The Boerboel isn’t just some large breed of dog. It is the dog, at least in the minds of South African farmers from the 17th century and on.
But you may have never heard of this breed until now. In fact, the South African Mastiff was somewhat of a mystery to the world until the latter part of the 20th century.
The “farm dog” is slowly and surely catching on in different places as an agile and intelligent working dog.
So what is that makes this breed such a wonderful breed to own?
Here is what you need to know about the Boerboel.
The original date and ancestry of the Boerboel is unknown. However, there are tons of theories and plenty of speculations.
One of the more reliable and consistent theories is that the breed’s origins stem from the 1600’s. When the Dutch began settling into Southern Africa in the 17th century, they brought with them dogs. Large dogs. Some believe these canines were Mastiffs.
African tribes migrating south also brought with them their “Indian Dogs.” This particular canine type was thought to be strong and large enough to fight off predators like lions.
In addition, farmers sought after a dog that could handle the excruciating temperatures and harsh climate conditions. There was a need for a breed that could protect the farmer’s children, who were working in tough geographical regions. Yet, this dog would have to be trustworthy around the children and know how to turn off its aggression.
During the 20th century, Boerboels would cross with Bullmastiff imports sent by the diamond mining company, De Beers. These dogs would help guard and protect the mines from intruders and predators.
The years following are still a mystery. In particular, there was never a breed standard established. There are some theories that the Rhodesian Ridgebacks made contributions to the Boerboel bloodline.
Concerns over the legacy of this breed, and the real threat that the Farm Dog was facing possible extinction would create an urgent need for Lucas van der Merwe to search for the breed throughout Africa.
All in all, only 72 Boerboels were found in the early 1980’s. The search covered over 3400 miles and found 250 dogs, but only 72 were acceptable for their registration standards.
In 1990, the South African Boerboel Breeder’s Association formed. SABBA’s mission was to lead an effort to keep the breed alive and create a standard. This led to the recognition by the Kennel Union in South Africa.
Today, the breed is slowly catching on in other countries like the United States. The American Kennel Club recognizes the breed as a working dog, and in 2015 made it official.
Industry leaders in South Africa continue to export the breed thanks to the Boerboel’s legacy of being protective but intelligent and calm.
The Boerboel is the 131st most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club’s most recent rankings.
As part of the working group, the Boerboel is a large breed that weighs between 150 and 200 pounds.
According to the American Kennel Club’s standards; a male should stand between 24 to 27 inches, while a female ranges from 22 to 25 inches.
Obviously this is a working dog that enjoys staying busy. But don’t let that fool you, as the Boerboel enjoys slouching around the homestead and relaxing. They don’t require a huge amount of space, although crowding them up into a tight living space isn’t ideal. Be that as it may, this breed is rather quick to adapt. They may comes off protective or territorial, as it is in their nature to do so. These traits may not make the Boerboel the best breed for apartments.
Loyal and commitment to their family, the Boerboel is very good with children. Moreover, as Boers went off to work leaving their children behind to tend to work, it was under the tutelage of the Boerboel. Farmers in South Africa found this breed to be reliable and trustworthy.
On top of being trustworthy, this breed sure loves being around their owners. Some call this a “Glue dog,” as to describe a breed that follows their master room to room.
This is a fairly active breed, but you should provide a bit of mental stimulation on top of daily walks. The Boerboel may not fit in with other pets at dog parks. They may exude a bit of prey drive, but most of their archaic traits dealt with larger animals. Boerboels are typically okay with cats and smaller animals, for as long as you socialize them early on.
Strangers may find them imposing and they can be when they want to. Make no mistake, although they are friendly and calm, the second this breed believes a family member is under duress, they won’t think twice to act.
Boerboels will suffer from certain health complications as most breeds do. However, if you buy from a reputable dog breeder, who can provide you with the proper documentation and health clearances, you will do yourself a great favor. Couple that with regular visits to the veterinarian and your Boerboel has a great shot at a long and fulfilling life.
Most Boerboels live a life expectancy of 9 to 11 years. Many consider this breed to be relatively healthy.
