The Dogue de Bordeaux, also often called the French Mastiff, is an ancient dog breed. Their origins stretch so far back that the exact origins are mostly theory instead of fact. What is known is that they originated in the area that is now France, which was called Gaul at the time.
One theory is that this dog breed was indigenous to the area and was developed over thousands of years. Other theories are that they are descendants of another mastiff breed or are descended from the mastiff-type Roman war dogs.
The prevailing theory is that mastiff-type war dogs were brought into the area when the Romans invaded during the first century B.C. These conquering legions would have been Julius Caesar’s and brought these immense war dogs with them. Over the years, these war dogs bred with local dogs to create the “Bordeaux Mastiff” or the “Bordeaux Bulldog”.
They were originally used as fighting dogs and war dogs, similar to their ancestors. Throughout history, they instead began to be used as guardians, drafters, and hunters. During the late 1700s, the Dogue de Bordeaux guarded vast noble estates.
Although the French Revolution removed their aristocratic masters, the dog breed survived by working as a livestock guardian and drover. During this time, they were often called the “Butcher’s Dog” because of their work protecting and driving livestock.
Knowledge of the Dogue de Bordeaux was mostly contained in France, even in modern times. It wasn’t until the release of the Turner & Hooch movie in 1989 that the rest of the world discovered the breed. From there, people fell in love with Hooch, the drooling, lovable, and stubborn French Mastiff that co-starred with Tom Hanks.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Dogue de Bordeaux in 2008 as a member of the Working Group. Although this dog breed can still be found on farms or working as therapy or search and rescue dogs, they are more commonly found as a beloved family pet.