Harper Jefcoat
Harper Jefcoat

Boerboel - A Large, & Powerful Farm Dog and Guard

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11 min read


On This Page

  • Boerboel - Breed Overview and Highlights
  • History and Origin - Where did Boerboel Come From?
  • Size and Appearance - What are Boerboel’s Accepted Physical Traits?
  • Personality and Temperament of South African Boerboel
  • Health Conditions and Concerns - Are Boerboels Healthy Dogs?
  • Feeding and Grooming - How to Take Care of your Boerboel?

A Boerboel is a large mastiff-type working dog from South Africa. These canines have black distinctive masks and a short coat. These dogs are large and they have heavy and strong bone structure and well-developed muscles.

The head is quite broad and gives an impression of dominance and power.

It is an Afrikaan dog and its name, Boerboel, also means ‘ farmer’s dog. These large dogs were bred to help the farmers in South Africa to protect their house, farm, and cattle from deadly and dangerous animals.

Other than providing dependable protection, these dogs are known for their loyalty and companionship that they provide to the farmers.

Besides being force protectors, these canines are known for their gentle, calm, and loving nature. They are very good with kids and make great pets and emotional support animals. However, despite being docile, healthy, and easy to groom, this breed is not the easiest one to handle.

They need an independent and experienced handler to train them. Once they are trained, they make great companions, guards, and house animals. They are loyal and you will need ample space to keep them with you.

Read on to know more about this massive and mastiff-type dog breed.

Boerboel - Breed Overview and Highlights

Boerboel is the epitome of a no-nonsense approach to a guard dog. These dogs are the best for the people who need someone that could guard their house and be around them whenever needed. They have a broad head, powerful jaws, and well-developed muscles that extend from the neck to the rump.

This indicates their lineage to the ancient ‘molloser’ kind of dog.

Mollosers are the foundation dogs for the present-day mastiffs. These dogs are agile, which is a surprise given to their structure and size, and have an effortless gait and movements.

These dogs descended from the canines that the Dutch settlers brought with them to South Africa. They helped them protect their house and belongings from hyenas, leopards, lions, and other wild animals.

Today, these dogs are valued as prized watchdogs, protectors, and strong competitors in dog competitions and canine sports.

Since these dogs are quite smart and dominating, they could be rather territorial and if not trained properly, they could be aggressive towards other dogs and people. These dogs need ample mental and physical stimulation and they need a lot of stimulation to be happy and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Leaving them alone for long is not a good idea. They need companionship or a task to do and being idle makes them anxious and bored. This could result in destructive behavior and you do not want a dog of his size to mess up your house.

Since they are big dogs, they need a big house or a yard to play and exercise and a firm, patient, and fair handler to train them. They make affectionate family members but need proper and timely training and socialization for it.

Highlights of Boerboel

  • A massive dog with well-developed muscles and size as much as Great Danes, though they are considerably smaller than them.
  • Their exact ancestry is still unknown as no one knows for sure about the breeds that were used to breed these dogs.
  • Dutch settlers brought their dogs to South Africa to help them stay safe from wild animals. These strong dogs became Boerboels’ ancestors.
  • After World Wars, dog breeding deteriorated and Boerboels almost disappeared. In the 1980s, Boerboel enthusiasts worked to bring the breed back and were successful.
  • These dogs make excellent guardians for human kids and, sometimes, they could be overprotective also.
  • Boerboels have short coats and because of this, they have minimal grooming needs and fewer health issues. Still, due to their training and socialization needs, they may not make a good choice for new dog owners.
  • They are considered a rare breed. They were bred in South Africa and are exported globally from there.
  • On average, these dogs weigh between 110 and 200 pounds but some of them could weigh even more than this.
  • Boerboel is considered to be the most agile of the Mastiff dogs.
  • Proper and early socialization is important because Boerboels may not respond positively towards other dogs and especially towards dogs of the same gender.

History and Origin - Where did Boerboel Come From?

The actual ancestry and origins of the dog are still unknown but it is anticipated that the farm dogs that the Dutch settlers brought to South Africa were the forefathers of the breed/

Their name was created by combining Dutch/Afrikaans words ‘boer’ which means farmer, and ‘boel’, meaning dog. They were bred by the Dutch settlers in the 1600s and it is said that a variety of breeds were used to create the Boerboel breed.

