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What Is the Difference Between the American Bulldog & a Boxer?

| Updated September 26, 2017

For aspiring pet owners looking for a medium-sized dog with a short coat, muscular build and a deep affection for his family, the American bulldog and the boxer are fitting options. The two breeds are similar in size and both have a distinctive muzzle. The boxer is an American Kennel Club recognized breed while the American bulldog, which has a less consistent conformation across the breed, is not.

Breed History

The American bulldog is a descendant of the pure form of the bulldog, which reached the Americas in the 17th century. The breed was intended to guard property for plantation owners and to corral large animals such as cattle. Four breeding strains -- Williamson, Scott, Bailey and Johnson -- eventually produced what we know as the modern American bulldog. The breed gained in popularity beginning in the 1980s.

The boxer can trace his origins back to 16th century Europe, where his ancestors were probably smaller versions of the bullenbeisser hunting dogs. A club formed in Munich, Germany in the late 1800s to develop breed standards for the dog, which would become known as the boxer. The breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1904. Boxers are considered cousins to all recognized bulldog breeds.

Physical Appearance

According to National Kennel Club standards, a male American bulldog should be between 23 and 27 inches in height at the withers, while a female should be 21 to 25 inches. The head is broad and flat on the top and the muzzle should end in wide open nostrils. Lips are full and black, with some pink allowed. Ears are set high on the head. Chest is wide and deep and the back is short, broad and strong. The dog's coat should be short, smooth and mostly solid white, although other acceptable colors include:

  • Red
  • Black
  • Brown
  • Fawn
  • Brindle

The boxer is slightly smaller, with an AKC breed standard height for males at between 23 and 25 inches and for females between 21.5 and 23.5 inches. The muzzle should be one-third the length of the head and two-thirds the width of the skull. The lower jaw should protrude beyond the upper. Ears are set high on the head and typically are cropped into points. The back is short and muscular. Boxers have a short, shiny coat in fawn or brindle colors. White markings may not exceed one-third of the coat.

Temperament and Personality

American bulldogs are alert and outgoing but may be aloof around strangers. A well-behaved member of this breed should react to threats but never become overly aggressive. They can be an exhausting dog for some, but are quickly able to find their role as a livestock guard in a rural setting or as a family protector in a city.


  • Because they are known for being strong-willed, American bulldogs should be trained and socialized early to instill obedience and tolerance of other dogs.

Boxers are an excellent family dog, as they behave gently around children. They are energetic, so they require some training to keep them from jumping around too much. Boxers are intelligent but can tire of repetitive training commands. They can be wary of strangers and will react with assertion if threatened.


  • Provide daily exercise for boxers. Because they were bred from a line of wild-game chasing canines, they have a tendency to run and jump frequently, especially during youth.