- AKC Recognized in 2015
- Life Expectancy: 10 years
- Size: extra large
- Energy: high
- Recommended Crate Size: 48" dog crate*
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Table of Contents
Powerful and mighty, the Boerboel not only use its protective instinct to keep your family safe from intruders, but he can also protect them from lions, tigers, and bears too! That’s right...this big guy has roots from South Africa where he protected homesteads from all sorts of vicious (and rather large) animals.
Intimidating just to look at, the Boerboel is confident and intelligent. He’s probably too much of a handful for new dog parents but for the right, experienced individual, he will make an excellent guard dog and companion too.
This breed is also known as the South African Mastiff.
At the time of publishing, this breed ranked 131th in popularity in the United States.
Thinking of getting a Boerboel? Read on to find out if it’s a good idea...or not.
Although it is known as the South African Boerboel, his true roots are from Germany, Huguenot, and the Netherlands. This African dog was so important to the Dutch, French, and English people who were immigrating to South Africa in the mid-1600s, they brought as many huge guardian dogs as they could over in the boat with them.
Although space was tight and only the most valuable and necessary of possessions could be transported, the dogs easily made the cut. The very survival of the settlers would depend upon their protection.
The dogs in the boat were an assortment of the best of the best in guardian and hunting dogs like Mastiff types, Bulldogs, and others as well. There were military posts scattered throughout the country and it is believed that the large dogs began to breed.
The mix of these dogs eventually resulted in a Boerboel, a courageous and fearless dog who was pro at hunting wild game as well as protecting his people and their animals (livestock and pets) against them as well.
This dog was willing and able to protect those he loves to his deathbed. He is, in fact, the only South American dog that has been specifically created to defend the homestead.
It is widely speculated, but not known for sure, that Van Riebeeck was among the first settlers to bring with him one of the dogs that evolved into the Boerboel we know today. He arrived on the Cape in the year 1652 and brought with him a “Bullenbiter”.
“Boer” is a Dutch word that means “farmer”. It is sometimes spelled “boerbul”, “boerbull”, and “borbul”. The Boerboel was typically a farm dog. He protected the homestead by running off or even fighting lions, wild packs of baboons, or whatever else came his way.
He also had the job of tracking down animals that had been injured such as those that got away during a hunt. His agility and brute strength made sure that this farmer's dog protected its family by protecting them and also by directly or indirectly providing food for them.
In the 1920s, the diamond trade erupted. During this time, Bullmastiffs were bread with Boerboels. The result of these unions bled into the line and helped to establish today’s breed.
The first Boerboel was introduced to the world basically through the efforts of Dr. Carl Semencic, an American anthropologist. The initial introduction was through an article in Dog World Magazine and later, in a book entitled “Gladiator Dogs”.
He was able to give explicit descriptions of this unheard of breed due to his travels to South Africa and his association with the South African Boerboel Club. The world was intrigued by the huge, powerful dog.
It wasn’t long after the Boerboels’ long kept secret was out that everyone wanted a piece of the doggie pie. Boerboel Breeders came out of the woodwork, some breeding as a hobby, some as a money-making industry, and others, for both reasons.
Not all of them had noble intentions. Boerboels are now exported from their South African home into places all around the globe.
The availability of these giant dogs put a new spin in the game. They were grabbed up by many who had ill intents.
Dog fighting rings in Russia, Ukraine, and Denmark became saturated with these husky, mounds of muscle. The problem reached outrageous proportions.
Something had to be done...and it was. Fortunately for the Boerboel, due to the fact that his lineage can be traced back, he was deemed a purebred and welcomed into clubs and organizations.
It was a bright day in Boerboel history because being in such a status meant there would be closer reigns on the breeding and ultimately, on the treatment of the dogs. Dog rings began to break up and his future looked brighter. Once again, he had made it through some tough trials and tribulations and came out victorious.
One of the most desired traits in the dog aside from his tenacity as a guardian dog is his ability to be calm and stable. He is obedient as well.
Although this breed is AKC registered and also recognized in other elite clubs and organizations, there is a divergence when it comes to the standards regulating the dog. While the Union of South Africa refuses to recognize a Boerboel who sports a black coat, the SABBS has no problem doing so.
This leaves a potential buyer with a decision to make. He can get a black Boerboel who cannot be AKC. UKC, or BI registered or he can opt for a different colored dog who can be registered.
While this dog is massive and vicious in defending his brood, he is also a loving and devoted fellow. He is smart too as he had to be when on the hunt or guard.
