Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
fast facts

About Boerboel

110-175 lb
10-12 years
AKC Miscellaneous Class
Best Suited For
Families with children, active singles, houses with yards, guard duty
Protective, loyal, loving, affectionate
Comparable Breeds
Mastiff, Bullmastiff
24-27 inches
Boerboel Basics

Some people want a dog small enough to fit in their handbag. Other people want a dog large enough to feel like a roommate. The Boerboel is very much a roommate dog. These are big beautiful boys who make their presence known simply by stepping into a room. A strong and impressive dog, the Boerboel is protective and loyal to his family. Those in his “pack” can expect this brave dog to lay down his life for them, if the need arises. A vigilant and mighty breed, this dog can be an awesome guard or watchdog as well as a trusted and loving companion. Welcoming a Boerboel into your family ensures that you will have a loyal and loving companion for life.

With his well-muscled body and typical Mastiff style good looks, the Boerboel is athletic and needs room to run in a secure area. These active doggos need space to roam and stretch out. Fetch is one of his favorite pastimes but beware, toys don’t last long with this breed. The Boerboel’s jaws are tremendously strong and can rip apart even the strongest of toys. Consider buying toys in bulk because they won’t last long. He can be affectionate and loving toward his family, provided that the dog understands his place in the “pack.” Letting this dog become the “top gun” in the home is dangerous and should be avoided. Training and socialization is needed to live a happy life with a Boerboel.

Is the Boerboel the right dog for you and your family? You’ve come to the right place to find out. To learn more about this fascinating breed, read on. Keep your eyes glued to this page and all will be revealed.

A strong and impressive dog, the Boerboel is protective and loyal to his family.


The Boerboel is also known as South African Mastiff. As you may have guessed, their name name reveals the birthplace of these majestic canines. Sources indicate that the Boerboel might have been created as early as the 1600s, probably in the territory of Cape Town. The name “Boerboel” means farmer’s dog in Afrikaans/Dutch. So, it’s easy to surmise that the breed was originally put to work as defenders of homesteads. Their imposing size and trainability made the Boerboel a perfect guard dog, one that would protect his territory and family- and certainly one that has means to do it.


In 1652, a man named Jan von Riebeeck traveled to South Africa with his family and dog, a Bullenbitjer. This was a large, Mastiff style of dog. The dog was quite prolific and bred with local canines pretty aggressively. After throwing down some impressive breeding numbers, the Boerboel was born. Well, according to one school of thought anyways.

Others believe that the Bullenbitjer bred with other large dogs brought by settlers to South Africa. Over dozens of years, only the strongest and healthiest survived. In 1820, British settlers moved to the area and they brought Bulldogs, Mastiffs and later, Bull Mastiffs. There is also a belief that the result of these varied combinations were crossed with long-legged English Bulldogs, which resulted in the modern day Boerboel. As with any hybrid, it’s tough to pinpoint the exact origin of the Boerboel. However, at least there are believable origins to this crossbeed, which isn’t true of most hybrids. We have a rough idea of how they were initially bred and at least know the country of origin. That’s at least something.


All dogs need a high-quality and nutritionally dense diet, but large and athletic breeds such as the Boerboel need it more than most. Premium dry food for dogs is a good fit for this breed, as long as it is suitable for their unique needs. Make sure to pick out a brand that uses natural ingredients with a high protein ration and one that is specially formulated to meet the needs of a big and active dogs. Ontop of that, you should make sure that their kibble is age appropriate. Boerboel puppies grow fast and will need special kibble to support that growth. Large breed puppy formula is a safe bet in that regard.

Some Boerboel owners prefer to feed their pets raw or BARF diet, believing that it is more beneficial for their canines. If you decide on taking the alternative route and skip on commercial pet food, make sure to consult a vet first. It’s easy to misjudge what nutrients and how much of them a big dog needs, and you wouldn’t want your pet to get sick. It’s always important to seek out the advice of a vet before making any major changes to your dog’s diet. While pet blogs and pet food manufacturers provide useful guidelines, they should not be treated as gospel. Only your vet can identify the specific dietary needs of your personal pup. So always rely on your vet to guide in you the right direction to feed your pooch what they need.

