Posts Tagged ‘Alano Español’

Image courtesy of Nara U.  From Megargee work in 1953.

Image courtesy of Nara U. From Megargee work in 1953. 

I’ve heard two histories of the boxer dog.

One of them is just as Megargee describes it– a dog like a dogue de Bordeaux that was bred down into a German boar catcher.

I’ve even heard it suggested that the South African boerboel is actually almost entirely derived from the Brabanter bullenbeisser, which supposedly looked like a bullmastiff or dogue de Bordeaux in its original form.  However, there is also a lot of evidence that the boerboel’s affinity with the bullmastiff comes from heavy crossbreeding from bullmastiffs that were imported by the De Beers diamond company.

I don’t know enough about boerboels to vouch for the veracity of either theory, but I do think there may be a bit of an error in assuming that the boxer was just a bred down dogue de Bordeaux or bullmastiff.

My take on it is that the original bullenbeissers were actually virtually indistinguishable from the dog that we call the Alano Español or “Spanish bulldog.”

Here’s an image of a modern alano:

alano espanol

And here are German bullenbeissers on a boar hunt:

bullenbeissers and saufinder

And here is the famous image of a German bullenbeisser:


I would even go as far as to suggest that the bullenbeissers and the alano are actually the same breed. If you think about it, it may have been that the Spanish introduced this dog to the Low Countries, which Spain once ruled, and to parts of the German-speaking world, where the Spanish and Austria Hapsburgs ruled various kingdoms and principalities.

The bullenbeissers of yore and the Spanish bulldog of today are both larger than the typical boxer, which was bred down through the use of English bulldog blood, but that was not to produce a hunting or working dog.

It was to produce a fancier version of the bullenbeisser type. Stockmann, the man quoted in the piece, actually was instrumental in changing the bulldog-type boxer back into something longer-legged and more athletic, a dog more suitable for use as a sentry and messenger dog in the First World War. (Stockmann’s prose in the preceding link is probably the best description of boxer dog behavior and attributes that I’ve ever read.)

The boxer went from being the bullenbeisser to the bulldog cross show dog back into a working bulldog.

Stockmann was correct in saying that the boxer was bred down from the bullenbeisser, but the bullenbeisser was not like a dogue de Bordeaux, a Bullmastiff, or a boerboel.  It was more like a big alano-type bulldog.




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These dogs are Alanos, which were sometimes called Spanish bulldogs.

I never knew that the semester of art history I had in undergrad was going to be useful.

But on this blog, I am forever bringing up works of art that depict historical dogs, including those that are extinct.

The dogs in this sketch are Alanos, which were almost always referred to in English as “Spanish bulldogs.” The sketch is by Francisco de Goya, and it is dated to 1816.

The direct descendant of the Spanish bulldog still exist, but the animal is bit distorted from its original form.

The Spanish originally used these animals to catch unruly livestock.

But the Conquistadors used them to subjugate the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Canary Islands.

The dogs later became used as fighting dogs in some parts of the Spanish Empire,  but in Spain itself, the dogs were primarily used in packs to catch livestock and wild boar.

There are two Spanish breeds of bulldog that are likely descendants of the Alano: the Alano Español and the Ca de Bou.

The Presa Canario is most likely a descendant, as are several Latin American bulldog-types.

Other breeds of the bulldog and mastiff type probably share some ancestry with this dog.

We do know that the modern bulldog was developed with the addition of at least some “Spanish bulldog” blood.

Bill George, the Victorian dog dealer, was one of the first people to promote the bulldog as a pet.  He was among the first to breed “toy bulldogs,” the progenitors of the French bulldog and the Boston terrier.

But he also dealt with big bulldogs.

In 1840, he imported an Alano-type from Spain named “Big-headed Billy,” which he then bred to his English bulldogs, who were without a job once bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835. One of his bulldogs  that descended from the Alano weighed 65 pounds, which was large for a bulldog of that day. Anyone who claims that bull-baiting English bulldogs were huge dogs hasn’t looked at the evidence very closely.


George is certainly worthy of post, which I would like to have published on here in the next couple of days, so I’ll just leave you with that little teaser.


Current Alanos Españoles do not come in white or pied. Indeed, they aren’t allowed to have large areas of white at all.

Their ears are still cropped, but they are bred to be sociable with other dogs.

After all, they were meant to hunt in packs.


I’m going to do some histories on bulldog types at some point. I’m going to start with the Alaunt.

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