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The Red Nose Pit Bull: Myths and Realities - PawSafe

The Red Nose Pit Bull: Myths and Realities

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

The Red Nose Pit Bull

Nowadays, some of the most famous Pit Bulls are Red Nose pits, such as Cesar Millan’s Daddy or the biggest Pit Bull in the world, Hulk

Today, breeders advertise Red Nose Pit Bull puppies, or even “pink” nose Pit Bulls for high prices, claiming they are rare. 

But what is a Red Nose Pit, exactly?  And what’s the difference between a Red and Blue Nose Pit? Are Red Nose Pit Bulls more aggressive? Why do some look like they have pink noses? And how long do Pit Bulls live? 

The Pit Bull is a polarizing and emotional topic. Some people condemn them as dangerous man eaters, while others insist any aggression in pits is only because of how they were raised. To really understand the dogs and answer the questions above, we need to look at all the facts.

What is a Pit Bull?

Despite popular misconception, a Pit Bull is not a breed. It is a type of dog under which other breeds fall. 

A similar example is the Retriever. Retriever is an umbrella term for many breeds, including the Golden Retriever, the Labrador Retriever, or the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

What are the Four Pit Bull Breeds or Types?

There are many dogs that have the general Pit Bull look. However, there are only four recognized Pit Bull-type breeds. These are the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bully.

History of the Red Nose Pit Bull

Contrary to what many might say, dogs are not born a blank slate. Rather, they have certain traits handed down to them through generations of selective breeding. This is why a Border Collie instinctively tries to herd or why a pointer points. 

Sadly, Pit Bulls have a bloody history of selective breeding. 

They trace their lineage back to the Olde English Bulldogge. Now extinct, the Bulldogge was used in bear fighting as far back as the days of Shakespeare and earlier. 

When the bears ran out, the dogs were used for bull-baiting. They were famous for their ferocity but deemed too stupid to train. When bull-baiting became illegal, the dogs were soon kept for the notorious dogfighting.

They were not bred as a specific breed and were often crossed with other dogs such as terriers to increase their speed and agility in the pit. Hence the name; the Pit Bull Terrier.

In 1976, dog fighting became illegal in the USA. Soon after, Pit Bulls were unfairly demonized in the media. They were banned in parts of Canada and countries like the UK. 

The media storm of the 1980s showed a profound misunderstanding of Pit Bulls. Understandably, this caused a backlash amongst Pit Bull enthusiasts and created an emotionally charged topic.

Red Nose Pit Bull Origins

It’s hard to put a date on when the first copper or red-colored puppy was born with a reddish-brown nose. In fact, Pitties are likely descended from the mastiff-type dogs that came to England with the Romans. 

It’s possible some of them had the classic red coloring even then. 

But in real Pit Bull enthusiast circles, “Red Nose” refers to a bloodline that dates back to 18th century Ireland. This is the Old Family Red Nose strain of Pit Bulls who were closely bred for their tenacity and “gameness” in the pit. 

This line-breeding in the Old Family Red Nose made most of them look similar, with the iconic red coloring.

In the dogfighting world, a dog being “game” means that it will literally die before it quits fighting. Meanwhile, “curs” or dogs that gave up or tried to run away, were culled and removed from the bloodlines.

Originally only bred by a small group of breeders such as Bob Lightner, the Old Red Nose Family strain made its way to America, where it still exists today. 

It is one of several famous Pit Bulls lines, including the Jeep, Colby, and Gottiline Pit Bulls.

What are the Characteristics of the Old Family Red Strain?

Characteristics of the Old Family Red Strain
Height17 – 19 inches
Weight30 – 85 pounds
Lifespan12 to 14 years
ColorReddish-brown, copper, or liver. May have dilute variations.
NoseRed or brown

Genuine Old Family Reds are extremely rare as outcrossing, and careless breeding, almost eliminated the line. Only a few real Old Family Red breeders are left, so watch out for inbreeding and false advertising.

Dogs who really trace their lineage back to the Old Family Reds are known for their gameness and extreme athleticism. These are dogs that are up for anything and will give you 110%. 

They are also known to be good family dogs that love children. Even so, they are powerful and often intense with unwavering tenacity. Thus, they don’t always fit in well with multiple pet homes and they can be overwhelming for inexperienced owners.

How Big do Red Nose Pit Bulls Get?

