The Changing Shape of the Boerboel

The Changing Shape of the Boerboel

by James Brennan

Why does the vast majority of the registered Boerboels today not resemble in any way the dogs who were gathered together by the Breed Founders to form this breed? Their vision was the preservation and development of the breed as the large mastiff breed that they had developed on the family farms of South Africa which, while substantial, was mobile, and athletic, yet big enough to be a manstopper when necessary. It was not a giant breed because giants are useless and incapable. It was the ultimate working mastiff, substantial and powerful; muscular; yet mobile and athletic; with a functional physical conformation that allowed it the stamina and strength to WORK in hot and difficult environments. It also had a temperament to match which is also rapidly disappearing and is absent from the vast majority of registered Boerboels but that is not the subject of this note.

I could post hundreds of pictures of giant, oversized, overboned, droopy, drooling, excessively skinned dogs but I cannot because their owners and breeders would take it as a personal attack on them which it is not. These dogs bear no resemblance to the original functional dogs introduced by the Founders of the Breed. They are to all intents and purposes a new breed, a random mastiff breed whose only function is to puff around a show or appraisal Ring and to snooze on the lawn. Why is this happening because it did not have to be this way? They are not an improvement but a clear signpost of the direction to the ultimate destruction of the authentic boerboel.

I have always bred boerboels to have the same functional physical conformation as the original dogs with the same original temperament. That was a choice, a deliberate choice, not an accident; just as changing the majority of the registered breed into an oversized, overboned, dysfunctional giant was a choice.

To illustrate examine the pictures below. They are two legends of the breed born in 1995, about 12 years after the original dogs were gathered into a breed with a Breed Standard so “Type” would then have settled down somewhat. It is also 20 years before today. It is also about 7 to 10 years before the rot in type really started. The pictures are of Roenard Martiens and Piona Lugar, two legends of the breed. Lugar had some genetic issues which caused him to pass on some negative issues to some of his offspring but his physical conformation was exactly what the founders were creating; that of a functional, powerful, large, athletic, and mobile working mastiff.

Roenard Martiens (born in 1995)



Clearly a large and powerful dog with excellent musculature for power and stamina. Also clearly capable of mobility and athleticism. Physically capable of manstopping? Definitely.

Coomore Hariri (Female, Born in 2006)
Great Grand Daughter of Roenard Martiens
Born 11 Years after Martiens:


Not much change in physical type. Still clearly a large and powerful dog with excellent musculature for power and stamina. Also clearly capable of mobility and athleticism. Physically capable of manstopping? Definitely.

Coomore Pharaoh (Male, Born in 2010)
Grand Son of Roenard Martiens
Born 15 Years after Martiens:


Not much change in physical type. Still clearly a large and powerful dog with excellent musculature for power and stamina. Also clearly capable of mobility and athleticism. Physically capable of manstopping? Definitely.

Coomore Akula (Male, Born in 2015)
Great Grand Son of Roenard Martiens
Born 20 Years after Martiens:


Very much the same physical conformation. Still clearly a large and powerful dog (but NOT a GIANT) with excellent musculature for power and stamina. Also clearly capable of mobility and athleticism. Physically capable of manstopping? Definitely

Why no significant change in Physical Conformation over 20 years? Because a choice was made to stay true to the Breed and its original functional type and capabilities. Absence of change and consistency of conformation does not happen by accident. Change to a dysfunctional, drooling slob does not happen by accident either. It happens by choice.

Why was the production of dysfunctional, drooling slobs deemed an improvement to the breed. Beats me! That change would surely not have been made if it was not deemed an improvement. Surely not?

Piona Lugar ( Born in 1995)


An early picture of Lugar. Clearly a large and powerful dog with excellent musculature, but NOT a GIANT. Also clearly athletic, fit and mobile. He weighed 50 Kilos. A very good working size.

Coomore Demir ( Born in 2015)


A young dog, very similar in type to Lugar but he is no relation. Staying true to the original functional conformational vision of the breed and maintaining consistency and integrity in the authentic functional physical conformation over the years can be done. You must just want to do it and choose to do it.

Why has the vast majority of registered Boerboels changed into a totally different and largely dysfunctional animal in working terms? Why does it look nothing like its ancestors? Why does that majority look like a totally different breed?

Clearly somebody thinks that that is an improvement.

