Boxer dogs are easily distinguished by their muscular build, square head, short snout and underbite. But don't let their strong build and intimidating look fool you, these dogs can actually be quite sensitive. They are also often described as playful, intelligent, outgoing, stubborn and affectionate - so much so for the latter that they are referred to as "velcro dogs" (those that form close bonds with their dog parents and want (need) to be near them as much as possible). The breed has many rewarding and unique characteristics. Here are 15 Boxer dog facts and some information about Boxer dogs, puppies and the Boxer breed.
Boxers Have Ancient Roots But The Modern Breed Comes From Germany
The Boxer breed has ancient roots, with ancestors dating back as far as 2500 B.C. to Assyrian empire war dogs (along with the Boxer's cousins, the English Bulldog and Mastiff). Centuries later, these war dogs were named for the ancient city of Molossis, which is now Albania. And there are records of dogs resembling the Boxer dating as far back as the 16th century. But the modern breed - what we think of today as a Boxer - can be traced back to Germany in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The boxer is cousin to practically all recognized breeds of the Bulldog type of which go back to basic molossus blood.
They Descend From A Now Extinct Breed
It's believed that the modern Boxer is a mix of English Bulldogs and the heavier, larger and now extinct Bullenbeisser. Bullenbeisers, whose name translates to "bull biter," were (unsurprisingly) used to bait bulls in bullfights. They were also used to hunt big-game such as bear, bison, wild boar and deer across continental Europe.
Boxers Were Originally Hunting Dogs But Adapted To Serve Many Roles
Although they are now part of the Working Group of the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed groups, Boxers were originally hunters. They were quite capable of of chasing down and holding big game, like boars and even bears. And, originally, Boxers had their tails docked to prevent injuries during hunting.
Over time, Boxers developed from hunting dogs into all-around working dogs, particularly after big game hunting dissipated. They were used on farms, as police dogs (in fact, the Boxer was one of the first breeds selected as police dogs in Germany) and as war dogs.
They have also become service dogs thanks to their intelligence, including guide dogs, alert dogs (e.g. for those who suffer from epilepsy or severe allergies). They also make great therapy dogs due to their friendly and affectionate nature, often serving in hospitals and nursing homes.
Their Underbite, Wrinkles And Short Nose Are By Design
Boxers have a distinctive look that many find charming and adorable, but most were by design. Their square-shaped head, short snout, wrinkles and strong jaw with an underbite all helped in hunting. Their square head and short muzzle balances out their jaw, which has an underbite to allow them to bite and hold prey with a great amount of power. Their short muzzle, and subsequent squished nostrils, also allowed Boxers to breathe while holding a mouth full of prey. But because of their flat face and short nose, Boxers are considered a brachycephalic breed. And their face wrinkles helped direct blood away from their eyes.
The Origin Of The "Boxer" Name Is Somewhat Of A Mystery
There's some debate around where the name "Boxer" comes from. One theory is that it comes from the play tendencies of many Boxers - where they stand on their hind legs, appearing to "box" with their front paws. Another is that it may come from the German word "Boxl" or "Büsel," which means "muzzle" or "snout," referring to the dog's distinctive facial features.
Boxers Are Among The Most Popular Breeds In The U.S., But It Was't Always That Way
While Boxers were well-known and admired in Europe from the late 19th to early 20th century, they didn't become popular in North America until after. The first dogs were imported to the Americas in the early 20th century with the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizing the breed in 1904. But it wasn't until after World War I, and truly into the 1930s, that they started becoming popular. The foundation of the American Boxer is said to originate from four dogs named Sigurd, Lutig, Ute and Dorian. The Boxer peaked in popularity in the 1950s when a Boxer won the Westminster Dog Show. And, to this day, remain in the top 20 of most popular breeds in the United States.
Boxers Have Served In Many Modern Wars
Boxers were used in various capacities for war, especially the World Wars. Their loyalty, trainability, and adaptability made them valuable assets in wartime. While specific roles varied, Boxers were important in supporting military efforts during wartime. Some ways they contributed, included:
Messenger Dogs - Their agility, intelligence, and ability to navigate challenging terrains made them valuable for delivering messages between troops, particularly during World War I and World War II.
