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The Boerboel is a giant sized purebred from South Africa, bred originally to be a farm dog where it was used as a watch and guard dog amongst other things. It is today also kept as a family dog and also called the South African Mastiff, Borbull, South African Boerboel or just as Bole. They do need experienced owners and to be raised properly and trained well. They perform will in dog sports like obedience, agility and rally.

The Boerboel at A Glance
Name Boerboel
Other names South African Boerboel, South African Mastiff, African Boerboel
Nicknames Bole
Origin South Africa
Average size Giant
Average weight 150 to 200 pounds
Average height 23 to 28 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Fine, short, dense
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red, Brown, Black, Brindle
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 131st by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – about average
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warmth but very hot weather can cause then to overheat
Tolerance to cold Good but best not in extreme cold climates
Shedding Average – there will be some loose hair around the home
Drooling Moderate – do drool and slobber but not as much as other Mastiff type breeds
Obesity Above average – important they get a lot of physical activity throughout the day
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate maintenance – brush once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – some barking to be expected but should not be constant
Exercise needs Very active – will need plenty of daily activity
Trainability Moderately easy for very firm and dominant owners
Friendliness Good with socialization but should also always be supervised
Good first dog Moderate – size and power means it needs experienced owners who can control and train it
Good family pet Good to very good with socialization
Good with children Good but needs socialization
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization is essential, sees small animals as prey
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization is essential as can be aggressive and over protective towards strangers
Good apartment dog Low – not suited to apartment living, needs a large yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – if left alone for long periods can become destructive and considering its size and power that can mean a lot of damage
Health issues Quite healthy but some issues can include eye problems, joint dysplasia and bloat
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,600
Rescue organizations Several including Boerboel Rescue, USA Boerboels in Need Network and Giant Paws Boerboel Rescue, Inc
Biting Statistics None reported on this specific breed. For Mastiffs in general the statistics are Attacks doing bodily harm: 28 Maimings: 17 Child Vcitims: 23 Deaths: 5

The Boerboel's Beginnings

The Boerboel is a South African giant farm dog, 'boer' coming from the Afrikaan or old Dutch word for farmer and 'boel' the same for dog. In the 1600s a Jan van Riebeeck brought with him a large dog 'bullenbijter' to the Cape. Other settlers also brought large working dogs with them. Over the next few decades only the hardiest of those dogs were left and able to survive the harsh conditions there. When settlers from Britain came in the 1820s they arrived with large domesticated dogs too like Mastiffs and Bulldogs.

The Boerboel was bred and developed to act as a guard dog and would defend farms and homesteads. Included in the breeding were ancient Boer Dogs, some native breeds and other large dogs though which ones exactly are not known. The Boerboel had to be fierce, brave and powerful as it might have to defend against some pretty serious predators there in Africa including lions. They were also use for other vital roles like tracking wounded game and holding it down.

In the 1920s a diamond mining compnay called De Beers brought in Bullmastiffs to South Africa to guard their mines. Boerboels in the region were crossed with the Bullmastiffs which helped save the breed as there had been too much in breeding going on till then. However beyond South Africa the breed was not that well known.

New Lease on Life

The Boerboel became more known around the world when an American anthropologist called Dr Carl Semencic wrote an article and a book in the late 1990s in which he wrote about the Boerboel. He had seen them on his visits to South Africa and had also been in touch with the head of the South African Boerboel Club. Another association was formed for the purpose of promoting the dog as a unique breed specific to South Africa called the Boerboel Breeders Association. This group helped save the breed from careless breeding and the potential for extinction.

The breeding of this dog is now part of South Africa's industry. They are sent all over the world but are still quite rare. In the US the American Boerboel Club was formed in 2006. In 2010 it was fully recognized by the AKC. It is ranked 131st most popular registered dog by the AKC. Around the world there are some bans or restrictions on the breed as some deem it to be a dangerous dog. Some of those places include Romania, Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, France, Malaysia, Fairfield – Iowa, Bermuda, Geneva – Switzerland, Singapore and Tunisia.

