Historically the Boerboel was developed as a general farm dog for the pioneers who began settling in South Africa in the 17th Century. These dogs were often the first line of defense against predators. Many old farmers told tales of the strength, agility and courage of the Boerboel. The dangers and harsh environment allowed only the fittest to survive.
When Jan van Riebeeck came to the Cape in 1652, he brought his own dog along to protect him and his family in the wild, unknown country. This dog was known as a “Bullenbitjer”, a large, heavy Mastiff-type dog. The settlers, from many different countries, who came after Jan van Riebeck also brought along their strongest dogs to protect them. His pioneer owner requested him to be a friend of the family, a worker and provide protection. The protective character of the Boerboel is today still evident, as is the calm, stable, confident composure of the breed. The Bullmastiff that DeBeers brought in to guard the diamond mines as well as the Rhodesian Ridgeback, long legged bull dog and boxer play a prominent role in the Boerboels more recent development.
As an established breed, the Boerboel is relatively new. In 1983 a few farmers, who did not want to lose the breed they knew and loved, got together and formed the SABT. It was the original breed/registration organization. They handpicked 72 dogs; out of the 250 they viewed on a cross country trip, to be the foundation stock of the current Boerboel breed. Like many other breeds, the Boerboel will evolve in its purpose. However, the origin and purpose of the Boerboel should be understood in order to preserve its unique identity and qualities. In order to retain the traits that make it a Boerboel, they will need to continue to be identified and bred for.
The Boerboel is a big, strong, athletic dog. Well balanced with good muscle development. Movement is the ultimate test for correct conformation. They should move swiftly and powerfully with an impressive and imposing countenance. Balance, proportion and sound movement are of utmost importance –more so than size. They are self-assured, obedient and intelligent with a strong watch dog instinct. Due to the emotional nature of their bond, Boerboels fare best living as part of the family. Left to live completely outside and away from their humans, they can become bored, depressed and will likely occupy themselves by indulging in undesirable or destructive behavior.
Boerboels are also dominant, strong willed dogs. They need to be raised with discipline, training and lots of socialization starting in puppyhood. Not all Boerboels are created equal, so do your research. That said, most responsibly bred, well socialized Boerboels are typically very good with children, especially those they share their home with. The entire family should take part in training exercises to ensure the dog understands that children occupy a higher station in the family’s hierarchy. Children should be taught to respect and treat dogs with kindness and should not be left unsupervised with any dog no matter how trustworthy you believe they are.
Boerboels are large dog breed, requiring physical exercise to develop properly and to be fit. There has been a lot research that indicates that a good deal of bone heath and structure will be less genetic and more environmental. Still I would look to purchase puppies from breeders who are health and temperament testing. With that in mind I would also feed the best food that I could afford, some would suggest RAW, keep them at a healthy, fit weight, exercise but avoid high impact activities, avoid raising them on slippery surfaces.
With all of its wonderful qualities, the Boerboel is still NOT a dog for everyone. This is not a breed that is recommended for first time dog owners or owners who are not willing to spend quality time with their dog, socializing and training. If you do think the Boerboel is the breed for you, patience and research is of paramount importance in your consideration. After fully educating oneself on the demands and expense of owning this breed, before you ever purchase your first Boerboel, find a good mentor. One that is a member of the AKC affiliated Breed parent Club (American Boerboel Club) is a good place to start. One that has years of experience with the breed, has extensive knowledge of the breed’s history, traits, temperament, and conformation.
The Boerboel breed entered the AKC in the Foundation Stock Service in 2006. They officially became a part of the AKC working group in 2015. The breed standard used by AKC was derived from the standard of the SABT (now defunct). The goal of the American Boerboel Club, the AKC parent club for the breed, has always been to preserve and protect the historical Boerboel. With all of the upheaval in the Boerboel community in the past several years over the ever-changing breed standard in South Africa and other countries you will find that the American Kennel Club Breed Standard has not deviated and will be close to the original standard put forth by the founders of the breed.
Boerboels have proven to be a very versatile breed. There are Boerboels with AKC titles in Herding, Obedience, Rally, Agility, Therapy Dog and Coursing, we even have individuals working on the first AKC tracking title. Other sports enjoyed by Boerboels and their owners are barn hunt and nose work. This versatility is a testament to the “all round” farm dog developed in South Africa so many years ago.