Coyotes are one of the most common species of wild canids in North America. They normally live in forests, deserts, and grasslands, but they are extremely adaptable and opportunistic.
Easy access to food and potential prey – such as livestock and pets – has drawn coyotes closer to human settlements.
American pitbull terriers are muscular mid-sized dogs historically bred for fighting and blood sports. This makes some people wonder who would win a fight between a pitbull and a coyote.
Coyotes and pitbulls have about the same chances of winning a fight. Coyotes are larger and faster than pitbulls. Pitbulls are heavier and have a greater strike force than coyotes. They can also jump higher. However, coyotes have stronger bites and are wild animals that hunt and kill prey. The pitbull’s size and personality would likely determine the outcome.
The table below shows a quick overview of strength characteristics and differences between pitbulls and coyotes*:
|Height||21 to 24 inches||18 to 21 inches|
|Weight||20 to 50 pounds||30 to 75 pounds|
|Speed||43 mph||30 mph|
|Jumping abilities||3 feet||13 feet|
|Teeth length||1.45 inches||Approx. 1 inch|
|Bite force||727 PSI||313 PSI|
|Strike force||Up to 2,150 lb.-ft./s||Up to 2,250 lb.-ft./s|
|Behavior||Social; aggressive||Social; majorly friendly|
|Habitat||North & Central America||N/A|
|Conservation status||Least concern||Least concern; domestic breed|
*For comparison purposes, we considered the characteristics of Canis latrans species and pure breed American pitbull terriers according to the United Kennel Club. Strength data and facts may vary for different coyote subspecies and non-purebred pitbulls.
Strike forces in the table were calculated considering the maximum speed multiplied by the maximum weight mentioned for each species.
Coyote Vs. Pitbull: Key Differences And Similarities
The first difference between coyotes and pitbulls – albeit a minor one – is the size. Many people wrongfully believe that pitbulls are larger than coyotes. However, scientific observations and breed standards tell us otherwise.
According to scientists, coyotes can reach a height of 24 inches at shoulder level. They are also about 3.3 to 4.3 feet long.
According to the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA), pitbulls are up to 21 inches tall. That’s at least three inches shorter than some of the largest coyotes.
The United Kennel Club and ADBA don’t specify any standard regarding a pitbull’s length. However, observations of coyotes and pitbulls side-by-side show that they can reach similar lengths.
For both coyotes and pitbulls, females are generally smaller and weaker than males.
Despite their smaller size, pitbulls are bulky animals. These dogs were originally bred for fighting, and they have very muscular bodies. That’s why pitbulls are generally heavier than coyotes.
More specifically, pitbulls usually weigh between 30 and 60 pounds – but the ADBA standard says that they can weigh up to 75 pounds.
Coyotes have leaner bodies, generally weighing between 20 and 50 pounds. In a fight, this gives pitbulls an advantage.
Both pitbulls and coyotes are fast, but the latter is faster. More precisely, they can reach speeds up to 43 miles per hour, whereas pitbulls can only sprint up to 30 miles per hour.
A higher speed gives coyotes an advantage not only for pursuing the dog but also for escaping its attacks.
However, speed doesn’t guarantee victory. In fact, pitbulls have other aces up their sleeves that could turn the odds in their favor.
4. Jumping Abilities
While coyotes are fast, pitbulls can surely jump. As high as 13 feet into the air, to be more precise. They might not be as fast as coyotes when running, but they can cover an impressive distance with just one leap – something coyotes can’t do.
In fact, a coyote can only jump about three feet into the air. But just because they can’t jump too high, it doesn’t mean that coyotes can’t overcome vertical obstacles. In fact, coyotes have strong hind legs and can climb over fences when necessary.
In a potential fight against a pitbull, a coyote could use its climbing ability to flee.
5. Teeth Length
Another physical trait that could make a difference in a fight is the teeth length – and coyotes come out victorious in this department.
In fact, their canines are about 1.45 inches long. Meanwhile, pitbulls have teeth about one inch or slightly longer. There are no specific studies on pitbulls alone, but scientists claim that this is true for most dog breeds based on research.
Both species have strong and sharp teeth that can tear through flesh with a single bite.
6. Bite Force
Speaking about bites, coyotes also have an advantage when it comes to the actual bite force.