The average height of a Red Nose depends on the breed of Pit Bull it belongs to. The American Pit Bull Terrier stands between 17 and 19 inches at the top of the withers. They weigh between 30 and 85 pounds. 

But, XL Red Nose Bullies like Hulk weigh up to 174 pounds. So, there can be a lot of variation in the non-APBT bully breeds.


What is a Red Nose Pit Bull, Really?

A Red Nose Pit Bull is a Pit Bull with a red, liver, or copper coat. It has a classic “red” or brown nose leather, lips, and nails with striking yellow or amber eyes. It may have white markings.

A Red Nose Pit Bull usually refers to an American Pit Bull Terrier. Still, the color may crop up in any of the Pit Bull breeds.

More often than not, breeders will sell Red Nose puppies for a higher price, claiming they are rare. This is not true since only those that genuinely come from the Old Family Red Nose line are rare. A quick google search should show you plenty of Red Nose pit breeders not from this line.

Do Pit Bulls Have Pink Noses?

A pink nose is no different from a red nose. A nose that looks pink is simply a nose that lacks pigment.

Sometimes a pink nose Pit Bull may have its pink nose because it has albinism. In this case, it may be white with blue eyes. A dog with white on in its snout may also have a pink nose because the surrounding skin is pink.

Other times, the nose may look pink because it is actually a red dog with a dilute gene. A dilute gene causes less melanin in the coat. This results in the cream, lilac (isabella), or champagne colors.

Remember, less pigment can mean problems such as sunburn or skin sensitivities.

What’s the Difference Between a Red Nose and Blue Nose Pit Bull?

The only difference between the Red Nose and the Blue Nose Pit Bull is color. 

A Blue Nose Pit Bull is actually a black Pit Bull that has inherited the dilute gene. This gives the impression that the black has been “washed out” to a bluish-grey color. They also have the classic blue nose. 

Breeding for color encourages inbreeding. The blue coloring is not that rare. In fact, a simple black Pit Bull may be preferable since it may be more in need of a good home because of Black Dog Syndrome.


Pit Bulls are not hypoallergenic, and they do shed. But, their coat is short and easily maintained.

General Care of a Red Nose Pit Bulls

Red Nose Pit Bull’s General Care
SheddingMild to moderate
ExerciseAt least an hour of vigorous exercise daily.
HousingCan adapt to apartments provided it has adequate exercise and stimulation. Does best with a yard, living indoors.
TemperamentActive, loyal, extremely focused on the owner. May be reactive to other animals
TrainabilityHighly trainable.
Responds well to praise, rewards, and loves to be challenged.


Most Pit Bulls are energetic, athletic, and muscular dogs. They often need tons of daily exercise and mental stimulation—plan for at least 60 mins of vigorous exercise for your Pit Bull every day.


Pit Bulls are tough dogs and reasonably adaptable. But they do best when they’re as close to their owners as possible, as they are very people-orientated and devoted companions. Their short coats and short noses mean they need to be watched in both hot and cold climates. 

While they love being indoors with their humans, they do enjoy a garden to romp in.

Food & Diet Requirements

Speak to your vet about the best diet for your Red Nose Pit Bull. Their dietary requirements may differ depending on their age or activity level. Diets can also be influenced by allergies or digestive problems.

In general, they do well on a high protein diet and often need more calories than other dogs their size. They may do well on a raw diet, but make sure you do your research to keep their diet balanced.


A simple brush every other day or so with a good pet grooming glove is enough. Only an occasional bath should be necessary, as too many baths strip their coat of their natural oils. 

They will also need their nails regularly trimmed using a quality clipper or grinder. Furthermore, their ears and teeth should be cleaned to prevent infection and inflammation.

The Health of a Red Nose Pit Bulls


A Pit Bull is an active dog that needs a lot of exercise to prevent behavioral problems. Luckily, the Pittie intensity and tenacity can be channeled into fun and productive sports.

They excel at weight-pulling, agility, dock jumping, IPO, search and rescue, herding, hunting, or wall jumping. Clearly, they are among the world’s most versatile breeds.

Severe Health ProblemsHip dysplasia
Patellar luxation
Heart disease
Cerebellar Ataxia
Mild to Moderate Health ProblemsSkin disorders (ranging from allergies to tumors)
Cranial Cruciate Ligament tears

Color Dilution Alopecia
Occasional Health ProblemsObesity

Although the Pit Bull is a robust dog, inbreeding and diluted color genes can cause some issues. 

