Boxer breakdown: An in-depth look at the breed
The vet’s office
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The boxer is a highly recognizable breed with its distinct facial features. A boxer’s lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw with the upper canine teeth sitting just behind the lower canine teeth. The placement of the teeth along with thick lips gives boxers a square-looking muzzle.
According to the breed standard, the expression should be “steadfast and tractable.” Boxer owners, however, will tell you they are more than a pretty face. They are “fun-loving, bright, and active.”
The boxer was bred down from a large hunting mastiff called the Bullenbeisser in Germany in the 1800s. The precursor to the boxer almost went extinct when nobility no longer had large hunting packs. Butchers and cattle dealers came to own these dogs, keeping them around to become boxers.
Early boxers were either gray or fawn with black masks but no white. English bulldogs looked similar to the boxer and were interbred for consistency within the boxer breed. With consistency came white markings. The German Boxer Club was established in 1895, and the boxer was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1904.
How the name boxer came to be is unknown. Some say it is from using their front legs to hit and “box.” However, in a real hunting scenario, this could cause great injury. Boxers may “box” with their big heads, though.
Others say it is from abbreviated or slang words popular at the time of development. An 1845 Charles Dickens novel had a dog named Boxer. Also, one of the first boxers was called “Lechner’s Box,” which perhaps was the true origin of the name.
The boxer breed is not wrought with many health problems, but some of the diseases can be devastating. Boxers have a high cancer rate, especially of the brain, immune system, and skin. Boxers can have heart disease, such as aortic stenosis or, more commonly, cardiomyopathy. Degenerative myelopathy is also found in boxers and leads to paralysis. Epilepsy is another neurological condition that can develop.
Boxers can be sensitive to E. coli and get ulcerative colitis. Ulcers can also form on the cornea of the eye that are difficult to manage and heal. The deep barrel chest can predispose a boxer to stomach bloat and twisting, and the short “brachycephalic” nose can make a boxer sensitive to heat and humidity when exercising. The gene expressed to get white boxers has been linked to deafness.
While the list of potential health problems sounds scary, boxers can be excellent, loving friends. They were “developed to serve as guard, working, and companion dogs” and do it with “strength and agility and elegance and style.” Researching breeders and pedigrees will help ensure you find the right boxer for you.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.