January 22, 2020 PetGuide
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  • Height: 24-27 inches
  • Weight: 110-175 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Group: AKC Miscellaneous Class
  • Best Suited For: Families with children, active singles, houses with yards, guard duty
  • Temperament: Protective, loyal, loving, affectionate
  • Comparable Breeds: Mastiff, Bullmastiff

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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.

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

The Boerboel can be an obedient and reliable companion.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.

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.

Boerboels usually live between 10 and 12 years.

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.

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 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. Boerboel puppies need timely socialization to cut down on the possibility of developing aggressive behavior. 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. 

Comparable Breeds

Go to Mastiff


  • Height: 26-30 inches
  • Weight: 175-200 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Group: AKC Working
  • Best Suited For: Families with older children, active singles and seniors, guard duty, houses with yards
  • Temperament: Calm, well-mannered, good-natured, sweet
  • Comparable Breeds: Bullmastiff, Great Dane
Go to Bullmastiff


  • Height: 24-27 inches
  • Weight: 110-130 lb
  • Lifespan: 8-15 years
  • Group: AKC Working
  • Best Suited For: Families with children, active singles and seniors, guard duty, houses with yards
  • Temperament: Gentle, quiet, bold, powerful
  • Comparable Breeds: Boxer, Mastiff