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Boerboel: The African Farmer’s Dog

Boerboel: The African Farmer’s Dog

The Boerboel, commonly known as the African Boerboel or the South African Mastiff, belongs to the Mastiff family. Due to their compact and hefty stature, they appear to be rather intimidating. They may, however, be extremely affectionate dogs despite their breeding. These dogs are an excellent fit for children because of their protective instincts, and they are extremely playful and devoted to those they protect. 

Despite the fact that Boerboels are typically calm, simple to groom, and have few health issues, they are not an easy breed to handle for first-time owners. These dogs are possessive, confident, and prone to tugging and gnawing. They require an authoritative, experienced owner with lots of space for a large, active dog.

This dog, by all indications, should be a lean, mean, protective machine. However, underneath the multiple layers of muscle, he is a big softie. These dogs need human company on a regular basis since they suffer from separation anxiety or other negative emotional developments if they are left alone. Because of their demand for companionship, they are best suited for big families that will be able to devote constant time to working or playing with the dog.

Boerboel History & Origins

The history of the Boerboel may be traced back to 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck, the founder of Cape Town, first brought a dog to the Cape. Large guard dogs were introduced to South Africa by additional Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers (Boers) for protection and big-game hunting.

Years of breeding have refined the purebred that is today’s Boerboel dog, but its precise pedigree is mostly unclear. African landrace dogs, such as the Africanis, are likely to have had a part in its initial genetic composition.

A variety of dog breeds were imported to South Africa in the 1800s to assist protect military sites strewn around the country. Mastiffs, Bulldogs, Greyhounds, Terriers, Pointers, and Bloodhounds were among the breeds that contributed to the Boerboel’s final product (particularly the Mastiff and Bulldog).

The instincts of the Boerboel breed made them great security dogs, battling off wild animals and guarding diamond mines and farms from would-be thieves. Legend has it that the dogs even battled lions, however, these dogs aren’t known for fighting and prefer to hold down their prey when hunting.

In 2014, the American Kennel Club AKC recognized the breed, and in 2015, it became a member of the Working Group. (Dogs born to do a specific duty, such as guarding or search-and-rescue, belong to the Working group.) While they are not the most popular dog (now ranked No. 123 out of 197), some people truly adore them.

Boerboels swiftly rose to prominence as the dog of choice for defending homesteads, owing to their loyal and loving nature, which makes them ideal family dogs.

What Is the Boerboel’s Appearance?

The Boerboel is a large, powerful dog that seems like it was bred to be a farm dog. They have large heads and wrinkly features, often with a black mask. Their short, thick coats can be brindled and come in a variety of colors. The Boerboel is the most agile of the mastiff breeds, leaping with determination and strength.

The huge Boerboel is a muscular dog that may weigh as much as (or even more than) his owner. The Boerboel is a robust companion that is considerably more athletic than other dogs of its size, standing up to 27 inches tall and weighing between 150 and 200 pounds. These strong dogs have a short tail and blocky head with powerful jaws. 

They have a sleek coat that comes in many colors. The colors of the Boerboel are brindle, cream, brown, rust, reddish brown, and red, and its short, smooth coat can have a variety of white markings. They shed a lot, yet their coats are easy to maintain. Their brown, horizontally placed eyes contribute to the Boerboel’s distinctive alert and intelligent appearance.

Boerboel Personality & Temperament

Even though they look intimidating, their temperament is the one of a big teddy bear. The Boerboel is a combination of a guard dog and a family pet. These dogs are devoted to their owners and are frequently characterized as excellent playmates for toddlers. Although they might be overprotective at times, this breed adores human family members, including kids.

Boerboels are clever, lively, and eager to please. They thrive when given a task to do, whether it’s labor, guard dog duty, or training for a competition in which they may demonstrate their agility and power. Even when they’re playing with you, they have one eye on trouble. They are distrustful of strangers and will not let them enter your house if they do not know you. When meeting new people for the first time, you’ll need to make proper introductions between them and your dog. However, once your dog understands that you consider them a buddy, it’s all good.

Unfortunately, they can be aggressive, and it all boils down to training. A poorly taught Boerboel will, at the at least, display canine hostility against other dogs, especially if they are of the same sex. Even worse if they are also of the same breed! Seeing other dogs of the same sex appears to ignite the breed’s competitive drive.

Boerboels are extremely territorial and can become overprotective, putting outsiders at risk. Instead, if they are appropriately bred, well-trained, and well-cared for, they will create close relationships. In this case, the worst you’ll receive is polite aloofness, which most people can handle!

Is The Boerboel a Good Family Dog?

This is a watchdog that will not let you down, especially if you live in the country and have farm animals that need to be protected from major predators like wolves or bears.

