Boerboel Dog Breed Information: The South African Mastiff

Boerboel dog breed

The word “Boerboel” comes from the Afrikaans/Dutch words “boer” which means farmer, and boel, a shortening of boelhond, which means “bulldog”. Hence, the name “Boerboel” generally translates into “farmer’s dog.”

The Boerboel Dog Breed is often considered to be intimidating but also discerning in its role as a guardian. Originating from South Africa, these mastiff-type dogs were bred specifically to protect remote homesteads from ferocious predators. Their sleek coats and broad heads indicate their powerful build, while their thick muscles from neck to rump mark them as true avengers when it comes to defending their pack or family.

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Boerboel Dog at a Glance

ColorAny shade of red, brown, yellow (fawn), tawny, reddish brown, brindle, cream, and black (SABBS only)
MarkingsWhite Markings Black Mask Piebald Irish Marked
Coat typeShort and sleek with dense hair coverage
EarsV-shaped ears hanging forward
HeightMale: 61-69 cm ( 24-27 inches) Female: 56-64 cm (22-25 inches)
Weight68–91 kg (150–200 lb)
Life expectancy9 to 11 years
Bred forWorking, guarding and hunting
Drooling amountHigh
Exercise neededMedium (one hour per day)
TemperamentGentle, Calm, friendly, outgoing and protecting
Good withChildren and other family members 
BarkingWhen needed
Overall grooming requireModerate 


The Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers of South Africa arriving in the mid-1600s were given the nickname “Boer,” meaning “farmer” in Dutch. These settlers were carrying with them large guarding dogs, bull types, and mastiff types to protect their families and livestock from predators.

The interbreeding of these European bloodlines and breeding with the other dogs resulted in Boerboel, a large and versatile dog.

The Boerboel’s primary purpose was to serve as a working dog on the farm. They were tasked with hunting games such as wild boar, tracking and driving livestock, and guarding the property against intruders, both two-legged and four-legged.

The breeding of Boerboel began in the 1950s and it was registered in a breed club. Various associations came in to develop and standardize the breed like the South African Boerboel Breeders Association(SABBA) in 1983 and South African Boerboel Breeders’ Society in 2012.

The Boerboel breed was officially accepted by the American Kennel Club on January 1, 2015, and by the United Kennel Club on January 1, 2016.

Physical Characteristics


The Boerboel is a large, mastiff-type dog with a thick-set, muscular build, and a short, sleek coat. They have a broad head with long muzzles and floppy ears. Their tails are usually docked to about half their length.

Boerboel dogs enjoying the sunshine
Boerboel dogs enjoying the sunshine

Coat Color

The Boerboel comes in a variety of colors, but the most common are brindle, red, red-brown, and yellow. They may also be black, but this is not as common. Some Boerboels have a light brown or fawn coat, with black masking.


The Boerboel has a number of distinctive black or white markings on its coat. These markings can include a black mask over their face or a white blaze on the forehead, a white collar around the neck, and white patches on the chest, belly, and legs. 

The piebald pattern is also common in Boerboels, which is characterized by large patches of white fur surrounded by areas of black fur. Some Boerboels also have what is called an Irish-marked coat, which is mostly black with a few small areas of white.

Weight and Height

Modern Boerboel dog’s weight is more than other breeds of the same size. Males typically weigh between 110 and 200 pounds, while females tend to be between 100 and 150 pounds. Males are also generally taller than females, measuring 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder compared to 22 to 25 inches for females.

Personality and Temperament

The Boerboel isn’t for the faint-hearted; they have protective tendencies, strength, and size that can intimidate people or other animals if not properly socialized around them. They are intelligent and confident dogs that are quick to learn, but their dominant and territorial nature means they need an experienced owner who can provide firm training and boundaries. Without proper socialization and training, Boerboels may occupy themselves by indulging in undesirable or destructive behaviors.