He had to be able to determine who was a friend and who was a foe. There were many other factors of his life that called for making quick and accurate decisions which.
There was no margin for errors. Thus, this dog is naturally sharp and is excellent at picking up on cues and clues which accounts for his watchful eye and borderline suspicious nature.
It is quite a feat to be able to switch from one extreme to another such as this dynamic dog does. It is proof that he does have a lot of self- control when he sees the need for it.
Even though this breed has the ability to bring a lion down or rip right into a human intruder, he is also an amazing and quite docile therapy dog and is used as one professionally.
The dog that has the reputation of never backing down is so multi-faceted, he reserves a huge part of his heart for his other specialty, helping children.
Boerboels are massive dogs who are large in size and have a strong and stout bone structure. He has a very well densely developed bone structure and is amazingly well balanced.
His muscles are mighty and enormous. He carries himself powerfully, yet gracefully, with confidence and courage.
Just the head of Boerboels is magnificent. It is large and blocky with a short length from his nose to his stop. His skull is somewhat flat.
His neck and shoulders are muscular and thick and his hindquarters are large as well. In fact, there’s really nothing on this dog that’s small.
Boerboels are longer than they are tall. The average height for males in adulthood is between 24 and 27 inches. Females stand about 22 to 25 inches.
Males typically weigh in around 110 to 175 pounds while females generally weigh on the lesser end of the scale.
Females tend to be less physically developed. It is not unfeasible for a male to weigh 200 pounds or better. Boerboels are...big dogs!
The coat of Boerboels is short, shiny, straight, and coarse. He is double coated. The undercoat is softer and dense.
The coloring of his coat can be a number of shades of brown or red. He can also be brindle or fawn. The coat can be black but if it is, he cannot be shown. He may sport spotted coloring or patches like “socks” or patches on his chest.
The skin of this breed is loose. It should never be hanging though. He’s much too fit for skin that’s too baggie for his muscular body.
An interesting feature of Boerboels is that he has a black mask that goes up to his muzzle then around his mouth and, in some dogs, extends to his ears and eyes. His eyes are dark and where this breed is concerned, the darker, the better. Yellow eyes are considered to be a definite fault.
This breed’s tail is often docked, especially if he is going to be competing. Generally, it is docked at the third joint. Otherwise, his tail is long and slightly curved. It is becoming more widespread not to dock Boerboels' tails if he is not in competition.
It is important to feed Boerboels a high-quality dog food that is specially formulated for their personal nutritional needs. His veterinarian can help you by recommending food and discussing his individual requirements with you.
When he’s a pup, you’ll probably be advised to feed him small, more frequent, meals. As he grows he may taper off. He’s a big dog so he will need a large amount of food. If you can’t foot the tab for a lot of good quality dog food for him, please refrain from getting him.
Treats should be limited. Boerboels have been known to become obese and that is something you don’t want as it raises the risk of him getting heart disease or diabetes.
This dog breed should do good on a high protein, high-quality diet no matter if it is commercially made or if you prepare it yourself, with your vet’s approval and supervision. Be sure he is fed according to the needs of a Boerboel as he is a big dog and needs more nutrients.
Also, be sure to keep a lot of clean, fresh water available for him at all times. He will drink more than other dogs because he is bigger.
The coat of Boerboels is short and sleek which makes it easy to care for. He is double coated so he does shed some but it‘s more on a continual basis rather than in large amounts at a time.
There is more shedding in the spring and fall so he will need more brushing then but other than that, a few times per week is sufficient.
Fortunately for the pet parents, this massive dog doesn’t require bathing often at all. Bathing as needed is good enough.
If he gets dirty, stinky, or has an encounter with a skunk, a bath will be in order. Bathing him too frequently will certainly lead to dry, chapped skin.
Be sure to keep his ears clean and dry, as good as possible. If he is pawing at them, have him checked for an ear infection.
Brush his teeth regularly in order to prevent tartar and also plaque from building up. A good doggie toothbrush and yummy doggie toothpaste will be needed. If you start him out on a brushing routine when he’s a puppy, it should go smoothly and be no big deal for him.
His toenails should be naturally worn down as this dog is an outside dog. They will need to be trimmed from time to time though and always keep an eye out for tears or cracks and address them if they occur. Again, if you begin his grooming maintenance process in puppyhood, you won’t have a 200-pound dog balking at it.