The big build dictates the amount of food these dogs need, too, in addition to its type. You should be aware of the financial aspect of feeding a Boerboel. Not only that they require high-grade food, but they need a lot of it. It can be a bit much for your budget if you aren’t prepared. These dogs will need big bowls of food to thrive and that always costs more than most pet owners anticipate.

Firm and consistent training is necessary for the Boerboel to coexist successfully with human families.


Firm and consistent training is necessary for this breed to coexist successfully with human families. This is a bright breed that is strong-willed and will do all things possible to become the Alpha dog in the pack. This can never be allowed to happen. The Boerboel must have an assertive owner who quickly establishes themself as the alpha. It’s also important to ensure that the dog has daily training sessions, even if they are continuously going over the same commands. Every member of the family must continuously be seen as above the Boerboel in the dog’s mind. Training can help do this.

All training should be done using positive methods and a treat based reward system. Harshness or manhandling the Boerboel will only lead to resentment and aggression. That approach far closer to abuse than training and Boerboel won’t respect it or comply with it. This dog wants to be the Alpha dog in the pack. Your family is his pack. A dominant and solid pecking order must be established and maintained in order to have a peaceful and pleasant existence with the Boerboel. A loving yet firm hand is required. Not all dog owners are up for this. Boerboels would not do well with first time or lazy dog owners. These pooches require a specific type of human who can meet their unique needs.


The average Boerboel should weigh between 110 and 175 pounds. They should be somewhere between 24 and 27 inches tall at the withers. In other words, these are big beautiful boys. You will notice when they enter a room. And being a large breed, the Boerboel will certainly need a lot of free space. These dogs simply cannot live in tiny homes and small apartments. What works best is a large home with plenty of space to lounge and move about. But the best possible solution is a home with a large fenced-in yard. This way, the bulky Boerboel can roam around and explore to his heart’s desire.


The Boerboel can be an obedient and reliable companion, provided he has had proper socialization and training. Although this breed is generally good with his own family, Boerboels should be watched carefully with young children. They do have the tendency to dominate all those around, including their own families. That behavioural trait won’t exactly mix well with small children.

Brave, fiercely loyal, and undeniably powerful, the Boerboel makes an incredible watchdog or guard dog. He is so protective of his family that he would be willing to give up his own life to ensure that they are safe. This can be a recipe for disaster when friends or family visit. The Boerboel does not readily accept people into his home. Nor does he welcome other pets. Proper introductions and a watchful eye are necessary when visitors are around. This is not an acceptable breed for families with small pets, such as cats, rabbits and the like. That won’t end well.

Playtime is necessary for the Boerboel. He is playful with his family and loves toys and balls. On the downside, this breed has incredibly strong jaws. The toys will be destroyed rather quickly, so be sure to pencil a budget in for dog toys. Buy them in bulk and don’t get attached. Boerboels will rip through any toy, no matter how much they love it.

Common Health Problems

Although generally a healthy breed, the Boerboel is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. This is quite common in very large breeds of dogs. Eye problems such as Entropion and Ectropion have also been found in the breed. To minimize the potential of genetic health issues, don’t buy your Boerboel puppy from puppy stores or dubious backyard breeders. Puppy mills produce sick puppies that are often born with defects or that develop breed-specific issues later in life. When you buy from a reputable breeder, you will get a health guarantee and know there’s less risk for problems to appear.

The Boerboel is predisposed to gastric dilation and volvulus, commonly referred to as bloat. Limiting exercise for an hour after meals can help to lessen the chance of this life threatening problem.

