gentle giant ii boerboel pet portrait dog painting c4in100
Find the original paintings here
  •  Origin: South Africa
  • Group: Molossoid Breeds
  • Height: 23-28 in
  • Weight: 154-200 pounds
  • Grooming: Low
  • Shedding: Medium
  • Coat: Short straight coat
  • Color: Brindle or fawn with a dark mask
  • Ease of training: Medium
  • Energy level: Medium
  • Span of life: 9-11 years.
gentle giant i boerboel pet portrait dog painting c4in100
Find the original paintings here

Breed: The history of this breed goes back to the 17th century, when many European settlers were bringing with them to South Africa not only their livestock, but also their dogs. As a rule, those dogs were powerful and large – of a very clear Molosser type – designed to protect the colonists, their farms and the livestock from the advancing threat of wild animals and warlike tribes of the Zulus, who inhabited the land.

According to official sources in South Africa, in 1652 Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, and brought with him a dog to protect his family in this wild and unknown country. This dog, known as a Bullenbitjer, was heavy, big and definitely belonged to the Molosser group.

Since that time, the “dog-ancestor” underwent some significant changes, as natural selection was very important. And that is why the modern Boerboel is such a strong and durable dog. In those places there was no veterinary care and dogs often had to take care of themselves. During the Great Trek the Boerboel already had most of the  features that are inherent in the modern breed. During this period the Boerboels continued to mate on the individual farms only by interbreeding with each other, and only the largest and the most powerful individuals could survive.

The first owners of a Boerboel wanted to see in him a family friend, a worker and a protector. This dog could not afford disobedience, bad mood or a disease – the Boerboel should have been able to protect the family, to work and – if necessary – to fight.

At the beginning of the century the features of the «original dog» were clearly visible, and this dog had become well known as a «Boel». The following years were tragic for the Boerboel: urbanization had led to the gradual disappearance of this breed.   Only in the last decades of the twentieth century did the work on the restoration of this breed continue. A few brave enthusiasts took the initiative and created the South African Boerboel Breeders’ Association.  It’s main aim was to help the real South African Boerboel to take his rightful place as a unique dog in the world of other breeds. Researchers have traveled thousands of miles in order to realistically assess the situation in Boerboel breeding. So the selective breeding began.

There have been disappointments and there have been some achievements. As a result of this enormous amount of work, the forefathers of the modern South African Boerboel were ready to be registered as a pure breed. By that time the South African Boerboel Breeders’ Association already had over 900 members. They lived throughout the whole territory of South Africa and Namibia. A study was carried out which covered 5500 km. Over 250 dogs were examined, and only 72 were selected for recording in the stud books. The big dream was gradually turning into reality. And it would require titanic work from those people who were standing at the forefront of the Boerboel’s revival.

Over time, there gradually accumulated some information about the Boerboels. One of its sources was the British Museum of Natural History. Historical books and old prints also served as a convincing proof of the origin of our hero – the Boerboel. So, the South African Boerboel appeared!

What kind of dog is he?  

General Features:

The South African Boerboel is a strong, balanced, powerful dog, who looks very impressive and imposing, symmetrical and muscular, smooth-coated, powerful and well proportioned, with strong bones. Males should look more masculine than females. The most important feature of the Boerboel is his head, as it describes exactly the hallmark of the breed. It should be short and massive. Head, nose and muzzle should be proportionate to each other. Muzzle should be no more than 10 cm in length. Head must be well muscled, deep and wide between the ears, with well-filled cheeks.   Eyes of a Boerboel are light brown or yellow-brown, in accordance with coat color. Large head needs the support of a strong, muscular neck. The neck should be integrated with the head and shoulders. The chest of a Boerboel is muscular, powerful, broad with well sprung ribs, located deep between the forelegs. The forelegs are strong and muscular. The hind legs are also strong, sturdy, in proportion to the rest of the body, they should ensure rapid movement. Hips are broad and deep. The tail is highly set. Movements of the Boerboel should be light, smooth, strong, purposeful. Coat is smooth and short.

Color: cream, fawn, reddish brown, brindle.

The South African Boerboel is a confident, dependable, obedient and smart dog, with a strong guard instinct, which is manifested already at an early age. Attentive to all family members, especially children. Selfless and fearless.

Temperament: Boerboel is one of those breeds developed specifically for  protection and guarding. A capricious, unbalanced dog, which remains unruly after punishment is not the South African Boerboel. The Boerboel will always be a loyal and trusted friend who knows what you think and feel, who will immediately understand  when something or someone is threatening you. He can feel your fear – the owner of any representative of this breed can confirm this. All these qualities appear already in a small puppy. He will tell you by his eyes: “I’m here. I will keep you safe even at the cost of my life.” And it is true. If you allow him to attack, he will roar like a lion and fight brutally, without thinking about his own safety.

This tradition says a lot – the reputation of  the breed is valuable. This is not just some impersonal “beware of the dog¨type dog.  Boerboels are clearly very special and they stand out as security guards among other breeds, and this is no accident. This dog in the yard is not a symbol of prosperity. A Boerboel is not a dog for decoration – he is a real worker.