You’d better believe this tough guy needs lots of exercise. They can adapt to just about any living arrangement, even a fairly cramped one. But they cannot do without their daily exercise and plenty of it.
Boerboels are a working dog and always will be, no matter what setting he is in. He must feel like he is doing a job and he must be active on a daily basis to be happy and to be healthy. You’ll find out real quick that he’ll get way out of control if he has pent up energy. You sure don’t want that in a dog this size.
It is recommended that he gets at least one hour of formal exercise per day but 90 minutes is even better. I can be split up. Brisk, long walks or jogs are great but you will need to be sure he is secured on a strong leash and that he is trained in obedience too. Otherwise, the first small dog, cat, or bike that goes by, he’s liable to take off after it.
In between his formal walks or runs, more physical activity is good for him. He will love playing Fetch with you or to chase the ball. Activities that encourage agility or even games where he pulls a sled or wagon are excellent.
Brain games are a must. His mental state must be exercised regularly. He’ll Ace the challenge though.
Pet Crates Direct recommends a 48" dog crate* for most adult Boerboels.
Ferocious indeed, but only when they need to be, Boerboels are actually a loyal and loving soul who is especially excellent with children. Who knew this beast of a dog would keep tigers and lions away by day, but snuggle up to his family at nightfall?
His best quality is also perhaps one of his worst flaws though. Boerboels have a tendency to be territorial when it comes to his family. That is one of the many reasons the breed is not recommended for first-time pet parents.
Boerboels must have strong guidance from a competent and confident leader. He’s a pack dog and he instinctively looks to either follow a leader or be the leader. If you are not asserting leadership, guess what? And...he’s a giant! You don’t want to have him tell you what to do.
They are active but can be lazy at times too as if they are conserving their energy for bigger and better things to come. And, that might be true. They can be adorable and charming when they have a good mind to be.
Oh, and it must be mentioned that they can be “attached at the hip”, sometimes given the nickname “Velcro”. This breed can be very attached to the point they have separation anxiety when you just go inside the house.
Boerboels are outside dogs. They can definitely come in for the night or for some snuggles but they will need a place to romp and play during the daytime. They must get their energy out. There’s no option on that matter.
A lot of time and energy must be invested in this massive dog in order for him to reach his full potential and...for him to be completely safe. He doesn’t necessarily get along with other animals unless they are in his pack. He’s not to be trusted with cats either.
He will need to be socialized early on so he knows when, if ever, he has the green light to attack which would only be in the event his family was in danger. Since the reality of what the definition of danger really is and what his definition of it differs, strict training is in order.
You can live with a Boerboel in an apartment, providing restrictions don’t prevent such a thing. But, he would need ample exercise and for you not to be gone too long at a time. The best environment for him is either a home with a large yard or even a farm or ranch.
There will definitely be obstacles if you get this dog and are a renter or live in a neighborhood where restrictions apply through a homeowner’s association. The breed is even outlawed in some countries and strict regulations are in place in other countries.
Romania prohibits the importation of them and only citizens with a court order which allows them to have one can own a Boerboel. They are totally banned in Denmark, one of the countries from which their bloodline originates.
Ukraine requires them to be chipped and has them classified as a dangerous breed. They are completely prohibited in France, Malaysia, Bermuda, Mauritius, Geneva in Switzerland, Fairfield in Iowa, and in Qatar.
Singapore requires a large amount of insurance be taken out on each while Denmark allows dogs that were already in the country when the ban went into effect to remain but requires them to be muzzled and leashed anytime they are in public. Importation of the breed is forbidden in a slew of countries.
Boerboels are a calm and loving dog, for sure...except when he’s not. If you are considering getting one, the list above of the entire countries he’s banned from should give you a good idea of the nature of the seriousness of his might and the fear the general public has of him.
If you are an experienced dog owner and have trained a dog, or multiple dogs, before, Boerboel puppies may be within your league to train. He will need oodles and gobs of positive reinforcements because that is the only way to win him and that must be coupled with you being in the alpha leader role. He will also need to be well attached to his trainer.
It is imperative with this breed to let him know that you realize and respect his size. At the same time, it’s important he knows that you are not fearful because of it. Structure and consistency are also of ultimate importance during training.
Potty training is not generally difficult with this breed, in part because they should be spending a lot of time outdoors. Still, you must be very positive with the pup to gain his cooperation.
Praises and treats are in order when he does his business in the right spot. Be careful not to over-treat him though, especially when young because he will then expect a treat each time he performs and also it’s not good for his weight. This breed doesn’t need extra weight bearing down on their joints, they have plenty already.
