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A registered Boerboel in profile
Other names South African Mastiff
Country of origin South Africa
Weight 50 to 100 kg (110 to 220 lbs)
Height 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in)
Coat short, dense, soft, smooth, and shiny
Color with and without a black mask : fawns, reds, browns, brindle, piebald, and Irish markings
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

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.

Breed history[edit]

The word "Boerboel" derives from "boer," the Afrikaans/Dutch word for "farmer." The English word "bull" sounds to Dutch ears like "boel," hence the name Boerboel. Boerboel, therefore, translates as either "farmer's (bull) dog" or "Boer's (bull) dog" and should be pronounced somewhat like "burbull." The Boerboel is the only South African dog breed created to defend the homestead.

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.

The most likely origins date back to Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival to the Cape in 1652. Van Riebeeck brought a "Bullenbijter" with him.[1] 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.[2][3]

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.[1]

Boerboels today[edit]

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.[4]

The name boerboel is commonly misspelled as boerbul, boerbull, and borbull.[5]

There is also a divergence of standards. The Kennel Union of South Africa does not accept the black coat[6] 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's distinctive facial characteristics.

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. [6]


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.[7]

Its coat is short, dense, smooth, soft, and shiny. Their coat color can be various shades of red, brown, 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.[3] They are loyal, great with kids and tend to be protective of their family and territory.[7][8]

They are quite charming when not being lazy, and will not hesitate to defend their loved ones to the death.[3]

The Boerboel also requires training and firm handling from an early age. [6]


Boerboels are generally known for their good health. However, Boerboels can suffer from hip[9] or elbow dysplasia, vaginal hyperplasia,[10] ectropion, and entropion.[2][8] Recently, juvenile epilepsy (with attacks brought on by metabolic changes or stress) has appeared in the boerboel breed.[11] The average life expectancy is ten years.[12]


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.[2][7][8]

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.

If you are considering adding a boerboel to your family or already own a boerboel and are thinking of moving (to a smaller home), remember this – bored boerboels are destructive boerboels and at 150 lbs (68 kg), can do a lot of damage. 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.[2] 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. (Source:


In 2002, Romania prohibited the import of the Boerboel, and restricted ownership to those with a court order allowing them to own the dog.[13]

In 2010, the Boerboel was banned in Denmark for being a fighting dog.[14] In addition, it appears on the Wikipedia list of dog fighting breeds.[15]

In 2011, Russia designated the Boerboel an "especially dangerous breed," subject to mandatory registration and certification.[16]

Ukraine has classified the Boerboel as a dangerous dog, subject to mandatory microchipping, muzzle, and civil liability insurance.[17]

The Boerboel is also banned or prohibited in:

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.[25]
  • Denmark—currently existing dogs must be muzzled and leashed at all times in public.[26]
  • Romania—owners must be at least 18 years of age, and be certified psychologically fit to own a dog of this breed.[26]
  • Tunisia [27]
  • Faroe Islands [28]
  • Turks and Caicos[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Breed standard (Appendix A)" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d Breed description, UK Boerboel Club, archived from the original on 20 March 2012, retrieved 6 September 2014 
  3. ^ a b c "Know the Boerboel" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  4. ^ "Preamble of Official Breed Standard of Boerboel International Boerboel International Breed Standard". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  5. ^ Lance Rose. "Boerboel". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  6. ^ a b c Boerboel, Kennel Union of South Africa, retrieved 6 September 2014 
  7. ^ a b c "Boerboel Dog & Puppies Boerboel – Dog of the Boers". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  8. ^ a b c "Buying a Boerboel 10 March 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  9. ^ Template:Cite the wohmm zleijdkocjrxweb
  10. ^ "Vaginal hyperplasia 12 July 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  11. ^ "Epileptic research Dr Quirine Stassen, veterinary surgeon, research worker, internal medicine – neurology university clinic for household pets". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  12. ^ Lynne Berridge copyright 2004. "Accolade Boerboels". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  13. ^ "List of Banned Dogs by Countries". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  14. ^ Ritzau /Nyheder, Mette Pedersen (2011-01-19). "Ekstra Bladet - 13 kamphunde forbydes". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  15. ^ "List of dog fighting breeds". 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "List of Banned Dogs by Countries". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  18. ^ "Pet Breeds unable to travel in Europe". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  19. ^ "U.S. List of Banned Breeds". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  20. ^ Moore, Caitlin. "Moving Pets to Malaysia: Importing Pets to Sabah and Sarawak |". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  21. ^ "Importing a cat or dog - Doha Family - Autumn 2014". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  22. ^ "Banned Dog Breeds in Switzerland - Documents". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  23. ^ "Mauritius Pet Passport - Current Dog and Cat Import Requirements". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  24. ^ "Banned, restricted dogs breed reminder | The Royal Gazette:Bermuda News". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  25. ^ "List of Banned Dogs by Countries". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  26. ^ a b "Breed-specific legislation". 
  27. ^ "IATA - Tunisia Customs, Currency & Airport Tax regulations details". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  28. ^ "It is prohibited to import the following dogbreeds to the Faroe Islands" (PDF). 
  29. ^ "Turks Caicos Pet Passport - Current Dog and Cat Import Requirements". Retrieved 2015-08-03. 

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