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Origins Of The Bully Breeds: The Proud And Powerful Bullenbeisser

English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, American Pitbulls, American Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, Bull Mastiffs, and Boxers.

These are just a handful of dogs who all fall into a group of dogs known as the Bully Breed. 

Bullies, both old and new, are some of the most common dogs you see around today, but this is nothing new. 

All Bully breeds are said to have descended from the Molosser Dog, who dominated the streets of Ancient Greece with their immense strength and athletic grace.

Big bones, thick prominent muscles, compact muzzle, and peddle ears defined these champinon looking dogs who were extremely popular due to their work ethic. Doesn’t sound like too much has changed from then to today. 

 

Bulldog

 

Now, we aren’t just talking about Bullies for no reason. Today, we are traveling back in time to take an in-depth look at one of the most incredible extinct Bully dogs. We aren’t traveling back all the way to Ancient Greece.

Instead, we’re headed to Germany in the 1700-1800s to meet the Bullenbeisser or the German Bulldog. The Bullenbeisser plays an important part in shaping some of the most popular Bully breeds of today, in particular, the always loveable and fun Boxer

One look at the Bullenbeisser and there is no mistaking their influence on the Bully Breeds of today. They were known for their hunting skills and loyalty to their owner, making them highly desirable dogs during their time.

But what made them popular during the 18th and 19th centuries also played a large part in their demise as a breed. So if ya got a Bully, grab them close cause we’re going on a ride in history. 

German Bulldog Facts 

There were two main variations of the Bullenbeisser. The smaller Brabanter variety hailed from the Netherlands and Belgium, while the larger, Danziger variety hailed from Germany. 

While the Danziger variety is what most literature refers to when describing these dogs as they are the original breed, the Brabanter variety saw more popularity towards the end of this breeds’ time. As well, this would be the variety that would go on to become the modern Boxer. 

The Bullenbeisser is closely related to the Barenisser, with some believing they are the same breed. Their names are pretty similar after all, with one meaning bear-biter and the other bull-biter

Unlike many extinct breeds, the German Bulldog didn’t become a lost breed to time. Instead, the breed was crossed with other dog breeds (mostly other Bullies) to create several new breed lines. 

By World War II, the German Bulldog was officially a thing of the past, with the offspring no longer resembling the original dogs. Originally these working dogs were bred for blood sports and hunting. Now, this breed was quickly turning into a companion dog who was great for the entire family.

Before they made their transition from hunting dog to family dog, Bully breeds were war dogs used predominantly in WWI to defend camps or guard other important areas. 

While the Bullenbeisser was crossed with many different breeds to create multiple lines, the most well known and perhaps the only one to survive is the Boxer. 

Breed Characteristics 

Other Names  German Bulldog, Barenbeiszer, Boxmatian, Bullenbijter, and German Mastiff 
Breed Extinct  
Group Bully 
Recognized No
Lifespan 10-14 years
Size  Medium to Large
Height  15 to 28 inches at shoulder
Weight  40  to 100 pounds 
Coat Colors  Apricot, Fawn, Black, Brown, & White 
Grooming Needs  Low 
Exercise Needs  High  
Training Needs Easy
Suitable For Apartments?  N/A
Suitable For Families?  Yes
Suitable For Singles?  Yes

 

Origin 

Like all Bully breeds, the Bullenbeisser is told to have descended from the Mastiffs who roamed Ancient Greece.

The German Bulldog first appeared sometime around the 1600s, reaching their highest popularity in the mid-1800s, before falling into extinction sometime between the World Wars due to crossbreeding. 

However, it’s important to note that records of this breed are very fuzzy, and the Bullenbeisser (or a very similar breed) may have actually appeared over a millennium earlier in 370 AD.

 

Bulldog

 

History

Between the 17th and the mid-19th century, you could find the Bullenbeisser throughout Germany, where they helped make the lives of the German people easier, assisting them in hunting along with guarding their homes and valuable property. 

In 1894, three Germans wanted to introduce the smaller version of the Bullenbeisser to the world of dog shows, but they needed to stabilize the breed’s defining characteristics. In doing this, they created the Boxer breed, founding the first Boxer club in 1895.

By the early 1900s, the first official breed standard for the Boxer was released, which doesn’t differ much from today’s standards.  

 

Appearance 

The Bullenbeisser was a lean and muscular dog with a short coat. Like modern-day Bullies, these dogs had a big barrel chest that sloped greatly inward to a thin waist, giving them a wide athletic-looking stance.

Bulldog

They had large boxy heads with wide smiles and short wobbly ears that hung high up on their faces. Their coat could be a wide range of colors from brindle to fawn to tan to black to mostly white with spots. 

Size

Bullenbeissers were medium to large dogs that ranged anywhere from 15 to 28 inches tall and weighed between 40 to 100 pounds. 

 

Grooming

The Bullenbeisser had to be easy to care for dogs, and their short coat that rarely shed and was easy to clean highlights this necessity. The Bullenbeisser was great at keeping themselves clean and didn’t have the deep wrinkles that some modern Bullies do, which can cause problems for them.  

 

Behavior 

The Bullenbeisser is not a dog to be trifled with. This was a powerful, dominant, and highly intelligent dog that was very loyal and protective of their owner and territory.

They excelled at hunting and thrived on pleasing their owners. Whether that was by attentively listening to their commands or chasing after a ball. 

There is no getting around that these dogs could be extremely aggressive. They were originally bred to grapple onto boars, bulls, and even bears and hold them down long enough so their owners could get multiple shots in when hunting aggressive animals that will attack humans.

