By: Ivor Ward Davies This article first appeared in the Boxerama, Edition 4, Autumn 1974
Construction is a very difficult subject to tackle from an original viewpoint. My work has always been in engineering and I have often mentally compared the Boxer with a machine, after all any living organism can be defined as an extremely complex device with one extra, the spark of life.
Nature designed the basic dog, man shaped to his various needs and the Boxer evolved into a highly mobile. dog capable of gripping with great power. This evolution was carried out for a purpose, to produce an efficient bullbaiter. Just to remind you, the dog had to attack a bull, grip it by the nose, and hang on at any cost until the bull gave in and lowered its head A specialist was required, the old pioneers of the breed drew up their perfect design specifications, the Boxer Breed Standard.
So we have a specification, what sort of machine do we require? Perhaps the most important item is a tool for gripping and holding, then it must be mounted on a mobile carrier and an engine is needed to supply power and a computer to control the complete machine. It is now possible to compare this machine to the Boxer, the requirements are similar.
This is the Boxer head, a really good design for the job. The teeth actually are the basic tools, the undershot jaw is the clever part. Imagine the dog gripping a bull’s nose. The dog is off the ground hanging by the grip. The weight of the dog pivots on the upper teeth forcing the lower jaw upwards, a self locking device. Great width is required to spread the load. The slight upturn of the lower jaw helps the lever action. The. Self acting mechanism does not require great muscle power so the Boxer does not require very heavily developed cheek muscle.. The top is deep and folds are always present at the root of the muzzle, a method of keeping blood from out of the eves. The nose is large. and slight1y turned up These points coupled with the undershot jaw ensure that the Boxer can breathe freely when gripping.
In the old days the foundation dogs went through a rigourous selection procedure and if they were not clever enough the bull declared them permanently redundant. The ones that survived were intelligent. This required an efficient brain or computer. Even though the brain is a miracle of microminaturisation it still requires space. If the Boxer is to remain clever it must retain the ample brainpan. There is no requirement for a lean skull. There is a requirement for great width of muzzle so the muzzle should balance the skull. Those old designers (helped by the bulls own selection technique) certainly knew what they wanted. Look at your Boxer’s head, understand the requirements, analyse head faults and realize how they compromise the efficiency of the workhead.
An interface is required between the workhead and the mobile carriage. The boom is required to position the workhead. The neck fulfils this purpose It requires length and flexibility it must also be strong and well muscled. Sixty five pounds of Boxer snapped up and down ;s . stringent requirement. A giraffe necked dog would not last ten minutes in this sort of environment. Reach of neck is important. The setting of the neck helps flexibility The neck should fit neatly into the shoulders and a crest indicates the required strength.
The Boxer’s heart and lungs are the power plant, once again ample room is required. Good spring of ribs and correct depth of brisket will supply this. A dog that appears too long in foreleg can be lacking in balance due to a shallow body. These dogs are often without spring of ribs as well. A small engine room will never give the engine capacity required for great endurance. The end effect may have a superficial smartness but you now have a Terrier not a Boxer. The engine room of a machine is usually situated on or near the main chassis member. We can equate the Boxer’s backbone with the chassis. In this instance a single girder is used because a degree of flexibility is needed. Strength with flexibility is supplied by supporting the backbone with ample width of muscle and a firm coupling with the croup. Weakness here can give a wavering gait often confused with poor rear action. Imagine trying to ride a motor-cycle with an elastic frame and you get the idea. The specification asks for a broad, strong, back and for a very good reason.
So we have a workhead, a computer, engine, boom and main chassis and now some method of locomotion must be added. The Boxer is driven from the rear. The developed power is supplied by the back legs, a reciprocating action, not a rotary action. Maximum power transfer calls for the rear feet to be in contact with the ground for as long as possible during the power stroke or backwards thrust of the hind legs. It is all done by levers as any basic book on anatomy will prove. Lack of angulation will limit this rearwrd movement so the dog will tend to step short behind, the drive is inefficient. This type of movement can still look good from behind. The overangulated dog is usually weak behind because of incorrect leverage and tends to lack second thigh musculation giving poor hock action. You can’t see the pads of the back feet as they move away, again inefficient drive. Front end angulation must perfectly match the back end. A straight shouldered dog with correct quarters cannot balance the length of stride, the time the front and back feet are on the ground is different. The front legs must have some idling time, so more time is spent in the air, the legs are thrown up and forwards, the hackney carriage, very smart to the novice, but a waste of energy. This is a very important point. The true Boxer movement is so easy and economical that it is often ignored in favour of the fussy mover that rapidly burns up energy just getting from one side of the ring to the other.
Just as your car needs shock absorbers to insulate you from road shocks so does your Boxer. Correct angulation gives the degree of damping needed to stop breakdowns in the Boxer machine. Remember a jarring effect is inherent in the reciprocating drive. One of the aims in designing a vehicle is to keep the unsprung weight to a minimum. If the front legs are not cushioned by the shoulder angulation then we have two solutions. Firstly, to give slight slope to the pasterns coupled with tight padded feet. Secondly to avoid carrying excess bone in the front legs. Any constructional faults here can give problems with knuckling over of the pasterns and loss of soundness of the dog. The whole quality of the bone is important. This supplies the framework of the machine, high tensile steel is needed, not cast iron. The amount of bone must be adequate to stop structural weakness, but excess bone is often Nature’s way of compensating for poor quality and only adds useless loading, reducing endurance.
Cosmetic faults such as light eye, flying ears and poor colouration does not affect the efficiency of the machine but tends to spoil the overall appearance. What you must really beware of is the cheap model with lots of flash that sometimes overshadows the plain but more correct model!
There are trends in styling as well. The modern style appears to be height above all. I really admire a tall masculine dog, as long as balance has not been sacrificed, there is a specification after all. We must remember that the Standard is quite clear. If we consider the English standard, then from an engineering standpoint a 22 1⁄2 inch male is more correct than a 24 1⁄2 inch male. However, in the U.S.A. the position would be quite different as the specification has been modified increasing the height.
With every device there has to be some kind of quality control. With our machine this task is undertaken by the judges. They have a great responsibility to the breed.
The ideal judge must know the basic specifications and the purpose for which the Boxer machine is designed. We have all heard the statement that you don’t take a bull into the ring to judge a bulldog. Very true, but then we don’t destroy an aircraft when we check out a guided missile! We do know that if a device meets the specification we know that it will perform the task that it is designed and built to meet.
This has been a very superficial treatment of a deep subject, perhaps I have had my tongue slightly in my cheek and stretched some of my comparisons a little. You may disagree with my reasoning, but perhaps it can give a little insight into what the Boxer was designed to do, how the standard tries to interpret this into a requirement and why any great discrepancy from the Standard can compromise the integrity of the Boxer.
Finally, as an example of how the balance of a dog can fool the eye, look quickly at the two diagrams, A and B and make a quick guess as to which is the tallest. Which do you consider the smartest [most stylish]? Now measure the outlines and check for yourself.
How many discrepancies can you find when compared to the Standard? Carry out the same tests with photos of your own and other dogs, the results can be quite surprising!
So there you are, the Boxer from an engineer’s viewpoint. I do hope you have found this subject as interesting as I have, and who knows perhaps you may look at the dogs in a slightly different manner.