The Boerboel is a protective breed with a strong sense of territory. But when it comes to its family, children, and pets, it’s as lovely, compassionate, and devoted as they come. However, they are huge, lively dogs who may accidentally knock a child over if things get out of hand.

To minimize such accidents, children should be taught how to interact with animals. No prodding or poking, no matter how well-trained or calm a Boerboel is. Playtime with any dog should be monitored. When children have playmates over, the Boerboel’s innate protective nature may become an issue, as the Boerboel may interpret play as hostility and defend its family.

That said, the Boerboel is a breed known for adoring and protecting human children, and you couldn’t ask for a better kid defender than a massive, nimble Boerboel.

When it comes to other dogs, Boerboels get along well with those they’ve been reared with and live with, but they can be possessive and standoffish towards strangers. With other Boerboels of the same sex, they can become competitive and aggressive.

Either way, early socialization will help your dog get along with not only kids but other animals as well. Make sure they get used to being around all kinds of animals and people while they are still puppies.

Boerboel’s Health Problems & Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a Boerboel is 9 to 11 years, which is comparable to that of other large dog breeds. Although they are considered a generally healthy breed, they can develop hip dysplasia and cancer, which are common in other big dogs. While all dogs are susceptible to cancer, bone cancer is considerably more common in larger breeds.

Bloat, a disease in which the stomach twists and shuts off blood flow, may kill a dog in hours, is another big health danger to be aware of. Most owners have no idea what’s going on since everything happens so rapidly. And by the time they get to the doctor, the doctor won’t be able to rescue them.

Due to artificial selection, Boerboels are generally healthy, but check with the breeder before purchasing to ensure they’ve been screened for elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disease, vaginal hyperplasia, and two common eyelid abnormalities: ectropion, where the lower eyelid rolls out or droops, and entropion, where the eyelid rolls inwards and causes the lashes to rub on the dog’s eye.

Most Common Health Conditions

Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia 

Canine hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint becomes unstable as a result of both developmental and environmental factors. Dogs are prone to this bone and joint disorder. The femur does not meet the pelvic bone appropriately, causing the bones to wear out prematurely.

Later in life, your dog may develop arthritis, which can be excruciatingly painful. This ailment shows itself as a peculiar walk, shaky posture, or limping, all of which are plainly seen in your beautiful pup. To preserve your dog’s quality of life, discuss care with your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV or Bloat) is a condition that affects dogs with deep, narrow chests. This indicates that your dog is more vulnerable than other breeds. The stomach twists on itself and fills with gas when a dog bloats. The twisting cuts off the stomach’s and sometimes the spleen’s blood flow.

If left untreated, the sickness can kill your dog in as little as 30 minutes. Your dog may retch or heave (but nothing comes out), be agitated, have an enlarged abdomen, or lie in a prayer position (front feet down, rear end up). Preventive surgery, which involves tacking or suturing the stomach in place so that it does not twist, is possible.

Heart disease

Heart disease is the major cause of mortality in Boerboels over the age of ten. The majority of heart disease in dogs is caused by the weakening or slow distortion of heart valves, causing blood to seep back around the weakened valves, putting strain on the heart. Heart valve disease (also known as mitral valve disease) causes a heart murmur in pets. Weight control and veterinary care can help avoid heart disease, in addition to a healthy lifestyle.


Lymphosarcoma is the third most frequent cancer in dogs, and it can affect the spleen, gastrointestinal system, lymph nodes, liver, and bone marrow, among other organs. Chemotherapy is used to treat the cancer, and about 80% of dogs treated will go into remission.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is an eye ailment that might have a negative impact on the quality of life of your dog. This usually happens later in life as a result of retinal degeneration. Retinal dysplasia is the name for the early-onset type, which is observed in puppies. This is when the retinal cells do not mature properly.

The dog becomes partially or completely blind in both cases. While the disease isn’t unpleasant, it can have a significant influence on your dog’s quality of life. Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s alternatives, as well as what to do if he becomes blind.


Allergies to pollen, mold, and dust cause people to sneeze. Instead of sneezing, allergies in dogs produce itching. Atopy is a name used to describe a common skin allergy in these puppies. The feet, tummy, skin wrinkles, and ears are the most commonly affected locations. Symptoms normally emerge between the ages of one and three, and they can get worse as time goes on. Licking the paws, stroking the face, and recurring ear infections are the most prevalent allergy symptoms. The good news is that these diseases can be treated in a number of different ways.


Unfortunately, dogs too can develop epilepsy and seizures. Recurrent seizures with no known cause or abnormal brain damage characterize epilepsy. To put it another way, the brain appears normal on the outside but functions strangely on the inside. Twitching, shaking, tremors, convulsions, and/or spasms are all symptoms of a seizure.