Interactions With Family and Strangers

The Boerboel is a loyal and devoted family dog that will guard and protect its home and family with its lives. They are gentle and loving with children, but their size means they need to be supervised around smaller kids. They may also view other animals as potential threats if not properly socialized around them from a young age.

Boerboels are also mistrustful of strangers and will bark and growl at anyone they don’t know. It is important to socialize your Boerboel around different people and animals so they learn to trust and accept them.

Boerboel Care

Fur Shedding and Grooming

The Boerboel’s short, dense, and strong hair coat doesn’t require too much grooming. Brushing their coat once or twice a week will help to reduce the amount of hair around their home. Use a soft-bristle brush or hound glove to remove loose hair and keep your dog’s coat looking shiny.

Their coat is also relatively easy to care for when it comes to bathing. Bathe your Boerboel as needed, using a dog-specific shampoo to avoid drying out the coat. Be sure to rinse all the soap out of their coat to avoid irritation.

Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that could indicate an infection. Clean the ears with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent infections.

Activity Requirements

The Boerboel is a strong athletic dog with a muscular build and high energy output. They require a considerable amount of exercise daily and should not be left alone in a yard for long periods of time due to their high activity level and protective nature. A long walk or jog around the neighborhood is ideal, but they also need plenty of mental stimulation to keep them occupied. Playing fetch, going on hikes, or taking trips to the park are all great activities to keep your Boerboel happy and healthy. Obedience training, agility competitions, protection sports, and stock work are all excellent ways to provide physical and mental stimulation for your Boerboel.


The Boerboel is a protective and territorial breed, so early and consistent training is essential to help them learn how to behave around other animals and people. Socialization should start at a young age and continue throughout their life to ensure they remain well-rounded dogs.

Obedience training is also necessary to teach your Boerboel basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and down. They are intelligent dogs that learn quickly, but their stubborn and headstrong nature means they need a firm yet patient owner to help them learn.

Protection sports and stock works are excellent outlets for your Boerboel’s high energy level and protective instincts. These activities provide mental and physical stimulation while teaching your dog how to control its strength and dominance.

Boerboel Feeding

The Boerboel is a large dog breed that needs a diet high in protein to help them maintain its muscular build. They should be fed two to three meals per day, divided into smaller portions to avoid overfeeding.

Quality dry dog food that is formulated for large breeds is the best diet for your Boerboel. Look for a food that is high in protein and fat, with moderate carbohydrates. Avoid foods that are high in grain or fillers as they cannot be digested by dogs due to their simple stomach and thus fermentation causes digestive problems like bloats etc. You may also want to supplement your Boerboel’s diet with joint-supporting supplements to help prevent joint problems later in life.

Puppy Feeding

Boerboel puppy diet is very important, as they need the right nutrients in order to grow and develop properly. A diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein ( 22-25 %) is often recommended, as it can help to promote a healthy weight and provide the puppies with the energy they need. The protein should come from animal sources, such as meat or fish, as these contain all of the essential amino acids that Boerboel puppies needed. The diet should also be rich in fat (10%), as this provides them with energy and helps them to absorb the other nutrients in their food.

Calcium and phosphorus are also important and mostly come from animal sources such as raw bones and bone meals. Puppies need around 1% calcium and around 0.8% phosphorous in their diet each day.

  • Puppies should eat around three times a day, and their food should be moistened with water to make it easier for them to digest.
  • It is also important to start puppies on a tooth-friendly diet, as they are more prone to tooth decay than adult dogs. This means avoiding foods that are high in sugar or starch, as these can encourage the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Puppies should also be given chew toys to help keep their teeth clean and strong.
A pair of Boerboel puppies
A pair of Boerboel puppies

Adult Feeding

Although an adult Boerboel’s nutritional needs are not drastically different from a puppy’s, they do need less protein and fat. Ideally, an adult Boerboels diet should consist of 25% protein and 10% fat. The amount of food they need will depend on their activity level, age, and build. Calcium and phosphorus are still important for adult Boerboels.

