The boxer is a powerful, athletic dog with a short, sleek coat, often fawn or brindle in color. Sturdily built, with a blunt muzzle and expressive eyes, the boxer usually features both cropped ears and tail. These fun-loving and intelligent dogs are well-suited for agility competitions, or for working as therapy or rescue dogs. Some boxers also enjoy the role of guard dog, a trait that hearkens back to the breed’s origins in Germany, a result of crossing the bullenbeisser with the English bulldog.
Molossians and Bullenbeissers
Now extinct, the bullenbeisser could trace its roots back to ancient times from a powerfully built line of mastiff-like dogs, with large heads and courageous temperaments found throughout Europe. These dogs, called Molossians or the Molossus after a city in what is now Albania, had been bred to fight in wars. From them, the Germans developed the first bullenbeissers, and these dogs became quite popular among the nobility in the 1700s due to their prowess at hunting game.
After Germany’s noble estates were broken up following the Napoleonic wars, the bullenbeisser became a butcher’s dog or a cattle dog. Around the same time, a smaller version of the dog was bred in Brabant, a city in northeast Belgium. This smaller, yet still sturdy, breed was used to hunt wild game, but also became popular as a family guard dog because of its endearing personality.
Around 1830, English bulldogs began making their way to Germany. White coloring occasionally was seen in the dog now called the boxer, which previously had been only fawn or brindle. But there was no true record of crossbreeding until 1895, when a boxer named Alt’s Schecken was bred with a white bulldog to produce Muehlbauer’s Flocki, the first boxer registered in a stud book.
Several other modern breeds share the boxer’s ancient beginnings. The Great Dane results from a crossing of the bullenbeisser with the wolfhounds or deer hounds of old. The English bulldog, who helped to create the boxer, is also a cousin of the breed, itself descending from the bullenbeisser. And it is speculated by some that the mastiffs we know today may be related to the early Molossian war dogs, as well.
Originally, boxers were very large and had a strong, tenacious bite that enabled them to keep their grips on fierce game animals, such as wild boars. Crossbreeding with the English bulldog helped to make the dog smaller, and today, the boxer is a medium-sized, though still well-muscled and bluntly muzzled dog of usually fawn or brindle color. The dogs remain protective in nature, but most boxers also have a playful, mischievous side and can channel their almost boundless energy into life as a beloved family pet.
Based outside Pittsburgh, Jamie Rankin began her career as a professional writer as a news and sports journalist with the "Daily Courier," a subsidiary of the "Pittsburgh Tribune-Review." Her work has appeared in both publications. Rankin, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University, has been writing sports and pet-related articles online since 2004.