James is one of the Boerboel breeders that I most admire. I have written about him before here and here. He breeds old-school working boerboels. All his Coomore dogs live together in a pack and he works with them every day in harsh terrain. I am thrilled to publish this article because he is a fantastic breed ambassador and has been breeding dogs for decades. 

The Boerboels I grew up with from the 1960s in South Africa were not like many of the ones that you see today. They were working dogs and they had to be functional – able to work all day every day in blistering heat and tough terrain. Nowadays many people breed for form and fashion rather than for function. When a breed becomes popular I think fashion definitely outweighs function, which is quite sad because the development of the German Shepherd has gone rapidly downhill in later years – from a proud working breed to a deformed looking show dog.  The German Shepherd that was the 2016 Best of Breed winner at Crufts was a disgrace

If you wish to download this article as a pdf document, please click here The-Changing-Shape-of-the-Boerboel

Find a complete index of my Boerboel posts here


Author: Janet Carr

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

17 thoughts

  1. Hello,

    I adopted a boerboel ‘mix’. However she looks more like the old dogs with less wrinkles, leaner body and not overall big.

    My question is, how does the temperament from old school dogs differ with the modern incarnation?


    1. It depends on the breeder. In ‘the old days’ when the Boerboel was a pure working dog, any aggressive or unstable dogs were immediately put down. This meant that the temperament tended to be more uniform and stable. Nowadays there are many breeders of various quality so there is a huge range of temperaments out there. You can also have mental problems with dogs who are kenneled by breeders for long periods. If you get your dog from a good breeder who will work with you through any challenges, you will find the old temperament in abundance.

  2. Janet ,I find what u are saying to be ,Interesting . My Question is ,South Africans Judge these dogs with Appraisals .So how has the breed gone so very wrong ???.Don’t look at the breeders !!!! Look at those doing the Appraisals.
    By the way i am not a breeder

    1. I think you are right – there are many different factors, and no one will take responsibility for it. It is similar to the debate about very very thin models in the fashion industry. The public blame the media. The media say they only feature what sells. The shops say that the fashion brands only make small sizes. The designers only design for small women but they say that is what the public want. No one wants to say stop anywhere along the line.

    2. I think the breed has changed in appearance due to the lack of actual work for the breed. In olden times, the dogs were a farmers tool. They earned their keep. The dogs now don’t come from working lines. I will disagree with one comment you made about the bigger dogs being useless. If the boerboel is no longer an active working dog on a huge farm, then they are all useless, in a sense. Albeit, even at 190lbs, they are still agile and athletic, especially compared to others breeds of the same size. Personally I like the bigger variations. Their role remains as protector and guard,…just not on a farm setting anymore.

  3. What’s the ideal weight for a male boerboel 50 kg ? Is 80 kg to big for a boerboel male always thought crazy wolf was a perfect boerboel or is he oversized

      1. Quovadis freddy is around 70 kg an has amazing athleticism one of my favourite boerboels 50 kg just seemed small for a male boerboel never seen one that weight most girls I have meet are around that size do you have any more pics of them that big

      2. There is Gladiator Judd in Australia who is 92kg. He has perfect hip and elbows Ava InternationalED 0.0. HD A1 and, while big, he is not so big he cannot function at all.

    1. Luke, just had a reply for you from Gavin Hamilton ‘Billabong Jedi was 96kgs and could muzzle punch my hand at eight feet in the air from a sit. He could go at a steady pace for half a day.
      Gladiator Judd was bred from Jedi’s sister. I can’t think of any from that combination (Males) that weren’t health, athletic and all over 80kgs. Billabong Kamaarad with Chris Boshoff and then Stoffel Bloem was another exceptional dog well over 80kgs. There are many examples in Australia of “good” dogs over 80kgs. Maverick owned by Leah Painter could scale a three rail sheep pen all day long working with the kelpies’.

  4. love ur blog Janet. Do u happen to have any photos of those foundation dogs or do you know perhaps whwere i can find them? I respect what James is doing but u know its usually the demand enforcing breeders on how to shape their dogs. Its not the breeders themselves doing this only.

    1. Yes I know exactly what you mean supply and demand and prevailing fashions. Re foundation dogs, Johan Swart has loads of photographs of just about any dog you can think of, as has Miriam Koopen. There is also a Boerboel History group on Facebook. In addition, SABBS opened its database up to all members yesterday and there are thousands and thousands of records in there.

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