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Other names: South African Mastiff


Wamiz's Top Breed


A formidable guard dog, the Boerboel (pronounced “boorra bol”) may have a cuddly side – but this does not mean that he is for every family. He’s a big dog. And strong. A very big, strong dog. His ancestors were employed to frighten off hyenas and lions, so you can imagine that aunties and postmen will require nerves of steel each time they grace your doorstep – particularly since your Boerboel will wait for the nod from you before admitting a newcomer to your property.

Still, he’s handsome, loyal, calm, and child-friendly. Those with strong canine leadership skills and plenty of experience with dogs may find a warm friend in the Boerboel.

Key facts about the Boerboel

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Origins and history

The Boerboel was developed by European colonists arriving in South Africa in the 17th century (these invaders, when hailing from Germany or Holland, were themselves known as Boers, meaning farmers). The mastiff-type guard dogs they brought with them were crossbred with other European breeds to create a quietly vigilant giant who is capable of wrestling a leopard and at least giving a fright to an unsuspecting lion. He has been slow to find acceptance back in Europe where, in Denmark for example, he is considered to be a fighting dog and potentially dangerous.

Physical characteristics of the Boerboel

    Adult size

    Female : Between 23 and 26 in

    Male : Between 25 and 28 in


    Female : Between 154 and 198 lb

    Male : Between 154 and 198 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    This tall, broad, deep-chested dog has a square, muscular head that adds even greater presence than would his main bulk alone. His beak is broad and deep where it meets the face, but tapers towards the sharp end; the nose peeks out over a mighty jaw. Like other mastiffs, he looks a bit like Ernest Borgnine. Muscled, hefty, but buoyant, the Boerboel finishes with a thick, high-set tail – these are often docked. The female of the species is notably sleeker.

    Good to know

    The Boerboel is not recognised by the Kennel Club or FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale).


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      While the Boerboel is no teddy-bear, a combination of laziness and loyalty make cuddling a possibility; towards children, we can certainly say that affection is not unknown. Indeed, he will suffer if not gladly welcomed into the bosom of the family.

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      He is an intelligent and engaged dog, accustomed – through genetic heritage – to working closely with humans. But the Boerboel is not all serious, so constructive collaboration can easily give way to playful tomfoolery if you have the time and inclination.

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      When the going is good, the Boerboel is a calm and even laid-back sort of a person.

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      Naturally intelligent, the Boerboel’s mind should be stimulated with informed and purposeful training from a young age, else his intellect will go to waste and his behaviour become unruly.

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      The mastiff family is said to have been used to hunt wolves and even lions. But the Boerboel has evolved to be more of a guard dog than a safari enthusiast. Even in his heyday, this formidable creature would have struggled against a lion – although the occasional leopard may have come out the worse for wear. However, his hunting impulse may still lurk deep within, so should a cat or a squirrel cross his sights in a hurry it is possible his dormant instincts may resurface.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      This dog is not easily rattled. Although he tends to stay close to his owners, he will not usually be unsettled by outsiders. His guarding instincts, however, are likely to be roused by intruders to the property or his family’s personal space; he is usually wise enough to discern a threat from a non-threat.

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      While the Boerboel is independent by nature, he requires a great deal of interaction and care from his human companions in order to develop into a well-behaved and socialised adult. Your Boerboel may think for himself, but he will seek your society, companionship, and play.

      Behaviour of the Boerboel

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        Tolerates solitude

        The big lug can become lonely and destructive if left alone for long periods of time.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        The Boerboel is generally intelligent but he does require a great deal of training in order to ensure that he does not use his considerable might against the powers of good. He will enjoy training since he is fond of spending quality time with his peers, so long as a responsible, positive-enforcement style education is employed. Those who are not confident trainers of dogs should not consider the Boerboel a good option when looking for a dog to invite into their lives.

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        The Boerboel is no more or less verbose than the average dog.

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