What Were Boxers Bred For? Original Use, Jobs, and History

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: November 13, 2022
© Photobac/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • Boxers were bred for bullbaiting, a violent sport where dogs, used as baits, taunted bulls in a large pit.
  • It is believed that Boxers got their name due to the way they fight. They stand on their hind legs and use their front paws to try to knock out the other animal.
  • Boxers gained popularity in the USA in the 1930’s.

The Boxer is one of the most popular dogs in the world. It is loving, caring, gentle, affectionate, and has a great love for humans. Such loving nature doesn’t always suit its muscular and fierce physical attributes. In fact, the Boxer wasn’t always bred for companionship.

The boxer ancestors were bred to hunt bear, boar, and deer. Many years ago, however, Boxers were bred to be bull-baiting dogs in Germany. They used to be in pits trying to bait bulls, getting killed and slaughtered when the bulls they were baiting caught them. These dogs’ muscular bodies get slammed down to the earth as the audience clapped and howled. Such a horrible history could’ve traumatized the Boxers, but it’s the opposite because they have become loving members of families today.

Height24 inches for males, 22 inches for females
Weight65 to 80 lbs. for males, 50 to 65 lbs. for females
Lifespan8 to 10 years
Energy levelHigh
Exercise requirements45 minutes a day
CoatBrindle, fawn
Grooming needsLow
Drool levelHigh
CharacteristicsSquashed face, floppy ears, droopy eyes

Description and Size

At first glance, Boxers don’t look like family dogs. They can sometimes look menacing when in truth, they are loving and gentle. The male Boxers stand tall at about 25 inches and weigh about 65 to 80 pounds. The females can grow between 21 and 25 inches and weigh around 50 to 65 pounds.

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They are quite popular because of their square-shaped heads and blunted muzzles. They also have broad and deep chests with strong but short backs. The Boxers have fluffy ears that tend to fold over naturally. Meanwhile, they carry their tails high coupled with their strong stances on compact feet and arched toes.

Their coat is short and flat, almost clinging to the skin. It shed moderately or, sometimes, not at all. The standard colors for Boxers are brindle and fawn, but their faces are sometimes black with a splash of white markings. One can see these white markings on their chests and paws.

boxer chilling on leaves in autumn
Boxers may look intimidating, but in reality they’re loving and gentle dogs, and great around children.

©larstuchel/Shutterstock.com

Personality

All of these physical attributes give the Boxers a regal look. These dogs are brilliant, playful, and energetic. They love being around people and are fiercely loyal to their families. Some said that the Boxers are the complete doggy package. They are everything you’ll ever want in a dog, complete with stunning good looks, work ethic, and courage.

There is nothing the Boxer wants more than to spend time with their owners. Since they are fiercely loyal and loving, they make for a great family dog. Boxers are highly protective of children, and they take the role of a guard dog very seriously. Although they are often distrustful of strangers initially, this is only because Boxers always want to protect their families.

Boxers rarely bark excessively. If they do bark, it’s almost always for a good reason. However, they make a low growling noise when they want to communicate something.

boxer side profile
Boxers have an almost regal look, but these dogs have the common touch, especially when it comes to children.

© nik174/Shutterstock.com

History

The Boxer has many ancestors, such as the Mastiff, Bulldog, and Bullenbeisser, though people commonly believe that the Brabant Bullenbeisser is its true ancestor. This is a smaller type of Mastiff dog initially bred in Belgium. The Boxer, a man-made breed after the Brabant Bullenbeisser was mixed with the originator of the English Bulldog, was brought to the United States from Germany after World War I.

At that time, breeders wanted to create the perfect dog by making it stronger so it could hunt and hold prey. Sadly, this is the same role that the Bullenbeisser played in its life. People used this breed for bullbaiting, a violent sport where dogs, used as baits, taunted bulls in a large pit. The bulls were chained and taunted until they gave up, or the dogs or bulls got killed. Eventually, this sport was outlawed based on an animal cruelty law.

The Creation of Modern-Day Boxer

The mix of the Brabant Bullenbeisser and English Bulldog created the modern-day Boxer. At that time, the Boxer was used as a hunter and bait. Hunters considered it a perfect dog because it could hold down prey until the humans arrived to take it.

