Red Boerboel

Boerboel Dog Breed

Other names:
African Boerboel
African Mastiff
Mastiff African
South African Boer Mastiff
South African Boerboel
South African Mastiff

Pronunciation: "Boo r bull"

The Boerboel is primarily a guarding dog that originated in South Africa During the mid 1600s; the name translates roughly to "farm dog" and this breed was, indeed, protector to the early Dutch and British settlers to the Cape area. The best match for this breed is an experienced owner that has a nice yard and plenty of time to spend with them each day. They are intelligent, obedient and easy to groom. They do require a moderate amount of daily outdoor exercise. These dogs are calm and affectionate family companions that are also good with other pets IF well socialized. Supervision is recommended for this breed at all times and it may not be legal to own one in your area. Boerboels are generally healthy and typically live around 10 years.

Boerboel Breed Details

The Boerboel is a South African breed that gained notoriety for it's massive size and superb guardianship abilities. Some may wonder if these dogs are inherently dangerous while others maintain that any dog is as good as the person that raises it. Boerboel attacks do happen whether they are protecting their owner or simply as a product of bad treatment (or mismanagement)-- this is a powerful breed that must be well trained, socialized and supervised. Also, you should check to see if your country will even allow you to own one of these dogs as the importation and/or ownership is banned in 10+ countries! If trained, socialized and loved, this breed will be an affectionate, devoted member of your family and will stick by your side like your shadow. They are best suited to those with large homes and yards, and you must have plenty of time to spend with them each day! Consider the following Boerboel facts:


  • Affectionate playmate for your children
  • Gets along with other pets if well socialized
  • Easy grooming of the short coat
  • Not difficult to train for an experienced owner
  • Can live indoors or out
  • Not a barker unless necessary
  • Good exercise partner
  • A+ protector for you and your household
  • Can be trained as a hunting companion


  • May be overly protective (and aggressive) towards strangers and dogs
  • Must always be kept on leash when not in an enclosed area
  • Not hypoallergenic, sheds regularly
  • Not ideal for small apartments or homes without yards
  • May become destructive if left alone regularly for long periods
  • Only recommended for experienced, confident owners
  • May not be legal to own in your country
8 - 10 yrs.
24 - 28 in.
140 - 180 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Boerboel Breed Description

This breed is everything one could want as a body guard or household guardian. Let's start with the appearance-- looks alone reveal plenty of Boerboel information. He/she is large to huge, well muscled and, most importantly, calm and confident. The blocky, broad head, itself, looks powerful with the robust jaws and slightly wrinkled forehead. The body is solid and also blocky with with a strong, straight back and muscular legs. The pigmented skin is loose but not wrinkled and is covered by a short, smooth (and glossy) coat.

1. Intelligence- An obedient yet confident demeanor helped this breed evolve and adept in new, harsh terrain. They are not very difficult to train for an owner experienced with large breeds. It's absolutely imperative to firmly establish yourself as the leader or else your Boerboel certainly will. Positive reinforcement and confidence are the two things needed to effectively train him/her. Socialization should take place immediately to prevent an over protective dog-- towards both animals and people.

2. Kids, Strangers, Pets- These "velcro dogs" may develop behavioral problems if not allowed to spend enough time with you every day. Members of this breed make top notch family companions; they will be affectionate playmates for children and protect the family to the death (if necessary). That being said, they will remain suspicious and aloof around strangers, if well trained, but may be aggressive if not. The same goes for other pets (especially dogs) as a well socialized Boerboel can exist well with other pets but, if not, may be aggressive towards other dogs.

3. Exercise- Although they may be lazy indoors, if allowed, this breed is large, powerful and needs adequate daily outdoor exercise to keep them in shape and productive. The Boerboel wiki recommends a minimum of a long daily walk but, ideally, an hour of outdoor exercise/playtime is best. A securely fenced yard is also recommended. A bored Boerboel is a destructive one.

Boerboel Breed History

Some suggest the Boerboel has origins in the ancient Indian Dog-- the massive, hunting and lion killing guard dogs of the Cynomones tribe of southern Egypt. Both Aristotle and prominent figures of the Persian Empire wrote of the intimidating appearance and unmatched power of these beasts. Perhaps the Boerboel is a descendant of such a creature...

