Suvarna Garge (Editor)


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Other names
South African mastiff


Life span
10 – 12 years


Guardian Dog

A man is holding a big dog, Boerboel

short, dense, soft, smooth, and shiny

Obedient, Confident, Intelligent, Dominant, Territorial

Male: 70–90 kg, Female: 70–90 kg

Male: 64–70 cm, Female: 59–65 cm

Mahogany, Red, Fawn, Brindle, Cream, Brown, Piebald

Bullmastiff, English Mastiff, Bandog, Tosa, Dogo Argentino

The boerboel a mastiff dog bred to do battle with african lions

The Boerboel [ˈbuːrbul], also known as the South African Mastiff, is a large, Molosser-type breed from South Africa bred for the purpose of guarding the homestead. These dogs were bred as working farm dogs and are one of the most powerful dog breeds.


A woman sitting with Boerboel

Boerboel dog breed

Breed history

A brown Boerboel

The word "Boerboel" derives from "boer," the Afrikaans/Dutch word for "farmer." Boel is an old Dutch/Afrikaans slang word for dog. Boerboel, therefore, translates as either "farmer's dog" or "Boer's dog" and should be pronounced somewhat like "boo-r-bull." (not Burbull). The Boerboel is the only South African dog breed created to defend the homestead.

A sitting Boerboel

Despite the Boerboel's long breeding history, there is great uncertainty as to how many and which breeds were used to create it. It is generally believed that the breed was created from interbreeding native African landrace dogs, such as the Africanis, with breeds brought into South Africa by Dutch, French, and British settlers.

A Boerboel with an old man

The most likely origins date back to Jan van Riebeeck's arrival to the Cape in 1652. Van Riebeeck brought a "Bullenbijter" with him. Those originals settlers, and later European settlers, also had large, strong dogs that almost certainly bred with the indigenous, Domestic dog breeds of South Africa.

Later, in 1928, the diamond mining company De Beers imported Bullmastiffs to South Africa to guard the mines. This breed was also crossbred with Boerboels in the region.

Boerboels today

The Boerboel was first introduced to purebred enthusiasts throughout the world, including the United States, by the American anthropologist Dr. Carl Semencic, first in an article in Dog World Magazine and later in his book entitled Gladiator Dogs which was first published by T.F.H. Publications in 1998 and later republished by another publisher in 2013. Semencic credits his early familiarity with the breed to his own travels to South Africa, but especially to his frequent correspondence with the head of the first South African Boerboel club, one Mr. Kobus Rust. Later, the Boerboel Breeders Association was established in 1983 in the Senekal district of the Free State with the sole objective of ennobling and promoting the Boerboel as a unique South African dog breed.

Today, Boerboel breeding is both a hobby and an industry in South Africa. These dogs are now exported from South Africa to other parts of the world.

The protective character of the Boerboel is still evident and is much sought after, as is the calm, stable, and confident composure of the breed. The dogs are obedient and intelligent and have strong territorial instincts. The Boerboel remains the guarding breed of choice amongst current day farmers and is very popular for the same reason in urban communities.

The name Boerboel is commonly misspelled as boerbul, boerbull, and borbull.

The Boerboel is a very powerful breed of dog. Due to its use as a farm dog which brought it into conflict with large African predators such as lions, the Boerboel has been artificially selected for ability to protect themselves and others.

There is also a divergence of standards. The Kennel Union of South Africa does not accept the black coat but the SABT does, so a buyer needs to decide what standard to follow, as if a dog has a black coat or is the descendant of a dog with a black coat they cannot be registered with AKC, KUSA, BI or Ebbasa.


The Boerboel is a large dog, with a strong bone structure and well developed muscles. The head appears blocky, but not overdone, with a short length between the stop and nose. It should look impressive, carrying himself with confidence and powerful movement, which should be buoyant, and unencumbered, despite its size. It should be symmetrical and balanced, following the desired proportions for the breed. Males should be markedly bigger than females, there is a distinct sexual dimorphism between the sexes, with the female less prominently developed.


The Boerboel is an average shedder and easy to groom. The occasional brushing and a monthly bath and nail trim is all that is needed. The breed has an outer coat that is normally coarse and straight, and an undercoat that is soft and dense.

Its coat is short, dense, smooth, soft, and shiny. Their coat color can be various shades of red, brown, brindle, black or fawn. Many dogs have a black mask around their mouth that sometimes extends to their eyes and ears.


Boerboels are an intelligent and energetic breed. They are loyal, great with kids and tend to be protective of their family and territory.

They are quite charming when not being lazy, and will not hesitate to defend their loved ones to the death.

They are often called "Velcro" dogs, always wanting to be with their owners, and so, are not prone to wandering off on their own.

The Boerboel also requires training and firm handling from an early age. It is not unusual for this breed to display aggression toward other dogs or strangers.


Boerboels are generally known for their good health. However, Boerboels can suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia, vaginal hyperplasia, ectropion, and entropion. Recently, juvenile epilepsy (with attacks brought on by metabolic changes or stress) has appeared in the boerboel breed. A boerboel's behavior and comportment may change over time. The average life expectancy is ten years.


Prospective owners must recognize that owning a Boerboel requires a significant commitment in time and energy as they need to be trained and properly socialized in order to be happy, well-adjusted family members.

These dogs thrive under positive reinforcement training techniques and require human companionship and structure. If left isolated, Boerboels will digress and may become destructive. Owners should be wary of trying to forcefully control the dog as it is detrimental to their psychological health and could cause potential behavioral backlash in the future. These dogs benefit from an owner who respects their size and strength but is not fearful of it.

Although more suitable for large yards, Boerboels are adaptable but will struggle living in small environments as long as they receive regular exercise and a lot of attention. Whatever the amount of space available, they need to have plenty of physical and mental exercise. The Boerboel can be exercised in a large, securely enclosed yard, but at a minimum this type of dog needs to be taken on a long walk every day. According to the SABBS it is the owner's responsibility to keep the dog safe, properly controlled and supervised in public, or when around children or people it is not familiar with. It is also important to note that the boerboel was bred to tackle large animals like lions and baboons, so strict training should be incorporated to avoid aggression


In 2002, Romania prohibited the import of the Boerboel, and restricted ownership to those with a court order allowing them to own the dog.

In 2010, the Boerboel was banned in Denmark for being a fighting dog.

In 2011, Russia designated the Boerboel an "especially dangerous breed," subject to mandatory registration and certification.

Ukraine has classified the Boerboel as a dangerous dog, subject to mandatory microchipping, muzzle, and civil liability insurance.

The Boerboel is also banned or prohibited in:

  • France
  • Fairfield, Iowa
  • Malaysia
  • Qatar
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • Mauritius
  • Bermuda
  • Importation of the Boerboel is illegal/banned in:

  • Singapore—currently existing dogs must have insurance in the amount of not less than $100,000, sterilization, microchipping, and muzzle.
  • Denmark—currently existing dogs must be muzzled and leashed at all times in public.
  • Romania—owners must be at least 18 years of age, and be certified psychologically fit to own a dog of this breed.
  • Tunisia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Turks and Caicos
  • References

    Boerboel Wikipedia

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