In older canines, cataracts are a common cause of blindness. The lenses of his eyes become more opaque—in other words, hazy rather than clear. Many dogs adapt well to losing their vision and live happily ever after. Surgical removal of cataracts and restoration of vision may also be a possibility.

Caring For a Boerboel

It’s pretty simple to care for a Boerboel. He is an athletic dog who needs daily activity, but a few long walks or backyard games should be fine. He’ll happily nap for the rest of the day. Long walks, energetic play sessions, and complex equipment such as puzzle feeders can all assist them in getting the exercise they require.

Before you bring a Boerboel puppy home, keep in mind that these dogs grow large. Incredibly enormous in fact. And that means they’ll require a lot of food —expenses that might quickly mount. Along with ensuring that you have the time to train and socialize these puppies, you need also ensure that your space can manage their size.

Because Boerboels are a big dog breed with high activity levels, an apartment is not the best place for them. They thrive in a house with a backyard and a high, solid fence that provides them with lots of room to run about securely. While these dogs are not for beginners, the appropriate owners will be rewarded with devoted family members that will protect their homes and humans at all costs.

Boerboels are dominating in training and demand an authoritative teacher who will offer positive reinforcement and set boundaries without being harsh. This is not a dog for inexperienced dog owners. To prevent aggressiveness, patient, regular training should be combined with early socialization, and Boerboels should be given enough of mental and physical activity, since they might get bored and nervous, leading to destructive behavior.


The grooming needs of your Boerboel are pretty low. Brush your Boerboel dog with a dog comb or soft grooming glove once or twice a week or two to control shedding and maintain the hair healthy. Check your dog’s ears for debris and wax buildup while brushing them, and clean them as required using ear cleaner. Contact your veterinarian if you see indications of an ear infection (redness, swelling, or a odor).

Unless they’ve been very active or drooly, they’ll require a bath every four to six weeks. Keep a towel on hand in case you need to spot clean them. Use a dog shampoo so you don’t dry out their skin.

Dental hygiene and nail care are two more grooming requirements to think of. Boerboels, like other tiny breeds, suffer from periodontal disease. To help eliminate tartar and germs, you should brush their teeth multiple times a week. It’s ideal if you do it every day.

Allow your puppy to become accustomed to the habit while they are still young, so that as they grow older, they will be comfortable with it. Also, remember to schedule an annual cleaning with your veterinarian—some tartar accumulation is impossible to remove with a conventional toothbrush.

If your dog’s nails don’t wear down naturally, trim them once or twice a month. They’re too long if you can hear them clicking on the floor. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, ask your groomer to do it for you.

Nutrition: Food & Diet Requirements 

The feeding requirements for this dog should be treated carefully due to its huge musculature. They require food that is simple to digest and rich in the vitamins and minerals they require. The protein level is very crucial for the Boerboel, which requires a lot of protein to maintain its development, muscular tone, and energy production.

Puppies’ nutrition is extremely essential since they develop quickly and require food to sustain their growth. Make careful to pick food that encourages the growth and maintenance of giant dog breeds, regardless of age. To guarantee that your puppy’s growth demands are satisfied, look for a large breed puppy formula.

High-quality commercial dog food developed for big breeds is usually sufficient. Choose a formula that is appropriate for their age (puppy, adult, senior), and check for a statement that states that it fulfills the nutritional requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Despite their active nature, Boerboels are prone to obesity. Make a list of all the rewards you offer your dog throughout training as you schedule his meals. Consult your veterinarian if you have any doubts regarding your dog’s nutrition or mealtime plan. They’ll be able to advise you on the finest food for your Boerboel depending on their specific requirements.


It’s impossible to deny that Boerboels need proper training. Because they are bright and obedient, but also domineering, the key is to start training them as soon as possible.

Start socializing your Boerboel puppy while they’re small to get them used to meeting new people and dogs and to help them be comfortable in different circumstances as they become older. Enroll them at puppy preschool (as early as 8 to 10 weeks old) to learn how to socialize with other puppies and meet new people all in one place.

After puppy school, they’ll go to obedience training to learn basic commands like sit, stay, and come, as well as how to walk politely on a leash. Because they are strong pups who, like any other developing teenager, will challenge your leadership, you may find that hiring a trained trainer who uses positive reinforcement to educate the pup is much easier.

These guard dogs are counting on you to lead them, and if you don’t, they’ll step in to fill the leadership void. Remember that these puppies require a calm and confident puppy parent. The problem is that if you’re a first-time dog owner, training will be hard. You’ll need to know how to handle a dog of this size and weight, which entails being forceful but still being patient.

A Boerboel without leadership will adopt a dominant position and be significantly less likely to respect you or obey your directions. That’s not all, though. As you’ll see, poor training may lead to far more serious behavioral issues.


