The Dogue de Bordeaux breed is a giant breed also commonly referred to as a French Mastiff, and it has a muddled and mysterious ancestry. They stand around two feet tall at the shoulder and weigh upwards of 99 pounds, with an exceptionally large head and a short muzzle. These dogs can have several health problems, including heart trouble, cancers, and hip and elbow dysplasia, and a shortened lifespan of just five to eight years, however, there are outliers. The 1989 movie Turner and Hooch a nine-year-old Dogue de Bordeaux named Beasley played opposite Tom Hanks and went on to live another three years after the movie came out. Without proper socialization, these canines can become headstrong and stubborn, like Hooch in the movie, but under the right circumstances, these dogs can be loyal, tolerant and affectionate family members.
This giant breed is known as a molosser, a group characterized by their strength and by their solidly built bodies. All members of the molosser group, including Mastiff breeds, Saint Bernards, and even Pugs, are believed to be descended from one common ancestor, the Molossus, an ancient breed that still exists in some mountainous regions Albania. From there, the ancestry of these dogs gets a little bit muddled. Some claim that the Dogues were descended from an extinct Spanish dog known as the Alano, others claim they are descended from the Tibetan Mastiff, and still others claim that they existed as an ancient French breed known as the Dogues de Bordeaux of Aquitaine. Many sources indicate that the Dogue de Bordeaux breed may have predated Bullmastiffs and Bulldogs and may even have contributed to their lines: however, there are also indications that these breeds may have contributed to the Dogue de Bordeaux breed during its formation. In the early days of the breed, there was a great deal of variation among the dogs classified as Dogues de Bordeaux, including differences in coat colors, jaw formation, and even differing head sizes. In the 1800’s these dogs were employed extensively throughout France and were trained to bait bulls and jaguars, to hunt boar, to protect property, and even to herd cattle. Dogues were utilized in developing the Argentine Dogo to increase the size and strength of the head and jaw, and in the 1930’s they were imported to Japan to do the same for the Tosa breed, but it wasn’t until 1970 that a more cohesive breed standard was written. Despite their ancient heritage, these dogs were virtually unheard of in the United States until 1982, when an article in “Dog world” was written by Dr. Carl Semencic, and they didn’t gain recognition by the American Kennel Club until 2008.
The first thing you notice about this breed of dog is their size. They are a massive canine, standing around two feet tall at the shoulder, with exceptionally large heads with somewhat shortened muzzles. Their skin is loose around the face and neck, forming deep wrinkles and large jowls that extend down, framing their powerful undershot jaws. Their fur is short and surprisingly soft, and during early breeding, these dogs came in all colors, with numerous different types of marking. Today, Dogues mainly come in different shades of fawn. The most commonly seen is the coloration known as red, a darker, more coppery color than the classic golden fawn color. The mahogany color is a slightly deeper, darker shade than the red, and the Isabella is a very light fawn, sometimes light enough to be described as a creamy or parchment-like color. They can have patches of white anywhere on their body, but fault is found in the show ring if that white is on the tip of the tail, the head, or the main part of the body. Masks are a common marking on these dogs as well and may come in black or brown.
This breed’s short coat is quite manageable, requiring regular brushing with a curry comb or soft bristle brush to control the shedding, and monthly baths are usually adequate for these dogs. Medicated shampoo may be required if any skin disorders such as Ichthyosis are affecting the dog, and care should be taken to ensure that the folds of skin have not trapped any moisture as it can cause skin irritation and a foul odor may develop. The face and muzzle area should be examined and wiped down on a weekly basis to prevent the formation of red yeast and other fungal or bacterial infestations, particularly as dogs of this breed tends to drool rather heavily. The paw pads for these giant dogs should also get some special attention to prevent drying and cracking, including the use of a good dog-safe moisturizer. Dogues generally don’t require a great deal of exercise, and exercise during hotter weather should be minimized to protect your dog from overheating. This breed should never be left outside alone for very long in anything but the mildest of weather due to their shortened snouts and reduced ability to compensate for either heat or cold temperatures.