The Boxer, previously called the Deutscher Boxer, the German Bulldog and the German Boxer, is a product of centuries of selective breeding. Today's Boxer was largely molded by Germans during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and probably is a distant relative of the English Bulldog. Boxers are particularly recognizable by their broad, blunt muzzle and flat-faced head, both of which are unique to the breed. The first Boxer was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904, and since then its popularity has skyrocketed. It is prized as both a guardian and a family companion, being bold, exuberant, affectionate, alert, self-confident and utterly loyal. Boxers are used in military and police work and as a breed were one of the pioneering guide dogs for the blind. They also are used as sensitive seizure-alert dogs and can succeed in agility, obedience and conformation as well. While playful and patient with its family, the Boxer tends to be wary with strangers and fearless when threatened. In a nutshell, Boxers combine great strength and agility with elegance and style and remain one of the most popular pets in the United States.
Adult males should be 23 to 25 inches at the withers; adult females should be between 21½ and 23½ inches in height. Mature boxers typically weigh between 55 and 70 pounds. Their short, glossy coat is easy to care for, requiring only periodic brushing to reduce shedding and remove dirt and dander.
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.
Boxers may look like imposing figures from afar, but up close and personal they are playful and loving family companions. Often dubbed the Peter Pan of dogs, Boxers are highly energetic, and as they grow into adulthood, they never lose the desire to romp and play like a puppy. Perpetual cuddle bugs, Boxers will try to wriggle into even the smallest spaces possible to get close to the ones they love. They love to be the center of attention and make a sound unique to their breed that some owners call a "Woo Woo." When they want something they will make this "woo woo" sound to attract an audience.
Protective of their family, Boxers are alert and reliable watchdogs, sounding the alarm that strangers are approaching. Their menacing, muscular appearance will deter anyone whose intent is not above board. Boxers get along well with other pets, including cats and make a loving and loyal addition to any active family.
Boxers require a lot of vigorous exercise. Long daily walks and plenty of time to run are crucial to keeping a Boxer physically and mentally fit. They should not, however, be exercised too heavily in hot weather as they are prone to heatstroke. They can live in condos or apartments, as long as there is a daily commitment to exercise.
Like children, Boxers need to be constantly entertained. If not engaged in physical activity, they should have plenty of mental stimulation as well. Plenty of chew toys will keep them busy throughout the day.
Like the Peter Pan of children's stories, the Boxers are eternal kids and take direction about as well as any adolescent child. Training should be consistent, and leadership should be shown with confidence. Boxers will take advantage of anyone who gives them even the slightest bit of leeway. Positive reinforcement and treats are the best method for training this breed, and harsh tones and discipline should be avoided.
Once leadership roles have been established, Boxers can excel in advanced obedience and often benefit from agility training.
While Boxer generally tend to get along well with family pets, they can be aggressive toward other dogs, especially dogs of the same sex. They should be socialized from puppyhood on to accept doggie visitors as friends.
Because Boxers feel deep attachments to people, separation anxiety can develop. Proper levels of physical activity and mental activity can keep anxiety from being a problem.
The ideal Boxer is a medium-sized, square-built dog of good substance with short back, strong limbs, and short, tight-fitting coat. His well-developed muscles are clean, hard, and appear smooth under taut skin. His movements denote energy. The gait is firm yet elastic, the stride free and ground-covering, the carriage proud. Developed to serve as guard, working, and companion dog, he combines strength and agility with elegance and style. His expression is alert and his temperament steadfast and tractable.
The chiseled head imparts to the Boxer a unique individual stamp. It must be in correct proportion to the body. The broad, blunt muzzle is the distinctive feature, and great value is placed upon its being of proper form and balance with the skull.
In judging the Boxer first consideration is given to general appearance and overall balance. Special attention is then devoted to the head, after which the individual body components are examined for their correct construction, and the gait evaluated for efficiency.
Adult males 23 to 25 inches; females 21½ to 23½ inches at the withers. Proper balance and quality in the individual should be of primary importance since there is no size disqualification.
The body in profile is square in that a horizontal line from the front of the forechest to the rear projection of the upper thigh should equal the length of a vertical line dropped from the top of the withers to the ground.
Sturdy, with balanced musculature. Males larger boned than females.
The beauty of the head depends upon the harmonious proportion of muzzle to skull. The blunt muzzle is 1/3 the length of the head from the occiput to the tip of the nose, and 2/3rds the width of the skull. The head should be clean, not showing deep wrinkles (wet). Wrinkles typically appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are always present from the lower edge of the stop running downward on both sides of the muzzle.
Intelligent and alert.
Dark brown in color, frontally placed, generous, not too small, too protruding, or too deepset. Their mood-mirroring character, combined with the wrinkling of the forehead, gives the Boxer head its unique quality of expressiveness. Third eyelids preferably have pigmented rims.
Set at the highest points of the sides of the skull, the ears are customarily cropped, cut rather long and tapering, and raised when alert. If uncropped, the ears should be of moderate size, thin, lying flat and close to the cheeks in repose, but falling forward with a definite crease when alert.
The top of the skull is slightly arched, not rounded, flat, nor noticeably broad, with the occiput not overly pronounced. The forehead shows a slight indentation between the eyes and forms a distinct stop with the topline of the muzzle. The cheeks should be relatively flat and not bulge (cheekiness), maintaining the clean lines of the skull as they taper into the muzzle in a slight, graceful curve.
