Well, I took my new camera out today for the first time, to the Elm Bank facility of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. A little early for much to be in bloom, but as I was walking back to my car, I spied a woozle!
Here we see Emma, a fine example of the Boxer. As you can see, she is alert, trim and well-muscled. The Boxer story begins in Germany, where for centuries mastiff-type dogs had been used to bait both bulls and bears. In 1895, a female 'Bullbeiszer' (bull-fighting type) had been crossed with a Bulldog named 'Tom'. The resultant litter had included 'Flocki', who was shown at Munich in 1895, and the Boxer line had begun.
There is some debate as to why the name 'Boxer' was chosen, with some contending that it is because the breed paws and plays with objects using its paws like boxing gloves, and others saying that during the rigorous German security dog training known as 'Schutzhund', the Boxer really does use its paws more than other breeds. A third, and equally likely option, is that the name was chosen because of the fighting qualities of the dog in defending its owner or family.
In 1903, the first Boxers were imported to the USA from Germany, but did not appear to be very popular. The breed made its first appearance in the UK in 1911, but suffered the same fate as the first American examples. It wasn't until the 1930s that the breed started to gain popularity, with the end of the Second World War bringing a surge of interest.
The breed is of moderate size, 21 - 24" high, 55 - 60 lb females and 60 - 70 lb males. They are very muscular, and have a broad head, with a deep, short, square muzzle. The colour can include tan, russet, brindle (black stripes over tan) and white, where the white extends over 1/3 or more of the dog - if this happens, these dogs are NOT bred from, as they can suffer from deafness, and an increased instance of skin complaints, including cancer. The Boxer also has a distinctive black 'mask' (as you can see) and white markings to the face, throat, chest, legs and paws. The eyes are a lovely liquid brown.
As well as making excellent guard dogs, the Boxer is supremely intelligent, and playful. They bond quickly with their family, and are devoted to any children that are part of the family unit. They are, however, very athletic, and require a good 'alpha walk' each day (with YOU being in the 'alpha dog' position). They will fetch a thrown ball - almost endlessly, it seems - an energetic woozle!
Attention should be given to their diet, as they do suffer from flatulance! The usual litter size is anything from 2 to 10 puppies, with the average being 6. Boxers are good mothers, but care should be taken to check for hip dysplasia. Other serious health problems CAN include cardiomyopathy and other heart defects such as canine subaortic stenosis (puppies with mild murmurs should be reassessed at one year), and thyroid problems. The main difficulty with the Boxer, however, is the level of oncological problems. From the age of 8 onwards Boxers suffer more tumors than other breeds. Despite this, their average lifespan is from 11 to 14 years, and, providing that arthritis is kept at bay, they can remain active well into old age!
There is are two areas of great controversy. If you look at Emma, you will see that her ears are naturally 'floppy'. In many cases, the ears of Boxers are 'cropped' at 8 - 12 weeks, in that from 1/8th to 1/3rd of the ear removed, so that it will assume an upright position. The argument is that this reduces ear infections and ear mites, but it is banned by the UK Kennel Club. The AKC, however, allows show dogs to have either cropped or natural ears. Emma also has a docked tail - a situation that is normal in the USA. However, many Kennel Clubs in Europe forbid this, and insist on the breed being shown with its naturally curving tail. I must admit that I do not care for cropped ears; they alter the appearance too much, and require radical surgery. The tail is better natural, but I have no great objection if it has been docked.
I had great fun with Emma, and after she had stood quietly for her photograph, she came over and greeted me nicely!