The Brabant Bullenbeisser and English Bulldog gave many unique characteristics to the Boxer. First, they have those side wrinkles on the face, said to prevent blood from the prey from spraying in their eyes. Second, they have squashed faces that position their nostrils back so they can still breathe even when they hold prey in their mouths. And lastly, the brindle on their coats allows the Boxers to blend into their surroundings. The brindle acts as camouflage among trees and tall grasses.

These standards brought to life the official Boxer Club in Munich, Germany, in 1895. The club institutionalized the standard for the Boxer, hoping that the breed could grow bigger and develop a braver temperament.

By the 1900s, the Boxers switched from being hunters to being companions. The breeders noticed that aside from their fierce natures, they are also loyal and patient. This is also why they were brought in as service dogs during the first World War. They were guard dogs and messengers, often in the forefront of the battle to save and protect the officers.

Brabant Bullenbeisser
The modern Boxer is a combination of the English Bulldog and the Brabant Bullenbeisser (seen here)

©anetapics/Shutterstock.com

The Boxer in the US

The breed eventually made its way to America. At the start of the 20th century, a boxer named Arnulf Grandez was registered in the United States. Apparently, American soldiers fell in love with the Boxers while they were at war as working dogs. Some soldiers brought the Boxers home with them and thus began the breed’s love affair with Americans.

However, despite arriving in America early on, it took some time before the dog became popular. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that Boxers started to infiltrate American homes. Famous movie stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall had at least three Boxers. The first one, named Harvey, was a wedding gift. They later had two more — Baby and George.

Where Did the Boxer Get Its Name?

There are many different theories as to how the Boxer got its name. The most popular theory is that they got it from the way they fight. The Boxer fights, well, like a boxer. They stand on their hind legs and use their front paws to try to knock out the other animal.

That was in the past. Today, Boxers use their heads, not their paws, when fighting or playing with other animals. If angry or aggressive, they tend to beat the other animal by striking it with their heads. This is similar to a human headbutt.

Another theory is that the name came from the Bullenbeisser’s nickname, Boxl. As the ancestor of the Boxer, it only makes sense that its name comes from the Bullenbeisser. The last theory concerns the German translation of the word Boxer as a prizefighter.

boxer on hind legs
The most popular theory behind the Boxer name has to do with how the dogs stand on their hindlegs and sometimes hit other dogs with their paws.

©Peter Roslund/Shutterstock.com

The Modern Boxers

The Boxer has been bred for different reasons throughout history. They used to be prized hunters before becoming excellent work dogs. Today, Boxers are bred to become pets and companions. They are a favorite among children. They become beloved family members because of their loyalty and energy.

Although a stigma is attached to the aggression, this breed showed in the past that it is not a cause for concern. After training, Boxers can behave well as family members. This breed’s intelligence will make it easy to understand commands and instructions.

Similar Animals to the Boxer

  • Bullenbeisser: Also called the German Bulldog, the Bullenbeisser went extinct because of crossbreeding. One of these crossbreeds resulted in the modern Boxer, which got its strength and agility from its ancestor.
  • English Bulldog: The wrinkled-face dog is a mastiff type crossbred with the Bullenbeisser to create the Boxer. It is medium in size and has a muscular body similar to the Boxer.
  • Rottweiler: The primary use of the Rottweiler was to herd livestock and pull carts. Like the Boxers, they were working dogs. They are big, strong, and muscular. Rottweilers are fiercely loyal.
  • Beagle: Some associate the Boxer with the Beagle because of its stance and coat. This breed is a good house pet since it is excellent with children. Beagles have a gentle disposition and are fun to be around.

FAQs

How large are the Boxers?

The male Boxers grow as big as 24 inches tall while the females are slightly smaller at 22 inches. The males can weigh as much as 80 pounds, while the most a female can weigh is 65 pounds.

Who are the ancestors of the Boxers?

The Brabant Bullenbeisser and the English Bulldog are the known ancestors of the Boxer. These were crossbred to create a stronger version of a mastiff-type dog. The breeders used the Boxer for hunting and holding down prey.

When did the Boxer arrive in the United States?

The Boxers arrived in the United States after World War I when soldiers saw them on the battlefield. Impressed with their loyalty and royal-like looks, the American soldiers took some of them home.

Where did the Boxer get its name?

There are many theories about where the Boxer got its name. First, it probably got its name from how they fight and play, which was on their hind legs as they use their paws to box. The second theory is that it came from the Bullenbeisser’s nickname, Boxl. Finally, it could have come from the German translation of the word Boxer, which meant prizefighter.

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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