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Not to be confused with Voortrekkers.
An aquatint by Samuel Daniell of Trekboers making camp. Created around 1804.

In the history of Southern Africa, the Trekboere were nomadic pastoralists descended from mostly Dutch colonists, French Huguenots and German Protestants in the Cape Colony (founded in 1652). The Trekboere began migrating from the areas surrounding what is now Cape Town - such as Paarl (settled from 1688), Stellenbosch (founded in 1679), and Franschhoek (settled from 1688) during the late 17th century and throughout the 18th century.


The Trekboere were seminomadic pastoralists, subsistence farmers who began trekking both northwards and eastwards into the interior to find better pastures/farmlands for their livestock to graze, as well as to escape the autocratic rule of the Dutch East India Company (or VOC), which administered the Cape, and which they saw as tainted with corruption and unconcerned with the interests of the free burghers, a social class from which most of the Trekboers came.[1]:26

Trekboere also traded with indigenous people. This meant their herds were of hardy local stock.[citation needed] They formed a vital link between the pool of animals in the interior and the providers of shipping provisions at the Cape. Trekboere tended to live in the wagons in which they traveled, and rarely remained in one location for an extended period of time. A number of Trekboere settled in the eastern Cape, where their descendants were soon known as Grensboere (Border Farmers), or later called simply Boers (Boer is a Dutch and Afrikaans word for "farmers").


Main articles: Great Trek and Dorsland Trek
A map of the expansion of the Trekboers out of the Cape Colony between 1700 and 1800

Despite the VOC's attempts to prevent settler expansion beyond the western Cape, the frontier of the Colony remained open: the authorities in Cape Town lacked the means to police the Colony's borders.[1]:24[2] By the 1740s the Trekboers had entered the Little Karoo. By the 1760s they reached the deep interior of the Great Karoo.[1]:24

Independent republics[edit]

Due to the collapse of the VOC (which went bankrupt in 1800) and inspired by the French Revolution (1789) and the American Revolution,[citation needed] groups of Boers rebelled against VOC rule and set up independent republics in the town of Graaff-Reinet (1795), and four months later, in Swellendam (17 June 1795). A few months later, the newly established Batavian Republic nationalised the VOC (1 March 1796); the Netherlands itself came under the sway of the new postrevolution French government.[1]:26

The British, who occupied Cape Town in September 1795 in the course of the French Revolutionary Wars and took over the administration of Cape Colony, reversed the Trekboers' independence efforts in 1796. A generation later, another group of Boers resisted the administration of British legislation in 1815. This led to a rebellion at Slagters Nek in which the British executed some of the Boer leaders of the rebellion. Because of further British encroachments, constant border wars with the Xhosa to the east, and growing land shortages, a large number of the Boer settlers of the eastern Cape became Voortrekkers.


Mixed-race "Afrikander" Trekboer nomads in the Cape Colony, ancestral to the Baster people.

While numerous Trekboere settled down to become border farmers for a few generations and later voortrekkers, they continued to exist well into the 20th century as an economic class of nomadic pastoralists.

Many Trekboere crossed the Orange River decades before the Voortrekkers did. Voortrekkers often encountered Trekboere in Transorangia during their Great Trek of the 1830s and 1840s. In 1815, a Trekboer/trader named Coenraad (Du) Buys (a surname of French Huguenot origin) was accused of cattle theft and fled from the British. He settled in the (western) Transvaal. He allegedly contracted polygamous marriages with hundreds of indigenous women, with his descendants' populating the town of Buysplaas in the Gourits River valley. He continued his rich marriage life after leaving the colony. Descendants of this second marriage series still live in the small town of Buysville, near the mission station of Mara, 20 km to the west of Louis Trichardt in the modern Limpopo province. Buys eventually disappeared while traveling along the Limpopo River.

During the late 19th century, both the Trekboere and the Voortrekkers were collectively called Boers.

During the 20th century, both Boers and the Cape Dutch — those who did not trek eastward and remained in the Western Cape — would become known as Afrikaners, a term applied to all Afrikaans-speakers of Western and Central European (Dutch, German, French Huguenot) ancestry. The term later sometimes included non-White Afrikaans speakers (chiefly those who became known as Coloureds in the Cape Province) and related groups such as the Baster people, as well. In recent times, however, many[quantify] of the descendants of the Trekboers have preferred to be called the boerevolk.


"Karoo Trekboer," by Charles Davidson Bell

The Trekboers spoke a variety of Dutch which they called die taal (lit. 'the language'), which evolved into the modern day dialect Eastern Border Afrikaans also known as East Cape Afrikaans. The Afrikaans language as a whole generally originated from 17th- and 18th-century Dutch dialects, incorporating -over time- numerous words and expressions from French, German, Portuguese, Malay, Khoi, and later also English. Still, roughly 90% of the vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin and many Dutch dialects stand linguistically further from Standard Dutch than Afrikaans is. So if Afrikaans had not been defined a separate language during the 20th century, its various dialects would have been considered dialects of Dutch. [3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d L'Ange, Gerald (2005). The White Africans: From Colonisation to Liberation. Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. p. 524. ISBN 1-86842-219-4. 
  2. ^ Giliomee, Hermann (2003). The Afrikaners: Biography of a People. Cape Town: Tafleburg Publishers Limited. p. 698. ISBN 0-624-03884-X. 
  3. ^ Van Eeden, Petrus (1995). Afrikaans hoort by Nederlands (PDF). Retrieved October 29, 2014.