The Dog You See Today

This is a giant dog weighing 150 to 200 pounds and standing 23 to 28 inches. It has a strong skeleton, is muscular and powerful, balances and symmetrical with a It has a double coat the inner is dense and soft and the outer is coarse, short, straight and shiny. Common colors are brown, red, fawn, black and brindle. (Keep in mind black is not a color accepted in some shows) Some have a black mask on the face. It has a straight back, broad and strong chest and a tail that is straight, short and set high.

It has a blocky head that is flat and broad and a black muzzle with big nostrils. It has brown eyes, medium sized ears that are v-shaped and set high and loose skin on its neck. It has straight legs and its back paws are a bit bigger than the front ones. Those paws are large, padded with dark toenails that curve and dewclaws are removed usually.

The Inner Boerboel


This is an excellent watchdog and guard dog. It will bark to alert you if there is an intruder and it will also act to protect you, the home and the family, with its life if it needs to. It is fearless, intelligent, protective and brave. It must be with experienced dominant owners who know how to work with large and dominant dogs. Towards their owners when with the right ones they are very loyal, affectionate, calm and charming. With strangers though it is suspicious, it is a very territorial dog so early socialization and training is important to make sure that does not turn to unwarranted aggression. If you are not prepared to commit to excellent training and socialization this is not the breed for you. If its protective instincts are triggered or if it has been provoked or feels threatened this is an aggressive dog.


It is an energetic, playful and hard working dog so will need to be kept busy. It barks occasionally and that bark is loud. The term velcro dog refers to breeds that stick close to owners wherever they are in the home. Often some people mistakenly think this is a small dog breed thing but in fact some large dogs are like it, and the Boerboel is one of them, it will want to be near you, won't wander far, and will follow you around the home. It can be left for short periods but not long ones, despite its apparent self confidence it does not like to be away from you for too long. While it is naturally a guard dog and still used as such where it comes from it needs to still be included in family activities, brought into the home and integrated with the family when it is not working. If left outside all the time alone it can become depressed, aggressive and destructive.

Living with a Boerboel

What will training look like?

With experienced owners and trainers this is a fairly easy breed to train despite its size and dominance! It listens to commands, and with the right owners wants to obey and can even be trained quicker than some breeds as it requires less repetition sometimes. It is an intelligent dog and training should be started as soon as you have it home before its size makes it easy for it to ignore you! It needs strong leadership, rules set and abided by, a confident and consistent owner using clear commands but being encouraging, use treats and praise.

It is also important to carry out early socialization. It is an aggressive dog and early socialization will help to reduce this and the risk of over reactions when it is an adult. All dogs should have at least basic training and early socialization but in a dog like this it is especially important.

How active is the Boerboel?

This is not a dog suitable for apartment living given its size and it really does not a very large yard or more preferable land for it to run on. It is fairly active and used to be a working breed so if you are not keeping it as a farm dog and working it each day you do need to make sure it gets plenty of physical exercise, and then has chances for mental challenge and stimulation. Take it to a dog park but only if it has well socialized as it can have issues with other dogs. Make sure it has chances to run off leash somewhere safe. Take it on a couple of long daily walks and play with it.

It enjoys playing with balls though it does tend to pierce them and let the air out! (It is good at destroying toys with those powerful jaws, have a good rotation of them going). It also will swim, go hiking, play Frisbee, fetch and it is quite agile for a dog of its size. It is essential it gets enough physical and mental stimulation to prevent boredom as a restless, hyperactive and bored giant sized dog can do a lot of damage when it gets destructive and it is more prone to aggression.

Caring for the Boerboel

Grooming needs

There is not a lot of grooming needed with the Boerboel, but it does shed a moderate amount, there will be some hair around, so regular brushing can help, and vacuuming will be needed. Just give it a bath when it really needs one as doing it too often can dry out its skin. For the same reason only use a proper dog shampoo. If size of the dog compared to size of the bathroom is an issue there are a couple of options. A hose in the yard is one, or there are a lot of professional groomers that have dog bathing stations that can suit any sized dog.