Most commonly, they have been known to suffer from hip dysplasia. Sometimes they develop a condition that causes degeneration of the spinal column in older dogs. They also have a problem with dislocating kneecaps.

Skin problems are common because of the short coat. And special care needs to be taken with dilute colors. 

These paler dogs may need sunscreen. They also should be monitored for skin allergies and issues such as Color Dilution Alopecia in dogs with diluted coats.


The American Pit Bull Terrier usually lives between 12  and 14 years.

The Trainability of a Red Nose Pit Bulls: Temperament and Intelligence

A Red Nose Pit Bull is a highly trainable and versatile dog who brings a “never quit” attitude to everything they do. 

This can be great when funneled into a sport like weight-pulling. However, it’s less great if they’re left at home alone bored and decide to vent their frustrations on your couch!

They are often intense dogs who are unwaveringly loyal and dedicated to their owners. They are eager to please and are very intelligent. This makes training simple for anybody who can handle their high energy levels and channel their tenacity. 

As breeders breed away from the old fighting lines and more for companionship and sport, we will see more pits that fit well in the average home. 

If you are considering bringing a Pit Bull into your home, be sure it is from a reputable breeder and that it will make a good companion.

Are Red Nose Pit Bulls More Aggressive?

Red Nose Pit Bulls are very unlikely to bite a person. This is a relic from their fighting days when owners had to intervene in a fight without being bit themselves. This means most of them make poor guard dogs.

The problem arises with the very few aggressive individuals. These dogs can do far more damage than just about any other dog. This is because a Pit Bull will hold on as long as possible. It will also shake its head to cause tremendous damage. 

This does not mean their jaws are “locking,” as the common myth says. But it does mean that Pit Bull attacks have a 10% mortality rate. They are responsible for more actual deaths in the USA than any other breed. 

But the argument around Pit Bull aggression is nuanced and complicated. After all, evidence suggests that owners of aggressive Pit Bulls are more likely to have criminal backgrounds. This could explain something about their dogs’ aggression. 

In short, some pits may need experienced handlers, and breeders should be thoroughly vetted. But a well-bred Red Nose Pit Bull is usually a devoted and integral family member. So, there is no reason to avoid this breed just because of its reputation.

Sociability with Other Pets

Unfortunately, the Red Nose Pit Bull may not be good with other pets. Many have a high prey drive and will chase and harass smaller animals. Their dogfighting genes are also sometimes still strong, and many Pit Bulls are intolerant of other dogs. In some cases, this is a dog best raised without other pets.

But Pitties are individuals, and with a bit of searching, it is not too hard to find one that can be fine with other animals.

The Importance of Socializing Your Red Nose Pit

As ASPCA states, genetics are not solely responsible for a dog’s behavior. A red-nose Pit Bull that is socialized and trained from a young age with clear boundaries and discipline can become the perfect companion.

Many of them go on to become friends with other animals and are easily kept in a pack. Early socialization in Red Nose Pit Bulls can go a long way to avoiding behavioral problems later on.

Suitable Home

Most Red Nose Pit Bulls need an active and experienced home. They do best with a dedicated owner who can channel their tenacity into a fun sport or activity. They tend to love children but should be supervised and never left alone with them since they are still powerful dogs.

Raising a Red Nose Pit Bull puppy

A Red Nose Pit Bull puppy should be carefully monitored so that undesirable behavior like destructive chewing or dominance can be nipped in the bud early. 

A vet should be consulted about their ideal diet, and potty and crate training should begin from day one. Socialization and obedience training should begin shortly after. 

Choose an excellent no-pull harness since these pups often hurt their necks on collars, but keep their exercise structured while growing to prevent stress on their joints.

How Much Does a Red Nose Pit Bull cost?

Red Nose Pit Bull puppies go for between $1,000 and $3,000.

Alternatively, it may be better to adopt one on sites like Pit Bull Rescue Central.–

Love them or fear them, a Red Nose Pit Bull is a devoted and loyal dog that has enriched many people’s lives. The coloring may not be as rare as some breeders pretend. Yet, it is still a beautiful animal that deserves the same chance for a loving home as any other dog. If you love Pit Bulls, please comment below and tell us about your experience.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.