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A registered Boerboel in profile
Other names South African Boerboel
South African Mastiff
Country of origin South Africa

The Boerboel is a large working molosser breed of dog from South Africa. The word "boerboel" derives from "boer", the Afrikaans/Dutch word for "farmer"; boerboel thus translates as either "farmer's dog" or "Boer's dog" in Afrikaans/Dutch. There is a lengthy history of breeding the boerboel in South Africa, where the dog was bred with the purpose of guarding the homestead. While it is uncertain from which breeds the dog originated, it is postulated that the dog derived from interbreeding of indigenous African species with breeds brought from Dutch, French and British settlers. The dog is a heavy mastiff breed with characteristic sand colouration with a black mask, and a height that varies from 64-70 centimetres for males, and 59-65 for females. This dog is the most protective dog breed that is not aggressive. They are obedient and intelligent, and have strong territorial instincts, particularly in domestic situations. By nature, the Boerboel is confident and dominant in its environment, but requires human companionship; if left alone for regular extended periods, they can become destructive, reckless and dangerous as with any large animal.





The Boerboel's distinctive facial characteristics.

The Boerboel should be well balanced, substantial and strong in appearance, with robustness and an overall solid tight musculature. Though a heavily built mastiff breed, it is not loose limbed or jointed and has a strong topline leading to a powerful neck, it should move with purpose and control with ample agility. The head is one of the defining characteristics of the breed and should be large but in proportion to the body, with a strong and not too short muzzle and jaws, possessing tight flews, and broad between the ears. The tail is normally docked short but this is not a requirement of the breed. The dog should give the overall impression of substance, strength, power, and physical ability, and should be able to more than amply demonstrate this in his day to day work. The breed standard varies by registry, with an example standard listed below:

The ideal height for male Boerboels is 66 cm at the withers, though it can vary between 64-70 cm (25-28 inches). The height for the females should be 61 cm, but can vary between 59 to 65 cm (23 to 26 inches).
45 to 90Kg (100 to 200lbs)
Brindle, brown, red-brown, red, fawn, yellow-cream, white-cream, dilute, and black are all accepted, as are dogs with limited amounts of white on head neck chest and legs. A deep mask is preferred for all.
Health Problems
Hip and elbow dysplasia, Wobblers disease, eye problems, heart issues, thyroid problems, bloat, vaginal hyperplasia, allergies.
Living Conditions
The Boerboel is not recommended for apartment life. It should have a large, fenced in yard but should not be left alone, since it is very protective and sometimes does not take too well to strangers.
The Boerboel can be exercised in a large yard with enough space to run and play, but at a minimum needs to be taken on a long daily walk. Boerboels love to play and enjoy a good game of ball.
Life Expectancy
12 years
The Boerboel is easy to groom. An occasional brushing and a monthly bath is all that is needed. This breed is an average shedder.


The Boerboel is a dominant but intelligent breed, with a strong watchdog instinct. The Boerboel should be self-assured and fearless, but responsive to the needs of the family. For the most part, responsibly bred, well socialized Boerboels are even-tempered and aim to please their family. Any person interested in making a Boerboel part of their family should be prepared to spend much of the first year training the animal. Obedience classes with a reputable trainer can greatly reduce the chances of a dog bite in the future. Even so, the Boerboel should never be left unsupervised with strangers or young children who they don't know well. It is a rare circumstance that a Boerboel will bite a person, and it should be said that when this (or any large breed) dog attacks, it can easily tear through muscle, tendons and, in some cases, bone. To avoid aggression[1][2] the Boerboel should be socialized with many people, children, friends, extended family members and other dogs as a young puppy, as well as throughout their lives. Only dogs of the correct temperament should be selected for breeding and should be temperament tested prior to breeding. These dogs thrive on love and attention and need companionship from their owners. As with many working breeds, they should not be left alone regularly for extended periods as they can become destructive without the opportunity to fulfill a well defined role.

History of Boerboel

The Boerboel, the only South African bred to defend the homestead, has a long history of breeding in many different far-flung regions of South Africa. Despite this long history of breeding, the breed’s refinement continues to date. Regional differences, however slight, are considered part of the makeup of the breed.

While there is ample literature on the Boerboel’s descent, there is still uncertainty as to how many and which dogs it was bred from.

The most likely origins are claimed to date back to Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival to the Cape in 1652. Dutch, French and British settlers have all brought with them certain breeds of dog, which were bred with indigenous breeds of domestic African dogs to create the Boerboel.

It has been confirmed that Jan van Riebeeck brought a “bullenbiter” with him, and others with him also had large, strong dogs. A likely breeding partner brought in by the British settlers would have been the long legged Bulldog.

In protest to British rule, the Dutch (early white South African colonists) scattered hundreds of kilometres from their original homes, in what is historically recorded as the Great Trek. During this period they continued breeding powerful, protective dogs on their journeys, perhaps to hunt lions.[citation needed]

De Beers, a diamond mining company, later imported Bullmastiffs to guard the mines.

The tradition of breeding with large dogs continued during the Second Boer War.

In some literature more types of dogs have been suggested to be included in the breed, but none of these claims have been substantiated. However, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and its descendants are known to have played a significant part.

Today Boerboel breeding is both a hobby and an industry in South Africa. These dogs are now exported from South Africa to other parts of the world.

Registration and breed clubs

The Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA) is one of the South African authorities on breeding standards and pedigree status. However, the Boerboel as a true working breed has its own complete and internationally recognised pedigree under the South African Boerboel Breeders' Association (SABT). Boerboels are registered at birth with one or more of the three South African Boerboel Breeders' Associations: the South African Boerboel Breeders' Association, which is the largest with the most members; the Historical Boerboel Association of South Africa (HBSA) and the Elite Boerboel Breeders' Association of Southern Africa (EBBASA). The latter two organisations only have small numbers of members. Standards regulating the characteristics of the breed have been laid down by these Associations and are much the same.

At 12 months the dog is appraised by experts in the field of Boerboel development under the auspices of the SABT, in order to qualify for registration as a breeding animal. For such registration, a Boerboel must achieve a minimum qualifying appraisal rating of between 75% and 80%.

In the USA, the Boerboel breed has received a huge following, and multiple clubs have been formed, of which some have remained. The USBA (United States Boerboel Association) is a stateside registry for the breed, and was the first formed in the U.S.

In 2004, the WorldWide Boerboel Club (WWB) was formed. WWB was formed with the intent of providing an alternative association and registry. The purpose is to promote the Boerboel with responsible and ethical policies & practices. [3]

The ABC (American Boerboel Club) was founded in 2006, allowing breed registration with the AKC (American Kennel Club) Foundation Stock Service status, and with an eventual goal of full AKC recognition.


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