Guard Dogs - Boxers can have protective instincts, so were utilized as guard and sentry dogs. They were trained to alert soldiers to the presence of enemies and provide protection to military installations.
Search And Rescue Dogs - Boxers were trained for search and rescue missions, helping locate wounded soldiers or individuals trapped in and under debris after bombings. Boxers were trained to stay with the injured person, bark to attract attention, and sometimes even carry medical supplies.
Companions And Mascot Dogs - Boxers served as mascot dogs for military units, providing companionship and morale support to soldiers. Their presence helped alleviate stress, boost morale and provide a sense of comfort along with other mental health benefits to troops.
Pack Carriers - In some cases, Boxers were trained to carry packs containing supplies or equipment for soldiers.
Some of the wars in which Boxers were used, include:
World War I (1914-1918) as messenger, guard and search and rescue dogs on the battlefields.
World War II (1939-1945) again as messenger, guard and search and rescue dogs. They played crucial roles in aiding troops and contributing to the war effort.
Korean War (1950-1953) as messenger, sentry and search and rescue dogs.
Vietnam War (1955-1975) for sentry duty, tracking, and detection of enemy forces as well as medical purposes to locate wounded soldiers.
Gulf War (1990-1991) for security and detection purposes, though not as extensively used as in earlier wars.
War in Afghanistan (2001-2021) and Iraq War (2003-2011) for patrol, detection, and security purposes.
They Are Most Commonly Fawn Or Brindle Color But 25% Are Born White
The American Boxer Club recognizes three coat colors for Boxers, with the first two being the most common:
- Fawn (golden yellow, light tan to dark red with or without white markings and a black mask)
- Brindle (mix of fawn and black stripes, with or without white markings)
- White (which includes predominantly white coats that may have fawn or brindle markings)
There can be a range of variations and combinations of these colors, as well as markings (such as white blaze on the face, white chests, white paws, white collars, etc.)
Despite not being the most common color, white Boxer puppies are not uncommon with an estimated one in four or 25% born white. Most do not stay that way, with many developing fawn or brindle markings as they age.
In fact, the AKC considers white a disqualifying color to the breed standard and, as such, white Boxers cannot show (though they can compete in dog sports). But the breed has won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show four times (in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1970).
Boxers Can Run Fast And Jump High
Boxers are strong and muscular but athletic and agile dogs. Their average running speed is around 24 to 28 miles per hour, but some can reach speeds between 38 and 45 miles per hour - which is on pace with some of the fastest dogs in the world.
They are also one of several dog breeds that can jump high, leaping three to four feet on average. As such, Boxers are often high performers in dog sports like agility, hurdles and obstacles. Despite these abilities, it's important to not overdo it with Boxers to ensure they stay healthy and uninjured (especially growing puppies whose joints are still developing).
They Are Sensitive to Extreme Temperatures
Boxers are sensitive to temperature extremes and may not do well in excessively hot or cold climates, for different reasons. One has to do with their brachycephalic muzzle and the other has to do with coat length.
- Heat Sensitivity - Because they are brachycephalic, Boxers can be prone to overheating and may struggle to cool down efficiently, especially in humid weather. So it's critical to provide them with ample shade, fresh water, and avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day to keep them safe in hot weather. Always monitor your dog and watch for signs of heat stress, which can include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, and even collapse.
- Cold Sensitivity - Because of their short coat, Boxers can also be sensitive to cold temperatures. They may need protection, such as a dog jacket or other winter clothes (like sweaters, paw protectors, etc.) during chilly weather and winter. Make sure not to stay out in the cold for extended periods of time with them to keep them safe in cold weather. Always monitor your dog and watch for signs of cold stress, which may include shivering, halting, lifting paws, lethargy, and seeking warmth.
Boxers Have A Bunch Of Quirky Breed Behaviors
Like many other breeds, Boxers have their own unique set of behaviors exhibited by most dogs across the breed. These include:
- "Boxer's Wiggle" - a distinctive way of wagging their entire bodies when they're excited.
