AmStaff vs. Staffy: How to Distinguish Between the Two Breeds

When people talk about Pit Bulls, they could be referring to one of four dog breeds. You’d like to know if your newly adopted pup is an American Staffordshire Terrier or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, aka a Staffy. How do you know?

How do you distinguish between an AmStaff and a Staffy? You can distinguish between AmStaffs and Staffy dogs in the following ways:

  • Staffy dogs are smaller than AmStaffs
  • AmStaffs weigh more when fully grown
  • Staffy dogs are especially known for their love of children
  • AmStaffs have straighter tails
  • Staffy dogs have a wider head

Are you still a little confused about the differences between AmStaffs and Staffy dogs? Worry not, as in this article, I’m going to clear up all ambiguity. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know whether an AmStaff or Staffy is better-suited for you!

What Is an AmStaff, Anyway?

Before I can distinguish the two Pit Bull breeds from one another, you need to have a firm grasp on both breeds as individuals. Thus, I thought I’d start with a description and history of these Pit Bulls.

I’ll begin with the AmStaff, which is short for American Staffordshire Terrier. Some people call them American Staffy dogs too.

For the sake of consistency, I’ll be referring to this breed as the  AmStaff going forward.

The AmStaff is a Pit Bull breed with a muscular yet stocky body and short coat. The average height of a male AmStaff is 18 to 19 inches, while for females, they grow to heights of 17 to 18 inches.

Adult AmStaff males weigh 55 to 70 pounds and females 40 to 55 pounds.

The American Kennel Club or AKC has detailed the AmStaff’s features. Its coat is described as being stiff yet smooth with a glossy texture. Your AmStaff may be single-colored or have a multitude of colors. Perhaps they even possess appealing patterning in hues like tan, black, and/or white.

The dog’s tail is thicker at the base and then thinner at the end with a taper that’s quite noticeable. The tail is set lower on the AmStaff’s body and does not curl. Its ears are not very large and may fold over themselves unless they’re surgically cropped.

AmStaffs have a thick neck, a mid-sized muzzle with a strong jaw, and far-set eyes with a round shape. Their cheek muscles are distinct, and their skull is broad yet not very large.

So where did the AmStaff come from?

The American Pit Bull Terrier, which was bred from extinct dog breeds like the Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier, was already a recognized Pit Bull breed by 1900. Yet a new dog breed was in town some 30+ years later in 1936. These dogs–about 50 of them all from the same breed–were registered through the United Kennel Club or UKC.

The AKC accepted the dogs too, adding the breed to their Stud Book. This new Pit Bull breed was put into the terrier group, which is common of Pits. Yet the dog didn’t have a name.

Since the AmStaff supposedly hailed from Staffordshire, England, the AKC had the idea to call the dog breed the Staffordshire Terrier. Yet British Staffordshire Terriers had been identified in England only a year prior in 1935, so that name wouldn’t stick. It was simply too confusing.

Thus, because the AmStaff was in America at the time, the name American Staffordshire Terrier became the new official title of this Pit Bull breed. It’s been the AmStaff ever since.

According to the AKC, the AmStaff is known for its ease of training and willingness to listen. This dog loves exercising but prefers having you or other members of the family involved in their physical activities rather than running around on their own.

AmStaffs excel at dock diving, agility, and obedience especially.

Besides their penchant for physical activities, AmStaffs also love mental challenges, says the AKC. They have big personalities, they’re always keeping abreast of their surroundings, and they’re beloved for their confidence and grace.

What Is a Staffy Dog?

Now that you’ve been introduced to the AmStaff, I want to extend the same courtesy to the Staffy dog and go over this fascinating Pit Bull breed’s history. The full name of the Staffy is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The Staffy is muscular and stocky as well, although not overly tall. The average female Staffy is 13 to 15 inches tall and males up to 16 inches. Female Staffies weigh 24 to 34 pounds and males 29 to 37 pounds.

The AKC describes the Staffy as having a close-cropped, short coat with a smooth texture. You should not de-whisker or trim the coat, as it’s near enough to the skin as it is.

Its undocked tail is low-set and mid-length. A Staffy’s tail may have some curl to it, enough that the AKC says the tail “may be likened to an old-fashioned pump handle.” That said, too much curling could be indicative of a health issue.

The Staffy’s ears are on the smaller side and stand erect but with a slight fold. Its eyes are straight-set and round, often dark in color too.

A Staffy’s nose should always be black or dark, and its face is short with a broad skull. Its cheek muscles are a standout feature of this breed’s face.

Let’s discuss the Staffy’s history, shall we? The Staffy has more in common with the American Pit Bull Terrier than the AmStaff.

Like the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffy’s lineage begins with bull and terrier breeds created from breeding the Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier.

A man named James Hinks wasn’t totally satisfied with the bull and terriers of his time. He wished for a dog that could be aggressive when needed but was otherwise courageous. His dog would have clean lines, a refined personality, and be a good companion for a gentleman like him.

Hinks ended up with two breeds that satisfied the above requirements. One was a Collie and Dalmatian mix called Hink’s white cavalier and the other was an English White Terrier and bull and terrier mix. The latter won out on the popularity scale.

Hink’s Bull Terrier, through time and further breeding, eventually became what we know and love today as the Staffy.

Staffy dogs are loyal above all else, and they adore their family intensely. Their love of kids is a trademark of the breed, as is the kind personality of the Staffy. They have lots of energy for exercise and appreciate playing with you in the yard or at the park.

AmStaff or Staffy? Tell Them Apart in the Following 5 Ways

You have a much better understanding of AmStaffs and Staffy dogs respectively, so now I want to help you differentiate between the two breeds. This isn’t always as easy as you would think. Since they’re both Pit Bulls, AmStaffs and Staffy dogs have plenty in common. Yet if you keep your eyes peeled for the following physical and personality traits, you’ll know whether your Pit Bull is a Staffy or AmStaff.

