There are many myths and a ton of misinformation surrounding the controversial issue of dog bites. You may have heard things like Chihuahuas are the breed most likely to bite (impossible to say) or that Pit Bulls have locking jaws (absolutely not true).
That misinformation continues when it comes to the force that various dog breeds can bite with. You’ll hear that one breed or another has the strongest bite — Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers are the usual suspects — or you’ll hear seemingly incredible figures listed for just how hard those pups can chomp down.
Here, we look at which breeds actually bite the hardest and just how hard (measured in pounds per square inch, or psi) that they can bite.
A Note Before We Begin
While the information on this list reflects our best understanding of the topic, it’s important to realize that there have only been a handful of reputable scientific studies that have looked at this issue, and virtually all of them have serious flaws.
For one thing, it’s hard to get a dog to chomp at full force on command. Some used measuring devices hidden in rawhide to test the bite strength, but a dog will use a different amount of force when biting on a tasty treat than they will when trying to inflict serious damage on something that they view as a threat. Others anesthetized dogs and then stimulated their jaw muscles with an electrical current. Again, this removes the intention behind the bite, possibly skewing the results along the way.
The location of the bite matters too. A dog that’s using their front teeth can’t bite down with as much force as they would if they got their molars involved. Also, keep in mind that much of the damage from a dog’s bite doesn’t come from the initial chomp so much as the shake that follows it, so this might all be a fool’s errand, anyway.
We should also note that as best we can tell, given the information that we have now, breed may not be the most reliable factor when it comes to predicting bite force (and there’s no data on mutts whatsoever). Rather, the size and shape of the dog’s head are more useful for determining how hard they’ll chomp; a big dog with a wide head will bite likely harder than a smaller dog with a more narrow head, regardless of breed.
With all that said, let’s look at the breeds that have scored the highest on many of these bite-force tests. Given the previous information, though, it’s not hard to predict which types of breeds will be at the top of the list.
The Breeds With the Strongest Bites
20. Belgian Malinois (195 psi)
Also known as the Belgian Shepherd, the Malinois is a shepherding dog that’s a close relative of the German Shepherd. These are medium-sized dogs, weighing in between 40 and 70 pounds on average, but they’re known for being tenacious, athletic, and courageous.
The breed is often used by police and military organizations around the world due to their intelligence, obedience, and their fearsome bites. Many a fleeing criminal has stopped and rethought their life choices after seeing one of these pups in hot pursuit.
19. English Bulldog (210 psi)
These adorable little pups were originally bred for bull-baiting, which was a horrific practice in which bulls were tied to a stake and had dogs unleashed on them. The dogs would be expected to grab the bull’s nose and hold on, so a strong bite was essential in the formation of the breed.
Today’s English Bulldogs are more likely to sink their teeth into your couch than another animal, but they’re still capable of generating tremendous force behind their chomps.
18. Chow Chow (220 psi)
Chow Chows were bred for use as war and guard dogs in ancient China, and we can bet that many a soldier lost their will to fight after seeing a pack of these vicious furballs headed their way. They look like lions, and they can be just as menacing if they feel like it.
While Chow Chows can be wonderful pets, they tend to cling to one owner and react suspiciously toward outsiders. When combined with their powerful jaws, that makes for a breed that needs a ton of obedience work and socialization if you expect to keep one in your home.
17. Dutch Shepherd (224 psi)
The Dutch Shepherd is basically a different iteration of the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd. Like their cousins, Dutch Shepherds are often used by law enforcement in various countries and for the same reasons.
This breed nearly went extinct following WWII, as many animals either starved or were confiscated by the German military for use in their armed forces. While the breed is still rare, their usefulness — including their powerful bites — is what has kept them around to this day.
16. Alano Español (227 psi)
Many people have never even heard of the Alano Español, let alone know enough about them to be worried about their bites. Known as the Spanish Bulldog, this breed traveled the world with Spanish explorers from the 14th century on, and they were prized for their courageousness in battle.
This is a large breed, often tipping the scales at 90 pounds. They’re known for having dominant personalities but being submissive to their owners, and they’re best left to those with significant experience training large breeds.
15. Doberman Pinscher (228 psi)
There was a time when Dobermans were thought to be the most intimidating, vicious dogs in the world. That reputation was largely unearned (and the mantle has largely been usurped by Pit Bulls, which is also unfair), but there’s no denying that these dogs are capable of serious chomping action if properly motivated.
These dogs are incredibly intelligent and fiercely loyal, which makes them one of the best guard dog breeds in the world. However, they can also be quite loving and patient with their families, and they have a sweet heart beating underneath that menacing exterior.
14. Boxer (230 psi)
Boxers are big, athletic dogs, so it makes sense that they’d perform well on a test like this. However, they’re nowhere near as big or intimidating as some of the breeds at the top of this list.