- "Frowning Foreheads" - for their expressive faces, foreheads and puppy dog eyes.
- "Boxer Bounce" - their unique way of bouncing on their front paws when excited.
- Boxer "Talk" - for their vocal tendencies ranging from whining to grumbling to barking.
- "Hitchhiking" - where they sit on their hind legs and use their front paws to grab onto people, especially for attention or a treat.
- "Boxer's Bow" - where they lower their front legs while keeping their hindquarters in the air, a gesture that is often an invitation to play.
- "Boxer's Bite" - their unique way of grabbing toys or other objects, using their front teeth like fingers.
- Playful Snoring - for the way they snore and snort, particularly during playtime.
- Licking - for their love of licking their owners, with some experts believing it's for therapeutic reasons (e.g. it releases endorphins).
- Drooling - especially after eating or drinking.
They Are Sometimes Called The "Peter Pan Dogs" And "Nanny Dogs"
There are two reasons why some people refer to Boxers as the "Peter Pans of the dog world," as well as "nanny dogs." This is because, respectively:
- They take longer to mature - Boxers are known to have puppy-like energy and playfulness, which can last well into their adult years and long after they are still considered a puppy.
- They are good with kids - Boxers are one of several dogs that do well with kids, much like Peter Pan given he, too, was a child. This makes Boxers a good choice for families with children.
Boxers Can Be Prone To Certain Cancers And Some Heart, Thyroid And Digestion Issues
The Boxer breed's life expectancy is around 10 to 12 years. Though many are live healthy expected lifespans, Boxers can be prone to certain health issues. Some common health concerns associated with Boxers include:
Cardiomyopathy and Boxer Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) - Boxers are predisposed to a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, which can lead to heart failure. A specific form of cardiomyopathy prevalent in Boxers, called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, can affect the heart's electrical system.
Hip Dysplasia - This is a common condition where the hip joint doesn't fit into the hip socket properly, leading to arthritis, weakness, impairment and lameness.
Hypothyroidism - Some Boxers may develop an underactive thyroid, which can affect their metabolism and lead to weight gain.
Cancer - Boxers are more susceptible to certain cancers, including mast cell tumors and lymphoma.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) - Also known as bloat, this is more common in deep-chested breeds like Boxers. It is a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself.
Boxer Colitis (histiocytic ulcerative colitis (HUC)) - A specific inflammatory bowel disease that is more commonly seen in Boxers that can cause loose stool and diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, abdominal pain and lethargy.
Dermoid Sinus - A congenital condition where a tube-like structure forms under the skin, possibly leading to infection.
Corneal Dystrophy - A hereditary condition affecting the cornea of the eye.
Aortic Stenosis - A heart condition characterized by the narrowing of the aorta, affecting blood flow.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) - A genetic health condition found in Boxers among others, DM is a neurological disorder that typically affects older and senior dogs. Early signs include a loss of back leg coordination and progresses into increasing weakness in the hind limbs.
Hemophilia A (Factor VIII Deficiency) - Another genetic health condition found in Boxers among others and more commonly seen in male dogs. It is a blood clotting disorder that can cause bruising and abdominal bleeding.
Allergies - Boxers, like many other breeds, can be prone to allergies that can result in and manifest as skin issues (itching, redness, inflammation), ear infections and gastrointestinal issues. Common types of allergies include food, environmental (pollen, grass, mold, dust mites), contact (from specific fabrics or cleaning products, etc.) and flea allergy dermatitis (sensitivities to flea bites).
Boxers Have Been In Art And Popular Culture For Centuries
Beginning in the 16ht and 17th centuries, dogs resembling Boxers were found in art, such as paintings and sculptures. Boxers also became Hollywood stars through movies like "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" and Butch from the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons. And many famous celebrities have owned Boxers, from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall to Sylvester Stallone to Cameron Diaz to Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
A Boxer Holds The Guinness World Record For Longest Tongue
A seven year old Boxer named Brand was awarded the Guinness World Record for longest tongue ever. Her tongue measured 17 inches long! It makes sense why Boxers are believed to have the longest tongues of all dogs.