When Europe was a wilder place, there were lots of big game animals. Bison, brown bears, aurochs, and vast sounders of wild boar were all abundant. Before the Neolithic Revolution entered Europe, these animals were often hunted for their meat and hides, but after the Neolithic, man began to consider these animals pests.
Dogs were used to hunt them, but as the Neolithic gave way to the Ancient World, the dogs began to change. For big game, heavy-headed, big-framed dogs were used to hunt this often dangerous game. The first of these dogs appeared in Assyria, but they soon spread to Europe. Drop all that nonsense you may have heard about mastiffs being the ancient Molossus or have their origins in Tibet. Their origins are in Western Eurasia, and they began as big game hunters.
Supposedly the Alans brought their own form of hunting mastiff in Europe when they wandered west into the Roman Empire. This dog gave rise to the rootstock of the various bulldog breeds.
For centuries after, various European countries had their own rough bulldogs. Spain is pretty much the only one that has held onto its alano dog. Everyone else has greatly modified this creature.
The bulldogs evolved once the big game of Europe ceased to exist. Some of them were turned into a bull and bear-baiting dog. Others were kept at butcher shops to control half wild cattle and swine. Some were still utilized as catch dogs in Medieval hunts. They became symbolic creatures that reminders of a more savage past.
But by the nineteenth century, Europeans turned against bloodsports. The bulldogs were out of a job. The British began repurposing the bulldog into a pet. The original pet bulldog was 3/4 bulldog and 1/4 pug. This “Philo-Kuon” bulldog was heavily promoted as a pet, but other strains were being developed. One was the Sourmug, which eventually replaced the Philo-Kuon as the desired bulldog in England. There were also several smaller bulldogs, which had more pug and some terrier ancestry. These eventually gave rise to the French bulldog and the Boston terrier.
This repurposing of the bulldog in England did not go unnoticed in Germany. The Germans had two rough bulldog types the Danziger and Brabanter bullenbeissers. Brabant is, of course, in Belgium, but this lither bullenbeisser was fairly common in parts of Germany. It was this breed that was crossed with the Philo-Kuon bulldog to form the modern boxer breed. The Brabanter dog was preferred in the later days of German hunting as a catch dog on wild boar and deer, and it was favored among Bavarian huntsman.
Crossing the Philo-Kuon bulldog with the Brabanter bullenbeisser was an attempt to create a uniquely German pet bulldog.
The modern boxer’s history began at roughly the same time as the modern German shepherd dog. The SV for German shepherds began in 1899, but earlier attempts to create a standardized shepherd dog in Germany started with the Phylax Society in 1891. The first attempts to standardize the bullenbeisser/Philo-Kuon crosses began in 1894 in Munich, and the Boxer Club was founded in 1896.
So this dog went from being a big game hunter to a pet, but by the time the First World War started, it was then shifted into a dog of war. It was the only war in which it was widely used, though.
There has been a tension in boxers about whether to maintain them as pets or working dogs. Some of these dogs have been good at protection sports, but the vast majority of them are kept as pets.
I know of no one who uses them as catch dogs, but I have heard of a few people using boxer crosses in this way. The Dogo Argentino has a lot of boxer blood.
So here, we have dogs that were used for hunting, then for various sports, then for war, and now are mostly family dogs.