German Shepherd vs Pit Bull: Differences, & Comparison


In the guide below, we compare the German Shepherd vs the Pit Bull dog breeds

We are specifically referring to the American Pit Bull Terrier over the other breeds classified as ‘Pit Bulls’ – the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bulldog, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

We outline what the main differences between them might be, and provide other important information on each breed.


(NOTE: the information in this guide is general information only. It is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. See a qualified vet or animal expert for an expert opinion in regards to your pet/s)


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull: Differences, & Breed Comparison


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Origin/History

German Shepherd

German Shepherds were first bred in Germany around 1899.

They were bred from different Shepherd breed dogs in Germany at the time (reportedly a sheep type dog, and also a service type dog), with the intention of having ideal working dog traits and working ability.

GSDs as a breed belong to the ‘herding dog’ category.

Today, GSD’s are used in a range of working fields, compete as show dogs, and are also pets & family dogs.


American Pit Bull

‘Pit Bulls’ were first bred in the UK in the early 1800’s, from Old English Bulldogs & also Terrier breeds (like the Old English Terrier).

They were originally bred for ‘bull baiting’ (and fighting), and were then used for ‘ratting’ once baiting was prohibited in the UK.

In the second half of the 1800’s (roughly around 1850 to 1870), Pit Bulls were brought to America by European immigrants.

Around 1898, these dogs were first recognized by an international kennel club as the ‘American Pit Bull Terrier’.

In the early 1900’s, these dogs were used for a range of application in the US, such as being catch dogs for cattle and hogs, hunting, farm dogs (to drive livestock), and as pets.

Today, American Pit Bull Terriers are pets & family dogs, although some municipalities may restrict or ban Pit Bulls in some ways.


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Size 

German Shepherd

German Shepherds might be classified as a large breed of dog

Males might average 24-26 inches in height (60-65 cms), and 66-88 lbs in weight (30-40 kg)

Females might average 22-24 inches in height (55-60 cms), and 49-71 lbs in weight (22-32 kg)


American Pit Bull

American Pit Bulls might be considered a medium sized dog breed

Males might average 18-21 inches in height (45-53 cms), and 35-60 lbs in weight (15-27 kg)

Females might average 17-20 inches in height (43-50 cms), and 30-50 lbs in weight (13-22.5 kg)


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Lifespan

German Shepherd

German Shepherds might have a lifespan of around 9-13 years on average

Although, some reports indicate some GSDs may even live up to 15 years of age


American Pit Bulls

An American Pit Bull might have an average lifespan of anywhere between 8-15 years.

There might be some health/genetic conditions to look out for with American Pit Bulls.


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Popularity

Every year, the American Kennel Club publishes a list of the most popular dog breeds based on dog registration data.

The 2021 list shows:

– German Shepherds as the 4th most popular dog breed

– The AKC currently does not recognize the American Pit Bull as a registered dog breed, and it doesn’t feature on the list


However, various reports online indicate that Pit Bulls make up anywhere from 5.8% to 20% (depending on the breeds included as ‘Pitbulls’) of the US dog population.


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Appearance, Features, & Colors

German Shepherd

German Shepherds might commonly be known for the following appearance and physical features:

– Black and tan, or sometimes black and red coat color and saddle pattern (although other colors exist too)

– Erect ears/ears that stand up

– An angulated back and dropped hips (although body shape differs between the individual lines of GSDs)

– Generally medium length hair/plush coat, with a double coat (although, short and long haired GSDs exist too)


Having said that though, different German Shepherds have different physical features and appearances.

You can read about the different variations in German Shepherds, such the different lines, colors, and coat lengths/types here.


American Pit Bull

The American Pitbull might commonly be known for the following appearance and physical features:

– There’s a range of coat colors, such as black, blue, brindle, brown and more. Some have white on their face, chest and legs or feet as well

– Ears that stand up slightly, and curl or flop over the top. Some owners crop their dog’s ears too

– A stocky, muscular body, with a deep chest, and a square, compact head

– Generally a smooth and short coat length, with a single coat


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Temperament

Ultimately, a dog’s personality or temperament might be influenced by a range of factors, with genetics and breeding being key factors

So, this is why the temperament and personality of individual dogs don’t always match the general temperament descriptions found online

However, a generalized description of the temperament of each dog breed, according to either parts of the standard for each breed, or, what they were originally bred to be, might be:


German Shepherd

Intelligent, obedient and easier to train, loyal, confident, protective, and may be slightly aloof (without being aggressive)

May have the general temperament of a working breed dog or herding dog

Read more about what temperament GSDs were originally bred for, and what some breed standards outline for temperament and personality in this guide


American Pit Bull

Playful, energetic, confident, and loyal. Can be loving and affectionate towards it’s owner

Some Pit Bulls may still have some of the drive or instincts from their ancestry/breeding lines


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Intelligence

Intelligence testing for dogs can test for different things, and can also have limitations.

So, intelligence rankings for different breeds might be viewed as a guide only, and not definitive

One online ranking indicated that German Shepherds rank as the 3rd most intelligent dog breed

A separate report ranks specifically American Pit Bull Terriers as the 82nd most intelligent dog breed in the top 100


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Bite Force

The bite force of different dog breeds might be a generalized measurement only, and not definitive or comprehensive.

We list some of the reasons for this in a separate guide.

However, when referencing one ‘strongest dog bite force’ list, where bite force is expressed in psi (pounds of force per square inch), the bite force of each of these two breeds might be:

– German Shepherds might have a bite force of 238 psi 

– American Pit Bulls might have a bite force of 235 psi


German Shepherd vs Pit Bull – Cost/Price

The cost to buy a specific breed of dog depends on the country it’s bought from, along with a wide range of other factors.

Some general information on buying each breed though might include:


Buying From Breeders

According to different online information at the time of publishing this guide, the general cost to buy each of these breeds from breeders in the US might be:

– German Shepherd

Anywhere from $800 up to $10,000+ (for the highest quality dogs), with the average for a regular puppy potentially being around the $800 mark


– American Pit Bull

Anywhere from $500 up to $20,000 (depending on the breeder, color, and other factors), with the average for a regular puppy potentially being around the $1000 mark



Buying from a breeder may not be the only option to own each of these dog breeds.

Adopting or rescuing may be other options too.

The cost to adopt or rescue a dog can be significantly cheaper than buying from a breeder in some instances, although there’s usually still a basic cost to adopt/rescue a dog.



Buying a dog that is being re-homed might another option to buy a dog.

The cost for rehomed dogs can vary.


More Information On German Shepherds

It’s worth noting that some of the information in the guide above about German Shepherds comes from our ‘German Shepherd Breed Information Guide‘, which also has additional information about the German Shepherd breed.



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