At first glance, you might think the large, intimidating Boerboel would make an excellent guard dog, and you’d be correct, but this breed is equally known for being loving, calm, and family-friendly, especially towards human children. These gigantic protectors were bred to help farmers in South Africa defend their homesteads from hyenas, lions, and all manner of deadly wildlife while also providing invaluable companionship. The Boerboel, pronounced “boo-r-bull,” gets its name from Dutch/Afrikaans words that roughly translate to “farmer’s dog.” It is also known as the South African Mastiff, South African Boerboel, Borbull, or Bole. Although Boerboels are generally docile, easy to groom, and have few health problems, don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re an easy breed to handle for first time owners. These dogs are confident, territorial, and prone to pulling and chewing. They need an assertive, experienced owner with plenty of space for a massive dog that needs to exercise. If you’re interested in adopting a Boerboel, make sure you and your home are ready for the challenge. If you are, you’ll be rewarded with a loyal, protective friend for life.

See below for full list of Boerboel characteristics!

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Breed Characteristics:

Adapts Well to Apartment Living1More info +

Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make — plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

See Dogs Not Well Suited to Apartment Living

Good For Novice Owners1More info +

Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

See Dogs That Are Good For Experienced Owners

Sensitivity Level3More info +

Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

See Dogs That Have Low Sensitivity Levels

Tolerates Being Alone2More info +

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

See Dogs Poorly Suited To Be Alone

Tolerates Cold Weather3More info +

Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

See Dogs Poorly Suited For Cold Weather

Tolerates Hot Weather4More info +

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

See Dogs Poorly Suited For Hot Weather

All Around Friendliness
Affectionate with Family4More info +

Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family

Incredibly Kid Friendly Dogs4More info +

Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

See Dogs Not Kid Friendly

Dog Friendly2More info +

Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

See Dogs That Are Not Dog Friendly

Friendly Toward Strangers2More info +

Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

See Dogs That Are More Shy

Health Grooming
Amount Of Shedding3More info +

If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

See Dogs That Shed Very Little

Drooling Potential4More info +

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.

See Dogs That Are Not Big Droolers

Easy To Groom4More info +

Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

See Dogs That Require More Grooming

General Health4More info +

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

See Dogs More Prone To Health Problems

Potential For Weight Gain3More info +

Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

Size5More info +

Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right large dog for you!

See Medium Dogs

See Small Dogs

Easy To Train2More info +

Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

See Dogs That Are Challenging To Train

Intelligence4More info +

Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

See Dogs That Have Low Intelligence

Potential For Mouthiness3More info +

Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Prey Drive3More info +[caption id="attachment_55015" align="alignnone" width="680"](Picture Credit: Haydn West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images) (Picture Credit: Haydn West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)[/caption] Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by — cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars — can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.See Dogs That Have Low Prey Drive
Tendency To Bark Or Howl3More info +

Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

See Dogs That Are Mostly Quiet

Wanderlust Potential4More info +

Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

See Dogs Less Prone To Wander

Exercise Needs
Energy Level3More info +

High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

See Dogs That Have Low Energy

Intensity4More info +

A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

See Dogs With Low Intensity

Exercise Needs4More info +

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

See Dogs That Don't Need Tons of Exercise

Potential For Playfulness4More info +

Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

See Dogs That Are Less Playfull

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs
Height: 22 to 28 inches
Weight: 110 to 200 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
  • Boerboels' physical strength is only matched by the strength of their devotion to their homes and families. The Boerboel breed is descended from dogs brought by Dutch settlers to South Africa who defended the homestead from hyenas, lions, leopards, and other dangerous wildlife. Today, they are prized as watchdogs, guardians, and competitors in canine competitions, as well as highly protective family companions that adore kids. They can, however, be quite territorial, and without proper training and socialization, they can exhibit aggressive tendencies to strangers and other dogs. Boerboels require plenty of mental and physical exercise. Being surprisingly agile for their size and very intelligent, their need for stimulation of both mind and body is high. Leaving them alone for too long can result in boredom and anxiety, which can lead to destructive behavior. They need a home that can accommodate their size and exercise needs and a trainer who is patient and confident. In the right home, they can be an invaluable watchdog and affectionate pet for the whole family.
  • Highlights

    • The Boerboel is a massive dog and incredibly muscular. They weigh as much as Great Danes, even though they are significantly shorter in stature.
    • There is much speculation about which breeds were bred together to make the modern Boerboel, but their exact ancestry is not well known.
    • Dutch settlers brought dogs to South Africa to defend farms from big cats and other wildlife. Only the strongest dogs were able to survive the harsh climate and conditions in South Africa, and they became some of the ancestors of the modern Boerboel.
    • After the World Wars, breeding wasn't regulated, and the Boerboel almost completely disappeared. It has made a resurgence after breed enthusiasts began an effort to restore the Boerboel in the 1980s.
    • Boerboels are known to be especially loving and protective of their human children. They are excellent guardians, though they can be overprotective.
    • The Boerboel has minimal grooming needs and few health concerns, though their need for training and socialization makes them a poor choice for novice owners.
    • Since Boerboels have been revived in South Africa, they have grown in popularity and have been exported around the world. Even so, they are still considered to be a more rare breed.
    • Although they average between 110 and 200 pounds, it is not unheard of for Boerboels to weigh well over 200 pounds.
    • The Boerboel is considered to be the most agile of the Mastiff type dogs.
    • Socialization is necessary for Boerboels, as they can be aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex and breed.
  • History