Aristotle called the ancestors of these dogs «Leontix», which means “sons of lions”.      Those who love big dogs of a Molosser group are attracted to a Boerboel by the lack of Molossoid heaviness, looseness and phlegmatic temperament, as well as the almost complete absence of salivation (usually) and the dog’s odour. Other attractive features of a Boerboel are his phenomenal health and easy adaptation to the environment. A happy and  exercised mature Boerboel (or even a puppy) will not destroy your home and will live as neatly as in the yard.

In South Africa there are several types of  Boerboel, covering the range from  lightweight dogs with the long legs, similar to the Great Dane, up to a huge, massive, exaggeratively heavy, short-muzzled animal. The most desirable breed type is the “golden middle” of these extremes.

Also the pathologies in the structure of the limbs are found in this breed are significantely less than in the other heavy Molosses. Once again, for his weight class, the Boerboel is very active, and it cannot be overlooked when purchasing a dog.

The character of the South African Boerboel is rather smooth: he is obedient, not prone to unmotivated aggression and not very ferocious towards other dogs, but still his natural inclination to protect deserves some attention. The fact is that the Boerboel is not created for the role of the decorative “carpet” in the lobby. He is primarily a working dog, and only after that is he beautiful and exotic. He will allow guests into your house, and will even be happy, but only with the proper socialization. Vicious and unbalanced Boerboel in South Africa will not be allowed for breeding.

The process of  special training is extremely important and must be done carefully: do not teach the young dog to fight because of his fledgling psyche and, in general, do not develop anger and aggression. Remember always the natural inclinations inherent in the dogs of this breed. These dogs thrive under positive reinforcement training techniques and require human companionship and structure. Some argue that a well-bred Boerboel does not require socialisation but I think socialisation and a fundamental und is really important.

At home in South Africa the Boerboel’s devotion to the owner, his persistence and courage are legendary. Locals say that the Boerboel is like a released rocket weighing from 70 to 100 kg. A Boerboel is a family dog, he does not choose a leader and lives with the same recognition and respect for all family members. Very touching is a Boerboel’s attitude to children. This feeling was brought up in the Boerboel for centuries. Even the standard of a modern Boerboel speaks of love for children and says that this dog retains a sense of gratitude to his master till his last day.   

And yet it is not  correct to describe this “serious” breed, as the best “nannies” for small children – the child cannot cope with such a dog. Psychologically healthy dogs of all breeds relate well to “their” children, but this relationship does not necessarily extend to all other children. A big dog, playing with a baby, can hurt him even with the best intentions, just randomly shoving. We should consider that in children’s games are sometimes the situations that may provoke the dog to some certain reactions. A dog can save a child’s life, can defend him, but a dog is not a toy to play and the relationship with the children always require attention and responsibility from the adults. Never leave any dog alone with small children. If you don’t understand that, then you should not own a dog.

The purchasing of a puppy  is an event which does not allow haste. Your dog will stay with you for a long time, and in our case from the small funny puppy in just one year will grow a huge, heavy dog, energetic and quite independent. A Boerboel is a big dog, and before buying a puppy anyone should think very long and hard about it. The Boerboel eats a lot, takes a lot of space, he may snore in his sleep and drool, he sheds and he smells like a dog. He loves to run, and he needs to exercise in any weather, and not just for five minutes. At least once a day you will have to take him for a really long and active walk.

Many Boerboels are not exactly very friendly with the strangers and strange dogs. Choosing a Boerboel puppy you should pay more attention to the character of a dog than to the titles of his parents, as you will not live with diplomas and medals, but with a live dog.

Health problems: Generally, the South African Boerboel is a very healthy breed. Still in some lines hip and elbow dysplasia may appear as well as juvenile epilepsy. And as always, big dogs have a shorter lifespan than smaller dogs, and heavier dogs have specific health problems.

Hot Conversation Topic: a topic to set the cat among the pigeons or to avoid like the plague is that of Black Boerboels (also known as BBBs….). The discussion of whether black Boerboels are actually Boerboels splits any group of Boelie lovers into several camps. Are they really Boerboels? Were there really black Boerboels way back when, or were they Boerboels crossbred with black labradors or Rottweillers? Are they really ‘rare’ or are the skyhigh prices people ask for them overinflated? Is selling one to someone cheating them? Why were they never accepted into registries before? Do any reliable oldies know for sure that there were real authentic Boerboels around in the days of the Rinderpest? How far back should you go?

I was helped a great deal by this article. 

For a complete index of all my Boerboel posts, click here

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. Hello I was wondering what is the price of one of the pups they are such a huge huge dog from South Africa I am a dog lover love big dogs and with interest in a pup black I live here in Chicago Illinois and how do you go by if you really wanted a puppy to deposit things I would like to know if I decide to get a puppy I see that they coming multiple colors I love the black all over

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