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Meet the Breed >>

Meet the South African Boerboel

The Boerboel is a big, strong, athletic dog. Well balanced with good muscle development, they should move swiftly and powerfully with an impressive and imposing countenance.  Reliable, obedient and intelligent with a strong watch dog instinct, the Boerboel is self-assured and fearless, yet extremely perceptive to the needs of the family.


Boerboels are foremost incredibly devoted dogs that form close bonds with the entire family. They are known for being protective when necessary without being aggressive in normal interactions. Due to the emotional nature of their bond, Boerboels fare best living as part of the family. Left to live completely outside and away from their humans, they can become anxious, bored, depressed and will likely occupy themselves by indulging in undesirable or destructive behavior.




Proper early socialization is critical. Quite adaptable and much easier than most breeds to control as puppies, introducing this breed to a variety of sights, sounds, species and experiences during the formative months greatly improves their social skills. 


Protecting puppies from interactions with aggressive dogs is 

important in preventing dog aggression. Boerboels tend to carry traumatic experiences with them and could react in a fearful or defensive manner when presented with similar situations later on in life. Good tempered, well socialized older dogs are the best teachers, showing the young Boerboel proper play manners and dog communication.  


New Introductions

Positive interaction with friendly human strangers cultivates the social aspect of this breed. Some dogs are extremely social by nature and others are more reserved with new people. The more positive, enjoyable interactions they have, the more they will enjoy meeting new people. 



Boerboels are typically very good with children, developing especially close bonds with  those they share their home with.  The entire family should take part in training exercises to ensure the dog understands that children occupy a higher station in the family’s hierarchy. Children should be taught to respect and treat dogs with kindness and should not be left unsupervised with any dog.


Animal Family Members

Developed through the years as a working farm dog, a lot of Boerboels do well with livestock, house cats and provide good protection from wild predators. They are keenly aware of the presence of wild animals. With the right introduction, they will accept new animals into the family and add them to their list of charges.


Other Dogs

Boerboels are a dominant breed and this presents several challenges. They are not really suited for the Dog Park.  Care should be taken to introduce new dogs properly. Boerboels do not respond positively to dominant behavior from other large dogs, particularly those of the same gender. Puppies are much more adaptable and willing to work within the existing hierarchy.

Careful consideration should be given to gender selection. If a dominant dog is already in residence, choosing a pup of opposite gender is far more likely to lead to a peaceful household as the Boerboel matures.


Boerboel puppies are known for being easy to train and live with.  Due to their easy-going attitude while in pre-adolescence, many people mistakenly believe training is not necessary. As Boerboels mature, their confidence, reactivity, dominance and willingness to protect increases substantially and owners need to be sure they can read their dog and maintain control in any situation.  Structured obedience training and continual proofing of commands under a variety of distractions is necessary for raising the well-adjusted Boerboel.  Many owners have found incorporating a NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) protocol from the very beginning avoids dominance issues and streamlines communication.


As a Working and Utility breed, Boerboels positively thrive when presented with the challenges and rewards of structured training. Their name literally translates into “Farmer’s dog” and they possess a truly utilitarian nature and high biddability. Obedience, Rally-O, Weight Pull, Agility, Stock work, Protection Sports, conformation and Therapy work are all disciplines in which they are known to excel.  As with any breed, individuals possess their own temperament and assortment of drives and are more suited for some activities than others.  Boerboels are highly intuitive, extremely intelligent, sensitive, athletic breed and need the mental stimulation, interaction and energy outlet provided through focused work and training.



Do Your Research For the Right Pup

Research is of paramount importance when purchasing a Boerboel. After fully educating oneself on the demands and expense of owning this breed, patient and thorough research of breeders will help ensure the quality health and temperamental soundness of the puppy chosen. To increase the likelihood of getting the healthiest pup available, look for the following criteria:

  • Striving to improve the breed through their choices

  • Health certification on breeding dogs

  • Third party temperament evaluations

  • Working titles

  • Strong knowledge of lineage

  • Rock solid ethics

  • Asks potential puppy buyers a lot of questions



History of the Breed

It is said that when Egypt was conquered by Assurbanipal, Assyrian dogs were spread to Africa and to the rest of the world. Alexander the Great also spread the dogs to Europe. From these Assyrian dogs two types were developed, the hound and the mastiff. Hounds were utilized for hunting activities and the mastiffs were primarily used as guard dogs.


The mastiff was brought to South Africa when Jan van Riebeeck brought a Bullenbijter to the Cape in 1652 to protect him and his family from unknown dangers. Settlers from other countries also brought along their dogs. This resulted in a lot of in breeding. A dog would need to be tough to survive the harsh environment and the dangers of the continent. The African Boerboel is the result of the breeding of these tough mastiff types of dogs.During the Great Trek that started in 1838, the Voortrekkers scattered their Boer dogs to distant farms all over the land. The Boerboel in-breeding resulted in tougher and stronger dogs. These dogs were developed by the pioneer owners to be loyal, obedient and great protectors that guard and protect their families. These dogs were also developed to work.


In 1938, the De Beers imported to South Africa a bull mastiff to guard the diamond mines. This mastiff together with a champion obtained from the Hottentots played an important role in the breeding and development of the Boerboel. During the second Boer War in 1902, the Boerboel was cross bred with the bull mastiffs and the long legged bulldogs brought by the Englishmen resulting into a tougher dog with capabilities to withstand the rigorous trials of time. Studying further literature, more dogs have been suggested to be included in the breed and much more recently, but none of these are substantiated, however the Rhodesian Ridgeback and its descendants is known to have played a significant part, though no sign of a ridge is now evident.


Lucas van der Merwe of Kroonstad together with Jannie Bouwer of Bedford started a search for the original Boer dog in the early 1980s. From the 5500 kilometers that were covered, 250 dogs were found. Of these, only 72 were selected for registration. Presently, the breed is still relatively unknown and considered to be rare. However, in 2006 Boerboel was included in the American Kennel Club Foundation Stock Service.


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