Staffy Dogs Are Smaller Than AmStaffs

If you had both an AmStaff and Staffy stand side by side and you pulled out some measuring tape, the AmStaff would be the taller dog. This breed reaches heights of 16.9 to 18.8 inches on average. Females are 17 to 18 inches and males are 18 to 19 inches when fully grown.

Staffy dogs stand at an average height of 14 to 16 inches, which is as tall as males will get. Females are slightly shorter at 13 to 15 inches.

Compared to Staffy dogs, AmStaff females have about four inches on them. Male AmStaffs are three to four inches taller as well. Is that a huge height difference? Not necessarily, but their height remains a good indicator as to whether you have a Staffy or an AmStaff.

AmStaffs Weigh More When Fully Grown

Besides their advantage in the height department, AmStaffs also weigh quite a deal more than the average Staffy. When fully grown, male Staffy dogs weigh 28 to 38 pounds. The females are lighter at 24 to 34 pounds.

For a mid-sized dog, the Staffy is a solid weight. This breed isn’t so heavy that walking them is difficult, but they’re not so light that the kids can whisk the dog away either.

AmStaffs are significantly heavier dogs in adulthood. A mature male AmStaff weighs 55 to 70 pounds, which is huge! Even females are anywhere from 40 to 55 pounds. That still puts AmStaffs in the mid-sized dog range, which is anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds. However, a larger male AmStaff would be firmly in large dog territory.

Staffy Dogs Are Especially Known for Their Love of Children

I’m not trying to imply that the AmStaff is not a family dog, as it certainly is. Even the AKC says the AmStaff is a “lovable ‘personality dog’…around the house.” However, the Staffy gets acclaim from the AKC for the breed’s love of children. According to the AKC description, the Staffy dog is “sweet-natured, family-oriented…with a reputation for being patient with kids.”

AmStaffs Have Straighter Tails

If you’re still having a hard time telling AmStaffs and Staffy dogs apart, my suggestion is to check the dog’s tail. Yes, I know that both Pit Bull breeds have tails that are thicker at the base and then become skinnier.

However, Staffy dogs may have slightly curled tails per the AKC. Their tails aren’t spirals or anything like that, there’s just a subtle bend to the tail’s natural shape. AmStaffs, by comparison, are known for their stick-straight tails.

Staffy Dogs Have a Wider Head

The last means of distinguishing between the AmStaff and Staffy dog is to look at the shape of the head. Again, the differences here are subtle, but they do exist. The head shape of a Staffy dog is usually wider than an AmStaff’s.

Why It’s Important to Know Your Pit Bull Breed

Okay, but at the end of the day, a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull, right? Does it really matter if you have an AmStaff or a Staffy? Sure, it does! If these were the same dogs, then there’d be no need for this article.

I will say that Staffy dogs and AmStaffs share a lot of traits, but there’s enough that’s different about these Pit Bull breeds that you need to know which dog you have early into their care. Here are some very convincing reasons why. 

Ease of Training

Training the Staffy or AmStaff shouldn’t be a huge challenge. The AKC says AmStaffs want to make you happy, so they’re glad to spend time learning to sit, shake, or play dead. Staffy dogs also enjoy pleasing their owners, plus they listen well and pick up on things quickly.

Yet the AmStaff has a penchant for digging and chewing that the Staffy does not. You’ll have to be ready for this behavior if you have an AmStaff and train your dog a little more before they ruin your flowerbed or nice couch!

Health Issues

Given that they’re separate breeds, AmStaffs and Staffy dogs are not always prone to the same health conditions.

The Staffy may develop the following conditions and diseases:

  • Posterior polar subcapsular cataracts: When lens fibers within the eye degrade the lens’s central posterior subcapsular area, it’s due to this form of cataracts. You’ll notice that your Staffy dog has light or white eyes.
  • Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous: PHPV is a serious vision condition that weakens the eye’s vitreous, or the part of the eye between the retina and lens that’s full of translucent gel. Vision loss can occur.
  • Hereditary juvenile cataracts: Staffy dogs are likely to inherit juvenile cataracts, which can occur in one eye or both. Like PHPV, in some instances, hereditary juvenile cataracts can cause blindness.
  • Patellar luxation: To luxate means to dislocate, so patellar luxation is a kneecap dislocation. Your Staffy may struggle to walk, especially as they get older. Although patellar luxation is common among small and toy breeds, Staffy dogs can develop this condition too.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: Many dog breeds end up with hip dysplasia, but Staffy dogs can have elbow dysplasia as well. These conditions rob the dog of their ability to run, jump, and play.

Here are the health conditions common of AmStaffs:

  • Coat allergies: I just wrote an in-depth post about allergies in Pit Bulls and how the symptoms might cause nail reddening, so please check that out. When your AmStaff has a coat allergy, they develop itchy, red skin and may scratch and lick at the area for relief.
  • Cerebellar ataxia: Ataxia reduces muscle control, so when it’s in the brain, cerebellar ataxia can cause swallowing troubles, eating difficulties, stumbling, and decreased coordination.
  • Cardiac disease: A cardiac disease in your AmStaff can be deadly. Your vet will use echocardiograms and X-rays to diagnose the disease. They may have to add a catheter to your dog’s heart to save their life.
  • Hip dysplasia: Like Staffy dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, so too are AmStaffs.


The third reason I recommend you learn the differences between your AmStaff and Staffy dog is so you can anticipate how many years you two will have together. Both breeds have a similar lifespan, but AmStaffs tend to live longer, 12 to 16 years versus a Staffy’s 12 to 14 years.

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