American Pit Bull Terrier looking at the camera
American Pit Bull Terrier

Pit Bulls, known for their strength and loyalty, are considered illegal in the United Kingdom due to the Dangerous Dogs Act passed in 1991. This Act was introduced after incidents involving aggressive dogs put Pit Bulls under scrutiny due to their muscular build and potential for aggression if not properly trained. With the prohibition, the UK government hopes to ensure public safety from potential canine attacks. This ban, however, has been somewhat contentious and often misunderstood. Let’s look at the reasons behind it and its implications.

Pit Bulls are considered illegal in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991. The law was introduced for public safety after several incidents involving aggressive dogs. The Pit Bull Terrier is one of four breeds banned in the UK, along with the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro. This prohibition came into effect in August 1991.

However, it’s important to note that being illegal doesn’t mean they’re absent in the UK. Some Pit Bull-like dogs may still exist if they’re on the exemption list, meaning they’re not deemed a threat to the public. These dogs must be microchipped, neutered, kept on a leash in public, muzzled, and insured. The owner must also register and keep their dog’s details current.

The definition of a pit bull in the Act is based on physical appearance, not breed or name. This has been criticized as it could lead to friendly dogs being seized just because of how they look, irrespective of their temperament or the owner’s ability to control them.

When were Pit Bulls made illegal?

The UK government banned American Pit Bull Terriers in 1991 under the Dangerous Dogs Acts.

Why was the Pit Bull banned?

The UK Government banned the Pit Bull breed due to several unprovoked attacks on humans. There were fifteen severe attacks in ten years starting from 1981 in England and Wales.

About The American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier puppy yawning
American Pit Bull Terrier puppy

Pit Bulls were originally bred from the Old English Bulldogs, and they became popular in the British Isles in the 1800s. Pit Bulls were used in a cruel blood sport called bull baiting. In 1936, the American Pit Bull Terriers became popular with US ranchers and farmers. They were perfect for protection, companionship, and catching hogs and cattle.

  • Weight Male: 16 – 30 KG
  • Weight Female: 14 – 27 KG
  • Life Expectancy: 8 – 15 years
  • Height Male: 45 – 53 cm
  • Height Female: 43 – 50 cm
  • Origin: UK, USA
  • Temperament: Clownish, Stubborn, Strong-Willed, Affectionate, Friendly, Obedient, Intelligent, Loyal, Courageous
  • Colours: Black, White, Brindle, Fawn, Tan, Grey, Blue, Brown, Red

Other banned dangerous dog breeds in the UK?

Japanese Tosa

Japanese Tosa standing on grass
Japanese Tosa

They originated from Tosa in Shikoku, one of Japan’s five main islands. Japanese Tosa was bred primarily as a fighting dog. The UK has banned the Japanese Tosa, and other countries have also banned the breed.

Weight: 36 – 61 KG
Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years
Height: 62 – 82 cm
Origin: Japan
Temperament: Suspicious, Intelligent, Fearless, Sensitive, Aggressive, Brave
Colours: Red, Brindle, Fawn and Black

Dogo Argentino

Dogo Argentino standing on rocks at the beach
Dogo Argentino

Originating from Argentina, the Dogo Argentino are usually white, with big muscles. They were bred primarily for hunting big game, like wild boar. They are fearless and very protective of their human companions.

Weight Male: 40 – 45 KG
Weight Female: 35 – 40 KG
Life Expectancy: 10 – 15 years
Height Male: 60 – 68 cm
Height Female: 60 – 65 cm
Origin: Argentina
Temperament: Affectionate, Friendly, Cheerful, Loyal, Protective, Tolerant, Fearless
Colours: White

Fila Brasileiro

Fila Brasileiro tan colour standing
Fila Brasileiro

Originating from Brazil, the Fila Brasileiro is a large dog breed. They were mainly used for hunting. Their unique hunting ability is not to attack the prey; they trap it for their human companion to arrive.

Weight Male: 64 – 82 KG
Weight Female: 57 – 73 KG
Life Expectancy: 9 – 11 years
Height Male: 65 – 75 cm
Height Female: 60 – 70 cm
Origin: Brazil
Temperament: Docile, Obedient, Determined, Loyal, Courageous, Brave
Colours: Black, Brindle, Yellow, Red

Risk of Prohibition: The American Bully XL Potentially on the Banned Breed List by 2023

A American Bully XL dog showing his muscles with tongue out

Renowned for their muscular build and tough demeanour, yet gentle and playful nature, the American Bully XL is under scrutiny. However, due to recent aggression incidents, it could be added to the list of prohibited breeds by the close of 2023.

Other dog breeds that share similar reputations that are not banned

Resources: Confirmation found here from the UK government


In conclusion, banning Pit Bulls and similar breeds in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 was primarily a response to public safety concerns following multiple incidents involving aggressive dogs. Despite the ban, some exceptions exist, allowing Pit Bull-like dogs to remain in the UK under strict conditions to ensure public safety. However, this controversial law, which bases a dog’s legality on physical appearance rather than behaviour or breed, has been criticized for potentially leading to the unnecessary targeting of friendly dogs. Despite the ban’s intentions, the debate over its effectiveness and fairness continues.

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