However, there is a general consensus that Boerboel history begins in 1652 when Jon van Riebeeck was sent to the Cape of South Africa by the Dutch East India Company. The waters around this area were important trade routes by this time and Riebeeck was to establish a trading post in the area. He was not only accompanied by fellow settlers but also large Mastiff-type Bullenbijter dogs that were luckily strong enough to survive in this difficult new terrain .

Although it's unknown exactly what breeds intermingled to create this massive guardian, the arrival of English settlers in the early 1800's added several new Mastiff and bully breeds into the mix. These dogs cross bred with native south African dogs and were utilized by the settlers for the protection of person and property-- not to mention they were excellent family companions.

It's also worth a mention that the De Beers diamond mining company brought Bullmastiffs to guard the mines, although by that time Boerboels already existed as a distinct breed; the interbreeding still likely shaped the modern Boerboel breed. The South African Boerboel Breeder's Association was founded in 1983 and several other organizations have arisen from this group including the South African Boerboel Breeder's Society (2014). The breed was officially recognized by the AKC as recently as 2015.

Boerboel Variations

There aren't different Boerboel types, per say, but overall size may vary among individuals from big to huge to GIANT due to the emphasis on proportion and health rather than size standards. Generally, female weight caps off around 140 pounds and males 175 pounds, however, the biggest Boerboels may certainly surpass this. Keep in mind that many photos and stories you encounter online of the 300+ pound "Biggest Boerboels in the World" are likely hoaxes-- but to be sure, these are always large dogs.

Boerboel Temperament

Among the best facets of the South African Boerboel temperament are her intuitive intelligence, obedience, confidence and protective nature. Members of this breed are both clever and intuitive so training CAN be easy and enjoyable since they are also obedient dogs. This all depends upon whether you have experience with large dogs; confidently and firmly leading your Boerboel as the alpha is a must for a well behaved pet. Failure to do so may result in an overly protective or aggressive dog with destructive habits.

Another interesting Boerboel characteristic-- these dogs are considered "velcro dogs" that will want to be near their family/owner as much as possible. They aren't necessarily needy and can spend reasonable amounts of time alone yet they may become bored and lonely (aka destructive nuisances) if not allowed daily interaction with "their people".

If socialized early, this breed's personality allows them to mesh well with other pets, however, some may be aggressive towards other dogs. Strangers and even acquaintances may find your Boerboel suspicious and aloof, but a well trained and socialized member of this breed will be able to distinguish between threat and non threat. It goes without saying they make excellent guard dogs that will defend their family to the death.

Living Requirements

Owning a Boerboel is certainly a responsibility recommended for experienced dog owners only. A great deal of time will need to be spent training and socializing them so they do not become over-protective and can coexist well with other pets. It's worth mentioning that this breed, although low maintenance in regards to grooming, is not hypoallergenic and sheds regularly. Barking is to be expected if they need to alert your to, say, the approach of a strange person or dog but is not excessive.

These intuitive guardians truly are devoted to you and will enjoy living inside where they can be in your presence. Although they need daily outdoor exercise, they are usually calm and laid-back indoors-- even lazy, if allowed. Keep in mind, you may come back to a destroyed home if they do not receive enough mental and physical stimulation. If they need to be housed outdoors, make sure your yard is of ample size and very securely fenced.

Boerboel Health

On average, members of this breed will live 10 years with few health problems. Choosing a breeder that offers health guarantees/certifications, as well as regular vet checkups, will go a long way to ensure a healthy dog. Some conditions to watch out for include:

  • Large dog issues such as bloat, hip dysplasia (and other joint dysplasias)
  • Allergies
  • Eye problems like entropion and ectropion (eyelid disorders)
  • Vaginal Hyperplasia (females only)
  • Juvenile Epilepsy
  • Obesity-- do not overfeed this breed

Boerboel Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Boerboels.

Hip dysplasia
Vaginal hyperplasia

Related Pages

About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:March 13, 2017