Boxers are perhaps one of the most recognizable of dog breeds with a fairly detailed and relatively well recorded history compared to many of the other popular dog breeds available. Most people don't realize that the modern Boxer is not at all the same dog that was originally developed by the first breeders of the Boxer lines. In addition many owners and Boxer lovers also may not know that the Boxer is a relatively new breed, with its first beginning only dating back to the late 1800's.
The original Boxers were developed from now extinct German breed of dog known as the Bullenbeiszer or Bullenbeisser. Another now extinct German breed the Barenbeiszer was also used in the original lineage, however many people believe these two breeds were almost the same dog, just with different local names. These dogs were used for bull baiting and hunting, and were massive dogs developed from the early hunting dogs the Alaunts, which date back to 370 A.D. The Alaunt dogs spread rapidly across Europe and were bred with several other local dogs including the ancestors of the Bulldogs and the Mastiffs, known as the Molosser dogs. These large dogs were depicted in drawings much like that of the modern day Mastiff. They had loose skin on the head and a deep chest, strong body and the shorter muzzle typically seen in all descendents of the modern Molosser breed descendants.
The role of the Bullenbeiszer was to actually run down the animal, typically a wild boar, deer or bear and hold on until the hunters arrived to make the kill. Large dogs were needed that also had stamina and strength, plus the ability to endure constant struggle without releasing their grip. Over time faster, leaner types of Bullenbeiszer were bred, especially in Belgium, which became the foundation of the modern Boxer breed. The earliest breeding was still for a hunting dog and one that would be used, like the original Bulldog, as a bull baiting dog in that horrible event that was legal at that time.
The first actual "Boxer" was bred by a man in Germany by the name of George Alt. He actually imported a Bullenbeiszer female named Flora from France and bred her to a local hunting dog that was reported to be named Boxer. It was common at that time to use the name Boxer for hunting dogs and there are many words in German and other dialects that could easily be misunderstood as boxer, including Boxel which was the name given to the smaller Bullenbeiszer produced in Belgium. This match produced a fawn and white male puppy that was named either Lechner's Box or Lechner's Boxer. He was then bred back to Flora and this produced a litter of puppies with one female known as Alt's Schecken. This female was then crossed with a Bulldog to produce a male by the name of Mühlbauer's Flocki. Mühlbauer's Flocki became the first German Boxer to be entered into the German Stud Book. Additional breeding between several interrelated lines produced a female by the name of Meta von der Passage, considered to be the founding and most important female within the history of the Boxer breed.
At about the same time that George Alt was starting his breeding program, three other German dog owners by the names of Roberth, Hopner and Konig planned to enter a class of Boxers into the national dog show. In 1895 they did, with Flocki winning the event and entering into the German Stud Book the same year. He was the first recognized Boxer and by 1896 the three men had developed the Deutscher Boxer Club, including all of the descendants of the original litter into the club organization and breed registry. By 1902 a standard for the breed was established and considered when registering dogs into the Deutscher Boxer Club. By 1904 the Club had its own studbook and outside breeds were no longer considered for registry.
The exact name of the breed, the Boxer, is a bit of a mystery. While there are those that indicate that the name is based on the dog's use of its front feet like a boxer, this trait did not develop with the first Bullenbeisser and is likely to be something that occurred after these dogs ceased to be used as hunting animals. Many people believe the term has to do with the Boxel for the smaller Bullenbeiszer of the time, and the name was simply mispronounced and altered in common usage. In addition some breeders believe that the term Boxer actually goes back to the first puppy produced in George Alt's breeding which he named Lechner's Box, or perhaps even to Boxer, the original stud dog.
Throughout history the Boxer has been used for many different types of activities. They have been bull baiting dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs, protection dogs and military dogs. They have also been used as circus dogs and trick dogs, perfect for many different purposes in smaller, traveling fairs and exhibitions.
The Boxers actually came to the United States in the early part of 1900 and the first Boxer was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904. They were not a highly popular breed in the United States until after World War ll when many soldiers brought back Boxer puppies from Europe. Since these dogs were used in many ways as military dogs the American and Allied soldiers came to appreciate the spirit, intelligence and strength of these very loyal and dependable dogs.
Currently the Boxer is the sixth most popular dog in the United States, and has been in the top 10 most popular breeds for many years. The modern Boxer is gentle, kind and loving, loyal and protective but still playful, energetic and a great all round family dog. Police departments, search and rescue operations, military groups as well as those training guide and assistance dogs all use Boxers and Boxer hybrids in their training programs. It is important to note that there are actually two distinct types of Boxers bred today, the American Boxer which is leaner and taller and the German Boxer that has a wider head and tends to be thicker and more muscular.
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