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  • Temperament: Confident, Intelligent, Calm
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 131 of 194
  • Height: 24-27 inches (male), 22-25 inches (female)
  • Weight: 150-200 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 9-11 years
  • Group: Working Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Boerboel standing in three-quarter view
Boerboel head facing left
Boerboel lying sideways, head facing forward
Boerboel coat detail

GENERAL APPEARANCE

Historically the Boerboel developed as a general farm dog for the pioneers who settled in South Africa since the seventeenth century. These dogs were often the first line of defense against predators and were valuable in tracking and holding down wounded game. Old farmers told many a tale of the strength, agility and courage of the Boerboel. The dangers and harsh conditions of southern Africa allowed only the fittest to survive. The protective character of the Boerboel is today still evident and is much sought after, as is the calm, stable and confident composure of the breed. The origin and purpose of the Boerboel should be understood in order to preserve the unique identity and qualities of the breed as a South African developed mastiff. Type, conformation, functional efficiency and mentality are equally important in the evaluation of the Boerboel as a whole. The Boerboel is a large dog that is strong, confident and muscular in appearance with powerful, free-flowing movement. When observing a Boerboel at play or work, standing or moving, it should show strength, suppleness, nimbleness and agility.

HEAD

The head is an impressive and a distinctive feature of the Boerboel. It should be blocky, broad, deep, square and muscular, with well filled cheeks and in proportion to the body. Moderate wrinkling is observed over the forehead when the dog shows interest.

BODY

The neck is powerful, of medium length, and forms a muscular arch. It flows smoothly into the sloping shoulders, gradually increasing in width from the head to the shoulders. (In the female the muscles are less accentuated but should remain in balance with the head and body). The dewlap is noticeable but disappears towards the sternum.
The topline is firm and level, extending in a straight line from behind the withers to the croup. The back remains horizontal to the ground while the dog is moving or standing. The under line of a mature dog has a slight tuck-up.
The body is blocky, muscular and solid, with good depth and width. The back is broad and straight, with pronounced muscles. The ribcage is well sprung and well filled behind the shoulder blades. The transitions between the chest, loin and rump are well filled and flowing. The loin is strong and muscular, and only slightly narrower than the ribcage and rump. The croup is broad, flat and strong, with well defined musculature. Its height should not exceed the height at the shoulders.

FOREQUARTERS

The forelegs are strong boned, with well-defined muscles. Viewed from the side the forearm should be vertical from the elbow to the pastern. When viewed from the front they should be parallel to each other, not bowed or with toes turning inward. Elbows should be held close to the body. Length of the foreleg to the elbow is approximately 50 percent of the dog’s height at the shoulder. The chest is broad, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs and strong developed pectoral muscles. The shoulders are moderately sloping, powerful and muscular, with no tendency to looseness. The shoulder blade is long with moderate angulation. The upper arm is equal in both length and angulation to the shoulder blade. The pastern is short, thick and strong and with a slight slope when viewed from the side. The front feet point straight forward, are large, round, strongly boned and compact. The toes are well arched, with short, preferably black toenails and protected by hair in between. Front dewclaws may be removed. The pads are thick, tough and black.

COAT

The coat is short, dense, smooth and shiny. The skin is thick and loose but fits smoothly. Skin is well pigmented.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarter is sturdy and muscular. The hind legs are strong boned. The stifle should be sound, strong and moderately angulated and in balance with the forequarters, to support the powerful propulsion from the hindquarters during movement. The upper thighs are broad, deep and muscular as seen from the side and the rear. The lower thighs have well defined muscles and show substance down to the hocks. The metatarsus is broad, relatively short and perfectly upright. The hind feet point straight forward and are slightly larger than the front feet. Rear dewclaws, if any, are generally removed.

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boerboel illustration

About the Boerboel

There’s a no-frills, no-nonsense quality to this sleek-coated avenger, who might stand as high as 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh as much as you do. A broad and blocky head, powerful jaws, and thick muscles from neck to rump mark it as a descendant of the ancient “molloser” dog family, the foundation of today’s mastiff-type breeds. In motion, the Boerboel just might be the most agile of all mastiff types.

