These dogs are large, fearless protectors, but they also adore children and other animals.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Working
  • Height: 23–25.5 inches for females; 25–28 inches for males
  • Weight: 150–200 pounds for both genders
  • Life Expectancy: 10–12 years

Boerboel dogs (a.k.a. South African mastiffs) are large, mastiff-type dogs and the most agile of their type. They are strong, balanced and imposing in appearance. Despite their size, they can move swiftly and powerfully. The face may feature a black mask, and the broad, horizontal eyes can be shades of brown or darker.

The medium-sized ears are V-shaped and set high on the head. The tail is straight and can be long or docked short, although tail docking is illegal in some countries.

The skin is thick but loose, and colored patches of darker skin help protect the dog against heat (usually on the stomach). The short coat comes in colors of brindle, brown, reddish brown, cream or tawny. Black coats are not common but possible.

2. Where They Came From

Assyrian dogs entered Egypt after the country was conquered, and they later spread throughout Europe with Alexander the Great’s help. The dogs were responsible for the development of mastiffs and hounds, 2 large and strong working breeds.

In 1652, a large, mastiff-type dog known as “Bullenbijter” (bull baiting dog) was brought to South Africa. The dog and similar others bred with the local mastiff-type dogs, producing the Boerboel breed (Boerboel means “farm dog” in Dutch).

The American Kennel Club added the breed to its Foundation Stock Service in 2006. The breed was placed in the Miscellaneous Class in 2010; the breed was again renamed later to the Working Group on January 1, 2015.

Boerboels are protective dogs. By: Pavel Shlykov (Top: Grobler Du Preez)

3. How Friendly Are They?

This breed is a confident working dog and loyal companion. They are intelligent but require thorough socialization and obedience training.

While socializing this breed as a puppy, take special care to avoid encounters with aggressive dogs. The dogs “tend to carry those experiences with them and could react in a fearful or defensive manner when presented with similar situations later on in life” according to the American Boerboel Club.

The protective instincts are strong in this breed; some people have reported that guests to their homes must be introduced to their dogs before they are permitted entry (similar to the guarding habits of Tibetan mastiffs). The dog will protect their family and property with their life, and unknown intruders will be met with fearless resistance. Because of their protective nature, Boerboels are not recommended if you’ve never had a dog before.

Although protective, Boerboels want to please their families. They can be very playful and affectionate; they enjoy playing with children known to them. The breed gets along with dogs, cats and other animals, but this varies based on each dog’s individual temperament.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

MEDIUM: Long, daily walks are necessary for this breed, as well as a large yard to play in. Boerboels should not be left outdoors without tall, secure fencing or supervision because of their wariness of strangers.

Boerboels are not recommended for apartment living. And the strong bond they form with their families is the reason they shouldn’t live life outdoors.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: Boerboels are average shedders but don’t require lots of grooming. An occasional brushing and bath is sufficient to maintain the coat.

Regular maintenance and cleaning of the teeth, ears and nails are necessary as they would be with any dog breed.

Health Problems

LOW: The Boerboel is a healthy breed and has no genetic health issues. Large-breed dogs are susceptible to bloat and hip dysplasia.

These Boerboels are very protective over their bunny buddy:

5. Where to Adopt One?

Boerboels can end up in shelters and rescues just like any other purebred dog, although they are not as common as other breeds. Start with our adoptable dog search and check local shelters and rescues.

Additional Resources

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