These animals often didn’t go down with one shot and reload time was significant, making these dogs invaluable to the life of the hunter. 

 

Food Habit 

It’s fair to say the Bullenbeisser had a healthy appetite due to their large muscles and demanding work life. In fact, according to Dogbreedinfo, “The Bullenbeisser also became smaller in size due to the fact that few people were able to afford to feed a large dog.”

 

Health 

The health of this breed is not well documented. It appears they were overall a healthy breed, who may have struggled with mobility issues like hip dysplasia as it’s commonly seen in modern Bully breeds. 

 

When did the Bullenbeisser Become Extinct?

The Bullenbeisser largely went extinct sometime during the mid-1800s. However, there are reports of the breed still lingering around during the World Wars.

Crossbreeding the Bullenbeisser with other Bully breeds became extremely popular around the mid-1800s, especially after blood sports were banned, which caused many breeders to change the breed’s focus and drive.

Other Extinct Dog Breeds

Throughout their time with us, dogs have seen many different shapes and sizes, thanks to humans getting involved with the breeding process.

There are now easily over 300 different dog breeds, and that doesn’t even include the breeds who used to call us their best friends. Speaking of those extinct breeds, let’s take a look at a few of them.

1. Alpine Mastiff 

Keeping it in the Molosser lineage, there was the Alpine Mastiff, who is a major player in the creation of modern Mastiff breeds.

 

Alpine Mastiff 

 

Though strangely enough, the Alpine Mastiff is most closely related to the modern St. Bernard. In fact, Alpine Mastiff and St. Bernard were used interchangeably when describing these dogs in the early 19th century. However, if you took one look at them you would only see some resemblance.

The modern St. Bernard is a combination of the Alpine Mastiff crossed with other breeds like the Great Dane and Newfoundland.

2. Blue Paul Terrier 

While many think of the Pitbull Terrier as the first Bully/Terrier mix, the Blue Paul Terrier outdated the breed by at least a century, potentially appearing around 1770. The origins of this breed are as controversial as they are fuzzy.

 

Blue Paul Terrier 

 

However, it seems agreed upon they were first bred in Scotland and were a cross between terriers and bulldogs along with other similar looking breeds. Their cunningness and athleticism made them popular fighting dogs who saw their greatest popularity during the mid-19th century.

Though their popularity was short-lived, and its rapid decline led to their extinction less than a hundred years later.

3. Sakhalin Husky

Not all extinct dog breeds have occurred years and years ago. The Sakhalin Husky was reported officially extinct in 2012. This bear-like looking breed originated on the island Saklain which is tucked comfortably between Russia and Japan.

There was one report indicating that seven Sakhalin Huskies may still be alive as of 2015. However, with such a limited number, it’s essentially impossible to revive this breed in a healthy manner.

4. St. John’s Water Dog

After taking one look at this old breed, it’s easy to see they still live on in two of the most popular dog breeds around; the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever.

The St. John’s Water Dog is also an ancestor of the Newfoundland dog. While most extinct breeds have very little info regarding their history and breed standards, the St. John’s water dog is far from the case. 

They were medium-large dogs bred to work, helping out with a variety of tasks now performed by their Retriever descendants. Their extinction is contributed largely to two factors.

First, to encourage sheep raising, Newfoundland placed heavy taxation and restrictions on dog ownership. Around the same time, the U.K. — which was the largest importer of the breed — placed a quarantine on all imported animals in an effort to curb the growing rabies epidemic. 

5. Molossus

You can’t talk about extinct Bully breeds without mentioning the Molossus. The Molossus dog is one old dog. One of the earliest mentions of the Molossus dog comes from a popular play written around 400 B.C.

Molosser dogs came in many different sizes and appearances, with some resembling the modern Pitbull while others would look more like modern Mastiffs. Some were said to be tall and slender with a hound-like appearance, while others were described as hulking and powerful dogs. 

Even Aristotle noted the differences in their appearance, “In the Molossian race of dogs, those employed in hunting differ in no respect from other dogs; while those employed in following sheep are larger and more fierce in their attack on wild beasts.”

The reason for the variety of appearances is because the Molosser dog wasn’t a single breed but a group of dogs similar to how we group Mastiffs, Boxers, Pitbulls, and Bulldog all in the Bully group.

Molosser dogs were said to be extremely loyal to their owner and incredibly ferocious, making them a popular choice for use as a dog of war or for hunting. You could also find them guarding farms and other important property. 

By most accounts these were outside working dogs, however, there is an account that states some were kept as companion or family dogs. 

 

Conclusion 

Powerful, stoic, faithful, and easy-going, the Bullenbeisser is truly a breed that represents the people of Germany and the everyday struggles they endured during the 1700 and 1800s.

Unlike many extinct dog breeds, you can easily see the remnants of this breed still very much alive in modern Bully breeds that grace the world today. Most notably, the lovable, proud, and always ready-to-play Boxer. 

It’s truly incredible to see how a dog that was once bred for blood sports — where they would fight boars, bulls, and bears — has transitioned into one of the most popular dog breeds for families.

The Boxer is known for their patience and gentle nature with children. They are notorious for staying puppy-like in their personality well into their adult years, and they just can’t get enough bouncing around in. 

 

 

For more articles on dog breeds both old and new, make sure to stay up to date with Tindog blog. Here you can also find helpful tips for training your pup, and learn the best practices for keeping their health in great shape for the years to come.  

 

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.” – Franklin P. Jones

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