 

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.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Boerboel

Find a Puppy: Boerboel

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Care

NUTRITION

The Boerboel should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Boerboel has a short, dense coat that sheds a moderate amount. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt, or a hound glove will help to remove any loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. A good brushing also promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat to help keep it healthy. Boerboels need a bath only occasionally. As with all breeds, the Boerboel’s nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.

EXERCISE

The strong, athletic Boerboel needs daily exercise, such as long walks on a leash or play sessions in a securely fenced area with his owner. Boerboels need mental stimulation and interaction with their owners along with physical activity. They will not take kindly to challenges from other dogs, and visiting dog parks is not recommended. Because of their protective instinct, the Boerboel should never be allowed off leash. The breed often enjoys participating in obedience, rally, weight pull, and agility competitions, as well as protection sports and stock work.

TRAINING

The Boerboel is a protective, territorial breed—not a breed for a novice dog owner. He is steadfast, calm, highly intelligent, and incredibly loyal. Boerboels must be with their people and will not thrive unless kept as an integral part of their human family. Their inborn guarding instincts make early socialization a must, as is structured, long-term obedience training, started at a young age. Boerboel puppies are easygoing and pliant, and inexperienced owners may be lulled into thinking the dog will remain that way, when in fact consistent training must be well underway before those qualities fade.

HEALTH

The Boerboel is typically a healthy breed, and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disease, and two disorders that affect the eyelids: ectropion and entropion. As with all breeds, a Boerboel’s ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth brushed often.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Boerboel
Boerboel
Boerboel
Boerboel

History

“Boer,” a Dutch word meaning “farmer,” was the name given to Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers of South Africa who began arriving in the mid-1600s. To protect their remote homesteads from predators, they brought along large guarding dogs, bull types and mastiff types among them. The interbreeding of these and other European bloodlines in South Africa resulted in something called the Boer Dog, which was used by Boer settlers as a big-game hunter and protector.

Further refinements eventually gave rise to the Boerboel (“farmer’s dog”), a fearless mastiff who specialized in protection of hearth and home. Their agility and prodigious strength came in handy when running off or tangling with ferocious wildlife, whether lions or packs of marauding baboons.

One should not conclude from this that the Boerboel was a snarly brute constantly spoiling for a fight. Because the breed was created to be primarily a protector of family, Boerboels had to be sensitive and smart enough to tell friend from foe and to take its cues from those they protect. A Boerboel has never been known to back down when provoked, but their default mode is generally a stately watchfulness. Boerboels are be powerful enough to excel at competitive weight-pulling, but they have also had success as docile therapy dogs who have a soft spot in their huge heart for children.

The Boerboel was admitted to the AKC Working Group on January 1, 2015.

Did You Know?

At the February 2014 Board Meeting the American Boerboel Club became the official parent club for the Boerboel. The Boerboel became eligible for AKC registration, on December 1, 2014 and was eligible to compete in the Working Group, beginning January 1, 2015. AKC will maintain an open registry for the breed until January 1, 2020.
Stories are told of the Boerboel killing and vanquishing lions in South Africa. Truthfully it is unlikely that a Boerboel would be able to kill a full grown and healthy lion however, they were strong and agile enough to handle the occasional leopard.
A Boerboel can be both a capable working dog and a loyal companion. The word Boerboel means "Farm Dog" and as such he should be mentally and physically versatile. These were dogs of the people and not merely the elite.
The docked tail of the Boerboel, according to legend, has it's origins in practicality. As a farm protector the Boerboel might encounter marauding baboons and with a short tail he could not so easily be held by the dexterous baboon.
The skin of a Boerboel should be dark on his stomach and under his fur, as well as the roof of his mouth. This darker pigment was considered necessary in his country for protection against the sun and heat.
Early socialization and obedience training will go a long way to ensuring success with your Boerboel. The Boerboel is both clever and smart and is capable of learning many useful tricks.
The Boerboel has been assigned the Working Group designation.
At the May 2010 board meeting the Boerboel was approved to compete in the Miscellaneous Class, effective January 1, 2011.
At the May 2007 board meeting the Boerboel became eligible to compete in companion events effective January 1, 2008.
The Boerboel has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since 2006.
At the July 2007 board meeting the Boerboel was approved to compete in AKC herding events for suffix titles effective January 1, 2008.
At the July 2006 board meeting one new breed was added to the Foundation Stock Service program - Boerboel.
At the May 2011 board meeting the American Boerboel Club, inc. will serve as the AKC parent club to represent the Boerboel.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

