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Boerboels are intimidating but discerning guardians of home and family who learned their trade while protecting remote South African homesteads from ferocious predators. They are dominant and confident, also bright and eager to learn. There’s a no-frills, no-nonsense quality to this sleek-coated avenger, who might stand as high as 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh as much as you do. A broad and blocky head, powerful jaws, and thick muscles from neck to rump mark it as a descendant of the ancient ‘molloser’ dog family, the foundation of today’s mastiff-type breeds. In motion, the Boerboel just might be the most agile of all mastiff types. The imposing Boerboel is devoted to protecting the people and places he loves. Training and socialization should begin early, before a pup becomes a dominant adult. This is a trainable, versatile breed, eager to spend time with their adored humans. Still, a Boerboel might be way too much dog for the novice owner to handle.
“Boer,” a Dutch word meaning “farmer,” was the name given to Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers of South Africa who began arriving in the mid-1600s. To protect their remote homesteads from predators, they brought along large guarding dogs, bull types and mastiff types among them. The interbreeding of these and other European bloodlines in South Africa resulted in something called the Boer Dog, which was used by Boer settlers as a big-game hunter and protector.
Further refinements eventually gave rise to the Boerboel (“farmer’s dog”), a fearless mastiff who specialized in protection of hearth and home. Their agility and prodigious strength came in handy when running off or tangling with ferocious wildlife, whether lions or packs of marauding baboons.
One should not conclude from this that the Boerboel was a snarly brute constantly spoiling for a fight. Because the breed was created to be primarily a protector of family, Boerboels had to be sensitive and smart enough to tell friend from foe and to take its cues from those they protect. A Boerboel has never been known to back down when provoked, but their default mode is generally a stately watchfulness. Boerboels are be powerful enough to excel at competitive weight-pulling, but they have also had success as docile therapy dogs who have a soft spot in their huge heart for children.
Temperament: Confident / Intelligent / Calm
Height: 22-27 inches
Weight: 150-200 pounds
Life Expectancy: 9-11 years
The Boerboel is typically a healthy breed, and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disease, and two disorders that affect the eyelids: ectropion and entropion. As with all breeds, a Boerboel’s ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth brushed often.
The Boerboel has a short, dense coat that sheds a moderate amount. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt, or a hound glove will help to remove any loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. A good brushing also promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat to help keep it healthy. Boerboels need a bath only occasionally. As with all breeds, the Boerboel’s nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.
The strong, athletic Boerboel needs daily exercise, such as long walks on a leash or play sessions in a securely fenced area with his owner. Boerboels need mental stimulation and interaction with their owners along with physical activity. They will not take kindly to challenges from other dogs, and visiting dog parks is not recommended. Because of their protective instinct, the Boerboel should never be allowed off leash. The breed often enjoys participating in obedience, rally, weight pull, and agility competitions, as well as protection sports and stock work.
The Boerboel is a protective, territorial breed’¿not a breed for a novice dog owner. He is steadfast, calm, highly intelligent, and incredibly loyal. Boerboels must be with their people and will not thrive unless kept as an integral part of their human family. Their inborn guarding instincts make early socialization a must, as is structured, long-term obedience training, started at a young age. Boerboel puppies are easygoing and pliant, and inexperienced owners may be lulled into thinking the dog will remain that way, when in fact consistent training must be well underway before those qualities fade.
The Boerboel should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.