The European settlers brought large and imposing dogs with them to South Africa and they bred with local domestic dogs and a number of other breeds. English settlers brought Bulldogs and Mastiffs with them and they crossbred with Boerboels. Similarly, Da Beers, a diamond mining company, also imported Bullmastiffs to guard their mines.

Bullmastiffs crossbred with Boerboels and gave them their present shape and appearance. The exact breeds are known but since only the strongest of the dogs could withstand South Africa’s hot weather and dangerous animals, it contributed to the dog’s tenacity and strength.

During the 1800s, the colonists started protesting against British rule in South Africa. As a result, their dogs were taken in by remote communities. Boerboels started breeding with other dogs, regardless of any standard and breed purity. In the 1980s, a group of Boerboel enthusiasts began working to bring the purebred Boerboel back.

Because of their efforts and work, the breed gained widespread fame and is still a rare breed outside South Africa. Later breed clubs were developed to support the breed and set the Boerboel puppies standard.

Size and Appearance - What are Boerboel’s Accepted Physical Traits?

Boerboels are large, strong, and muscular dogs. On average, the males stand between 24 to 28 inches and the females stand between 22 to 25 inches. These dogs could weigh anywhere between 110 and 200 pounds but they could either be bigger or smaller than this.

Some Boerboels could be as heavier as more than 200 pounds, which is a lot. They have effortless movements and they are very confident and independent also.

Below is the accepted AKC breed standard of a Boerboel.

    • Head - the dog’s head is its most distinctive and pronounced feature. It is broad, blocky, deep, muscular, square, and has well-developed cheeks. It is in proportion with the body and the forehead is slightly wrinkled when the dog is observing or thinking something.
    • Skull - the skull is flat, square, and well-muscled. The cheek muscles are well-developed but not very visible or prominent. The stop is prominent, a bit sloping but overly steeping.
    • Muzzle - the muzzle is broad and deep, and it narrows down a bit towards the nose. It is almost parallel with the skull and covers more than a third of the total area of the head.
    • Nose and Nostrils - the nostrils are black in color, and they are quite widely spaced and large in size. The septum or the vertical line of the nose is in a horizontal position with the lower jaw.
    • Jaws - the jaws are strong and wide and the teeth are white and strong. The dog should have a scissor bite.
    • Lips - the upper lip is loose and full-fleshed. The ends of the upper lip touch the top of the lower lip. The lower lip is somewhat firm and without any extra jowls.
    • Eyes - the eyes are medium in size and well-fitted. They neither protrude nor recede excessively. They are set quite wide and have an intelligent expression. The eyelids are properly fitted and are completely pigmented.

The preferred eye colors include all shades of brown, preferably darker than the coat.

  • Ears - the ears are V-shaped, hanging forward, medium in size, tapered, and have rounded tips that touch the line going from the line of the mouth. The ears are set wide and high on the head. When alert, the ears, and top of the head widen a bit.
  • Neck - the neck is strong and powerful and is medium in length. It connects with the shoulders smoothly and increases in width from the head to the shoulders. The dewlap is visible but it disappears into the sternum.
  • Topline - the top of the body is at a fine level and is firmly built. The back of the body remains horizontal all and time. The underside is a bit tucked up.
  • Body - the body is square, blocky, and quite solid. It has good width and depth with a straight back and well-developed muscles. The ribcage is well-developed and well-sprung.
  • Tail - the tail is set at high and is quite thick. It is covered with hair and could be docked at the third or fourth vertebrae. If undocked, it reaches down the hocks.
  • Forequarters - the forelegs are strong and have well-developed and firm muscles. They are parallel to the ground when viewed from the front and have well-arched toes. The nails are black in color and the toes have hair between them for protection.
  • Hindquarters - the hind legs are well-made, muscular, and have strong bones. The stifles are strong, have moderate angulation, and strong enough to support the dog’s movements. The upper thighs are strong and well-muscled and the lower thighs are also well-muscled. The rear dewclaws are removed.

For complete breed standard, read AKC’s complete Boerboel official breed standard.

Personality and Temperament of South African Boerboel

‘Are South African Boerboels aggressive?’

Yes, towards other dogs and intruders, these dogs could be really aggressive. However, with their human families, these canines are quite loving, gentle, and caring. These dogs are quite playful and they are the happiest when they have a job to do. The job could be anything and they are happy to guard the farm and livestock for you as well as guarding the house.