A study on the comparative bite force in big biting mammals concluded that coyotes have a bite force quotient – which is the bite force adjusted for body mass – of 88.
Their bite is weaker than a wolf’s or other wild animals, including bobcats, but would turn out to be around 727 PSI.
Comparatively, wolves have a bite force quotient of 136, which turns out to be over 1,000 PSI, depending on the specimen’s size.
There are no specific studies regarding the pitbull’s bite force.
However, general studies on the bite force in dogs concluded that large breed dogs have a bite force of up to 1,934 Newton. That’s about 313 PSI, which is about two times weaker than coyotes.
7. Strike Force
Coyotes may have longer teeth and stronger bites, but they are heavier than coyotes. This characteristic can give pitbulls an advantage, helping them gain a higher strike force.
This force is measured by multiplying the speed at the moment of the impact by the body mass.
Thus, a large pitbull weighing 75 pounds and running at full speed could generate an impact force up to 2,250 lb.-ft./s, which is about 70 pounds of force.
Coyotes might not be as heavy as pitbulls, but they are faster. A coyote weighing 50 pounds and running at full speed could generate an impact force of about 2,150 lb.-ft./s or 66 pounds.
While these numbers show that pitbulls are physically stronger than coyotes, the difference isn’t huge. As such, larger coyotes are often more powerful than smaller pitbulls.
Coyotes and pitbulls alike are social animals; however, the two have very different behaviors because one is a wild animal while the other is domestic.
Coyotes are semi-solitary creatures. They form packs and are monogamous, but they mostly prefer hunting or foraging alone.
Pitbulls, like most dogs, have a pack instinct, but they are domestic dogs. Even if pitbulls were originally bred for fighting, they are now mostly kept as family pets.
Still, they are considered dangerous dogs, and keeping them is restricted in some cities or states by breed-specific laws.
Coyotes and pitbulls are both territorial. Even though pitbulls that are not trained to be aggressive generally have a friendly personality, they often go after animals that get into their yards.
As wild animals, coyotes establish their territory in areas that are not already occupied by other lone coyotes or coyote packs.
Sometimes, their territory could coincide with that of a pitbull, especially in areas near forests or large parks.
Comparing a coyote’s and pitbull’s diet is near impossible because pitbulls generally eat what their owners feed them.
However, stray dogs – like coyotes – are carnivores but not strictly beholden to a protein-only diet. Dogs and coyotes alike eat meat, food scraps, and fruit or other vegetation.
Stray dogs, much like coyotes, often hunt small mammals, including rodents, lizards, snakes, and even cats.
While coyotes are unlikely to compete for food with pitbulls, clashes could happen if the pitbull is abandoned in a coyote’s territory.
Coyotes are very adaptable creatures found in almost all habitats across North and Central America. They can be found in forests, swamps, deserts, semi-arid areas, and grasslands.
As domestic animals, pitbulls don’t have a habitat. However, if they were to live in the wild, their habitat would be similar to that of coyotes.
Stray dog behavior shows that abandoned dogs can form packs with other strays, and, sometimes, they may even join coyote packs.
11. Conservation Status
Coyotes are a common species scattered across the entire North and Central America. They are not an endangered species.
Pitbulls are not endangered either. American pitbull terriers – and other breeds commonly labeled as pitbulls – are bred by passionate dog breeders according to the American Kennel Club standards.
Who Would Win A Fight?
Coyotes and pitbulls have similar sizes and strengths. The former has a stronger bite and is faster, but pitbulls are bulkier and are better jumpers. In a one-on-one, it would come down to the actual size of both pitbull and coyote.
A large coyote would always win against a smaller pitbull and vice versa. If the two are similar in size, the coyote would likely win thanks to its more aggressive behavior.
In fact, one of the main advantages coyotes would have in a fight is that they are wild animals. As such, they are agile hunters and rarely back down in a challenge.
Pitbulls may have been bred for fighting, but that’s in the past. Most pitbulls nowadays are kept as pets and are trained to follow the owner’s commands.
A dog that has grown up in a loving family and near humans may fight to protect its “pack” but generally has a more docile temperament. Moreover, the dog is also more likely to follow its owner and back away from a fight, as shown in this video:
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