The Boxer derives from two central European breeds of dog that no longer exist: the larger Danziger bullenbaiser and the smaller Brabenter bullenbaiser. Bullenbaiser means "bull biter", and these dogs were used to grab large game (wild boars, deer and small bears) after it was at bay, hanging onto it until the hunter arrived to kill it. This required a strong but agile dog with a broad powerful jaw and a recessed nose to enable the dog to breathe while its jaws were clamped onto an animal. Similar attributes were required of dogs used in bull-baiting, a popular sport in many European countries. In England, the bulldog was the favored breed for the sport, whereas in Germany large mastiff-type dogs were used.
Around the 1830s, German hunters began a concerted effort to create a new breed, crossing their bullenbaisers with mastiff-type dogs for size, terriers for tenacity and, finally, bulldogs. The result was a tough agile dog with a streamlined body and strong grip. When bull-baiting was outlawed, the dogs were mostly used as butcher's dogs in Germany, controlling cattle in slaughter yards.
By 1895, an entirely new breed, the Boxer, had been established. Although the exact origin of the name "Boxer" is obscure, it may have been derived from the German boxl, as they were called in the slaughterhouses. The Boxer was one of the first breeds to be employed as a police and military dog in Germany.
By 1900, the breed had become established as a general utility dog, a family pet and even a show dog. The AKC recognized the breed soon after, but only in the 1940s did the Boxer begin its steady rise to the top of the popularity charts, eventually peaking as the fourth-most popular breed in America.