Fighting Dog Breeds
(Ancient Fighting Dogs)
This page is dedicated to a historical group of dog breeds, which were once bred and selected for their exceptional qualities suitable for protecting humans and for fighting animals. Indeed, with Fighting dog breeds we mean a group of dog breeds which were historically bred either to serve as war dogs, as property guardians or for the hunting of dangerous game. A group of dog breeds that in their working tasks needed to be tenacious, courageous and tireless, in short, had excellent fighting abilities. These fighting abilities were necessary because their working tasks in earlier centuries were much more dangerous and harsh than they are today. The cattle that Bull - dogs had to drive to the slaughterhouse were much more difficult to handle than they are today. Dogs used for guarding flocks, had not an easy job neither. A single dog had to be able to fight a puma or wild boar menacing the flocks he was guarding. Guarding properties did not just mean give the alert (as alarm or watch dogs today) but meant guarding against poachers, intruders and wild animals, and included personal protection of the owner and his family, and other activities, like ratting, etc.
The modern dog breeds descended from these dogs are no longer used as fighting dogs (except in rare - illegal - cases) and are usually not even considered by many as such anymore. This group also includes, for example, the small, fearless dogs that were used to chase and kill rats, like the French Bulldog, and the Olde Boston Bulldogge. Some breeds are now exclusively used as companion dogs, others have been employed in other functions where they excel, as protection dogs or as general hunting dogs. Reversely, many dog breeds which in the public opinion are designated as "fighting dogs" do not belong to this historical group and do not display their specific traits.
BTW, it may come as a surprise to many, but the dog breeds overrepresented in dog biting statistics in terms of frequency are breeds usually described as child-friendly, such as Labradors. Whether this is due to overreporting of the Labrador owners or to lack of obedience training of dogs pertaining to a breed that has the reputation of being 'harmless' is not clear.
Although most of the dog breeds presented on this page have an innate propensity to display a dominant character, dominance aggression is not the only form of aggression and, maybe even more importantly, canine behaviorists agree that this form of aggression may be encountered in all breeds. The second most common form of aggressive behavior found in dogs is fear aggression, a predisposition not usually found in the so-called 'fighting dog breeds'. Indeed, these breeds were bred for centuries precisely for their fearfulness and courage and as a result may be considered as being less prone to exhibit aggressive behavior than other more stress-sensitive breeds.
Dog aggression is more a HUMAN behavior problem, than a canine behavior problem that could be 'predicted' just because of a dog's breed. Bad and dangerous behavior in dogs often results from ignorance in their owners, AND their breeders. Unscrupulous breeders may deliberately or unknowingly breed unsound and unstable temperaments, thus perpetuating what should have been eliminated from the gene pool. Also, breeders and prospective buyers should remember that these dog breeds, because of their dominant and strong-willed character, are not usually fit for first-time or unexperienced dog owners.
This last category refers to dogs bred historically to fight man. Are not meant here dogs suitable for training as police or protection dogs, as is sometimes assumed.
Because of their ancestry, the modern dog breeds pertaining to this group share a number of characteristics, which make them exceptional in temperament. They are usually strong-willed and courageous, protective and tenacious, intelligent, vivid, and agile.
These breeds were selected and established primarily on their functionality as good fighters and only later bred true to a physical type. Their historical background helps to understand their true nature and the way they should be handled. Even if their agility and physical abilities have been sometimes compromised to conform the recently imposed show standard requirements, their fighting ancestry stills shows in their character traits.
As fighting dog breeds are often erroneously associated with 'aggressive dogs' we strongly advise to read our article about dog aggression.
Dog historically bred for
the hunting of dangerous game
or for use as property guards, war and fighting dogs
Please note that we do not support the illegal "sport" of dogfighting in whatever form, not even in those countries where this practice is legal.
As we already said, fighting dogs were used for different purposes:
- as wardogs
- for the hunting of dangerous game
- for fights against bears and lions
- for dog-fighting
- for chasing and killing rats
- for fights against badgers
- for other fights (monkeys, opossums, pigs, horses and donkeys, more rarely against man)
The foundation breed of these dogs were large, low-slung, massive dogs with very powerful build, large heads in comparison to their bodies and a tremendously threatening voice.
However, in a loving environment, providing a fair and consistent education, these dogs make the most adorable companions which provide great satisfaction to their owners.
If the breeding, raising, living, and training conditions created and provided by the owner/breeder are in line with the requirements of the dog species in general, and the dog breed and individual dog in particular, one will rarely encounter problem behavior. And this is true for ALL dog breeds, not just for the dog breeds descending from ancient fighting dog breeds. Read more about the responsibility of the prospective buyer and responsible dog ownership.
An Owner's Guide to Raising Your Pet Protector