Information about the Bandog

The term Bandog (also known as Bandogge) originated around 1250-1300 in Middle England, referring to a mastiff type dog that was bound by a chain during the daytime and was released at night to guard against intruders. In 1570 Johannes Caius published a book in Latin which in 1576 was translated into English by Abraham Fleming under the name Of Englishe Dogges, in which he described Bandog as a vast, stubborn, eager dog of heavy body.

The original Bandogs were bred with a functional purpose, as were all working breeds, and for the Bandog this purpose revolved around guarding and protecting. The Bandogs of old were strictly working dogs, often of various crosses and various sizes. The name “Bandog” was then not a breed, it was a description of a duty or purpose. Usually these dogs were coarse-haired hunters, fighters and property protectors without a strictly set type, developed from eastern shepherds and mastiffs crossed with western Bullenbeissers and hounds, with a few local bloodlines eventually being established as specific types in some regions, such as Britain, Spain, Germany, Poland and elsewhere in Europe.

Early incarnations of the Bandog probably had bloodlines from bull baiting dogs and the Guardian Mastiffs or the cross of both like the war dogs used in the Crusades.

William Harrison, in his description of England during 1586, first mentions the type in his statement, “Bandogge which is a huge dog, stubborn, uglier, eager, burthenouse of bodie, terrible and fearful to behold and often more fierce and fell than any Archadian or Corsican cur.” It is assumed that the word “Bandogge” originated from the use of strong bonds and chains to secure the dogs.

In 1576, Dr. Caius states that, among others characteristics, the “Mastiff or Bandogge is serviceable against the fox and the badger, to drive wild and tame swine out of meadows, and pastures, to bite and take the bull by the ears, when occasion so required.”

Finding various undesired traits in existing guard dogs, for centuries and millenia, people strived to improve upon what was currently available. This practice produced many breeds that are in existence today. Some of these breeds have become mainstream guardian breeds, while others have remained relatively rare. In the pursuit of one’s own preference of perfection, various programs have created some breeds similar to what is now accepted as the modern day “Bandog” but did not use that name for their breed. Some examples of such breeds would include the Perro de Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Boerboel, as well as a few others. The popularity of the name “Bandog” itself was revived in the mid 1960’s when a veterinarian John B. Swinford selected quality specimens of specific foundation breeds to create what he considered to be the ultimate guard dog, a breed known as the Swinford Bandog. Today there are many versions of the modern day Bandog, and as a result the Bandog today lacks a unified breed standard or direction. For these reasons, there is typically little or nothing in common between the modern Bandog programs and Dr. Swinford’s program other than the “Bandog” name itself. That said, there are indeed some high quality modern Bandog program in existence today that do have very specific goals even though these goals may not be unanimous between one breeder and the next. Such dedicated breeders may maintain the practice of performance based selection within their own programs, but a few have maintained long term success in their endeavors or produced multiple generation dogs for more than a decade. To further compound the complexity of the Bandog as a future pure breed, there are also other less dedicated bandog programs that lack any specificity of working goals whatsoever, yet such programs are able to get away with using the name Bandog name in a generic sense of the word since the breed lacks a unifying registry for work oriented breeding stock. For these reasons, it is wise for those interested in the Bandog to put forth significant research about their expectations from such dogs.

While the Bandog is still a relatively rare breed, those familiar with a well bred Bandog often develop the opinion of it being the perfect protection dog for their needs. Various programs have used the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, English Mastiff, and Neapolitan Mastiff for foundation breeds, but depending upon the program other breeds not mentioned here may have also been used. There are a few programs in existence today that have put forth the commitment necessary to produce multiple generations of Bandogs that are consistently producing working class lines of the breed. Because the Bandog is supposed to be a true working guard dog and because few programs actually put forth the effort to test their stock, it is wise verify the breeder’s practice for testing their stock. This is because intention of quality Bandog breeders should be to combine the courage, tenacity, health, and athletic ability of the American Pit Bull Terrier with the larger size, power, and guarding instinct of the Mastiff.

For those who truly breed dogs for guarding purposes, requiring the dogs to be suitable for such work is a normal practice and therefore they should be able to provide demonstrations of their dogs performing such duties. Testing the worthiness of breeding stock is necessary to maintain the quality of the breed, as this practice allows the breeder to evaluate the dog for having the appropriate temperament, phenotype, stability, confidence, nerves and drives needed to excel as a home guardian or personal protection dog. The Bandog should be a rugged dog, moderate to heavily boned, heavily muscled, intimidating when seen, and is a very formidable guardian when provoked by someone outside of the family unit. Committed programs will only breed working Bandogs and maintain dedicated planning in order to carefully select the best performing representatives to genetically contribute towards future generations.

The breed ideal is a broad skull, a strong muzzle that is medium to long muzzle depending on the strain, a powerful neck, broad shoulders, a powerful chest, strong rear quarters, great agility, and overall an intelligent and very well controlled dog. When it comes to color, the best breeders generally fall into one of two philosophies, one of which places no emphasis on color whatsoever, and the other believing a guard dog should display a degree of natural camouflage (and therefore avoiding the use of dogs that display significant portions of white). The first philosophy operates under the belief that the best dogs will naturally select out the undesired traits, and second philosophies operates under the belief that protection tests do not accurately evaluate the role of camouflage in trial situations, and therefore those who concede to this later belief choose to model nature’s general selection against white coats in non-Artic types of environments (recognizing that white not only exposes one’s position, but also noting that white coats have also been linked to degree of health problems in dogs).

Dogs should generally be a minimum of 90# and 25″ at the withers, with no upper limits of weight or height are placed upon the breed as long as the dogs are able to perform efficiently. Bitches should be a minimum of 80# and 24″, and also have no upper limits as long as they too are able to perform efficiently. All dogs and bitches should be kept in reasonably good working condition. Non-working temperament, poor structure, laziness, lack of courage, lack of drive, lack of nerve, and even obesity are all considered breed faults.