Boxers are originally a German breed and are cousins to almost all types of Bulldogs. Their distant ancestors are believed to have come from fighting dogs bred in Tibet. Boxers were initially bred to be working, hunting and guard dogs. The Boxers’ predecessors include the Bullenbeisser mastiff (“bull-biter”), a stocky German breed used to chase, catch and hold fierce wild game, including boar, bear and bison. Its short, broad muzzle distinguished the Bullenbeisser from all other breeds of its time and made it particularly well-suited to the job it was bred to do. After 1815, Germany’s grand hunting estates were largely broken up, and hunting began to decline in popularity among the gentry. The last recorded boar hunt reportedly was held in 1865 at Kurhesser Courts; afterwards, most hunting dogs were sold.
In the 1850s, a Bulldog (which actually resembled a small Mastiff) was exported from England to Munich. Years later, early Boxer fanciers used descendants of that Bulldog and the German Bullenbeisser to form the foundation of the modern breed, which was developed to be smaller and lighter than its predecessors. For a period of time, European Boxers probably were used in bull-baiting – a betting-man’s “sport” that eventually was outlawed. In 1894, three Germans took steps to stabilize and exhibit the breed, which they did in Munich in 1895 for the first time and thereby brought Boxers to widespread prominence. The following year, the first German club devoted to the breed was founded as the Deutsche Boxer Club of Munich. The initial German breed standard was adopted in 1902, but was vigorously debated for several years by rival Boxer breeders and clubs.
Boxers were used to carry messages, ammunition and supplies during both World Wars. Returning soldiers brought some of these dogs to this country, where their popularity grew. The first Boxer was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904; the first AKC championship was earned in 1915; and the American Boxer Club was founded in 1935. Since then, Boxers have continued to rise in popularity as guardians, watch dogs, show dogs and family companions.
The source of the breed’s name is uncertain, although some fanciers speculate that it was coined by an Englishman in reference to the characteristic sparring gestures made with its front legs during play, that remain a hallmark of this breed. Other theories concerning the origin of the name “Boxer” include: 1) that it is a corruption of “beisser,” which means “biter”; 2) that it is a corruption of the word “boxl” or “boxeln,” which were nicknames for one of the Boxer’s ancestors, a now-extinct breed called the Brabanter; and 3) that it was coined simply because the dogs were “prize fighters.”
The average life span of the Boxer is 11 to 14 years. They are not particularly well-suited to living in climates with temperature extremes. Boxers historically had cropped ears and docked tails, although the AKC standard permits both cropped and natural ears without preference. Undocked tails are still severely penalized in the American breed standard. Breed health concerns may include allergies, bloat, Boxer cardiomyopathy, sick sinus syndrome, pododermatitis (especially on the front feet), canine follicular dysplasia, brachycephalic syndrome, ear infections, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, insulinoma, pyloric stenosis, histiocytic colitis, congenital elbow luxation, melanoma, cutaneous histiocytoma, sensory neuropathy of Boxers, entropion, ectropion, “cherry eye”, corneal ulceration, cryptorchidism, sarcomas and subaortic stenosis. Boxers are particularly predisposed to having adverse drug reactions to even small doses of Acepromazine and other phenothiazines.