Country of origin:
Southern Africa
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
brown, red or fawn, with white patches; with or without a mask; brindle; piebald (white with colored markings)
Hair length:
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
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Pros Cons

  • clever and very trainable

  • requires standard grooming

  • formidable guardian and alert watcher

  • may be aggressive towards other animals

  • dominant

  • high exercise requirements

  • shows unfriendliness to houseguests


The Boerboel is a large and intrepid guard breed from South Africa with long and colourful history. This mastiff-type dog still enjoys the repute of a very sound property guardian although lots of its specimens play the role of even-tempered and devoted family pets. Early and all-around socialisation is an absolute must for the Boerboel otherwise its aggressive tendencies can get out of control.

Photo: © Tigerberg Boerboels (


The development of the Boerboel began in the middle of the XVII century when first Dutch farmers migrated to South Africa and brought along their huge Mastiff-like canines to defend their settlements. It’s commonly thought that the breed’s foundation stock consisted of ancient Assyrian dogs that spread across the world after the conquest of Egypt. Its name was derived from the African word «boer» that is translated as «farmer». Gradually these imported dogs were heavily mixed with native canine population of South Africa so the early version of the Boerboel was born.

During the extensive resettlement of the XVIII century, Dutch and other European farmers started to explore the inner parts of South Africa in order to escape the British jurisdiction. Their loyal four-legged assistants always accompanied them and soon scattered all over the African continent. Those specimens of the Boerboel that managed to adapt to extremely hostile conditions of this region were notable for exceptional robustness, great strength and amazing intelligence. Their masters entrusted them with different tasks including herding, hunting and, of course, guarding. Furthermore this calm and loyal dog provided unobtrusive companionship and was highly prized in this capacity as well.

In the 30s of the XX century the De Beers diamond company imported to South Africa lots of Bullmastiffs to defend their mines from looters. These canines mated with original specimens of the Boerboel and made the breed even stronger and tougher. At some point it’s also likely that the Rhodesian Ridgeback became involved in the breeding process although the modern-day Boerboel lacks the most distinctive trait of this breed, the back ridge.

Unfortunately, by the end of the XX century for a number of reasons the breed faced the risk of disappearance. Several fanciers decided to take action to avert such a sad fate of this truly legendary canine. They could find approximately 250 pure-bred Boerboels but only 72 of them had all necessary characteristics for breeding program. Eventually its numbers were partially rebuilt and the breed found its way to other countries.

Nonetheless today it’s very hard to acquire the puppy of the Boerboel in other parts of the world apart from South Africa. The vast majority of breed members still serve as multifunctional farm dogs in the remote villages of their homeland. The breed gained full recognition of the American Kennel Club (AKC) in January, 2015.


Such words as dominant, confident, calm and loyal are suited best for the description of the Boerboel. Despite its repute of an aggressive dog it can be successfully integrated into almost any family if the masters don’t ignore the necessity of all-around and early socialisation of their pet. Remember that a 90-kilo dog becomes incredibly destructive when bored so it must never be left alone and unattended for any significant period of time. In general, this breed is fine with older kids and exercises due patience in interaction with them. Nonetheless, hectic behaviour of small or unfamiliar children may be misinterpreted by this dog as a hostile or threatening one so it won’t make an optimal choice for families with toddlers.

The Boerboel is inherently abhorrent of strange people and without proper up-bringing may perceive all humans as potential enemies. So make sure to teach your pet that houseguests don’t have bad intentions so they must be treated respectfully. Nonetheless this dog is both protective and intelligent and commonly makes a perfect guardian that attacks only unwelcomed guests. It also carries out the duties of a watcher with the most willingness and very effectively.

The Boerboel strives for becoming an alpha dog in any group of its counterparts. That’s why it’s very likely to provoke fights with unknown dogs especially if they are of the same gender. On the whole, this breed won’t do well in multi-animal households and some of its specimens will never be able to co-exist peacefully even with familiar none-canine pets. It’s also very aggressive to street cats and other small creatures.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

· bloat;

· eye problems;

· elbow dysplasia;

· hip dysplasia.


The Boerboel possesses a short and setaceous hair that needs minimal care. Brush the coat of your pet once a week to spread natural oils and it will always look shiny and clean. Frequent bathing is absolutely unnecessary since water and canine shampoos can really irritate the skin of this breed.

It’s crucial to begin training the Boerboel to all grooming procedures while it’s still a curios and pliable puppy. Otherwise, it will be almost impossible to coax a huge adult dog into standing still while you are trying to trim its nails. The breed sheds average amount of hair and fits fairly well for a tidy person.


The training of the Boerboel can become an easy task if started in its puppyhood. This dog loves feeling itself a part of the pack and wants to find its place in its hierarchy. So the master should clearly and firmly explain its subordinate position in the human family. Be aware that this breed will never obey the handler who demonstrates indecisiveness or excessive softness of character.

Consistency of lessons is the key to the successful training of this breed. It also reacts well to motivational methods, which involve its favourite food and plentiful of praise. It’s unwise to punish your Boerboel for its rare mistakes as such a handling will only result into defiant and even aggressive behaviour.


The Boerboel has a lean and brawny body that requires lots of physical exercise to stay fit. Apart from a long daily walk this dog must be provided with a regular chance to frisk in a safely enclosed yard. Additionally it welcomes any meaningful task you can give it and will be equally happy to guard your dwelling or to compete with other canines in obedience, weight pulling, agility or herding trials.

Without necessary stimulation for body and mind the Boerboel will find its own way to entertain itself by chewing your furniture or shoes or by becoming completely unruly indoors.