The importance of obedience training cannot be stressed enough with this breed. You are responsible for it entirely. That’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders...anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds of it. This is where your leadership role really comes into play. Nip bad behavior in the bud.
This dog is an athlete so you may try him in some agility exercise training routines. He may love them and do awesome. Or...he may not. The more fun you make his training and the more your praise him for a job well done, the more you will have his interest. The sky is the limit when you do.
This is a very intelligent breed so you’ll want to challenge him with mental activities along the lines of active brain games too.
Keep in mind that Boerboels are not a cinch to train like some other breeds are. But, if he wasn’t fully trainable, he wouldn’t be a therapy dog and...he is.
It’s a fact that Boerboels are usually dogs with great health. The breed seems to have inherited some good, healthy genes. They can, however, get the bad end on the luck of the draw. Keep an eye out for any of the conditions below though and consult his vet if he isn’t acting normal.
It cannot be stressed enough that if you are going through a breeder to get a Boerboel, you must be sure the breeder is one who practices the utmost in integrity. You cannot risk ending up with a dog of this size who is not mentally or physically sound.
Hip Dysplasia is a condition to where the hip slips in and out of the socket. It can be caused by a birth deformity or it can occur due to environmental issues such as constantly climbing rough terrain or jumping off high spaces repetitively.
Either one can be behind the condition where Boerboels are concerned. If you notice him limping, favoring a leg, or unable to walk, seek help from his vet immediately.
Elbow Dysplasia is not uncommon in the breed. It works the same way as Hip Dysplasia but of course, it has to do with the elbow area. If he seems to be hesitant or unable to use his elbow, have him checked out.
Heart disease can effect Boerboels. To help prevent heart trouble, feed him only high-quality dog food that meets his nutritional needs and makes sure he gets plenty of exercise.
Keep his weight down as well. If he suddenly loses interest in being active or going for his walks or if he is tired much of the time, make an appointment to have him monitored.
Health problems like eye issues can hit this breed. Ectropion is a deformity that causes the eyelids to sag outward. Entropion causes them to roll inward. If either of these two is present in your dog, speak to your vet.
Epilepsy is a new ailment being seen in Boerboels. It is especially prevalent in juveniles and is thought to be caused by stress, metabolic issues, and other similar factors. If you notice your dog having a seizure, call your vet right away.
Bloat is a stomach condition he may be susceptible to. This is a condition mostly found in large chest dogs. The condition is also called gastric dilation.
When they eat, their stomach becomes filled and distended with gas. This puts undue pressure on the diaphragm which can easily lead to breathing issues.
The blood circulation can cut off as well, preventing vital nutrients from flowing. This condition is very serious and can be fatal. Get a hold of your vet immediately if your dog shows symptoms of bloat.
Vaginal Hyperplasia may be present in the females. In it, the vaginal lining is inflamed and enlarged with can certainly lead to the dog not wanting to cooperate in the breeding process.
The vagina also bulges and can be very uncomfortable and even painful at times. It is influenced by estrogen so your vet may be able to treat the condition.
Although the Boerboel breed isn’t genetically prone or dispositioned to get any certain diseases so to speak, it doesn’t mean he won’t fall ill. He does fall into the category of being a giant dog and they have their share of health issues like heart trouble and joint issues.
Be sure to take extra good care of his nutritional and exercise needs and keep him healthy and happy and he should hopefully enjoy his life without medical problems.
Is a Boerboel the Right Dog for Me?
Now that you know more about the mighty and magnificent Boerboel, you may have a good idea if he is or is not the right matchup for you.
Are you a strong personality who can take on a leadership role with this massive dog? He is not for the frail or the weak of heart. He can be a handful.
Are you active? The Boerboel is not a couch potato by any stretch of the imagination. He thrives on hard-play and lots of exercise. Are you up for that challenge?
The Boerboel is forbidden in many living situations. Even if you have a location that accepts him now, there is no guarantee he’ll be allowed into the next. If you own your own home, that’s a plus in your favor.
One more very vital thing is you want to search your heart and make sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not getting this big ole dog to prove a point or for any ulterior reasons other than that you want a companion who’s as kind-hearted as he is.
The fact that he is gigantic should only accentuate that bond, not be the cause of it. If he was a kitten, would you love him just the same? That’s important because...deep down, that’s what he is.
In the event that you think a Boerboel is a good pick for you, you’ll be living and loving large, for sure.
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