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Bandog Picture.jpg
Other names
  • Bandogge
  • Bonde-doge molossus
  • Bande-dogge
  • Band-dog
  • Bondogge
Breed statusNot recognized as a standardized breed by any major kennel club.
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

Bandog (also known as Bandogge) is a general term to non-purebred dogs of any working molosser strain developed by selective breeding to protection work.[2]

The term "Bandog" is believed to have originated in the Middle Ages in England. Johannes Caius published a book in Latin in 1570, translated into English in 1576 by Abraham Fleming under the title, Of Englishe Dogges, in which he described the Bandog as a vast, stubborn, eager dog of heavy body.[3]


The Bandog, by Thomas Bewick, 1790.

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 landrace dogs, commonly chained during the day. The name "Bandog" was then not a breed, it was a description of a duty or purpose.[4][5] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

William Harrison, in his description of England during 1586, describes the type as: "... Mastiff, tie dog, or band dog, so called because many of them are tied up in chains and strong bonds in the daytime, for doing hurt abroad, 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 ..."[6]

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."[3][7]

Modern Bandog[edit]

Finding various undesired traits in existing guard dogs for centuries and millennia, people strived to improve upon what was currently available.[citation needed] 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 and Boerboel, as well as a few others.

The popularity of the name "Bandog" itself was revived in the mid-1960s when a veterinarian named 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[8][9] (or Swinford Bandogge). Using performance selection, Dr. Swinford concentrated the desired attributes for his creation and eliminated the undesired ones to produce what he believed was the finest guard dog in existence. Swinford worked on his program for several generations and came to receive significant recognition for his work in various books[8] and journals,[9] but unfortunately Dr. Swinford died in November 1971 before solidifying the future of his creation. For this reason, some people question the long-term success of his program, but despite this questioning his work played a significant influential role in reigniting the interest by some individuals and, as a result, there has been a resurrection of the Bandog name.

Dr. Swinford's vision developed somewhat from seeing the traditional working dog breeds suffer from poor selection due to show breeders placing cosmetic appearance over the functional aspects of breeds. To awaken these lost abilities and to improve the effectiveness of the modern protection Mastiff-type dogs, Swinford desired to recreate the working Mastiff dog by once again selecting on performance over all other criteria, as had been done centuries before.[10] By using performance measures, Swinford required his dogs to be completely safe, trustworthy and stable within their home environment, yet also fear nothing when a protective situation deemed necessary. For this reason, Swinford selected game dogs to play a major role in awakening the functional working Mastiff-type dogs by improving their stamina, drives, athletic ability, confidence and overall health.[10]

Dr. John Swinford with Bantu

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 programs 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 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.[citation needed]

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 to 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.[citation needed]


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 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.[citation needed]

The dog 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 the second philosophy 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-Arctic types of environments (recognizing that white exposes one's position).

Dogs should generally be a minimum of 90# and 25" at the withers, with no upper limits of weight or height 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.[citation needed]

Foundation breeding[edit]

What is reported here is just an estimated expected average range of various foundation breeds commonly seen in various Bandog programs.[citation needed]

The Primary Group, approximate average of 25-75% from American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and/or Bull Terrier (a.k.a. Bull and Terrier).

The Secondary Group, approximate average of 25-75% from English Mastiff and/or Neapolitan Mastiff.

A Tertiary Group (used in some programs), approximate average of 0-75% from American Bulldog, Boerboel, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Bully Kutta, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, Fila Brasileiro, Great Dane, Perro de Presa Canario, Rottweiler and/or Tosa Inu.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wynn, M. B. "The history of the mastiff, gathered from sculpture, pottery, carving, paintings, and engravings; also from various authors, with remarks on the same". Melton Mowbray [ Eng.?] William Loxley. Retrieved 11 December 2017 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Website Choose the right dog breed: Bandog Information about the Bandog concept and the most famous American strain: the American Bandogge Mastiff
  3. ^ a b "This kinde of Dogge called a mastyue or Bandogge is vaste, huge, stubborne, ougly, and eager, of a heuy and burthenous body, and therfore but of litle swiftnesse, terrible, and frightfull to beholde, and more fearce and fell then any Arcadian curre ...", John Caius, translated by Abraham Fleming, "Of Englishe Dogges" via
  4. ^ "History of the Bandogge". Retrieved 2018-12-22.
  5. ^ BEWICK, Thomas; BEILBY, Ralph. A general history of quadrupeds. ISBN 9781359008244.
  6. ^ "XV Modern History Sourcebook: William Harrison (1534–1593): Description Of Elizabethan England". Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  7. ^ "Some Longer Elizabethan Poems By Arthur Henry Bullen". Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  8. ^ a b Semencic, Carl (1984). The World of Fighting Dogs. Neptune City, NJ 07753: T.F.H. Publications, INC. pp. 86, 208–219, 278. ISBN 0-86622-656-7.
  9. ^ a b Kelly, Jack (July–August 1972). "The Late Dr. John Swinford and One of His Bandogs". The Sporting Dog Journal: Cover story, 10, 13.
  10. ^ a b Robinson, H. Lee, American Sentinel K9, LLC. "Origin of the Swinford Bandog". Trainer/Breeder, Master of Sciences degree from the Department of Animal Sciences, U of Ill.