Historically the Boerboel developed as a general farm dog for the pioneers who settled in South Africa since the seventeenth century. These dogs were often the first line of defense against predators and were valuable in tracking and holding down wounded game. Old farmers told many a tale of the strength, agility and courage of the Boerboel. The dangers and harsh conditions of southern Africa allowed only the fittest to survive. The protective character of the Boerboel is today still evident and is much sought after, as is the calm, stable and confident composure of the breed. The origin and purpose of the Boerboel should be understood in order to preserve the unique identity and qualities of the breed as a South African developed mastiff. Type, conformation, functional efficiency and mentality are equally important in the evaluation of the Boerboel as a whole. The Boerboel is a large dog that is strong, confident and muscular in appearance with powerful, free-flowing movement. When observing a Boerboel at play or work, standing or moving, it should show strength, suppleness, nimbleness and agility.

HEAD

The head is an impressive and a distinctive feature of the Boerboel. It should be blocky, broad, deep, square and muscular, with well filled cheeks and in proportion to the body. Moderate wrinkling is observed over the forehead when the dog shows interest.

BODY

The neck is powerful, of medium length, and forms a muscular arch. It flows smoothly into the sloping shoulders, gradually increasing in width from the head to the shoulders. (In the female the muscles are less accentuated but should remain in balance with the head and body). The dewlap is noticeable but disappears towards the sternum.
The topline is firm and level, extending in a straight line from behind the withers to the croup. The back remains horizontal to the ground while the dog is moving or standing. The under line of a mature dog has a slight tuck-up.
The body is blocky, muscular and solid, with good depth and width. The back is broad and straight, with pronounced muscles. The ribcage is well sprung and well filled behind the shoulder blades. The transitions between the chest, loin and rump are well filled and flowing. The loin is strong and muscular, and only slightly narrower than the ribcage and rump. The croup is broad, flat and strong, with well defined musculature. Its height should not exceed the height at the shoulders.

FOREQUARTERS

The forelegs are strong boned, with well-defined muscles. Viewed from the side the forearm should be vertical from the elbow to the pastern. When viewed from the front they should be parallel to each other, not bowed or with toes turning inward. Elbows should be held close to the body. Length of the foreleg to the elbow is approximately 50 percent of the dog’s height at the shoulder. The chest is broad, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs and strong developed pectoral muscles. The shoulders are moderately sloping, powerful and muscular, with no tendency to looseness. The shoulder blade is long with moderate angulation. The upper arm is equal in both length and angulation to the shoulder blade. The pastern is short, thick and strong and with a slight slope when viewed from the side. The front feet point straight forward, are large, round, strongly boned and compact. The toes are well arched, with short, preferably black toenails and protected by hair in between. Front dewclaws may be removed. The pads are thick, tough and black.

COAT

The coat is short, dense, smooth and shiny. The skin is thick and loose but fits smoothly. Skin is well pigmented.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarter is sturdy and muscular. The hind legs are strong boned. The stifle should be sound, strong and moderately angulated and in balance with the forequarters, to support the powerful propulsion from the hindquarters during movement. The upper thighs are broad, deep and muscular as seen from the side and the rear. The lower thighs have well defined muscles and show substance down to the hocks. The metatarsus is broad, relatively short and perfectly upright. The hind feet point straight forward and are slightly larger than the front feet. Rear dewclaws, if any, are generally removed.

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boerboel illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BRINDLE Check Mark For Standard Color 057
BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 061
CREAM Check Mark For Standard Color 076
RED Check Mark For Standard Color 140
REDDISH BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 159
TAWNY Check Mark For Standard Color 198

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BLACK MASK Check Mark For Standard Mark 004
IRISH MARKED Check Mark For Standard Mark 115
PIEBALD Check Mark For Standard Mark 025
WHITE MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 014

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