Many of the breeds shown here have reputations for being violent or dangerous, but that’s largely untrue of Boxers. However, given the considerable amount of force that they can apply in a single bite, you should still treat them with respect, as they’re capable of doing serious damage if they feel like it.
13. Pit Bull (235 psi)
This ranking may come as a shock to some people, as it’s often thought that Pit Bulls have the most powerful bite of any breed. The truth is that while they’re capable of putting serious force behind each of their nibbles, they don’t even crack the top 10.
However, it’s important to remember that many “Pit Bulls” are actually mixes, and those mixes may include breeds that are capable of even harder bites than Pibbles can muster. As a result, unless you’re dealing with a purebred Pit Bull, you may never know just how strong the dog’s bite can be.
12. German Shepherd (238 psi)
Like the Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd, German Shepherds are big and athletic, and they’re prized by militaries and law enforcement organizations around the world. While these can be intimidating working dogs, they’re also popular as family pets due to their goofy and loving nature.
If German Shepherds are so closely related to the Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd, why are their bites more ferocious? For one thing, they tend to be a tiny bit bigger than their cousins, but there’s also the possibility that the data is flawed, so take that information with a grain of salt.
11. American Bulldog (305 psi)
American Bulldogs are basically the larger cousins of Pit Bulls and English Bulldogs, and as we’ve mentioned, size seems to be the biggest factor when determining bite strength. Like their smaller counterparts, though, American Bulldogs are generally sweet, amiable dogs.
However, that does depend on how they’re raised. If you don’t train and socialize these pups from an early age, they could be dangerous, as they’re strong-willed. You absolutely do not want to own a strong-willed, disobedient dog that’s capable of generating 305 psi with each bite, so take their training seriously.
10. Rottweiler (328 psi)
Of the three breeds (Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and German Shepherds) that are most commonly suspected of having the strongest bites in the dog world, it’s actually the Rottweiler that can put the most oomph behind each nibble. They still barely cracked the top 10 overall, though.
Rotties are big and intimidating animals, and they can be dangerous (especially toward strangers) if not properly trained and socialized. This is also a clingy breed, however, and owning a Rottie can be much like having a 100-pound baby that cries every time you leave the room.
9. Leonberger (399 psi)
These shaggy, goofy giants aren’t the most well-known breed, but given their size (they often weigh more than 150 pounds), it’s no surprise that they can pack a wallop with each bite. Unlike many of the other breeds on this list, though, Leonbergers are primarily used for search-and-rescue purposes rather than guard duty or police work.
They were likely originally bred to guard livestock, and that would entail fighting off bears, wolves, and other scary beasts (hence their massive size). Today, though, they’re often used as water rescue animals, and all that power comes in handy when you need to pull a drowning human out of a lake.
8. Dogo Argentino (500 psi)
This South American pup is often confused with Pit Bulls or American Bulldogs, but they actually have little in common with either breed. They were originally created when the now-extinct Cordoba Fighting Dog was combined with other large breeds, like Great Danes, Dogues de Bordeaux, Irish Wolfhounds, and Pyrenean Mastiffs.
The breed was created in 1928 by a doctor named Antonio Nores Martinez. Martinez wanted an animal that was capable of both assisting on big game hunts and protecting his home, all while serving as a loyal, loving companion. The result was a highly social breed that’s now often used as a therapy dog (although they also do police work on the side).
7. Presa Canario (540 psi)
The Presa Canario, or Spanish Mastiff, has long been prized for their fearsome stature. These dogs often weigh more than 150 pounds, and they’ve been used as war dogs, guard dogs, and even fighting dogs over their long history. These dogs can be sweet, loving, and obedient, but they need a great deal of training and socialization to ensure that they stay that way.
6. English Mastiff (552 psi)
The English Mastiff is usually just referred to as “the Mastiff” by most kennel clubs, so they’re often used as the baseline of what a Mastiff-type dog should be. This is likely due to the fact that kennel clubs started in England rather than any sort of historical claim to primacy by the breed, however.
English Mastiffs are loving, even-tempered dogs, and while they’re capable of putting a hurting on someone with their jaws, they’re generally loathe to do so. As a result, you’ll rarely see these dogs used by militaries or law enforcement, although they can make great guard dogs by virtue of their intimidating size alone.
5. Tosa Inu (556 psi)
The Tosa Inu, or Japanese Mastiff, is every bit as large and intimidating as any of their cousins. However, these dogs tend to be reserved and watchful, whereas many other Mastiff-type dogs are goofy and playful.
Tosa Inus have largely even temperaments, but they need quite a bit of socialization and obedience work all the same. You should pay particular attention to how they interact with other dogs, as they can be violent and short-tempered with dogs that they regard as threats to their families or property.
