Pit Bull Informational Pages
by Diane Jessup 

Understanding CORRECT pit bull conformation and WHY it is correct



The front does the steering, the "rear" is the powerhouse of the dog. Historically, a proper rear allowed a baiting/fighting dog to drive forward, side step and reverse quickly. A dog with a "straight" rear, when pushed backwards, will topple over or fall to the side while a dog with too much rear angulation becomes "wobbly" and weak.

Some fanciers feel the breed should have a tibia "longer" than the femur. It must be remembered that while it is better for a dog to have a bit "more rear" than "too little", putting an emphasis on a longer tibia is incorrect. The dog should be balanced.


Proper structure in a dog is the anatomical design which offers the least resistance to movement. When a dog is correctly built, she uses less energy to perform a task than a dog not so well built.


Take the picture of your dog and draw a line from what some folks call the "pin bone" (basically just past the anus) straight down to the ground. The line should fall just in front of the toes of the rear foot when the dog is standing naturally.

If the dog's rear feet are on the inside of that line, the dog is probably "straight" in the rear. If the rear feet are way back of this line, the dog may be "over-angulated" in the rear.

A "straight" rear. Several things are happening here. First, the dog's prosternum is low on the dog's body, drawing our attention to the dog's extremely short upper arm. This causes the dip in the back. Then the dog is so straight in the rear - this causing the high roach in the back. Remember, topline issues come from the front and rear assemblies, rarely from a problem with the spine. Notice that the dog is forced to carry his rear legs under him, to relieve the stress on his back. He stands like this because it is more comfortable for him.

There are some fanciers who consider a lower thigh longer than the upper thigh (longer tibia bone than femur bone) is advantageous to our breed. I am certainly no expert, so I will only relay what my research from those who do know more have concluded on this subject:

Consider there is no AKC breed other than the German shepherd which has a standard calling for this long lower thigh ratio. No breed is as universally mocked for its weak rear as the German shepherd! The longer the lower thigh becomes, the weaker the dog's rear becomes.

The lengthening of the lower thigh changes the center of gravity of the dog, sliding it backwards and placing greater stress on the lumbar area which is not built to cope with it. It also puts undue pressure on the stifle joint itself.

It is not uncommon to see over-angulated dogs (those with long lower thighs) that, as the age, "sink" in the rear - showing the weakness their muscles can no longer hide.


To check your dog's rear balance, pull their hind leg up so that the hock joint is up against the rump. The hock joint should be level with the point of the rear. If it falls short, the lower thigh is short. If the hock joint falls further out than the rump, the lower thigh is too long.

Slipping Hocks: A very common problem in the American pit bull is the "slipping hock" associated (most often) with a straight rear. Slipping hocks are hock joints which don't have connective tissue strong enough to hold the hock in place.

This causes wear and tear on the joint. If it is a painful condition, most dogs don't show it when young. This is a real issue for a working dog, and needs to be bred out of the breed. To see a video of a dog with severe slipping hock, CLICK HERE. (Watch left hind leg).

This dog shows the near hyper-extension seen in dogs with slipping hocks.

An easy test for slipping hocks is to place two fingers on your dog's hock. Gentle press forward. In a dog with strong hocks, the hock will not move forward. In a dog with slipping hocks, the hock will easily move forward into a hyperextended position. A dog may have one or both hocks slip.

Judges should check for this in the show ring.

Notice left hind leg in unnatural position. This dog shows an extreme case of slipping hock. When just standing, his hocks would slip. Arthritis may develop in these joint due to the constant unnatural movement. These animals are prone to serious injuries due to their wanting to jump and run while, sadly, not having a body which can support this behavior in the long run.



Patellar Luxation
See video above for male American Bulldog experiencing
patellar luxation Thank you Katherine Birch for this video.

Patellar luxation is the dislocation (slipping) of the patella (kneecap).  The patella is a small bone in front of the stifle joint.  This bone is held in place by ligaments and as the knee joint moves, the patella slides in a grove in the femur.  The patella may dislocate toward the inside or outside of the leg.  Patellar luxation can affect either or both legs.

Dogs with patellar luxation often show on and off lameness in one or both rear legs. They often have difficulty in straightening the knee and some pain in the stifle (knee) joint. It is said that one sign of this condition is if the hock joint point outward while the dog's toes point inward.

For an article on this condition:

Femoral Avulsion

When an active dog is very "straight" in the rear, as the leg straightens over and over, without sufficient angulation to "give", the strain can cause the ligament which runs over the kneecap to actually pull away at its attachment at the head of the femur. The ligament can, of course, tear in the middle, or at the point of attachment, but in cases of chronic strain it often results in a tibia or femoral avulsion fractures. Notice in the x-ray how a piece of the bone has been pulled away from the femur by sheer stress. Repeated fractures can occur over the life of the dog, and arthritis will develop.




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