South African Boerboel

As far as powerful dogs go, the Boerboel is high on the list, with its protective, strong and confident nature second-to-none. Originating from South Africa, its name (pronounced borr-boll), devices from the Afrikaans word ‘boer’ meaning farmer. This gives a clue to the environment is best suited to – the great outdoors, although it should always be on a leash when out and about.

With brains and brawn, the Boerboel make an excellent watchdog for homes and properties alike.

Brief History

Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers began arriving in South Africa during the mid-1600’s. With them, they brought ‘Bull Mastiff’ and ‘Bull’ type dogs to guard their farms. This resulted in cross-breeding between these and other European dog breeds at the time, resulting in the Boerboel, also known as the South African Mastiff.

It’s combined dynamic personality and intelligent nature, make it a sensitive breed, protective over land and family.

It joined the American Kennel Club in the ‘working dog’ group in 2015, and is also part of the UKC, Guardian Dog Group.

Physical Features

Powerful in looks and personality, this is a large but agile dog with a deep, broad chest and muscular lions. It has a thick tail set high, with a short and thick coat often seen in; brown, fawn, or red, sometimes with white patches.

Facially, its muzzle is noticeably short and blunt, sitting on a blocky head – some have a dark facial mask, with a couple of wrinkles on its forehead. Its nose is black with widely defined nostrils and equally dark eyes. Its V-shaped ears hang forward as if to say hello!

Average Height:

22-27 inches

Average Weight:

110-176 pounds

Life Expectancy:

10-12 years


Dominant by nature, this is an intelligent dog that is confident, bold and has a willingness to please.

It also has a fun-loving an gentle nature, and is remarkably patient and loyal. As such, it will do all it can to protect its family against intruders and does well in a home with a large backyard or garden. Its constant need to protect can make it especially defensive around strangers; brief guests to introduce themselves in a calm fashion before approaching.

South African Boerboel

This is also a dog that benefits from strong leadership to understand his place in the pack, never let his demand for attention get out of hand, or he will rule you!

Due to its heritage, this is a breed that enjoys farm life and being around livestock and other animals. As such, it does not do well on its own and should never be left for lengthy periods.

A surprising talent, the Boerboel is also a strong swimmer that loves nothing more than a splash around!

Special Needs

To curb anti-social traits, this breed must be socialized as early as possible with plenty of firm and forceful training. Being intelligent makes him easy to train, with a keen willingness to learn. Nonetheless, never underestimate that this is very strong-willed breed and needs to be told who’s boss to prevent unwanted behaviors in the future.

This is also a breed that is not at all suited to apartment living.

Finally, special care is needed in its early years; it grows in spurts making some of its body out of balance with the rest, this can make it especially vulnerable to numerous injuries.

Possible Health Concerns

The Boerboel is an active dog breed that may be susceptible to a number of health issues:

These include; hip dysplasia – a hereditary developmental disease, ‘Progressive Retinal Atrophy’ that can affect sight, along with ‘entropion’ which causes eyelash irritation.

There’s also hypothyroidism and cardiac issues such as heart murmurs to watch out for.

The Boerboel is also a likely runner for gastric dilation and volvulus – these are better known as bloating. The best way owners can prevent this is by limiting exercise for an hour after mealtimes. It can be life threatening in some situations, so due attention should be given.


This is an active dog, that demands daily exercise and plenty of it. Additionally, a large fenced yard is ideal for it to run around and play in.

He enjoys lots of playtime too, but don’t expect dog toys to last very long – his jaws are notably strong and destructive, even though he’s blissfully unaware!

Mental stimulation needs to be combined with canine sports for the overall wellbeing of this breed.


South African Boerboel

A dog of such stature requires plenty of food to maintain its levels. It’s important to feed your ‘Boer’ a diet of high-quality dry dog food. This will help prevent potential dental health problems too.


The Boerboel’s short coat is very easy to groom. During heavy shedding that occurs twice yearly, extra grooming is needed. Daily brushing with a rubber mitt or medium bristle brush will aid in removing loose hair, and in keeping his coat healthy and shiny.

Nails need to be trimmed regularly and ears cleaned weekly.

Teeth should be brushed daily, and dental checkups twice yearly.

The Boerboel is a wonderful guard dog, that thrives on the company of others and having a ‘job’ to do. It does not do well being left alone for long periods.

Harking back to its South African roots, this is a smart dog with a deep desire to please. It will protect your family and land with precision and care, which also makes it somewhat weary around strangers.

Socialization is key to ensure the best features of its personality come out; this is after all a dog that suffers pack mentality.

You can never shower your Boerboel with enough love and attention, and his loyalty knows no bounds!

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