Life Expectancy

Boerboels usually live between 10 and 12 years. This is quite a mid-range life expectancy that falls a bit below the highest general dog lifespan. Nevertheless, it goes over a decade – and that is respectable age for any dog. The Boerboel breed has a lot to thank for its robust build, a good health base, and its strength. These are the important attributes that can contribute to its longevity. And, sometimes, they can even go beyond their expected life expectancy! Of course, a lot of this depends on you too: it is your duty as a loving owner to care for your pet and look after their health. This means that you need to provide regular vet visits, a healthy diet fit for the breed, and a lot of exercise and affection.

With these things in check, your Boerboel should reach its senior age of 12 years with no issues. And once you develop that strong owner-pet bond, your doggo will become a steadfast companion. Loving, protective, and loyal, the Boerboer is a friend to be cherished.

Exercise Requirements

The Boerboel requires a considerable amount of exercise to keep him healthy, trim, and happy. Brisk walks throughout the neighborhood will help to keep the dog in shape as well as reinforce his social skills. Although he does need to run, the Boerboel is not the perfect companion for those who like to run for long distances. Robust and strong, these dogs are the true short-distance runners, and can tire somewhat quickly. Their initial appearance is one of sluggishness and laziness. But that’s far from true. Although somewhat slow-paced and calm, the Boerboel can be surprisingly energetic and athletic. They are muscular and strong, and this appearance will need to be maintained. The best way to do this is with a balanced diet and enough exercise. It’s best to establish a daily routine of walksaround the block and some play in the park. This, alongside a balanced diet, will work best for these large doggos.

It is essential that the Boerboel has a large and completely fenced area in which to play. The breed is very active and will be happy to play ball or fetch with his family members for hours. Playtime is a great way to reestablish your role as Alpha with the dog. So, playtime is valuable for these dogs and their owners.

Boerboels do well in many competitive activities provided they have been trained well. Obedience and agility trials are favorites of those interested in competing with their Boerboels. Although most do not like people that they do not know, there have been a few Boerboels that have become certified therapy dogs. It’s rare with this breed, but it does happen.

The Boerboel can be an obedient and reliable companion, provided he has had proper socialization and training.


The Boerboel is a recent addition to the impressive line up of breeds that the American Canine Club recognizes. In 2015, the canine organization added these large South African dogs to their Working Group. When it comes to the qualities of the breed, the AKC says the following about the Boerboel: “ 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.”


With thick and loose skin and a short, shiny coat, there is no mistake that this breed is a Mastiff style of dog. The skin pigment should be dark in color. Although fawn, red and brown are the most commonly seen colors in the Boerboel, Piebald, brindle and Irish marked is also acceptable within the breed. A black mask is highly desired. A black Boerboel is not permitted to compete in the breed ring because black is considered to be unacceptable.

The Boerboel breed is quite a low maintenance dog when coat is considered. Smooth and shiny, their coat requires only the subtlest brushing. Establishing a good weekly routine and brushing a few times is advisable for general coat maintenance.


The Boerboel is a large breed, so you can expect their litters to have as many as 7 to 10 puppies. These pooches pop out huge litters and owners of pregnant Boeboels need to be prepared. Needless to say, their babies are fairly large too, especially when compared to other dogs of their age group. These puppies will require a lot of care. Although they are large, they are still fragile and sensitive in those few early weeks. Avoid large groups of people and eager hands – the puppies might end up hurt, frightened, or traumatized.

Obedience training from an early age is essential, as it establishes the owner as the Alpha of the pack. Without this, the puppy will grow up to dominate the family. And with a dog of this size- it’s the last thing you want! So make sure to take training your Boerboel puppy quite seriously. It is so important not to waste those early impressional years with your Boerboel. It will pay off in the long run. Trust us on this.

Boerboel puppies need timely socialization to cut down on the possibility of developing aggressive behavior. In the life of every puppy, socialization is the key to success in the future. For the Boerboels – it is even more important. It helps eliminate the threats of aggressive behavior in the future, and other negative traits such as anxiety, timidness, aloofness, and over-protectiveness. Introducing your puppy to other dogs and people sets down a healthy foundation that is important for the dog in adulthood.

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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