    The name "Boerboel" comes Afrikaans/Dutch words for farmer ("boer") and dog ("boel"), and indeed they were farmers' dogs when they were bred by Dutch settlers in South Africa starting in the 1600s. They were needed to defend the homestead and hunt dangerous wildlife such as hyenas, baboons, leopards, and other big cats. Eurpoean settlers brought large, strong dogs with them to South Africa, which bred with indigenous domestic dogs and a variety of other breeds over the course of several centuries. Bulldogs and Mastiffs were also brought by the English and crossbred with Boerboels, and the Da Beers diamond mining company imported Bull Mastiffs to guard their mines, which also bred with Boerboels to make them what they are today. It is uncertain exactly which breeds make up the Boerboel's ancestry, but only the strongest dogs were able to survive the hot weather and encounters with wildlife, which contributed to the Boerboel's tenacity and strength. During the 1800s, colonists began to protest British rule of South Africa and moved inland. As a consequence, their dogs were scattered and often taken in by isolated communities, where they became necessary for hunting, herding, guarding, and protection from dangerous people. After the World Wars, South Africa became more urbanized, and Boerboels started to be crossbred with other dogs without regard for breed purity. In the 1980s, however, a group of breed enthusiasts sought to begin breeding pure Boerboels again. Due to their efforts, the Boerboel gained popularity in South Africa and started to be exported around the world. The breed, however, is still fairly rare outside of South Africa.
  • Size

    Boerboels are large dogs with males averaging 24 to 28 inches in height at the shoulder, while females tend to be between 22 and 25 inches in height. Boerboels usually weigh between 110 and 200 pounds, though some can be larger or smaller.
  • Personality

    Boerboels are playful, intelligent, and eager to please. They are happiest when given a job to do, whether it's tough farm work, guard dog duty, or preparing for a competition where they can show off their agility and strength. This breed loves human family members, even children, though they are quite overprotective at times. The same instincts that make them good watchdogs and protectors can also make them fiercely territorial and aggressive if they aren't trained or socialized properly. When having guests over, it is important for a family member to introduce them to the resident Boerboel so the dog doesn't feel threatened. Usually Boerboels are welcoming of guests that they've met and trust, though they may still be on their guard. When it comes to training, Boerboels tend to be dominant and require an assertive trainer who will use positive reinforcement and set boundaries without being harsh. This is not a dog for first time owners. Patient, consistent training should be accompanied by early socialization to prevent aggression, and Boerboels should get plenty of mental and physical stimulation, as they can get bored and anxious, which will lead to destructive behavior. Long walks, vigorous play sessions, and challenging devices like puzzle feeders can all help them get the activity they need. Being a large dog breed with moderate exercise demands, Boerboels require space, so an apartment is not their ideal environment. They do best in a home with a backyard and a high, durable fence that will give them plenty of space to safely run around. While these dogs are not for novices, they will reward the right owners by being adoring family companions that will defend their homes and humans at all costs.
  • Health

    The Boerboel is generally considered to be a healthy breed with few known hereditary conditions. There are, however, a few ailments that they are predisposed to and may develop over the course of their lives. They may suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia, heart disease, conditions that affect the eyelids, vaginal hyperplasia, and bloat. Rarely, they may also suffer from juvenile epilepsy. If you see signs of any of these conditions in your Boerboel, you should consult your veterinarian immediately.
  • Care

    The Boerboel's main need when it comes to care is to be mentally and physically stimulated through exercise and play. Beyond that, regular care is fairly simple. Their nails should be trimmed about once every two weeks, and their teeth should be brushed regularly as recommended by a veterinarian. Boerboels' ears should be checked for debris and wax buildup weekly and cleaned as needed to avoid infection or infestation by pests.
  • Feeding

    A Boerboel diet should be formulated for a large to giant breed with moderate to high exercise requirements. You should consult your veterinarian or professional nutritionist for advice on what to feed your Boerboel and the correct portion sizes. Their dietary needs will changes as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood and senior age. Stay on top of these nutritional requirements.
  • Coat Color And Grooming

    Boerboels have short, straight overcoats that are smooth and shiny, which cover their soft, dense undercoats. They can be shades of red, fawn, brown, brindle, or black. Some have spots of white on their coat, especially around the neck, face, and paws, though it is considered a fault if more than 30 percent of the coat is white. Many Boerboels have dark markings around their eyes, mouths, and noses, and some have dark patches around their paws. The coat sheds an average amount and doesn't require much care. Weekly brushing and monthly baths should help catch the shedding fur and keep the coat healthy.
  • Children And Other Pets

    Boerboels love their human families and are especially known for being protectors of their children. That said, they are large, playful dogs and may knock over a child by accident if things get out of hand. Children should be trained on how to interact with animals to avoid incident, as well. No poking and prodding, no matter how trained and docile a Boerboel may be. As with any dog, play time should be supervised. The Boerboel's natural protective instinct may also be an issue when children have playmates over, as the Boerboel may interpret play as aggression and defend its family. That said, this is a breed that is known for absolutely adoring the human children within the family, and you couldn't ask for a better kid protector than a gigantic, agile Boerboel. When it comes to other dogs, Boerboels do well with animals that they have been raised with and live in the same household, but they can be quite territorial and standoffish with unfamiliar dogs. They can also become competitive and aggressive with other Boerboels of the same sex. Early socialization can help keep the breed's confrontational instincts in check, but they may be best suited to a home where they are the only dog.
  • Rescue Groups

    If you're interested in adopting a Boerboel, you can check out U.S.A. Boerboels In Need on Facebook, which is a page that posts adoptable Boerboels all over the United States. You can also check out our adoption page, which lets you search for adoptable dogs by breed and zip code, or you can check local shelters near you.

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