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HISTORY OF THE BOXER BREED

History

The ancestors of this breed were the German Bullenbeisser, a dog of Mastiff descent, and the English Bulldog. The Bullenbeisser had been working as a hunting dog for centuries, employed in the pursuit of bear, wild boar, and deer. Its task was to seize the prey and hold it until the hunters arrived. In later years, faster dogs were favoured and the Bullenbeisser grew smaller and was then called the Brabanter.

Boxers on the first boxer exhibition, Munich 1895
Boxers on the first boxer exhibition, Munich 1895

In the late 19th century, the Brabanter was crossed with an English Bulldog to start the line that would become the modern Boxer. In 1894, three Germans by the name of Roberth, Konig, and Hopner decided to stabilise the breed and put it on exhibition at a dog show. This was done in Munich in 1895, and the next year they founded the first Boxer Club.

The breed was introduced to other parts of Europe in the late 1800s and to the United States around the turn of the century. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognised the first Boxer champion in 1915.

During World War I, the Boxer was co-opted for military work, acting as a valuable messenger dog, pack-carrier, attack dog, and guard dog.

It was not until after World War II that the Boxer became popular around the world. Boxer mascots, taken home by returning soldiers, introduced the dog to a much wider audience and it soon became a favourite as a companion animal, as a show dog, and as a guard dog.

Early genealogy

Boxer early genealogy chart
Boxer early genealogy chart

The German citizen George Alt, a Munich resident, mated a brindle-coloured bitch Brabanter imported from France named Flora with a local dog of unknown ancestry, know simply as "Boxer", resulting in a fawn-and-white male, named "Lechner´s Boxer" after its owner. This dog was mated with his own dam Flora, and one of its offsprings was the bitch called Alt´s Schecken. George Alt mated Schecken with an English Bulldog named Tom to produce the historically significant dog Flocki, the first boxer to enter the German Stud Book after winning at a Munich show for St. Bernards, which was the first event to have a class specific for Boxers.

The white bitch Ch. Blanka von Angertor, Flocki´s sister, was even more influential when mated with Piccolo von Angertor (Lechner´s Boxer grandson) to produce the predominantly white bitch Meta von der Passage, which, even bearing little resemblance with the modern Boxer standard (early photographs depicts her as too long, weak-backed and down-faced), is considered the mother of the breed. John Wagner, on his The Boxer (first published in 1939) said the following regarding this bitch:

"Meta von der Passage played the most important role of the five original ancestors. Our great line of sires all trace directly back to this female. She was a substantially built, low to the ground, brindle and white parti-color, lacking in underjaw and exceedingly lippy. As a producing bitch few in any breed can match her record. She consistently whelped puppies of marvelous type and rare quality. Those of her offspring sired by Flock St. Salvator and Wotan dominate all present-day pedigrees. Combined with Wotan and Mirzl children, they made the Boxer."

Breed name

The name "Boxer" is supposedly derived from this breed's tendency to begin a fight by standing on its hind legs and "boxing" with its front paws. According to Andrew H. Brace on his "Pet owner's guide to the Boxer" this theory is the least plausible explanation, claiming it's unlikely that a nation so permeated with nationalism like Germany would give to one of its most famous breeds a name so obviously anglicised. Brace states that there exist many other theories to explain the origin of the breed name, some claiming the smaller Bullenbeisser (Brabanter) were also known as "Boxl" and that Boxer is just a corruption of that word.

Temperament

A one-year-old brindle and a 2-month-old fawn Boxer.
A one-year-old brindle and a 2-month-old fawn Boxer.
A 5-year-old brindle female coexisting peacefully with house cat.
A 5-year-old brindle female coexisting peacefully with house cat.

 

The character of the Boxer is of the greatest importance and demands the most careful attention. He is renowned for his great love and faithfulness to his master and household, his alertness, and fearless courage as a defender and protector. The Boxer is docile but distrustful of strangers. He is bright and friendly in play but brave and determined when roused. His intelligence and willing tractability, his modesty, and cleanliness make him a highly desirable family dog and cheerful companion. He is the soul of honesty and loyalty. He is never false or treacherous even in his old age.

Boxers are a bright, energetic and playful breed and tend to be very good with children. It's best if obedience training is started early since they also have a strong personality and therefore can be harder to train when older. Boxers earned a slight reputation of being "headstrong", which can be related to poor obedience-training. This, plus their strength might present a challenge for a first-time dog owner. It is also equally true that Boxers have a very long puppyhood and adolescence. They are not considered fully mature until age three, one of the longest times in dogdom, and thus need the early training to keep their high energy from wearing the owner out.

The Boxer by nature is not an aggressive or vicious breed but need socialisation to tolerate other dogs well. His sometimes over-protective, territorial and dominating attitude, most intense in males, can be problematic. Boxers are very patient with smaller dogs but can be aggressive with larger dogs of the same sex. A poorly bred or trained dog is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.

Temperament summary

Attitudes toward:

  • Owners: Affectionate, devoted.
  • Children: Playful, exuberant (may be too much for very young children).
  • Other Pets: Good if raised well.
  • Strangers: Protective of their family and suspicious. Friendly if well socialised.
  • Unfamiliar Dogs: Can be problematic unless well socialised.

Special needs to maintain a desirable temperament:

  • Socialisation: To avoid aggression to strangers and to dogs of the same sex (mainly unfamiliar dogs)
  • Daily exercise: To avoid destructive responses
  • Respect training: To avoid jumping and barking when playing and to lessen his natural stubbornness

Uses

Fawn boxer doing dog agility Aframe with ears flying
Fawn boxer doing dog agility Aframe with ears flying

Boxers are friendly, lively companions that are often used as family dogs. They also sometimes appear at dog agility trials and flyball events. Before dog fighting was made illegal, Boxers were unfortunately often used in dog fights. These strong and intelligent animals have even been sometimes used as guide dogs for the blind and police dogs in K9 units in place of the typical German Shepherd. The versatiliy of Boxers was recognised by the military, which used them as valuable messenger dogs, pack carriers, and attack and guard dogs in times of war.

Popularity in the U.S.

Based on 2005 American Kennel Club statistics, Boxers are the seventh most popular breed of dog in the United States with approximately 37,268 new registrations during the year.

 

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