Calm and Confident, Excellent Family Pet and an Alert Guard Dog


Calm, Confident, and Eager to Please, The Boerboel is an Excellent Family Pet and an Alert Guard Dog

Originating from South Africa, the Boerboel is a mastiff-type dog whose original purpose was to guard the homestead. Today, these dogs still make excellent guard dogs but also loving family pets. Strong, agile, and courageous, Boerboels have unfortunately been banned in Denmark because there is the mistaken belief that they are bred for dog fighting. However, these gentle and obedient giants have a singular purpose: to be protective and loyal to their families and loved ones.


When the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal conquered Egypt, he had with him companion dogs. These same dogs were also used by Alexander the Great, who introduced them to Europe. Throughout the years, these original dogs have developed into two different types: the Mastiff, largely used for guarding duties as "soldier dogs," and the Hound, used to hunt. Historically, these dogs were similar in appearance at the start, although the Mastiff has become the typical "large" and heavy guard dog we know today.

Cape Town founder Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck took one of these dogs with him to the Cape of South Africa in 1652. Unprotected and vulnerable in an unfamiliar country, his companion dog was invaluable to him and his family, absolutely essential for protection. Known as a "Bullenbitjer," this dog was also a type of Mastiff. Thereafter, other dogs of similar weight, size, and sturdiness arrived from different countries. These dogs were inbred with each other and ultimately became the ancestors to the modern Boerboel.

It's notable that in those times, as might be expected, there were no veterinarians readily available, so that the Boerboel had to be hardy and able to fend for itself. The Boerboel was also instrumental to the so-called Great Trek (in Afrikaans it is known as "Die Groot Trek"), which was a migration away from British control during the 1830s and '40s by the boers, or farmers. From this Great Trek came many republics such as the Orange Free State Republic and the Natalia Republic, as the farmers who fled British control settled and made their own lives in these places. After the Great Trek, the Boerboel was inbred further and refined through natural selection, in that only the strongest, biggest dogs survived. They became invaluable working companions in a wild land that needed to be tamed, and where human owners often needed protection.

In 1928, Bullmastiffs were imported to South Africa by diamond mining company DeBeers, who needed them to guard the mines. The Bullmastiff was inbred with the Boerboel during that time. They have also been bred with English Bulldogs. Today, they are bred in South Africa and then exported to other parts of the world


Strong, sturdy, and very large, as you might expect of a Mastiff-type dog, the Boerboel is muscular and athletic but also graceful. No lumbering lout this, the Boerboel has been said to have a "buoyancy" about its movements. They range in size from 20 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 150 to 200 pounds. Although imposing in size, their grace and proportionate balance give Boerboels a rather elegant if powerful appearance. The coat can be cream, brown, red, fawn, or any variety of these colors; the dogs also have black masks on their faces. The masks can extend to the eyes and/or ears, and the aforementioned coat colors can have patterns such as brindle, piebald, or Irish markings. The skin is thick and loose with moderate wrinkles and the coat is dense, short and sleek.


The Boerboel is simply wonderful, reliable and obedient as a family pet as long as you socialize him or her properly from the very beginning. Fearless and confident, your pet will have no qualms about protecting you in the event of danger, yet is playful, affectionate, and gentle around children as well. In fact, your pet will enjoy having your children play with him or her, and may even allow small children to ride on his or her back in an inventive game of "horsey." The Boerboel is so gentle, in fact, that you can even keep non-canine pets like birds in the house without fear of catastrophe. Although the Boerboel can be aloof with strangers, your dog makes friends quickly once you give permission. Again, however, if you are ever in any danger, rest assured that your canine companion will protect you with his or her very life. You can leave your pet alone to guard the house without fear of an intruder taking over.

There is one caveat with the Boerboel, and that is that you must socialize him or her properly and be the dominant "alpha dog" of the pack right from the start. Your pet is very obedient and wants to please, but if you don't give proper direction and boundaries, he or she may become territorial and decide that if you're not going to be in charge, he or she will take over. Very intelligent, your pet will serve to please, to understand what you want, and will do just as you say – as long as you have established that are in charge.

Proper Environment

Your affectionate, loyal pet will do well in just about any environment, although an apartment is not best. The Boerboel is a large, active dog, and needs lots of exercise. He or she is prone to become lazy without proper exercise, so a brisk walk on a daily basis is absolutely necessary, with plenty of mental stimulation, too. The Boerboel is obedient enough that you can leave your pet alone to guard the house while you're away – although it's advised that you do so as little as possible. Your lovely, loyal and obedient pet wants to be with you and other loved ones.


Unlike many Mastiff-type dogs, the Boerboel is a very healthy breed indeed. Because your pet's ancestors were so carefully chosen and inbred with other breeds early on, the Boerboel has the sturdy health of the hybrid even though it is considered a purebred dog. Although joint dysplasia can be a problem for your pet, there are few other health problems to worry about. The one drawback is that simply because your pet is a large breed, his or her life expectancy is relatively short, only about 10 years. Nonetheless, you can expect good health, although regular visits to a veterinarian are absolutely necessary.


The Boerboel sheds only an average amount, and regular brushing should take care of most of his or her grooming needs. Bathe when doggie smell gets to be a problem, or about once a month on average.



Retrieved March 17, 2013.

AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Boerboel.

Retrieved March 17, 2013.


Retrieved March 17, 2013.

Boerboel (African Boerboel) (South African Boerboel) (South African Mastiff)

Retrieved March 17, 2013.

Great Trek.

Retrieved March 17, 2013.

Jan van Riebeeck.

Retrieved March 17, 2013.

Questions people often ask about Boerboels...

  • +Is the Boerboel hard to train?

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