4. Dogue de Bordeaux (556 psi)
The Dogue de Bordeaux (the French Mastiff) is an old breed that dates back to at least the 14th century. These huge dogs were put to work doing all sorts of things on farms, including pulling carts, and guarding livestock.
This is one of the oldest Mastiff-type breeds on the planet, with many people believing that they descended directly from the Greek Molossus, which was a giant war dog thought to be the forebear of all modern Mastiffs.
3. Cane Corso (700 psi)
Our tour of the world’s Mastiff population brings us to Italy and the Cane Corso, or Italian Mastiff. These dogs were once incredibly common all throughout the country, but now they are mostly relegated to the southern region of Puglia.
Cane Corsos aren’t quite as massive as other Mastiff-type breeds, as they usually weigh “only” 110 pounds or so. However, they tend to be much more muscular than their cousins, which explains why they’re capable of putting so much force behind their bites.
2. Bandog (730 psi)
This breed (also known as the Bandog Mastiff) dates back to England sometime around the 13th century, and they’re believed to be a mix of the Pit Bull Terrier and Neapolitan Mastiff. It’s likely that there’s other DNA mixed in there, however, with Bullenbeissers being one of the most commonly cited possibilities.
This breed is rare, and it’s not usually recognized by kennel clubs or other governing bodies. The name comes from the fact that they were “banded up” — or chained — until they were needed as guard or war dogs, so they have quite the fearsome history. Despite that terrifying backstory, though, this can be an emotionally needy breed, so don’t be surprised if you have a 125-pound lapdog on your hands.
1. Kangal (743 psi)
The Kangal, or Kangal Shepherd, is the only breed in the top seven that isn’t a Mastiff of some sort; rather, this is a Turkish dog whose origins are believed to trace back to central Asia. They’ve long been used as herding dogs, and they’ve been expected to fight off lions, wolves, bears, jackals, and more, so it’s no surprise that their jaws are deadly weapons.
These are working dogs through and through, and while they can make good pets, they’ll always be on duty. They’re protective of their families and can be aloof toward strangers, but if you socialize them properly, they can be loving, loyal guardians.
Putting These Numbers in Perspective
Listing the bite force that a dog can generate may not help much if you don’t have a good idea of just how much 743 psi is. With that in mind, let’s look at what some other members of the animal kingdom can do with their teeth.
Humans aren’t known for being particularly menacing biters (but don’t say that to a toddler), as we can only generate a measly 120 psi on average with our chompers.
Surprisingly enough, while dogs can certainly bite down with some power, not even the mighty Kangal would make the top 10 of all animal species in terms of bite force.
Here are the animals that would, however:
- Hyenas (1,110 psi)
- Grizzly Bears (1,160 psi)
- Polar Bears (1,200 psi)
- Gorillas (1,300 psi)
- Bull Sharks (1,350 psi)
- Jaguars (1,500 psi)
- Hippopotamuses (1,800 psi)
- American Alligators (2,125 psi)
- Saltwater Crocodiles (3,700 psi)
- Nile Crocodiles (5,000 psi)
So the next time your dog bites your hand while trying to get a treat, you can always take a moment to be grateful that you don’t have a Nile Crocodile as a pet.
Does a Stronger Bite Make for a More Dangerous Dog?
It’s easy to automatically assume that this list would also double as a ranking of the 20 most dangerous dog breeds. After all, the harder that a dog can bite, the more dangerous they must be, right?
Things aren’t that simple. While it’s true that the dogs on this list can theoretically do more damage with a bite than any breed not listed, that’s only part of the equation.
You also have to take into consideration the likelihood that a particular breed will bite, and unfortunately, we don’t have much reliable data on that. It also depends on whom they’re chomping down on, as a Jack Russell Terrier may not pose much risk to a full-grown adult, but they can potentially kill a baby.
Most of the data on dog attacks is from eyewitness reports, however, and that makes for incredibly unreliable information. Also, most dog attacks that are reported are going to be severe in nature, so there are likely millions of instances of dog bites that aren’t reported (and therefore, aren’t tabulated in aggression studies) every year.
Based on what we know, mutts are the dogs most likely to kill or maim humans. However, mutts are also by far the most common breed, so that doesn’t necessarily make them more dangerous than purebred pups. You also have to take into account the breeds involved in a mutt’s genetic background, how they’re raised, and a whole host of other factors.
At the end of the day, any dog can bite, and some dogs can bite harder than others. That may make them more dangerous in theory, but in practice, things are significantly more complicated than that. So, if you want to adopt a Kangal, by all means, do so. Just be sure to thoroughly train and socialize them.
Featured Image Credit: V_Lisovoy, Shutterstock
Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. Quincy never intended to be a cat person. When his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn’t self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with the dogs and three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he’s a cat person now too, isn’t he???