Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Boerboel
Average Cost to keep/care for a Boerboel

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #117 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Boerboel breed is also commonly known by the names South African Mastiff.
10 - 12 years
Pedigree Breed ?
No - Not Currently KC Recognised
Males 64 - 70 cm
Females 59 - 65 cm at the withers
Males 70 - 90 kg
Females 70 - 90 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£950 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


The Boerboel is a Mastiff type dog native to South Africa where these large dogs were bred to work on farms and as guard dogs. Translated their name means 'farmer's dog'. They are very impressive looking dogs and although imposing, they boast being gentle giants as long as they are well socialised and correctly trained from a young age. With this said, they are definitely not a good choice for first time owners. The Boerboel is however, a good choice for someone who is familiar with the needs and training requirements of the breed or this sort of very large mastiff type dog and who has enough inside and outdoor space for them to be able to more around freely.


Although the actual origins of the Boerboel remains a little uncertain, it is thought the breed came about when settlers from Holland, Germany, France and England took their dogs with them to South Africa where they were bred to various local dogs. In the early 1900's, DeBeers, the largest diamond mining company for the region, bought over Bullmastiff type dogs to guard their valuable mines and it is thought that these dogs contributed to creating the Boerboel.

Whatever their true origins, the Boerboel was bred to be a strong, robust and heavy dog that was suited to the harsh, dry and arid South African climate. They were bred to be large enough to scare thieves and robbers off which these dogs achieve very well thanks to their imposing looks.

Today, the Boerboel remains a very popular choice of watchdog in their native South Africa both on farms and as working watchdogs. However, they have also become a popular choice as family pets thanks to their kind and loyal natures paired to the fact they are renowned for their guarding abilities. These large dogs are also gaining popularity here in the UK although the breed has not as yet been recognised by The Kennel Club. The Boerboel is however, recognised by the American Kennel Club.


Height at the withers: Males 64 - 70 cm, Females 59 - 65 cm

Average weight: Males 70 - 90 kg, Females 70 - 90 kg

The Boerboel is an extremely large, muscular and stocky dog, but despite their size and rather bulky appearance, they are athletic and boast a quick turn of speed when needed. Males tend to be a larger and heavier than their female counterparts, but both boast having large heads which is the breed’s impressive and distinctive feature. Their heads are broad, square and muscular with dogs boasting well filled cheeks and a moderate amount of wrinkling on their foreheads when they are alert.

Their necks are extremely powerful and moderately long which dogs hold slightly arched. It flows smoothly to a dog's shoulders with females showing less muscle than their male counterparts. Boerboels have a level, firm topline that extends from behind the wither to their croup and their bellies boast being slightly tucked up.

Their bodies are compact, very muscular and solid with dogs having both a good depth and width to them. They have broad, straight backs and very noticeable muscles. Chests are deep, wide and broad with dogs having well sprung ribs and loins that are muscular and strong being just slightly narrower than a dog's ribcage and rump. Shoulders slope moderately and are muscular, powerful and tight. Croups are flat, strong and broad.

Front legs boast having well-defined muscles and show lots of strong bone with dogs having large well boned front feet with slightly arched toes and black toe nails with hair growing in between them. Their pads are very tough, thick and black in colour. Their hindquarters are muscular and sturdy with dogs boasting powerful, strongly boned back legs and well developed upper thighs. Their back feet are slightly larger than their front ones.

When it comes to their coat, the Boerboel has a very short, dense and smooth coat that boasts a natural sheen to it and they have well-pigmented skin. These large dogs come in a variety of colours which are as follows:

  • Mahogany
  • Red
  • Fawn
  • Brindle
  • Cream
  • Brown
  • Piebald


The Boerboel is a very self-confident dog renowned for being courageous showing very little fear in any situation they find themselves in which is one of the reasons they are so highly prized in their native South Africa for being superb watchdogs. They are intelligent, but they need to be well socialised from a young age and their training has to start early for these large dogs to grow up into well-rounded and obedient mature dogs.

They are not the best choice for first time owners, not only because of their massive size, but because they need to be trained and handled by people who are familiar with the needs of this size dog. In the right hands and with the right socialisation and training, the Boerboel makes for a nice albeit large dog to share a home with.

Being so intelligent, Boerboels need to be given the right amount of mental stimulation on a daily basis for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. Without the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation, they can quickly become unmanageable and that much harder to live with. They need to know their place in the pack and this can only be achieved early in a dog's life with the right sort of socialisation and training. These dogs are never happier than when they know who to look to for direction and guidance something they have to be taught when they are still young and therefore more manageable.

They are a good choice as family pets although due to their very large size, they are not the best choice for people with toddlers or young children in a household, but for people with older children, the Boerboel would be fine and they quickly form strong bonds with all the members of the family becoming a valuable and loyal member in the home.

Intelligence / Trainability

The Boerboel is an intelligent dog, however, they boast having very strong "guarding" instincts which is something that needs to be gently curbed when these large dogs are still young. Leaving their education until they are older can make them harder to train simply because of their large size. With this said, in the right hands and with the right amount of early socialisation and the correct sort of training, the Boerboel is a very responsive dog and one that learns new things very quickly.

It's a good idea to enrol the help of an expert dog trainer when thinking of sharing a home with Boerboel. It's a great way of ensuring their training and education starts off on the right foot which goes a long way when it comes to handling and living with such large dogs in a home environment.

Children and Other Pets

Boerboels do make good family pets, however, thanks to their sheer size they are not the best choice for families where there are toddlers or small children in the household. They are known to be gentle by nature, but they may just knock a smaller child over which could end up scaring them or in a worst case scenario injuring a toddler. However, they are a good choice for households where the children are older and therefore know how to behave around such large dogs and when to keep out of the way.

When well socialised from a young age and introduced to as many other dogs as possible, the Boerboel generally gets on well with them. The same can be said of other animals and pets they have grown up with in a household. Care should be taken when they around any other animals and it would be a mistake to leave them on their own and unsupervised.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Boerboel Health

The average life expectancy of a Boerboed is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

Like so many other breeds, the Boerboel is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large, attractive dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

Caring for a Boerboel

As with any other breed, Boerboels need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


The Boerboel is relatively low maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking good. A weekly groom is all it really takes to keep their coats nice and glossy and brushing a large helps reinforce the strong bond they form with their owners. It also allows people to check for any lumps and bumps. A Boerboel's nails are very fast growing and as such, they need to be regularly trimmed to prevent them from splitting or cracking.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Boerboels need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. This means a good 60 minute walk every day and as much mental stimulation as possible to prevent boredom from setting in. They are very large, intelligent dogs and when they get bored, they can develop some very destructive behaviours around the home.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these extra-large dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, Boerboel puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. As such they should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs.


If you get a Boerboel puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Because Boerboels are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low in order to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Boerboel

If you are looking to buy a Boerboel you may have to agree to go on a waiting list because they are quite hard to find. You should expect to pay anything from £800 to over £1200 for a well-bred puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Boerboel in northern England would be £56.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £119.99 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Boerboel and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1600 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Boerboel would be between £110 to £190 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.

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