollossars. A large and impressive dog breed that may even have been used in wartime campaigns.[2]

It also includes dogs with similar appearance and temperament, even if they do not share a direct genetic link.

Many of them kept their larger heads and muscular stature…but a few ended up a little different than most.

So who are they?

The American Bulldog

a bully breed dog

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This sturdy bully breed was bred in America after a large import of English bulldogs. They are a working breed that can be easily identified by their large stature, square heads, and the fact that they normally contain a lot of white and dark pigment.

While they contain some of the features of their English counterparts, they lack their cousins' short and round stature.

They are still commonly used as guard dogs and herding dogs.

The American Staffordshire Terrier

american bully terrier dog

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The American Staffordshire Terrier is a cousin of American Pit bull Terriers. They were bred from a mixture of old American Pitbull stock and Staffordshire terriers brought in from England.

They tend to be large, with muscular builds, large heads, and thick necks. This dog breed tends to be active, often requiring a lot of exercise and attention. However, despite their imposing stature, they are often intelligent and good-natured.

The French Bulldog

French bulldog bully breed

This may come as a surprise to some, but French Bulldogs are also descendants of those original bull-baiter dogs, and are one of the more mini bully dog breeds.

This little bully dog often resembles a smaller version of their larger cousins, with their little bat ears and large heads.

They tend to be friendly, and their compact size makes them ideal for people living in cities and suburban areas. They can come in a wide range of coat patterns.

Staffordshire Pit Bull Terrier

a bully breed dog - staffy

While not as tiny as their French bulldog cousins, this pit bull-like bully breed is known for its short stature and big heads. They were originally bred around Staffordshire in Birmingham, England, hence their name.

They have been crossbred to form a number of American breeds but are still known worldwide for their friendly and calm nature. Staffordshire bull terriers normally have short fur that can come in several colors.

When blood sports were outlawed, they were bred to be impressive show dogs, and many have found their place internationally. 

They are one of the pit bull breeds most content with families with children.

American Pit Bull Terrier

an american pitbull terrier

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They are one of the most iconic and well known American dog breeds. The American Pit Bull terrier may have a somewhat ferocious appearance, and this strong look has caused them to become the mascot for the military, football teams, to almost everything in between.

Their reputation has taken a knock in the past due to their loyal and strong nature being abused and for being associated with illegal dog fighting. However, this proud breed stands strong among its cousins.

There are also a number of mixed and similar type dogs who also have bully breed blood.

American Bully 

an american bully breed dog

American Bully’s are known for their broad chests and large heads, giving them a lovable ‘Gym-bro’ sort of appearance.

This classic breed is a result of mixing American Pit bull terriers and American Bulldogs.

They can be quick, strong, and very protective of their owners. This protectiveness makes them one of the few “pit bull” breeds that make for good guard dogs. But do not fear. Though they may look scary, they have made wonderful companions for families throughout history.

English Bulldog

bully breed: english bulldog

One of the most easily recognizable bully breeds in the world, the English Bulldog is known for their short stature, short legs, and flat, wrinkly face.

An iconic symbol of stubbornness and heritage, these pups prefer to spend their time indoors. This trait makes them good for people living in cities or those that just want a cuddle buddy for rainy afternoons.

Unfortunately, this breed is prone to many health conditions due to inbreeding. Which makes getting them from a reputable and ethical breeder extremely important.

Bull Mastiff

bully breed: bull mastiff

It may surprise some people to learn that many mastiffs are also part of the bully breeds family.

For example, the Bullmastiff is a product of breeding Mastiffs with English Bulldogs in an attempt to make large, strong, working dogs to guard farms and handle cattle. While smaller than most mastiffs, the bullmastiff is still a large and imposing dog breed, with many growing to over a hundred pounds.

There are multiple other mastiffs that were also bred with bully breeds, or descended from the bullmastiff, such as the Neapolitan Mastiff, Brazilian Mastiff, and Boerboel[3].

English Bull Terrier

bully breed: english bull terrier

The Bull terrier is a short bully breed with square eyes and a head shape that is normally classified as ‘Egg shaped.’

They have been described as an intelligent and stubborn breed, originally bred away from the main pit bull line as dogs meant for pest control. Unfortunately, many ended up in illegal dog fighting rings due to their impressive hunting skills and strong jaws.

Nowadays, they are beloved by many for their spirited and obstinate nature and for their unique appearance.


bully breed: rottweilers

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The Rottweiler is another surprising bully breed. This German breed was separated from its bull-baiting ancestors and bred to be herders and guard dogs. Unlike most bully breeds, they have a slightly longer coat and tend to only come in their standard ‘orange eyebrow’ coat.

There is some evidence that their lineage may go back to the Roman Empire, working alongside the molossus dogs they were bred from.

They are confident and self-assured, with many being used as police dogs and rescue dogs.

Boston Terriers

bully breed:boston terrier

The Boston Terrier is a highly mobile bully breed and are easily recognizable from their distinctive tuxedo-style coats.

They are brilliant rat-catchers and have proven to be very adept at living in both the city and the countryside. They are small and portable while still carrying the tenacity and sturdiness of their cousins.



While normally considered a mastiff breed, Boxers were originally bred from the Old English Bulldog and the now-extinct Bullenbeisser. They, too, have the large heads associated with bully dog breeds.

These dogs are often used in athletic competitions and have consistently ranked in America’s top 20 most popular dog breeds in the last decade.

They are described as being very patient and good with children, when socialized and trained from a young age.

Cane Corso

Bully breed: cane corso

The Cane Corso is a large mastiff of Italian origin. They were once found throughout the Southern Peninsula and were bred to protect herds of livestock from predators such as wolves.

Bred to guard, they still retain that protective instinct, with many still being used as guard dogs today. They are strong, wise, obedient, and easy to train.

Great Dane

bully breed: great dane

As one of the two largest dog breeds in the world, the Great Dane is the largest bully dog breed on this list.

Originating from Germany, not Denmark, this large dog breed was bred to hunt deer and boars. They are extremely large and come in both solid coat collars and ‘harlequin.’

There are many Great Dane mascots and characters, with two of the most famous fictional dogs, Scooby-Doo and Marmaduke, who are part of this proud breed.


bully breed: pug

Last…but not least, we have the most surprising breed on this list…The Pug.

Though never actually historically used in bull-baiting, the modern pug is still classified as a bully breed by the Kennel Club due to their strong physical resemblance to most bulldog species. They, too, have the strong bodies and muscular heads of other bully breeds.

Arriving in Europe from China in the 16th Century, pugs became so immensely popular that they were owned by kings and nobility of Europe, making their way to America in the early 1800s.


There are many types of bully-breed dogs. Some are small, some are very large, and some may not even have had ancestors that were bull baiters.

However, they all share the same robust, loyal, obedient, and protective spirit. Many of them also still carry the physical traits of their ancestors, with strong muscular bodies and big, lovable heads.

Whatever your favorite bully breed is, know that you have a strong and loyal companion. One with a rich history and who has far outlived their original purpose and found a new one - to be part of your family.

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