Common Health Concerns

The Boerboel is generally a healthy breed, but they can suffer from joint problems, Eye disorders, heart diseases, and GIT disturbances.

1. Joints Problems

The Boerboel is a large breed of dog, which means they are prone to joint problems such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is a condition that occurs when the thighbone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint. This can cause pain and mobility problems for the dog, and in severe cases, can lead to arthritis. There is no definitive cause of hip dysplasia, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

There is no cure for hip dysplasia, but there are a number of treatments that can help to alleviate the symptoms. These include weight management, medication, and surgery.

  • Weight management is important as it can help to take some of the pressure off of the joint.
  • Medication can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Surgery can correct faulty joints and improve the dog’s quality of life.

Elbow Dysplasia 

Elbow dysplasia, much like hip dysplasia, is a condition caused by the malformation of the elbow joint. The symptoms include swollen elbows or stiffness and limping. To fix this issue, surgery is required.

2. Eye Disorders

The Boerboel is also prone to a number of eye disorders, such as ectropion, entropion, progressive retinal atrophy, and cataracts.


Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the eye. This can cause irritation, inflammation, and corneal ulcers. Surgery is the only way to correct this condition.


Ectropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls outward, away from the eye. This can cause the eye to water excessively and be susceptible to infection. Surgery is required to fix this problem.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy 

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye condition that leads to blindness. It is caused by the deterioration of the retina, which is the layer of tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for detecting light and sending signals to the brain.

PRA usually affects both eyes simultaneously and progresses slowly over time. There is no cure for PRA, but there are a number of treatments that can help to slow its progression and improve the dog’s quality of life.


A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts can be caused by a number of things, including genetics, age, trauma, and disease.

Cataracts usually develop slowly and can eventually lead to complete blindness. There is no cure for cataracts, but they can be surgically removed.

3. GIT Disturbances

The Boerboel is also prone to a number of gastrointestinal disorders, such as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat. GDV occurs when the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas. This can be deadly if not treated immediately. Other common gastrointestinal disorders include pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

The symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Diagnosis is usually made through a combination of blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasounds.

Treatment depends on the specific condition but may include medication, special diets, and surgery.

4. Bacterial and viral infections

The Boerboel is also prone to a number of bacterial and viral diseases, such as distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. These diseases can be deadly if not treated immediately. Symptoms vary depending on the disease but can include vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and seizures. Treatment depends on the specific disease but may include antibiotics, antivirals, and/or vaccines. It is important to keep your Boerboel up-to-date on his vaccinations to help prevent these diseases from spreading.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do They Cut Boerboel’s Tails?

Boerboels’ tails are often docked to prevent them from being grabbed by predators or enemies. Docking also makes it easier for the dog to move through thick brush when hunting.

How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Boerboel?

As a puppy, your Boerboel should be fed three to four times a day. As he gets older, you can reduce the number of meals to two a day.

What Kind of Exercise Does My Boerboel Need?

Your Boerboel needs plenty of exercise to stay healthy and happy. A good rule of thumb is to provide him with at least one hour of exercise per day. This can be a combination of walks, runs, and playtime.

Do Boerboels Make Good Family Dogs?

Boerboels can make good family dogs if they are properly socialized and trained. They are loyal and protective of their families but can be aggressive toward strangers. It is important to have an experienced owner who can provide firm

Final Thought

The Boerboel is a large, powerful dog that was originally bred for hunting and guarding. He is loyal and protective of his family but can be aggressive toward strangers. The Boerboel is not for everyone and requires an experienced owner who can provide him with firm, consistent training. With the proper care, the Boerboel can be a loving, devoted companion.

Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson

I'm Simon Wilson, and I love beagles. I've been living with and owning beagles for over 15 years now, and during that time I've learned a lot about myself and the beagles. I love to write about my beagle experiences, and I hope that by sharing my experiences, others may find use in my learnings and experiences. Read more about Simon Wilson