Originally from South Africa, the Boerboel is a large mastiff which was bred by farmers to act as guard dogs. They are very loyal and strong, requiring socialization from a young age to make them friendly around other dogs and strangers. To this day, Boerboels are popular as guard dogs, pets, and hunting companions in South Africa and the rest of the world.
Within South Africa, Boerboels have a long history of protecting their owners and homesteads. They are extremely territorial and, because of their size, were bred to attack rather than alert when used as guard dogs. Within the farming community where they were first bred, stories about the bravery and strength of these dogs are common to this day .
The breed was first recognized in 1983 in Senekal, South Africa. They are commonly bred as a hobby and for export in Senekal, and are highly sought after because of their calm, confident nature and territorial instincts. Boerboels are found as working dogs in rural areas as well as pets in the city. Their calm nature, intelligence, and loyalty make them more flexible than some other breeds of large dogs and with enough exercise and care Boerboels can live happily even in apartments.
Boerboels are mastiffs, with heavy muscling in their shoulders and back as well as the characteristic mastiff body shape. They have large heads with strong jaws, flat ears, and relatively short tails for their size. Many South African breeders dock their tails according to tradition, protecting them from being injured during a fight, although this practice has come to be heavily discouraged. When purchasing a Boerboel from an overseas breeder it is not uncommon to receive a puppy that has been docked
While they’re generally known for good health, Boerboels occasionally suffer from ailments common to most large breeds, including hip and elbow dysplasia, ectropion and entropion of the eyelids, and vaginal hyperplasia in breeding females. Recently, instances of juvenile epilepsy have begun appearing in the breed, often brought on by excess stress or even the normal metabolic changes as the young dogs enter sexual maturity. A Boerboel’s average lifespan is about 10 years, with spayed or neutered animals living slightly longer.
Boerboels have a double coat, with a soft, usually white, undercoat and a short, stiff top coat. Upkeep is minimal as they are moderate shedders and require weekly brushing which they enjoy. Monthly baths are recommended since they are large dogs with short coats.
The Breed Standard colors for Boerboels range from all shades of red to brindle, light fawn, and fawn. They often have darker masks around the muzzle and eyes which is characteristic of mastiff breeds. Boerboel breeds can exhibit coats in other shades of red, brown, and fawn apart from the Breed Standard.
Boerboels are active, territorial, and intelligent. They love to fetch and swim and can easily be taught to hunt larger game. Boerboels are exceptionally friendly and protective of their families and home and do well around children that they are familiar with While many people prefer to keep them in areas with a large fenced in yard, with daily exercise they do well in small homes and apartments. Socialized Boerboels are friendly with other dogs and make good additions to a multi-dog family, especially when they are introduced as puppies to other adult dogs in the family.
Because of their size and breeding, they require training from a young age to make them sociable around other dogs and people outside of their family. Without exercise Boerboels can become destructive out of boredom, chewing and shredding furniture and pillows. Dogs that haven’t been socialized will be aggressive toward other animals and care should be taken to make sure that Boerboel puppies get to meet and play with other dogs if there is any chance of them being around strange animals in the future
- The Boerboel protected the homes and ranches of South African farmers from fierce predators like lions and hyenas as well as trespassers and thieves.
- It’s likely, although unconfirmed, that Boerboels originated as a cross between domestic breeds and African wild dogs.
- Boerboels have been used to guard everything from farms, homesteads, and ranches to huge African diamond mines.
- In 2010, the Boerboel was banned in Denmark because its fierce loyalty and large size make it a likely candidate for a fighting dog.