Huge, powerful and courageous, the boerboel is a South African farm dog with an imposing look. Adept at guarding livestock and incredibly protective, these dogs can be wonderful companions but require careful training to eliminate both territorial tendencies and a wariness of strangers. Rare outside of South Africa, this breed is both unique and memorable.
Which breed group is the boerboel in?
Breed group: none – not recognised by the Kennel Club
Boerboel breed history
Boasting a name that is derived from the Afrikaans for farmer and dog, the boerboel was bred to defend livestock from dangerous wildlife. Breeding began with the Dutch settlers who landed in South Africa during the 17 th century. The dogs that the Dutch took with them were crossed with a variety of other breeds including the bull mastiffs which were imported to guard gold mines.
In the 19th century, colonists moved progressively inland and the dogs were then living in isolated areas. They would guard properties and livestock but also herd and hunt. The breed eventually became diluted but in the 1980s, enthusiasts began a programme to preserve the purity of the boerboel and these dogs became popular in South Africa once more. They remain rare elsewhere but have been exported around the world.
Baoerboel breed characteristics
The boerboel is a very large and powerful dog with prominent musculature. Its proud demeanour contributes to its impressive look. These dogs have large heads with ears set wide and ear flaps being triangular and lying close to the head. Eyes are medium in size and set wide apart while Chests are deep, wide and broad. Boerboels have loose skin forming a moderate number of wrinkles and folds on their brows. Coats are short, dense and sleek with a natural sheen. Colours include fawn, red, brown, brindle and piebald.
Playful, courageous, smart and eager to please humans, boerboels like to be kept busy and active. They typically love children and can be very protective of their families. Boerboels may become incredibly territorial if not properly trained. They may also be wary of strangers if not socialised at an early age and can be destructive when bored.
- Lifespan: 10-12 years
- Height: up to 72cm
- Weight: up to 60kg
- Large heads
- Triangular ears set wide apart
- Medium round eyes
- Loose skin
- Folds on brows
- Short, dense coats
- Variety of colours
- Easily bored
Health issues with the boerboel
Boerboels are sturdy pooches and enjoy comparatively long lives for such large dogs, but are prone to the following conditions:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Entropion (Eyelids Folding Inwards)
- Ectropion (Eyelids Roll Outwards)
- Vaginal hyperplasia
- Bloat/gastric torsion
- Wobblers syndrome
- Weak immune system
What is the boerboel bred for?
This dog was bred to courageously guard livestock and farmers from dangerous wildlife. Later, the dogs were also used to herd and hunt.
What sort of owners does the boerboel suit?
As boerboels must be properly trained to curb their protective and territorial instincts, they are poor choices for first time owners. Their size should be a serious consideration for families with small children as these huge hounds could accidently knock little ones over. Boerboels are fabulous with older children as long as they have been correctly trained. These dogs need a significant amount of exercise and must be kept occupied. As such, they are best suited to active owners or working lives. They should not be left home alone for long periods and so at least one person in the household should be at home all day.
The perfect owner for a boelboel would be an experienced trainer with a firm hand who is home all day. A large home and a good garden would be beneficial and these dogs would be happiest living in the countryside.