Boerboel Dog Breed Traits & Facts

Last Updated on September 20, 2023

Quick Summary: Boerboels are powerful and obedient dogs. This breed is well-known as a guardian for farms and has roots in South Africa. They are also known as the “South African Mastiff” and are famous around the globe. These dogs are intelligent, protective, and hard-working and make great family pets. They can be trained to do anything, including pulling weights and being therapy dogs for children. Boerboels require daily walks and playtime due to their large size. They are a working breed and enjoy agility, obedience, and protective work. Boerboels have an average lifespan of 9 to 11 years. Regular vet visits and providing them with premium food will increase their life expectancy.

Boerboels require an experienced handler due to their independent, dominant nature. You must be able to assert control and get your dog to listen. This breed requires basic obedience training. It is important to incentivize your dog with toys, food, and other positive reinforcement methods.

Fiercely protective, Boerboels make excellent guard dogs. They are very cautious around strangers and should be introduced to your family before allowing them into your home. Because of their independence, they don’t always get along with other dogs, so they must be the only dog in your home.

Are you up for the challenge? If so, you’ll reap the benefits of this intelligent, protective breed.

Boerboel Dog

Breed Background and History

The Boerboel can be traced back to Dutch, German, and Huguenot South African settlers in the mid-1600s. In need of protection, they brought with them bull and mastiff-type dogs. Boerboels are often compared to other mastiff breeds.

It is not known which breeds comprise the breed’s genetic history. Most information out there today is speculation based on the breed’s characteristics. It was one of the strongest breeds that survived harsh South African climates. These breeds ended up proliferating into this breed, giving it incredible strength and fortitude.

These dogs were interbred with South African European bloodlines to create the Boer Dog. The Boerboel was born after much refinement. These dogs are strong and agile, which makes them ideal for protecting South African farms from large animals like lions or leopards. They were also used for big-game hunting, with a bite force of up to 800 PSI.

Unregulated breeding almost led to the end of the Boerboel after the World Wars. In the 1980s, the breed made a comeback after enthusiasts put careful, intentional thought into resurrecting the breed.

The breed was revived in South Africa but has since been widely popularized and loved worldwide. The breed is very rare and low on AKC’s popularity lists.

However, it is wrong to assume that these dogs are always looking for a fight. Because they were bred to protect their family, they are extremely intelligent. They can tell the difference between friends and enemies, and they will obey their owners. They are naturally vigilant and watch for danger in their environment.

This breed is successful in many activities, including weight-pulling and therapy. They are very affectionate with children. The breed is part of the AKC’s Working Group and was admitted in 2015.

Appearance and Size

Boerboels are large dogs weighing 150-200 lbs and standing 22-27 inches tall, depending on sex. They are confident and strong and should be able to move with agility and ease. They can move freely and are extremely muscular.

Their head should be a bit swollen and have some wrinkling at the forehead when they are interested in something. As it approaches the nose, the muzzle should be wide and narrow. It should be 1/3 the length of their heads. It should not be more than 1/4 inch below the top lip.

His forelegs have no bowing and are parallel. From the foreleg to the elbow should measure around 50% of the Boerboel’s height at the shoulder. The front feet should not bow and should be round, compact, and strong-boned. Toes should be arched with black toenails and short nails.

The hindquarter is strong, and the legs are strong-boned. They should allow intense propulsion while moving, enabling the breed’s strength and agility. Muscle should be present in all leg parts, with the thighs being long and wide. Rear dewclaws should be removed.

According to the AKC’s breed guidelines, a dog will not qualify if he has prick ears, blue eyes, a long coat, a nose that is anything but black, and white exceeding over 33% of the total dog’s color and more.

Coat and Colors

Boerboels have short, straight hair that shines when properly maintained. Their undercoats are dense and soft. Red, fawn, and brown are the most common breed colors. They also have cream, black, reddish brown, cream, and brindle spots. Double-coated dogs are their norm. They shed moderately all year but more during the transition seasons.

Any white on the dog should not exceed 33% of the dog’s total coloring. The dog’s skin should be well-colored, especially around the eyes, nose, and paw pads. Although the skin is thick and loose, it flows smoothly across the body.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Boerboels are not suitable for apartments due to their large size. These dogs require lots of space, especially if they are to run and protect themselves. This breed is not recommended for novice owners due to its strength. These dogs require a skilled handler to get the most out of them.

A dog this large can become very dangerous if it is unruly. Therefore, any owner should be able to instill good manners and obedience in them. These dogs are guardian dogs. They are wary of strangers and need to be socialized early.

Because they are bred to protect their family, they don’t like being left alone. This breed is not recommended for people who spend most of their day away.

Boerboels are also therapy dogs and love children. They are more comfortable with older children because of their large size. They make great family companions. You can sign your Boerboel up as a therapy dog if you wish!

They are often aloof around other dogs. Exposing your puppy to other dogs early on is important to make them dog-friendly. Also, this breed is best suited for a single dog family.

All things considered, the Boerboel is obedient, intelligent, and reliable. They are confident and fearless. These dogs are protective and can easily overtake their owners to protect them. You must be strong and well-informed to manage this breed.

Exercise Requirements

Boerboels require daily walks and playtime due to their large size. However, this breed is not recommended to be taken to a dog park without a leash. Expect to spend between 60-90 minutes exercising this breed each day.

Some great activities include walks in the neighborhood, hiking, and playing games. They need mental stimulation to keep their minds sharp and active, in addition to regular exercise. The breed is smart and has an active drive, so mental stimulation keeps them happy, entertained, and out of trouble. This can include obedience, protection work, and puzzles.

They enjoy agility, weight pulling, rally, obedience, and other competitions. They also like stockwork and protection. Toys can be used outdoors between walks. Consider large dog toys which can withstand abuse due to their size.

Living Space Requirements

Boerboels thrive in large living areas with plenty of space and a fenced-in yard for their safety. If you live in an apartment or leave your dog alone all day, this breed is not recommended for you. To be happy, this breed requires space and attention. They can become destructive and even dangerous if they don’t have them.

A dog door may be an option if you live in a large house with a fenced yard. Your Boerboel will be free to roam around outside when he gets bored. If you are concerned that your dog might be aggressive if left alone, ensure that you properly train your dog in crate training so that he can go to his crate after the family has left. Begin young and use the crate only to allow your dog to relax.

Associate the crate with toys, attention, and treats. Let your dog stay in it for a few minutes, then gradually increase its duration to several hours. Do not place an anxious dog in a cage, only let him in when he is calm. You should also ensure that your dog can stand up and turn in the crate.

Lastly, the breed is less sensitive to cold weather but thrives in warm climates due to their South African heritage. This may not be the best option if you live in cold and snowy areas.

Training and Socialization

It is not easy to train a Boerboel. These dogs want to rule, so be firm and assert your authority. Start obedience training, and start young when the dog is 8-10 weeks old. Begin training your dog at home. As previously mentioned, your dog is not recommended to be taken to a puppy class or dog park without a leash.

Firstly, make sure you develop a strong verbal relationship with your dog. He won’t listen if he doesn’t understand what you are saying. This is especially true for independent dogs like Boerboels, who are predisposed to wander off and do their own thing.

Next, try to demonstrate the task that you are trying to teach. Sit in front of your dog if you want him to sit. Next, associate the movement with a verbal order to ensure you are communicating clearly. Practice is key to success. Regular, daily training sessions of no more than 10-15 minutes will produce the best results.

Practice the command for as long as your dog can listen. Depending on the command’s complexity, this may take up to a week. Keep your training sessions short to ensure that your dog is not bored or frustrated. This will prevent them from losing interest and will make it harder for you to get the command right.

You must have the right tools for your dog. These should be available to you, as not all rewards will be equally appreciated.

Grooming Requirements

Boerboels don’t need to be groomed because their hair is so short. However, your dog will look great by being groomed with a soft-bristle brush or a grooming mitt every week. Brushing your dog regularly promotes hair growth and distributes skin oils.

Pay attention to sensitive areas and be gentle when you brush them. Regular grooming should include a check for parasites and fleas. Only occasionally do they need to be bathed. When your dog is done, keep the water at a gentle simmer and dry him off with towels. Hair dryers designed for humans are not recommended for dogs.

Boerboel’s nails should be trimmed. This is less important if they play on surfaces that naturally grind their nails. To prevent infection, their ears should be inspected regularly.

You can clean your dog’s teeth with either a toothbrush or finger sleeves. Although your dog’s teeth will remain whiter if they are fed a raw diet, it is still vital to have regular dental checks.

Nutritional Requirements

Boerboel has specific nutrition requirements due to its size and activity level. A balanced diet is essential for your dog’s health and happiness. They need 23-26% protein; start with more protein as a puppy, and progress to slightly less as an adult. 50% carbohydrates, the building blocks for other nutrients, and 5.5% fats are the main source of energy. Expect to feed your Boerboel around 5 to 7 cups of high-quality dry kibble daily.

The amount of time you feed your dog each day depends on the age. Younger puppies should be fed approximately four times daily. Three months old puppies should be fed three times daily. Feed twice daily for six months and older.

Some owners give their dogs raw meats, which are completely uncooked meats with the bones left in them. This basically means that you buy uncooked meat and take it out of the packaging to give it to your dog.

It’s your choice. The raw diet is controversial, but some say it’s the best diet for dogs (but it comes at a much higher cost). You can choose the best option for you, but make sure it is high-quality and suitable for large breeds.

Puppies consume around 580lbs of dog food per year, whereas adults consume around 610 lbs per year. Feeding a puppy costs, on average, $645 per year, whereas feeding an adult Boerboel costs, on average, $555, as high as $945 per year.

Health Issues and Lifespan

The breed has an average lifespan of 9 to 11 years. Regular care should be given to their skin, nails, ears, and teeth. Regular vet visits and ensuring that your dog eats premium food will increase their life expectancy. There are also some more serious health problems that you should be aware of.

Heart Disease

This is common in many breeds of dogs. Symptoms include intolerance to exercise, coughing, or passing out. All types of heart disease, including those that are not treated, can lead to fatal heart failure.

There are many appointment types for diagnosing heart disease. A physical can detect any abnormal blood flow or heart murmurs, while an ECG and x-rays will help determine the type of heart disease.

Hip Dysplasia

This occurs when the “hip socket does not fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh bone.” As a result, the hip can become dislocated. This is a common problem in large dogs. Breeders should be careful to avoid costly problems.

Taking basic precautionary steps to keep your dog healthy and fit can help prevent hip dysplasia. It is important not to ask your dog for any arduous tasks until he has reached maturity and is fully formed. This will prevent any potential damage. If you feel anxious, consider joint supplements such as glucosamine.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is similar to hip dysplasia. The elbow joints misform, causing them to pop out of their sockets. This causes pain, soreness, and lameness. This will result in a decrease in the dog’s movement and swelling of the joints. It is likely that your Boerboel will have trouble standing.

Your dog must be seen by a vet to diagnose elbow dysplasia. If diagnosed, treatment depends on the severity of the illness. Corrective treatment is sufficient for mild cases, but surgery may be required in severe cases.

Eye Problems

Eye problems include ectropion, which is a droopy or swollen eyelid. A certain breed may have some degree of ectropion, but any more severe cases will require treatment. Both can cause inflammation, and entropion can lead to infection or corneal ulcers. These conditions are most often hereditary.

Because most of these disorders are congenital, it is important to check your Boerboel’s pedigree. Reputable breeders will only sell puppies from those who regularly screen their breeding dogs for health issues. This will ensure that your puppy is free from any hereditary defects.

The Boerboel as Family Pets

  • They originate from South Africa and do better in a warm climate.
  • The Boerboel is energetic and requires daily exercise.
  • These dogs are massive, active dogs.
  • They are not suited to apartment living.
  • This breed can be challenging to train and need an experienced owner.
  • Once properly socialized, they are excellent family companions.
  • This is a working breed, and they enjoy agility, obedience, and protective work.
  • Typically, the breed does best when they are the only dogs in a household.
  • Consider another breed if you already have a multi-pet household.
  • We recommend avoiding the dog park if your pup has not been socialized early on.

Reputable Breeders and Puppy Prices

Since the Boerboel is registered with the AKC, it’s best to start with their registry. The AKC holds breeders to a high standard, ensuring that they breed healthy, high-quality dogs. This prevents costly and painful congenital problems such as elbow and hip dysplasia.

The AKC handles the vetting, but there are some things you should look out for when selecting a breeder. Can they provide proof that all of their breeding dogs are healthy? Are their facilities clean and spacious? What are their clients’ opinions about them? Are they able to allow puppies to go home before eight weeks? Do they require a post-purchase exam within 72 hours? Only basic due diligence will help.

Purebred Boerboel puppies cost between $1,200 and $2,500, with an average price of $2,000.

Adopting From Rescues Centers and Shelters

We recommend that you adopt a dog instead of buying a puppy. Around 670,000 dogs are euthanized yearly in shelters because they have no place to go, so opening your home to a rescue Boerboel is a great service.

However, it can be difficult to find rescues for this rare breed as it is so hard to find them. The Giant Paws Boerboel Rescue is the most prominent. Mastiff rescues are another option since the breed is Mastiff-related and may be represented in these organizations.

Retaining an adult Boerboel can save you the time and money of training a puppy. First-year puppies can cost upwards of $1,500 (not including the initial purchase price!). In the first year, training a puppy includes potty training, crate training, teaching him not to chew your shoes and cords, and other tasks.


Boerboels are active and smart family members. These dogs are unsuitable for new dog owners as they can be difficult and dangerous to train. Because of their protective nature, these dogs should be the only dog in the household. They are not comfortable around strangers or other dogs, so make sure to introduce them to other dogs and people.

Due to their large size, these dogs require lots of space. If you live in an apartment, do not consider this breed. These dogs must be exercised daily; they love long walks, hiking, and a game of fetch.

Start training at a young age, as early as 8 to 10 weeks, emphasizing basic obedience because this breed loves to be in control. Training your dog in agility, protective work, and weight pulling is also possible. Boerboels will be happy if they engage in activities stimulating their minds and bodies.

All in all, this breed is a wonderful companion to the right owner.

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