boerboelAlthough not well known outside its native South Africa, the Boerboel is gaining popularity around the world as more people learn about the breed. Like all mastiff type dogs, there are suggestions that the breed’s root go all the way back to the mastiffs of ancient Rome. Although the exact history of the Boerboel is unknown, it known that the “bullenbijter” brought over to South Africa by Jan van Riebeeck from Europe in 1652 played a role along with the bullmastiff, indigenous African dogs and other African breeds including the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Traditional Work

The name “Boerboel” translates to mean “farmer’s dog” and the breed filled a variety of roles on the farmsteads of European settlers in South Africa. Their massive size and strong devotion to their owners combined with a strong instinct to protect made them ideal at protecting the farm, the family, and the livestock from intruders in the form of both marauding humans and wild animals. During the day they would also assist with farm work which sometimes included herding livestock, hunting game, and tracking wounded animals. Essentially, if there was a job on the farm that needed doing by a dog, the Boerboel did it. They worked closely with the farmer and his family and developed a deep devotion to their family.

Physical Characteristics

The Boerboel is a large dog. He is physically imposing with males being approximately 25-30 inches at the withers and 125-145 pounds in weight. Females are a few inches shorter and thirty to forty pounds lighter. Although large, females should be decidedly feminine in appearance and you should have no difficulty telling the two sexes apart just by looking at their heads.

They come in a variety of colors including yellow, tawny, black, blue, reddish brown, and brindle (striped). Ideally there is as little white on the head and body as possible, with small amounts on the chest and toes being acceptable but not desirable. Piebalds (white and another color, usually patched) do occur. Although they are a disqualification in the show ring, piebalds can be registered and compete in other dog sports like obedience, weight pull, and agility.


Because of the harsh environment in which the breed was founded tended to cull out weaker animals, the Boerboel is relatively healthy. They are registered with the Canine Health information Center (CHIC) and the national club recommends that breeding dogs have the following health tests done prior to being bred: hip and elbow x-rays to prevent the breeding of dogs with dysplasia, cardiac evaluation including echocardiography by a licensed canine cardiologist to ensure that the heart is healthy and has no defects or disease, and eye examination on an annual basis by a licensed canine ophthalmologist. Hip, heart, and eye exams are recommended for most breeds of dogs and in large dogs the joints and heart bear the additional weight load and need to be particularly strong and healthy. An optional DNA test for hyperuricosuria are also suggested. Dogs with this gene are predisposed to forming stones in the urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder.


Like many mastiff breeds, the Boerboel is laid back in appearance unless his instinct to protect is aroused. This breed is extremely devoted to its family and very tolerant of children and other pets provided they are properly introduced to them. Because of their size and the urge to act as a guardian, early socialization and obedience training is a must. It is much easier to train a puppy than it is to deal with an unruly adolescent that weighs over one hundred pounds. A well trained Boerboel is somewhat dominant and requires an owner that will take charge of the pack and provide firm but positive leadership. As with any dog of this size, the animal must respect the people in the house and behave in an appropriate fashion. Their level of devotion means they thrive on human contact and do best when living in the house with the family full time. Properly trained and socialized, they can be fabulous pets. They also make excellent choices for those interested in dog sports such as weight pull, agility, and schutzhund.

Find Boerboel Puppies for Sale:

Boerboel Articles