It will also need its ears checked weekly in case of infection and then wipe them clean using a damp cloth or cotton ball and dog ear cleanser. Never insert anything into their ears, it can do a lot of damage and cause a lot of pain. Their nails need to be trimmed when they get too long, if they are not wearing them down naturally with their activity. As there are blood vessels and nerves in them take care if you intend to do it yourself. Make sure you have the correct tools and know where not to cut. If unsure it is best to have a professional groomer do it for you or the vet. Also its teeth need to be looked after with brushing at least two to three times a week. This will also help with doggy breath.

Feeding Time

Feeding time will consist of at least two meals to avoid digestive problems like Bloat. How much exactly it will need varies depending on size, health, age, build, activity level and rate of metabolism. Make sure it has a formula suitable to its size and that it is a good quality dry dog food. 5 to 6½ cups is the average but as said it can vary.

How is the Boerboel with children and other animals?

The fact is if in a good home with a strong owner and it is getting everything it needs, it is good with older children, is energetic and affectionate with them. Young kids can get knocked over easily though so supervision is always needed. It is best with children it has been raised with them and socialization is essential. Make sure children are taught how to approach dogs safely and how to touch and not to tease. With that socialization it can accept other pets in the home like rabbits, mice or so on but it would be a good idea not leave them both alone together! As a very dominant dog it does not do well with strange dogs if they too are dominant, especially if they are the same sex. If you already have a dominant dog at home and you are thinking of bringing a Boerboel home it is possible but you should bring a puppy not an adult so it adapts to the hierarchy that already exists in the home.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

A life span of 10 to 12 years is usual for this dog. It is meant to be a fairly healthy breed but there are some issues it can be prone to such as joint dysplasia, epilepsy, eye problems, vaginal hyperplasia and bloat.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people in the last 35 years that have caused bodily harm in the US and Canada, the Boerboel is not specifically mentioned. However it is a rare dog here, and there is a change it was just identified as a Mastiff. They have the following stats, attacks doing bodily harm are 28. Out of those were 17 maimings so the victims were left disfigured, scarred or with a loss of limb. 23 of those attacks were children and there were 5 deaths. Now it is possible the Boerboel is not part of those statistics but the fact is this is a giant, dominant, aggressive, protective dog. If it is not with a strong owner who has trained and socialized it well and gives it stimulation and attention, it has a higher potential than some breeds to have aggressive moments.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Boerboel puppy will cost around $1600 for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder, but keep in mind that they are rare so it is very likely you will placed upon a waiting list. This is even more likely should you be looking for a show quality dog, and that price would go up to several thousand or more. Please take the time needed to find and wait for a dog from a trustworthy breeder who does not mistreat their animals, avoid puppy mills, back yard breeders and places like pet stores. There is a chance you could find abandoned Boers at rescues or shelters but it is more likely to be adolescent or adult aged. These cost around $400 to adopt plus it usually has some medical concerns already dealt with.


When you have your puppy you will need to have some things for it at home, and you will need to take it to a vet for some tests and procedures. Those items will include a collar and leash, crate, bowls and such and that will be a cost of about $200. Then at the vet it will need a physical, shots, deworming, blood tests, spaying or neutering and micro chipping. This will cost about $300.

Then there are ongoing costs too. Feeding a large dog like the Boer will cost about $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. Miscellaneous costs like training, license, miscellaneous items and toys come to about $245 a year. Then there are medical needs, basic health care like check ups, flea and tick prevention, shots and pet insurance which will cost an annual figure of around $485. This gives an annual starting figure of $1000.


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The Boerboel is extremely protective and territorial and dominant. Owners need experience, they need to be able to be the leader and offer the dog attention, good socialization and good training. It also needs to either be a working dog or get lots of exercise each day. Without the right environment and owner this dog can turn to aggression and can be hard to control. With its size that means it can be destructive and do a lot of damage. Make sure you introduce new things, people and so on to it carefully.

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