Broholmer

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Broholmer

The Broholmer, or Danish Mastiff, is a large breed dog, native to Denmark that is tall and muscular, though not particularly athletic. Broholmers do not have a big appetite for exercise, and despite their size, are quite content with a daily walk and a garden to amble about in.

Generally calm and mild-mannered they can be taught to get on well with children and other animals if introduced from a young age. Stubborn at times, and not known as ‘people-pleasers’, they can be somewhat tricky to train. Naturally a suspicious and territorial breed, they have been used as guard dogs by Danish nobility in the past and are still used to perform that task to this day.

About & History

While its exact origin is unknown, it is widely assumed that the Broholmer originated from the mixing of the local Danish dogs (mostly-Spitz type), an assortment of foreign dogs brought to Denmark by the Vikings, and the German Mastiff.

This breed was once hugely popular in Denmark and was well-known for its versatility. Used by the Danish nobility as a guard dog and as a hunting dog of large animals, such as deer and boar, as well as by the Danish farmers as a farmhand who would assist in the handling of uncooperative pigs and bulls, a Broholmer was a prized possession. In fact, it was such a respected breed that Broholmers were often given as a gift by royalty and aristocrats to their peers in Europe.

Their popularity decreased, however, in the 1800s, when the industrial revolution lead to the disappearance of a large amount of the green space once enjoyed by the big Broholmer. This takeover of land coincided with a political change, leading to the upper-class people losing much of their wealth, and with that, their Broholmers. A complete wipe-out of the breed was prevented though by a nobleman, called Neils Frederick, who was a gamekeeper and a great supporter of the Broholmers, breeding many, and encouraging others to do the same.

Possibly one of the most fascinating times in the Broholmer’s history was in the late 1800s and early 1900s when they were used within the Copenhagen Zoo’s breeding program in a consorted effort to keep the breed alive. It is claimed that the female Broholmers were sometimes used as surrogate mothers to orphaned zoo animals, such as tiger and lion cubs!

This strong conservation effort hit a temporary stop when the First World War lead to an economic downturn within Denmark. This historical period was shortly followed by the Great Depression, and then the Nazi occupation, meaning the ability of local people to keep and breed a large dog, such as the Broholmer, was greatly hampered. The Society for the Reconstruction of the Broholmer Breed was founded in 1974 when the decision was made that this was not a breed that should be lost to the history books. Finding that there were no suitable breeding animals with papers, it was agreed that dogs who matched the standard but did not have papers would be allowed to breed.

The Danish have not, however, decided to preserve the breed at all costs, and have implemented strict rules that all breeding parents must have a temperament test, as well as the available DNA testing for known hereditary health conditions. This responsible attitude is sure to stand the breed in very good stead going forward.

Appearance

Broholmer Large Photo
Thrudgelmir / Wikipedia.org

A Mastiff dog, the Broholmer is similar in appearance to other Mastiffs, though generally not as large and with a more proportionate head size. The skull should be the same length as the muzzle, hence this is not a brachycephalic Mastiff. Their nose is large and always black, while their ears should be medium in size and pressed closely to their heads. Their chest is both broad and deep. They have loose skin, which may be wrinkled in places, and covers a muscular and strong body. Their tail is very long and wide, usually carried low.

Males stand tall, reaching an impressive 75cms at the shoulder, with the female slightly shorter reaching about 70cms at maturity. The female will weigh between about 40 and 60kg, while the male is understandably heavier than the bitch, typically weighing between 50 and 68kg (mind your toes!).

Their coat is short and can be a light or dark yellow, or black (though the black variant is rare). Some white markings and a darker muzzle are permissible.

Character & Temperament

While you may at first be intimidated if a large, adult Broholmer starts lumbering towards you, you will be pleased to hear that they are a generally sociable and mild-mannered dog. They have been known to adapt well to life with other children and pets, as long as they are sensibly introduced from a young age. Naturally alert and protective, they make fantastic guard dogs, but can be wary of strangers; particularly those entering their territory.

There has been a conscious effort within the Broholmer breeding community to reduce levels of aggression, as this is a large and powerful dog that could potentially cause a lot of harm to people and other animals. As such, dogs with aggressive tendencies should not be bred from. Some owners have opted to keep their Broholmer as the only household pet, while others choose to not house two males together, in an attempt to mitigate the potential for any aggression or unwanted behavior.

Trainability

Often stubborn, though perhaps less so than other similar breeds, the Broholmer is a challenge to train, and is not recommended for the inexperienced owner. This is not a dog that lives to please, and they will often opt to suit themselves rather than perform a task asked of them.

Given their stature and potential power, it is worth investing the time in the training of these dogs to ensure they do not take control of the household. With time, consistency and patience, they can develop into well-socialised and obedient pets.

Health

While scientific data is lacking, the organisations involved in the breeding of the Broholmer have been particularly diligent in making screening tests obligatory for registered breeders. This has helped to reduce, though not eliminate, the genetic diseases within the population. Most of the known issues are common to other large and giant breed dogs.

  • Hip Dysplasia – Causing pain within the hip joint, loss of muscle mass and lameness, this is a debilitating condition in which the hips fail to form properly. While lifestyle changes and medications can help to control symptoms, this is a progressive disease.
  • Elbow Dysplasia – A painful and progressive orthopaedic condition in the elbow that is caused by a malformation. A growing dog may show signs as the disease progresses or later on in life once osteoarthritis has set in.
  • Bloat – While the statistics are not yet available, it is wise to be on the lookout for this potentially fatal condition in any large dog. Bloat is a condition in which the stomach fills with gas, and may turn over on itself, resulting in exacerbation of the initial problem. An affected dog will be unsettled and may initially pant and drool excessively. Any dog suspected of having bloat should immediately be brought to a veterinarian for treatment.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A long walk each day should be sufficient for this breed who do not have particularly high exercise demands despite their size. If not exercised sufficiently, it would not be unexpected for the Broholmer to start displaying nuisance behaviours, such as destructiveness within the home.

It is vital to remember that in young, growing dogs, they should not be allowed to over-exercise as their developing joints are not cut out for it. Generally seen at a walking pace, Broholmers do enjoy a run every now and then and would benefit from a large fenced-in garden when possible.

Grooming

This breed has a short, smooth outer coat and their undercoat should be very dense. They will experience seasonal shedding, and during this time will lose a lot of fur in a small amount of time. Brushing twice weekly is generally sufficient but should be done daily during a shed.

With such a large and powerful dog it is critical to get them used to routine grooming, ear checking, tooth brushing and claw clipping from a young age to avoid any acting out and to allow the tasks to be safely completed when they reach maturity.

Famous Broholmers

In the early 1500s, King Frederick II posed for a painting with the breed, while in the 1700s, King Frederick VII and Countess Danner owned several Broholmers (many of which they gave the same name: Tyrk). This link to the monarchy has guaranteed the breed as a whole a very regal standing in history.

Fast forward to modern day and there don't seem to be any Hollywood A-lister Broholmers, however, there are tons of photos shared by Broholmer owners on Instagram, many of which might be 'famous' on the popular photo sharing network.

Cross-Breeds

There are no well-known Broholmer crosses in existence yet.

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