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Get to Know the Dogue de Bordeaux: The National Guard Dog of France

The dog -- and his drool -- gained fame in the movie "Turner and Hooch," but there's a lot more to know about this French Mastiff.

Caroline Coile  |  Oct 26th 2015


The breed gained fame for its tentacles of slobber in the movie Turner and Hooch, but there’s much more to the Dogue de Bordeaux than drool. But yeah, there’s still the drool …

Dogue by Shutterstock.

Dogue de Bordeaux by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Dogue de Bordeaux

  • This is a tall, heavy, Mastiff-like dog with short, wrinkled, and hanging jowls, hanging ears, long tail, and a short, sleek, tan-to-red coat. The coat usually has a matching facial color, but the dog can occasionally can have a brown or black mask. The nose color is usually red, but regardless, it should match the face color.
  • The Dogue de Bordeaux may be confused with the Bullmastiff or Mastiff, but the DDB has a more wrinkled face, usually doesn’t have a black mask, and usually has a red nose (unless black-masked). It may also be confused with the Boxer, but the DDB is much heavier, usually doesn’t have a black mask, and often has a red nose. The DDB may also be confused with the Neapolitan Mastiff, but the DDB is smaller, has less drooping skin, and often has a red nose.
  • The breed was originally used as a guardian, hunter, and fighter. They guarded homes, vineyards, and butcher shops, hunted boars, and baited bulls and bears.
  • Dogs resembling the Dogue de Bordeaux were known in France as early as the 1300s, but it was not a uniform breed until much later. Nobody knows exactly what its ancestry was, or which came first, the DDB or the Bullmastiff. But it is said that early breeders selected against a black mask, considering it an indication of English Mastiff blood.
Dogue by Shutterstock.

Dogue de Bordeaux by Shutterstock.

  • The breed became popular for dog fighting in the 1800s.
  • At one time they were bred with huge heads; even then, breeders rebelled against such excess: “What am I supposed to do with a dog that has a monstrous skull and is at most able to carry it from the food dish to its bed?” decried one of the breed’s pioneers in Germany.
  • The first official record of the breed is from 1863, when one was exhibited at France’s first dog exhibition. The breed was named after the main city, Bordeaux, of the region the winning dog was from.
  • It is also known as the French Mastiff or the French Fighting Dog.
  • The Dogue de Bordeaux is referred to as the National Guard Dog of France.
Dogue by Shutterstock.

Dogue de Bordeaux by Shutterstock.

  • It is said that Hitler ordered the execution of all Dogues de Bordeaux during World War II, but there is no actual evidence of this. Regardless, due to food shortages and other difficulties, the breed was virtually extinct following the war.
  • A concerted effort to rebuild the breed began in the 1960s.
  • The breed (and the drool) came to the attention of the American public when a 10-year-old DDB named Beasley starred in the movie Turner and Hooch. It was Beasley’s only movie role; he died at age 13. Three other DDBs — Barry, Vigor, and Cristo — doubled for Beasley in the movie.
  • Besides Turner and Hooch, Dogues de Bordeaux have been seen in the film The Italian Job and the TV series General Hospital.
  • A Dogue named Mac, belonging to Dutch footballer Andy van der Mayde, made headlines when he was stolen and held for 5,000 pounds ransom in 2006.
  • The AKC recognized the Dogue de Bordeaux in 2008. It is a member of the Working group.
  • The breed has been competing in the Westminster dog show since 2009. None has yet placed in the Working group there.
  • The DDB is the 65th most popular AKC breed, up from 69th five years ago.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier