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The Boerboel of South Africa got an interesting history.

It is said that when Jan van Riebeeck came to the Cape in 1652, he brought his own dog to protect him and his family in this wild and unknown country. This dog was a “Bullenbijter”, a large and heavy mastiff-type of dog.

The settlers who came after Jan van Riebeeck also brought along their strongest dogs to protect them against all the unknown dangers of this strange land, thus dogs arrived from many different countries.

As the pioneers moved further and further inland and settled on remote farms, the dogs were forcibly isolated and a lot of inbreeding took place which had the result that the characteristics of the original Assyrian dog started to reappear. Survival was of the utmost importance and it was here that the hardiness of today’s Boerboel was perforce bred into the dog.

During the Groot Trek, starting in 1838, the Boerboel had most of the features that it has today and is clearly recognizable from old drawings. In the period after the trek, on the distant farms, the Boerboel inbreed further and only the biggest and strongest dogs survived.

His pioneer owner required him to be a friend of the family, a worker, provide protection, they could not afford to have a disobedient, moody, finicky, sickly dog-they had to be able to rely on him to protect the family and to work.

At the turn of the century, the characteristics of the old, original dog were clearly visible and the dog was generally known as the “boel”. The years that followed brought tragedy to the Boerboel. Urbanization caused cross-breeding with anything that could bark and the typical “boel” started to disappear.

In the early 1900s, the Englishmen brought their Bulldogs and Mastiffs to South Africa, and some of these dogs were bred into the Boerboel population. Later, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Bullmastiffs were bred with Boerboels. This is a known fact with farmers in the North-Eastern Free State, Northern Kwa Zulu Natal and some parts of the Transvaal.
It was only in the eighties that a serious search started again for the original farm dog.

Jannie Bouwer of Bedford and Lucas van der Merwe of Kroonstad set out on a search for the original Boer dog, covering 5500 km. In this search, 250 dogs were seen but only 72 selected to be registered.

Selective breeding started, many disappointments followed, but also immense joys. At last the dog of the old south African pioneers was ready to be registered as a pure breed.

Today the Boerboel has many admirers all over the world. The breed has gained much popularity outside of South Africa, and many exports from South Africa have found their way to USA and northern Europe, the areas outside of SA where the popularity of the Boer dog is greatest.


The name of the Boerboel means in Afrikaans “Farmer’s large dog”.
The Boerboel is specifically bred to guard and protect as a watchdog. Your Boerboel should qualify himself as your best friend. He should know what you are thinking, when you feel threatened, he should know when you approve or disapprove of a stranger and share your feelings. He should be able to recognize your fear – any Boerboel owner should be able to confirm this.
He is definitely a child’s friend and playmate. He does not only accept one person as his master but accepts the protection of the whole family as his duty and is affectionate to all of them.

Leubekkie Nero, 86.8%, HD 1/1, owned by Visser Boerboels.
Picture by Sascha Ernst, Akira Boerboels – South Africa.

The Boerboel is a big, strong and sturdy dog with powerful muscles. His movements should be agile and his body should be sturdier, heavier and bigger than the boxer, but shorter in the leg than the great dane.

The head must definitely be a “boel” head with a strong mouth which melts in symmetrically with the head. No teddybear look. The head of the bitch would naturally. Be slightly smaller and appear more feminine than the male. The ears must be floppy and of medium size and fit the head.

The ideal size of the male dog is 66 cm. (25,9 in). The hight can vary between 64 cm. and 70 cm. (25,1-27,5 in), although there is no longer a limit on the hight of the male Boerboel, as long as the dogs stay in balance.
The ideal height of the bitch is 61 cm. (23,5 in). The height can vary between 59 cm. and 65 cm. (23,1-25,5 in).

The coat colour of the Boerboel is brindle, yellow (lion), grey, red-brown, brown, with white markings, with or without black muzzles, will be acceptable. The breeders are trying to achieve a single colour dog with no or very little white.


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