5 Things You Should Know About Boerboels


Few dog breeds on earth enjoy such an interesting origin. With his rich South African heritage and deep working roots, the Boerboel is truly an amazing animal! It’s hard to imagine life without this African Mastiff, a tragedy that very nearly became reality.

1. Boerboels Have a Rich History!

Boerboels are descended from great Mastiffs who settled South Africa, along with Dutch colonists, in the 17th century. In turn, Mastiffs are believed to have descended from the Molossus, known to exist during the times of Ancient Egypt!

  • Early Dutch Mastiffs were bred with African dogs to produce the Boerboel.
  • Early Dutch farmers settled in South Africa during 1652, using large, Mastiff like dogs to offer protection for farms and family.

2. They Were Devoted Guardians

Boerboels were popularly used to accompany workers and help guard farmsteads. Later on, once diamond mining grew in popularity, they would help guard the mines as well. Though it may be hard to imagine, legend has it groups of Boerboels would even drive off lion attacks!

  • Boerboels would also drive off baboons and leopards.
  • The name ‘Boerboel’ comes from the African word ‘boar’, meaning ‘farmer’.
Boerboel in nature

3. Boerboels Made Useful Hunting Companions and Strong Protectors

Thanks to their impressive size and strength, the Boerboel became a popular African hunting companion. They were both used to help track then hold wounded game until the hunter arrived.

Boerboels were also treasured for the valuable protection they offered. In fact, when the Dutch East India Company sent Jan van Riebeeck to South Africa in 1652, he took his Bullenbijter with him for protection- the dog that would sire the very first African Mastiffs!

  • Boerboels were trained to track, retrieve or hold wounded prey without eating it themselves.
  • Thanks to their highly tuned predatory senses, dogs in general make excellent trackers and hunting partners. .

4. Boerboels Were Sometimes Mixed with Other Breeds

Your Boerboel might not actually be ‘entirely’ Boerboel! In the 1930’s, Bullmastiffs were brought to South Africa by the De Beers diamond company to help guard their mines. Boerboels were frequently bred with these Bullmastiffs, possibly along with Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

  • Boerboels were often either mixed with other breeds like the Bullmastiff, or many were inbred. This nearly spelled disaster for the original bloodlines.

5. The Boerboel almost went extinct!

The world wars, on top of poor breeding and expanding urbanization in South Africa during the early to mid-1900’s nearly spelled disaster for the Boerboel. In an effort to save the breed from annihilation, a group of select enthusiasts formed the ‘South African Boerboel Breeders’ Association (SABBA). By the early 1980’s, the group was well on its way to restoring the once treasured Boerboel.

In their efforts to restore the breed to his former glory, the SABBA searched over thousands of miles, first only able to register a mere 72 Boerboels! Poor breeding practices led to severely diluted bloodlines, which is why so few were registered as ‘Official Boerboels’.

In July of 2006, the American Boerboel Club was formed!

  1. Thank you for telling the story of the South African boerboel. The word ‘boer’ is an Afrikaans word which means ‘farmer’.