The most ancient of French dog breeds, the Dogue de Bordeaux (‘Mastiff of Bordeaux’) was around even before France was France. These brawny fawn-coated guardians of considerable courage are famously loyal, affectionate, and protective.
The Dogue de Bordeaux is an immensely powerful mastiff-type guardian. Males can go 27 inches high and 110 pounds. The short, eye-catching coat is a richly colored fawn. The massive head features a Bulldog-like undershot jaw, expressive eyes, and a deeply furrowed brow. It is, proportionately, the largest head in the canine kingdom. The body is stocky and close to the ground, but Dogues can move like lions when duty calls. DDBs of proper temperament are sweet and sensitive souls. Owners appreciate their breed’s loyalty to loved ones of all ages, but also say DDBs can be stubborn and will dominate those who fail to apply firm training in puppyhood. When acquiring such a strapping super-dog, finding a responsible breeder is key.
The Dogue de Bordeaux is among the several AKC breeds who history stretches so far back into ancient times that pinpointing its exact origins is impossible. One theory maintains that the Dogue is an indigenous French breed developed over thousands of years. Other theories name the Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Tibetan Mastiff, and Greek mastiff-types as possible close ancestors.
A prevailing origin tale has it that the Dogue’s ancestors were introduced to France (then called Gaul) by Julius Caesar’s conquering legions in the first century b.c. These immense mastiff-types were utilized by the Romans as both war dogs and ferocious gladiators who did battle with other dogs and wild beasts in the arena.
For centuries the “Bordeaux Mastiff” or the “Bordeaux Bulldog,” as it was sometimes called, apparently came in two size varieties. The smaller variety, the Doguin, disappears from the historical record after the 1700s, leaving the slightly larger version as the breed we know today as the Dogue de Bordeaux.
During the breed’s long history, Dogues outlived their usefulness as fighting dogs and came to be employed at various times as hunters, drafters, and guarders. By the late 1700s, they were used as guard dogs on the nobility’s vast estates. This employment abruptly ended with the French Revolution, when the Dogue’s aristocratic masters were trotted off to prison and the guillotine.
The breed survived the bloodshed and found work as livestock drovers, a job that earned them the nickname “Butcher’s Dog.”
In modern times, the breed was virtually unknown outside of France until the 1989 release of the movie “Turner & Hooch.” The comedy, starring Tom Hanks as a police detective assisted by a drooling, stubborn, but lovable Dogue, introduced the breed to audiences around the world.
Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is a serious concern in the Dogue de Bordeaux. Owners should educate themselves to recognize the signs that bloat could be happening, and know what actions to take if so. Heart disease, cancer, orthopedic issues (such as hips and elbows), and epilepsy are also issues of concern in the breed. Responsible breeders will screen their stock for conditions the breed can be prone to. As with all breeds, a Dogue de Bordeaux’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Shoulder Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation
- Cardiac Exam
The breed is well-known for how much they drool, and the wrinkles on their facial area need special attention at least weekly, sometimes daily, to see that they are kept clean and dry. At least once a week it’s also important to clean the ears and check for debris or signs of infection. nails should be trimmed monthly. The Dogue de Bordeaux should get a full bath every four weeks or so. In between baths, wiping him down with a damp towel can keep him looking and smelling great. The breed’s short coat will shed year ‘¿round; using a rubber curry or a shedding blade can keep the loose hair that falls to the floor to a minimum.
To avoid strain on developing bones and joints, the young Bordeaux should be limited to low-impact exercise until at least 18 months of age. They should not be overexerted and should not be allowed to run up and down stairs or jump off of surfaces higher than their back. Swimming is an excellent exercise for Bordeaux of any age. An older Bordeaux can work more strenuously, including doing jobs such as pulling carts.
Socialization and early obedience training are an absolute must. The Dogue de Bordeaux is a sensitive breed who requires trust, and a rough trainer or heavy-handed approach should be avoided. Discipline should be firm and consistent without being harsh; ownership of the breed is not for the timid or the very busy person.
The Dogue de Bordeaux should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.