One health issue many link with this breed is Vaginal Hyperplasia. Although found more in breeds such as Weimaraner, English Bulldogs and Lab Retriever, there is a slight chance your Boerboel may suffer from this condition. Vaginal Hyperplasia is when a female is in a heat cycle, and the vagina reacts by swelling from a result of estrogen. When the vaginal mucosa swells up it can cause the vaginal skin or flaps to bulge.
You should always look out for Bloat or Gastric Torsion with your Boerboel. This is rather common among larger breeds and dogs with deeper chests. Since this breed is a large dog, there’s always a shot that the Boerboel inherits the condition. Bloat is a serious condition and can kill those it inflicts within hours. Reducing the amounts or the frequency of feeding helps lessen your dog’s chances of obtaining Bloat.
Entropion and Ectropion are two issues common with the Boerboel. Although these are more annoying issues than life threatening, they can present changes and difficulties among your dog’s daily endeavors. For instance, Entropion is when a portion of the eye lid rolls into the socket and causes irritation from the lash. Ulcers and scarring may result. Ectropion is the opposite problem. Common with Bloodhounds and other hound types. If you have a working dog this can be a problem.
Hip Dysplasia is another issue this breed encounters. Of course, this may depend on how active your dog is and what kind of stress the Boerboel is putting on their body. Hip Dysplasia is when there’s a malformation of the hip joint or when the hip joint is loose, causing the leg bone to move around too much. This causes wear and tear, as well as a possibility of arthritis.
Some believe that first time dog owners may not be ready for a breed of this size and status. However, if you own patience and can be firm, patient and incorporate positive reinforcement during training, you should be fine. This is a dog that needs a task or early socialization. This breed’s nature is to be protective and they may challenge you for domination. You must be firm yet fair. Let them know you’re the boss.
You will need to supervise this breed when around smaller children. The size of this breed is enough to scare people. Having said that, the Boerboel is very good with children, especially after getting to know them.
Early socialization is a must for an overall friendlier dog. This will help integrate your dog with others.
They do need space and regular exercise. Typically 45 minutes to one hour can get the job done. Most Boerboel owners remark about the lazy side of this breed.
What and how much your Boerboel eats depends on their metabolism, their age and how active they are. For instance, if you have a 200 pound Boerboel that doesn’t work, a calorie intake of 3710 per day will suffice. On the other hand, if you have a 150 pound dog that doesn’t work, their calorie intake per day is around 2900-300. Moreover, if you have a working dog, they will need more calories. For a 150 pound working Boerboel, a intake of 3322 calories per day is necessary. A 200 pound dog that works needs over 4100 calories per day.
Steer clear from sugar, filler, grain, yeast and chocolate. A meat first diet is fine with this breed. Chicken, beef, liver, or turkey should be fine. Boerboels should consume Taurine, Omega fatty acids for their joints and heart.
Of course, you should always provide your dog with clean drinking water.
The Boerboel has an easily manageable coat. The undercoat is soft and dense. The top coat is coarse but smooth. This breed shed average and requires very little care or effort. Of course, when you keep up with your dog’s coat, not only does it create a bonding moment, but it helps reduce the amount of hair getting all over and help promote healthier skin and a better looking coat.
According to the American Kennel Club standards for this breed, the following colors are suitable: brindle, brown, cream, red, reddish brown and tawny. As far as markings, black masks, Irish markings, piebald and white markings are according to the standard.
Fun Boerboel Facts
- The Boerboel was bred to fight and tackle babboons and lions.
- Boerboels aren’t welcomed everywhere. The following places prohibit the breed: France, Qatar, Bermuda and Malaysia. Countries like Russia and Denmark consider this a dangerous breed and impose restrictions against the Boerboel.
- The name “Boerboel” means “farmer’s dog” in Africa.
- This breed may have have ancestry tracing back to 640 BC.
Some countries may not see the real beauty of this breed. Although this dog has been bred to fight bigger and strong predators, they are well known with their owners as a gentle and sweet breed. Of course, like any other dog, this is contingent upon how you raise them.
Boerboels are a breed that is easy to care for. They are simple. If you treat them right as puppies, then you will get one heck of a guard dog, that is loving and trustworthy as an adult.