These dogs are especially known for their love for the kids of the family and protect them from all kinds of dangers. However, since they are very large, they may knock over small kids by mistake. Therefore, kids over eight years of age make the best playmates for them. Due to their innately protective nature, sometimes they may overprotect.

Early age training and socialization are important to help him develop into a well-rounded dog. If having guests around, introduce them to your dog gently and let him know that they are not intruders. These dogs are very dominating and they need a firm but gentle handler.

This is why they do not make good pets and house animals for new or first-time dog owners. You will need to be patient while still being firm and this is no easy job.

They need ample physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Puzzles, dog training, and interactive toys will help you keep your canine engaged and stimulated. If having kids in the family, it is important to train them about being around the dog. Tell them not to pull his tail, or prod him.

Supervise the playtime and do not leave your kids alone with the dog for long. Boerboels make ideal pets and house animals for single-dog households where there would be no other dogs or pets.

Health Conditions and Concerns - Are Boerboels Healthy Dogs?

Yes, Boerboels are quite healthy and they have fewer hereditary diseases and disorders. However, there are some diseases and illnesses that they could be prone to. Many breeders mislead potential buyers by saying that the puppy is 100% healthy because this is not possible.

A reputable breeder will be honest about what to expect from the dog. Boerboels are prone to developing some health problems including;

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Heart disease
  • Ectropion (eyelids sag outward)
  • Entropion (eyelids roll inward)
  • Vaginal hyperplasia

However, this does not mean that all of these dogs would get these diseases.

When buying a puppy, make sure that the breeder shows you updated health certificates for elbows, hips, eyes, and heart and the health clearances of the puppy’s parents also. Below are the health clearances that you must ask from the breeder.

  • Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) evaluation for elbows
  • OFA or PennHIP test for hips
  • Annual eye exam by a certified veterinary ophthalmologist for healthy eyes
  • OFA evaluation and an echocardiogram, by a certified veterinary cardiologist

All of these certificates would be for both the puppy and his parents.

Feeding and Grooming - How to Take Care of your Boerboel?

A Boerboel is a big dog and this is why he has more dietary needs than many other dogs. The best way of knowing what kind of diet will be the best for your dog is to consult the veterinarian and talk to him about it. Puppies have different dietary needs than adult dogs and this is why you should be aware of the changes.

Usually, Boerboels do very well on a raw food diet. Meaty bones, organs, and occasional fruits and vegetables provide all the necessary nutrients to the dog and help him grow and stay healthy. It is important that you measure your dog’s food and do not keep the food out all the time.

Managing your canine’s weight by giving organic dog food is the best way to prevent a number of issues.

Since these dogs have short coats, they do not need extensive grooming. Just brush your dog’s coat lightly to stimulate the skin and follicles and to distribute the oils evenly throughout the skin and coat. Do not brush rigorously because it may harm his skin and cause breakouts.

Brush his teeth regularly and trim his nails every two weeks. Use a high-quality dog toothbrush and toothpaste to brush his teeth. For the nails, use premium quality dog nail clippers to clip his nails safely. Since his nails are black, cut them very carefully or take him to a professional groomer.

Check the ears and make sure that they are clean from any kind of build-up or dirt. Check the eyes and see that they are healthy and not overly red.

These dogs are large but having one at home is something that you will never regret. However, to make sure that he grows up into a well-rounded and perfect house animal, it is important that you socialize and train him from a young age.

Enjoyed reading about Boerboel? Check other dog breeds also.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost of a Boerboel?

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Between $1,500 and $2,000. These dogs are still very rare and to get one, you will have to import him from South Africa.

What is the bite force of a Boerboel dog?

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About 450+ psi . The actual bite force is still unknown but you can safely assume that these dogs have a very strong bite force.

How long do these dogs live?

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On average, these dogs live for 10 to 2 years .

Are Boerboel dogs dangerous?

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If not trained and socialized properly any dog could be dangerous and a Boerboel is no different. These dogs must not be left unsupervised with young children and should be trained properly before introducing into a household.

Are Boerboels easy to train?

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These dogs are very intelligent, which makes them easy to train. However, they will need firm, gentle, and consistent training to develop properly. However, do not be harsh with them but be a firm and dominating handler.

Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and expert author at the RealESALetter.com. With a deep-seated passion for animals, Harper brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to his writings. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he aims to help pet owners understand and care for their furry friends better.

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