The Dogue de Bordeaux falls into a group of dogs classified as molosser, descendants of the molossus, a dog that lived approximately 700 BC. Based on ancient carvings and paintings, it appears the molossus were kept as guard and hunting dogs by the Assyrians.
The first record of a molosser-type dog is in a letter dated 326 BC that mentions large, strong dogs with short, broad teeth. Bones of these big dogs have been found amongst other artifacts in archaeological expeditions throughout the world in places such as Tibet, China and India. These dogs were included in the army of Alexander the Great, and journeyed from Mesopotamia to Epirus in various wars. In Epirus there was a mythical king ruling over the area of Molossus who took care of the dogs. From there they journeyed to Rome, Gaule and other lands including Spain and France.
There are contrasting reports that this large dog first existed in Spain as the Alano, an extinct dog whose description resembles today's Dogue de Bordeaux. The Alano was supposedly brought to Europe by the Alans, an Oriental tribe. The Alan vautre was described in the fourteenth century by Gaston Phoebus (or Febus), Count of Foix, in his Livre de Chasse. 'He holds his bite stronger than three sight hounds'. There are also accounts that the molosser developed from the olossids, a Greco-Roman canine that existed during Julius Caesar's time and was used in war. The word 'dogue' first appeared at the end of the fourteenth century. Before the nineteenth century, these dogs did not have a standard but were very similar in looks and usage.
There were guardian dogs used to protect homes, butcher shops, and vineyards; pack hunting dogs that baited bulls and pursued boars, bears, jaguars and other game; and herding dogs that took care of farm animals such as sheep and cattle. ORIGINS The Dogue de Bordeaux is one of the most ancient of today's purebred dogs. It is similar to the Bullmastiff yet is centuries older.
There are several theories about its true origin. One suggests that it is a descendant of the Tibetan Mastiff, who's origin can be traced back more than five thousand years, from Thibet to Mesopotamia and then to Ancient Greece ( Molossus of Epirus ), then Rome and from there to Gaule, making this journey by the side of merchants, conquerors and warriors. Another theory suggests that the Dogue is a direct descendant of Assyrian war dogs once owned by the King of Babylon and given as peace offerings to other members of royalty. Legend claims such a gift was received by a king, who pitted the Dogue against another dog.
The Dogue is said to have turned his nose up and walked away from his supposed adversary. For this it was deemed a coward and put to death. Upon hearing the news, the King of Babylonia sent a messenger with another Dogue and a message that read " Of course he would show no interest in fighting such a lowly animal. Pit this one against something a bit more worthy, perhaps a Lion or an Elephant". The receiving King took the challenge and pitted this Dogue against one of his prize Elephants.
According to the legend, they had to pull it off of the Elephant or the Dogue would have surely killed it.
Yet another theory suggests that bones found in France predate all of this history and are indeed the bones of a Dogue de Bordeaux. This implies that the Dogue existed in France all along and is a descendant of the "Alano Dog", who was brought to Europe by the Alans, an Oriental tribe.
The Alano is considered extinct today but fanciers are attempting to rebuild the breed. Although there are many differences in opinion as to the specific origin of the Dogue de Bordeaux, it is clearly one of the purest forms of the ancient mastiff type. By the end of the middle ages, the Dogue was used to herd cattle and to protect them from wolves and bears, giving the Dogue its nickname "The Butcher's dog".
They were prized as protectors by the noble and wealthy of France. Many perished with their masters during the French Revolution (1789) but the Dogues of the common man survived. In 1863 an exhibition was held at the "Jardin d' Acclimatation" in Paris, France. This is where the Dogue de Bordeaux was given the name of the capital of their region of origin. There were also two other variations of Dogue at the time, the Toulouse and the Paris.
The Bordeaux today is a mixture of these three distinct types.
The Toulouse had many shades of red in its coat ranging from light red-fawn to deep dark mahogany. It had lite bones and a longer body.
The Paris dogs came with either a scissor bite or an undershot until a group of breeders agreed on the undershot bite. Cropped ears were standard but eventually became forbidden.
Therefore the DDB breeds true to its "Genotype" but that is not necessarily its "Phenotype". Enthusiasts should be aware of and on the lookout for the occasional pup that appears with a recessive trait. In 1895, John Proctor of Antwerp published his accounts of judging the Dogue de Bordeaux at a show, in an article "Fighting Dogs of the South of France", in the magazine "the Stock Keeper". In 1896, Pierre Meguin put together a synthesis of the best Dogues shown and known from 1863 to 1895 in a book he published "Le Dogue de Bordeaux", which featured a description and characteristics true to the B. In 1897, Henry de Bylants work "The Breed of Dogs" introduced the Breed Standard to the world. In 1910, J. Kunsler, Professor od Comparative Anatomy of the Science Facility of Bordeaux, published a "Critique Etude du Dogue de Bordeaux"( A Critical Study of the Dogue de Bordeaux). Once known as the "French Fighting Dog", the Dogue de Bordeaux was used in combat against bulls, lions, wolves, ars and hyenas. It was also used as a utility guard and as a dog of war. Spanish officers took many of them along in their conquest of the New World. Although pitted against fierce adversaries most fights were bloodless knock-down point contests. The DDB's massive head and tremendous strength coupled with his notorious ability for getting beneath his opponent enabled him to topple nearly any size of animal. There was a bloody event between a legendary champion "Hercules" and a Jaguar. It took place in San Francisco around the turn of the century. It was a lengthy battle that went on for hours. Although Hercules inflicted serious injuries to the jaguar eventually he was killed. Those who witnessed the fight still declared it a draw. Fighting events were outlawed by 1912. There were many setbacks in the Dogues history. Another came with the onsets of WWI and WWII. Adolf Hitler ordered all Dogue de Bordeaux to be killed on sight because of their devotion to their family and their guarding capabilities. This almost brought about their extinction. Only three breeding pairs remained after WWII. Conscientious breeders kept the strain alive and equable, stable, loving, vigilant, quiet and loyal. They reduced the breeds size and eventually out crossed it to the British bulldog to renew its bloodline. The Dogue de Bordeaux has played an integral part in the breeding of the Argentine Dogo and the Tosa Inu. Today he is recognized for his gentleness, patience and devotion. Absent is the trigger happy, ferocious fighting instinct. Also absent is the miniature version "Doguin de Bordeaux" believed to be extinct for over three hundred years.