Boerboels have a lot of energy since they are working dogs. Each day, they’ll require roughly an hour of activity. Long walks, fetch, and even swimming or fetching balls in the water are all things they like. While enclosed yards with plenty of freedom to run are ideal, Boerboels are not the kind to be left alone. Rather of sending them outdoors to work out alone, they want you to play with them and engage them in your exciting excursions, such as that upcoming hiking trip.

Boerboels, especially those that are not trained should not be left alone in a yard for longer periods of time. Simple walks are not as effective as guided exercise. Boerboels are constantly eager to spend time with their own pet parents and closest family members. They’re also seeking for mentally stimulating playmates who are highly involved.

Do you have a competitive streak? You’ve come to the right place! Agility, obedience, and weight hauling are just a few of the canine sports that these enormous dogs excel at.

Your dog’s brain, too, need exercise. Boerboels are bright dogs who flourish when they are given new tasks. Teach them new skills to keep their minds engaged, and leave a few puzzle toys for them to solve around the house. Keep in mind that a tired Boerboel is a happy and calm puppy.

What Does a Boerboel Puppy Cost?

When it comes to the pricing of a South African Boerboel puppy, there are various aspects to consider, including lineage, supply/demand, litter size, and breeder repute. Depending on the breeder, you may expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 for a Boerboel.

A puppy from a reputable breeder with papers will cost roughly more on average. Although a puppy without papers may be less expensive, we do not advise buying a puppy without the proper health documents.

How to Locate Breeders of Boerboel Puppies

Numerous Boerboel breeders may be located across the United States, thanks to AKC registration. Their National Breed Club (American Boerboel Club) could also help you find numerous breeders. It’s understanding how to find a trustworthy breeder. Nowadays, it appears that anyone can make fast cash by breeding dogs. Health is a very important issue to consider, and a competent breeder would prioritize it in any transaction.

Before visiting a Boerboel breeder, do your homework and chat with them over the phone. Yes, you must pay a visit to the pups’ home. Not only will you be able to see where the pups were born, but you will also be able to assess the circumstances and even meet the parents.

A reputable breeder would warmly welcome you to the breeding facility and be willing to answer any questions you may have. The parents should be the focus of your inquiry. What is their medical history? Is it possible to obtain health clearances? What is the spay/neuter procedure?

In turn, especially for a specialty breed like the Boerboel, the breeder should be inquisitive about your credentials as a dog owner. They’ll ask you questions to make sure their pups go to good homes with individuals who have the time and money to provide the greatest environment for your Boerboel.

Is the Boerboel the Right Dog for You?

Whether or not to get a Boerboel boils down to a matter of time and space. You’ll need time to teach, exercise, and keep the breed from becoming bored and destructive. Because they’re large dogs, you’ll need space for them to exercise off-leash and enough area in your home for them to wander.

A Boerboel might get hostile if you don’t give it enough time and space. However, they make excellent, devoted family pets that can also serve as guard dogs for additional security. You should absolutely think about getting one. After all, the middle name of this lovely breed is “strength.” The Boerboel, with muscles from head to toe, thrives on being put to work and takes it seriously.

The Boerboel is a wonderful family dog with a golden heart, despite the fact that he can be protective and intimidating. This dog gets along well with kids and brings a lot of affection and love to any loving family.

Just make sure to provide this giant breed with the training it needs as a puppy in order for it to mature into a well-behaved and good-natured adult dog. Socialization is also required so that it understands how to act with other canines and people.

Overall, this isn’t the best choice for a novice owner because it needs a high level of commitment and experience new dog owners may not have. A house with a fenced-in yard provides enough space for this giant breed to get the activity he needs. If not stimulated, he can become destructive.

Final thoughts

We can’t say this enough: The Boerboel isn’t the best choice for first time dog owners! They require a certain level of experience. He isn’t called the African farmer’s dog for no reason. This pup needs a lot of space and will do best on farms. Small city apartments aren’t the environment that they thrive in! 

He is a bold dog who is loving toward people he knows. Things can be different around strangers. So make sure to train him with a strong hand, and no one gets wounded. To avoid destructive traits and unpleasant scenes, don’t leave him alone for too long. As intimidating as they look, they still live their owners and can develop separation anxiety.

The Boerboel is best suited to experienced and energetic pet owners who have enough of land for the puppy to run on. They get along nicely with children and are best as an an only dog. They form strong attachments to you and dislike being separated from you for long periods of time.

Some other dog breeds you might find interesting as well: 

My name is Katy and I am 27. I love to travel and you would be surprised how good I am at karaoke. 🙂 Passionate dog lover and a "mother" to a beautiful toy puddle named Zara. I work as a volunteer in a local shelter and I am a veterinary assistant helping our four-legged friends every day.