Muzzle and Nose
The muzzle, proportionately developed in length, width, and depth, has a shape influenced first through the formation of both jawbones, second through the placement of the teeth, and third through the texture of the lips. The top of the muzzle should not slant down (downfaced), nor should it be concave (dishfaced); however, the tip of the nose should lie slightly higher than the root of the muzzle. The nose should be broad and black.
Bite and Jaw Structure
The Boxer bite is undershot, the lower jaw protruding beyond the upper and curving slightly upward. The incisor teeth of the lower jaw are in a straight line, with the canines preferably up front in the same line to give the jaw the greatest possible width. The upper line of the incisors is slightly convex with the corner upper incisors fitting snugly in back of the lower canine teeth on each side. Neither the teeth nor the tongue should ever show when the mouth is closed.
The upper jaw is broad where attached to the skull and maintains this breadth, except for a very slight tapering to the front. The lips, which complete the formation of the muzzle, should meet evenly in front. The upper lip is thick and padded, filling out the frontal space created by the projection of the lower jaw, and laterally is supported by the canines of the lower jaw. Therefore, these canines must stand far apart and be of good length so that the front surface of the muzzle is broad and squarish and, when viewed from the side, shows moderate layback. The chin should be perceptible from the side as well as from the front. Any suggestion of an overlip obscuring the chin should be penalized.
Round, of ample length, muscular and clean without excessive hanging skin (dewlap). The neck should have a distinctly arched and elegant nape blending smoothly into the withers.
Back and Topline
The back is short, straight, muscular, firm, and smooth. The topline is slightly sloping when the Boxer is at attention, leveling out when in motion.
The chest is of fair width, and the forechest well-defined and visible from the side. The brisket is deep, reaching down to the elbows; the depth of the body at the lowest point of the brisket equals half the height of the dog at the withers. The ribs, extending far to the rear, are well-arched but not barrel-shaped.
The loins are short and muscular. The lower stomach line is slightly tucked up, blending into a graceful curve to the rear. The croup is slightly sloped, flat and broad. The pelvis is long, and in females especially broad. The tail is set high, docked, and carried upward. An undocked tail should be severely penalized.
The shoulders are long and sloping, close-lying, and not excessively covered with muscle (loaded). The upper arm is long, approaching a right angle to the shoulder blade. The elbows should not press too closely to the chest wall nor stand off visibly from it. The forelegs are long, straight, and firmly muscled, and, when viewed from the front, stand parallel to each other. The pastern is strong and distinct, slightly slanting, but standing almost perpendicular to the ground. The dewclaws may be removed. Feet should be compact, turning neither in nor out, with well-arched toes.
The hindquarters are strongly muscled, with angulation in balance with that of the forequarters. The thighs are broad and curved, the breech musculature hard and strongly developed. Upper and lower thigh are long. The legs are well-angulated at the stifle, neither too steep nor over-angulated, with clearly defined, well "let down" hock joints. Viewed from behind, the hind legs should be straight, with hock joints leaning neither in nor out. From the side, the leg below the hock (metatarsus) should be almost perpendicular to the ground, with a slight slope to the rear permissible. The metatarsus should be short, clean, and strong. The Boxer has no rear dewclaws.
Short, shiny, lying smooth and tight to the body.
The colors are fawn and brindle. Fawn shades vary from light tan to mahogany. The brindle ranges from sparse but clearly defined black stripes on a fawn background to such a heavy concentration of black striping that the essential fawn background color barely, although clearly, shows through (which may create the appearance of reverse brindling). White markings, if present, should be of such distribution as to enhance the dog's appearance, but may not exceed one-third of the entire coat. They are not desirable on the flanks or on the back of the torso proper. On the face, white may replace part of the otherwise essential black mask, and may extend in an upward path between the eyes, but it must not be excessive, so as to detract from true Boxer expression. The absence of white markings, the so-called "plain" fawn or brindle, is perfectly acceptable, and should not be penalized in any consideration of color. Disqualifications Boxers that are any color other than fawn or brindle. Boxers with a total of white markings exceeding one-third of the entire coat.
Viewed from the side, proper front and rear angulation is manifested in a smoothly efficient, level-backed, ground covering stride with a powerful drive emanating from a freely operating rear. Although the front legs do not contribute impelling power, adequate reach should be evident to prevent interference, overlap, or sidewinding (crabbing). Viewed from the front, the shoulders should remain trim and the elbows not flare out. The legs are parallel until gaiting narrows the track in proportion to increasing speed, then the legs come in under the body but should never cross. The line from the shoulder down through the leg should remain straight although not necessarily perpendicular to the ground. Viewed from the rear, a Boxer's rump should not roll. The hind feet should dig in and track relatively true with the front. Again, as speed increases, the normally broad rear track will become narrower. The Boxer's gait should always appear smooth and powerful, never stilted or inefficient.
Character and Temperament
These are of paramount importance in the Boxer. Instinctively a hearing guard dog, his bearing is alert, dignified, and self-assured. In the show ring his behavior should exhibit constrained animation. With family and friends, his temperament is fundamentally playful, yet patient and stoical with children. Deliberate and wary with strangers, he will exhibit curiosity, but, most importantly, fearless courage if threatened. However, he responds promptly to friendly overtures honestly rendered. His intelligence, loyal affection, and tractability to discipline make him a highly desirable companion. Any evidence of shyness, or lack of dignity or alertness, should be severely penalized.
The foregoing description is that of the ideal Boxer. Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.
Boxers that are any color other than fawn or brindle. Boxers with a total of white markings exceeding one-third of the entire coat.
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Sources: American Kennel Club