Developed in Germany, the Boxer is a breed of stocky, medium-sized, short-haired dog. The coat is smooth and fawn or brindled, with or without white markings. Boxers are brachycephalic, and have a square muzzle, mandibular prognathism (an underbite), very strong jaws and a powerful bite ideal for hanging on to large prey. The Boxer was bred from the English Bulldog and the now extinct Bullenbeisser and is part of the Molosser group.
Boxers were first exhibited in a dog show for St. Bernards at Munich in 1895, the first Boxer club being founded the next year. Based on 2007 American Kennel Club statistics, Boxers are the sixth most popular breed of dog in the United States—moving up from the seventh spot for the first time since 2002—with 33,548 new dog registrations during the year..
Boxers were originally a docked and cropped breed, and this tradition is still maintained in some countries. However, due to pressure from veterinary associations, animal rights groups and the general public, both cropping of the ears and docking of the tail have been prohibited in many countries around the world. There is a line of naturally short-tailed (bobtail) Boxers that was developed in the United Kingdom in anticipation of a tail docking ban there; after several generations of controlled breeding, these dogs were accepted in the Kennel Club (UK) registry in 1998, and today representatives of the bobtail line can be found in many countries around the world. In the United States and Canada as of 2008, cropped ears are still more common in show dogs. In March 2005 the AKC breed standard was changed to include a description of the uncropped ear, but to severely penalize an undocked tail.
An adult Boxer typically weighs between 55 and 70 lbs (25 and 32 kg). Adult male Boxers are between 22 and 25 inches (57 and 63 cm) tall at the withers; adult females are between 21 to 23½ inches (53 and 60 cm).
The Boxer is a short-haired breed, with a shiny, smooth coat that lies tight to the body. The recognized colors are fawn and brindle, often with a white underbelly and white on the front or all four feet. These white markings, called flash, often extend onto the neck or face, and dogs that have these markings are known as "flashy". "Fawn" denotes a range of color, the tones of which may be described variously as light tan or yellow, reddish tan, mahogany or stag/deer red, and dark honey-blonde. In the UK, fawn Boxers are typically rich in color and are called "red". "Brindle" refers to a dog with black stripes on a fawn background. Some brindle Boxers are so heavily striped that they give the appearance of "reverse brindling", fawn stripes on a black body; these dogs are conventionally called "reverse brindles", but that is actually a misnomer - they are still fawn dogs with black stripes. In addition, the breed standards state that the fawn background must clearly contrast with or show through the brindling, so a dog that is too heavily brindled may be disqualified by the breed standard. The Boxer does not carry the gene for a solid black coat color and therefore purebred black Boxers do not exist.
Boxers are a bright, energetic and playful breed and tend to be very good with children. They are active dogs and require adequate exercise to prevent boredom-associated behaviors such as chewing or digging. Boxers have earned a slight reputation of being "headstrong", which can be related to inappropriate obedience training. Owing to their intelligence and working breed characteristics, training based on corrections often has limited usefulness. Boxers, like other animals, respond much better to positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training, which affords the dog an opportunity to think independently and to problem-solve.
The Boxer by nature is not an aggressive or vicious breed, but it does need socialization. Boxers are generally patient with smaller dogs and puppies, but issues with larger adult dogs, especially those of the same sex, may occur. Boxers are generally more comfortable with companionship, in either human or canine form.
The Boxer is part of the Molosser group, developed in Germany in the late 1800s from the now extinct Bullenbeisser, a dog of Mastiff descent, and Bulldogs brought in from England. 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 favored and a smaller Bullenbeisser was bred in Brabant, in northern Belgium. It is generally accepted that the Brabanter Bullenbeisser was a direct ancestor of today's Boxer.
In 1894, three Germans by the name of Roberth, Konig, and Hopner decided to stabilize 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 Deutscher Boxer Club. The Club went on to publish the first Boxer breed standard in 1902, a detailed document that has not been changed much to this day.
The breed was introduced to other parts of Europe in the late 19th century and to the United States around the turn of the century. The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered the first Boxer in 1904, and recognized the first Boxer champion, Dampf vom Dom, 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. Taken home by returning soldiers,they introduced the dog to a wider audience and soon became a favorite as a companion, a show dog, and a guard dog.
The German citizen George Alt, a Munich resident, mated a brindle-colored bitch imported from France named Flora with a local dog of unknown ancestry, known simply as "Boxer", resulting in a fawn-and-white male, named "Lechner's Box" after its owner. This dog was mated with his own dam Flora, and one of its offspring was a bitch called Alt's Schecken. George Alt mated Schecken with a Bulldog named Dr. Toneissen's Tom to produce the historically significant dog Mühlbauer's Flocki''. Flocki was the first Boxer to enter the German Stud Book after winning the aforementioned show for St. Bernards in Munich 1895, 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 Box grandson) to produce the predominantly white (parti-colored) 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:
German linguistic sciences and historical evidence date from the 18th century the earliest written source for the word Boxer, found in a text in the "Deutsches Fremdwörterbuch" (The German Dictionary of Foreign Languages), which cites an author named Musäus of 1782 writing "daß er aus Furcht vor dem großen Baxer Salmonet ... sich auf einige Tage in ein geräumiges Packfaß ... absentiret hatte". At that time the spelling "baxer" equalled "boxer". Both the verb ("boxen") and the noun ("Boxer") were common German language as early as the late 18th century. The term "Boxl", also written "Buxn" or "Buchsen", in the Bavarian dialect means "short (leather) trousers" or "underwear". The very similarly sounding term "Boxerl" is also Bavarian dialect and an endearing term for "Boxer". More in line with historical facts, Brace states that there exist many other theories to explain the origin of the breed name, from which he favors the one claiming the smaller Bullenbeisser (Brabanter) were also known as "Boxl" and that Boxer is just a corruption of that word.
In the same vein runs a theory based on the fact that there were a group of dogs known as "Bierboxer" in Munich by the time of the breed's development. These dogs were the result from mixes of Bullenbeisser and other similar breeds. Bier (beer) probably refers to the Biergarten, the typical Munich beergarden, an open-air restaurant where people used to take their dogs along. The nickname "Deutscher Boxer" was derived from bierboxer and Boxer could also be a corruption of the former or a contraction of the latter.
"Boxer" is also the name of a dog owned by John Peerybingle, the main character on the best selling 1845 book The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens, which is evidence that "Boxer" was commonly used as a dog name by the early 19th century, before the establishment of the breed by the end of that same century.
The name of the breed could also be simply due to the names of the very first known specimens of the breed (Lechner's Box, for instance).
Boxers are an athletic breed, and proper exercise and conditioning is important for their continued health and longevity. Care must be taken not to over-exercise young dogs, as this may damage growing bones; however once mature Boxers can be excellent jogging or running companions. Because of their brachycephalic head, they do not do well with high heat or humidity, and common sense should prevail when exercising a Boxer in these conditions.