The extinct Bullenbeisser dog breed
With big heads, flat chests, and wide front stances, these dogs were similar to the modern day Boxer, Pit Bull, and Mastiff. The Bullenbeisser had thin, tall ears, large, muscled cheeks, and often had extra flaps of skin, especially around the neck. Their short coats could be a wide range of colors from a pale tan, any shade of brown, to a deep black.
As a guard dog, the Bullenbeisser was extremely loyal to its owner and intelligent as they also followed commands for hunting. The dominant breeds may have been more territorial as they were taught to protect the master’s home. Like other bully breeds, they were fun, energetic and eager to please.
Height: 15 – 28 inches (38 – 71 cm)
Weight: 40 – 100 lbs (18 – 45 kg)
Because of their thin, muscular legs, the Bullenbeisser may have experienced hip or knee issues such as hip dysplasia or thyroid disease. Their health issues would have been similar to other bully breeds such as Pit Bulls, Boxers, or Mastiffs.
As a guard dog, the Bullenbeisser was always alert and watching for danger. They enjoyed large spaces to explore and hunt. These dogs were often found outside either paying attention to their surroundings, or on the hunt with their owner. They did well in open areas and would not do well cooped up in small houses, especially with no outdoor space.
Similar to the Boxer, these dogs needed plenty of exercise and room to roam. Since they were used to hunt and guard, they felt most comfortable when having a task at hand. They were intelligent and required training and daily pack exercise.
About 9–11 years
About 5 to 8 puppies
Similar to other bully breeds, the Bullenbeisser had a short coat that only needed to be groomed occasionally. They did not require a regular bathing routine.
The Bullenbeisser dates back to 370 AD when the breed was first mentioned during the migration of the Assyrians from Asia to Europe because they needed large hunting and fighting dogs as companions in order to survive. As a Molosser-type breed, the Bullenbeisser was native to Germany and common throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Because this breed is extinct, not much is known about the exact origin of this breed. We do know however, that this breed was known to be a part of the political bodies including within the Holy Roman Empire, and other cities that are known today as Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic. Originally, the Bullenbeisser was introduced as a type of Mastiff during the late Roman period or the Medieval ages and was known as the German Mastiff. Over time, the name for the Bullenbeisser changed with the different breedings around the area. During this time, Mastiffs in Germany were used as protection during war. The owners would chain them outside of their house as people would call them monsters and not dare to enter. Over time, these views changed and the dog breed became lazier though breeding with other breeds and the owners began to use them as hunting dogs rather than guard dogs. They would hunt large game such as bears, wolves, and boar. The Bullenbeisser were fast enough to chase prey and strong enough to win the hunt. Through the continued hunting and exercise, the Bullenbeisser eventually appeared more lean, with a more athletic stance and less bulky muscles to show.
To create the Bullenbeisser, Germans would breed the Mastiff with their own dogs to create the Boar Hound which were known for hunting wild boar. This crossed dog breed is also known as Deutsche Dogge, Doggen, or better known as the Great Dane. Many believe that the Germans were able to create this popular breed by mixing their Mastiffs with the Irish Wolfhound. As these dogs became mixed with more athletic breeds, the Bullenbeisser was born. The Bullenbeisser was also known as the Barenbeiszer or the Bullenbijter. This dog’s name translates to Bull Biter or Bear Biter.
The Bullenbeisser was famously known for being the combat dog for the Holy Roman Empire. Farmers also owned kennels of this breed for farming purposes such as catching livestock and hunting. Since the dog was immensely popular all over the region, the breed became less broad and became more local to the individual town. This resulted in many different varieties of the Bullenbeisser. For example, the land that was previously called Duchy of Brabant (now modern day Netherlands and Belgium) had their own dog breed called the Brabanter. The theory was that this breed derived from breeding the Bullenbeisser with English Bulldogs because the Brabant was considerably smaller than the original breed of the Bullenbeisser. The Brabanter breed was known for accompanying sailors on their journey to find new land. It was said that the Brabant was on the same ship that first sailed to Cape Town in South Africa in the year 1652 with Jan Van Riebeeck and other Dutch sailors which then resulted in the Brabanter breeding with other dogs in Cape Town to form new breeds. Some say that this led to the creation of the Boerboel breed and also the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed although this was never confirmed.
As the Holy Roman Empire decreased in size, the Bullenbeisser became more expensive and less people were able to afford them. Also during this time, cities became larger and the countryside shrank. This combination resulted in fewer demands for hunting dogs, leaving a large number on breeds to go extinct. The Bullenbeisser also became smaller in size due to the fact that few people were able to afford to feed a large dog. As the cities grew, the need for guard dogs increased, leading people to buy the Bullenbeisser to guard their house. Since the Brabanter was already a smaller version of the Bullenbeisser, they became more popular and eventually outnumbered the original and larger Bullenbeisser breeds.
At this point in time, Germany was able to trade with many countries easily, resulting in more dogs being brought to the country. The English Bulldog was very popular at the time as it served the same purposes as the Bullenbeisser but was smaller, energetic, and served well in combat. The English Bulldog was similar to the modern American Bulldog and also came in more colors while being bulkier and more muscular than the Bullenbeisser. These traits made the English Bulldog more favorable to breed the Bullenbeisser with than other dogs at the time. While the main dog that was bred with the Bullenbeisser was the English Bulldog, the Bullenbeisser was also bred with the English White Terrier, Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As more mixed breeds came into play, the original Bullenbeisser began to be endangered of going extinct.
While dog shows became popular in the 1800’s, a few dog show groups wanted to revive the now lost Bullenbeisser and make the breed a standardized breed. At their attempt to breed the original Bullenbeisser back into existence, they created the Boxer instead. This breed was started in Munich, Germany and was most likely half English Bulldog and half Bullenbeisser. The public favored the features that the Bullenbeisser gave this new Boxer breed and the Boxer breed soon became about a quarter English Bulldog and a majority Bullenbeisser. The Boxer was so popular that by the end of World War II, it replaced the Bullenbeisser entirely.
Many believe that the American Pit Bull Terrier is a descendant of the Bullenbeisser although that theory was debunked because there was no evidence to support the idea.
Modern breeds that are thought to be related to the original Bullenbeisser include the Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier. Modern breeds that are said to be descendants from the Bullenbeisser include the Great Dane, Boxer, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and the Boerboel. Modern dogs that are similar to the Bullenbeisser include the Dogo Argentino and the Alano Espanol (Spanish Bulldog).