As the Bandog is often considered a type rather than a specific breed, Bandog history is quite muddled. Guard dogs of this type have existed since at least the sixteenth century, if not longer. In 1576, the English author Abraham Fleming published a treatise called Of Englishe Dogges in which he described the "Bandogge" as a Mastiff type that was "huge, stubborn, ugly and eager." The Bandogge name was given because these dogs were often tied to posts or trees with leather bands; hence these "bande dogges" eventually became the Bandogs of modern times.
Through the centuries, "Bandog" usually referred to a guard dog type rather than a single breed. Though debate has long existed over what breeds make a true Bandog, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a "Bandog" became known as a crossbreed, usually of a Mastiff or Molosser dog with some breed of Bulldog. Few specific records or descriptions exist of these breeding histories, but some breeds known to be in Bandogs' gene pools include the Neapolitan Mastiff, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the English Mastiff, the American Bulldog, the Cane Corso, the Great Dane, the Fila Brasileiro, the Boerboel, and the rare Tosa Inu (Japanese Mastiff), among numerous others. Many varieties of these crossbreeds were developed, with some called Bandogs and others not, but they all shared similar genetic makeup and physical characteristics.
In the 1960's, American veterinarian John B. Swinford consolidated the Bandog gene pool somewhat. Beginning in 1964, Swinford began a selective breeding program in which he crossed various Mastiffs (most notably the English Mastiff) with American Pit Bull Terriers; his objective was to "create the ultimate guard dog," and his dogs became known as Swinford Bandogs. Unfortunately, in 1971 Swinford died before the Swinford Bandog could be established as a recognized breed.
Today, the Bandog is considered fairly rare, though numerous breeding programs exist worldwide.