Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Boerboel
Average Cost to keep/care for a Boerboel
Breed Specific Buying Advice
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.
Boerboels are known to be good around older children, but due to their sheer size and their protective natures, they are not suited to households with younger children or toddlers. They also boast having a high prey drive and a natural threat perceptions which is why Boerboels have always been so highly prized watchdogs in South Africa.
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. Their name actually means "farmer's Mastiff" in Afrikaans.
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 yet been recognised by The Kennel Club. The Boerboel is however, recognised by the American Kennel Club and other international associations
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 unique, but always well in proportion with the rest of the body, being broad, short and quite "blocky" with dogs have nice full cheeks.
A Boerboel's face blends gradually into the skull and dogs can have a black mask although many do not. Their earflaps are set wide apart and carried close to a dog's head being V-shaped, medium in size and broader at the base showing no creases. The lower edge of the ear falling in line with a dog's dentition. Their eyes are nicely defined and medium in size being round and facing forward on a dog's face. Their eyes are set widely spaced on a dog's face with firm, well pigmented eyelids. Eyes can be any shade of brown or yellow.
Stops are clearly visible with dogs having a well filled space between. A Boerboel's muzzle is broad and deep, tapering to towards the tip and nostrils are wide apart and large with the leather being black. Their jaws are broad, deep and strong, tapering a little to the front and having no sign of a curve on the lower jaw.
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, broad 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. Tails are a natural extension of a dog's spinal cord and is set quite high being a nice length and girth with dogs holding them in the shape of a sabre.
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.
A Boerboel's skin is loose and quite thick with the pigmentation being black. Dogs have a moderate number of wrinkles and folds on their brows when they are alert. When it comes to their coat, the Boerboel has a very short, dense, sleek 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:
Boerboels should always have good skin pigmentation no matter what colour coat.
Breeders are strongly advised to breed black Boerboels to solid coloured dogs because of the dilute gene they carry. Black coated Boerboels can be tested to establish whether they carry the "dilute gene" before they are used for breeding purposes. Other recommendations include the following:
When a Boerboel moves, they so effortlessly with purpose showing tremendous power in their hindquarters. They take long strides covering a lot of ground with their legs moving on parallel planes and their backs remaining nice and level.
Prospective Boerboels owners should be wary of any puppies or dogs that show any sort of exaggeration whether in their looks, conformation or temperament A responsible breeder would always ensure that puppies they produce have good conformation and sound temperaments. Dogs must have even temperaments showing no signs of shyness or aggression and males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums.
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. It would be fair to say that their brains are "wired differently" to other breeds. With this said, they are intelligent, but they need to be well socialised from a young age and their training must start early for these large dogs to grow up into well-rounded and obedient mature dogs. Well-bred Boerboels should be trustworthy, reliable and manageable, but what really sets the breed apart from others, is the way they go about protecting their families and property which is a task a Boerboel takes very seriously.
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 must 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.
Any Boerboel that shows a more dominant side to their nature would need to be firmly taught that this is unwanted behaviour and if necessary owners should seek professional help to correct things. Signs to watch out for when a dog begins to show a more dominant side to their natures include the following:
Boerboels are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with this type of large and dominant dog. They are intelligent and stubborn which means they could easily get the better of a novice owner which often ends up making life miserable both for a Boerboel and an owner.
Boerboels have a very high prey drive, but it is in their psyche to stay close to an owner so they can protect them from any impending perceived threat. With this said, care should always be taken as to where and when a Boerboel can run off the lead when there are other dogs and animals around just to be on the safe side.
Boerboels are playful more especially when still young. However, it's best to teach a puppy that "playtime" takes place outside to avoid breakages in the home. A mature Boerboel is a very robust and large dog so they need to be taught how to play "nicely" from a young age to avoid a dog knocking anyone over albeit by accident.
Boerboels are very large dogs and as such they need enough space to express themselves. As such, they are never happy living in an apartment, but are very well suited to people who have large, secure back gardens that a dog can roam around in whenever possible. It is worth noting that a bored Boerboel would quickly become destructive and unruly making them a lot harder to manage and handle.
Although Boerboels form strong ties with their families, they can be left on their own providing it is never for too long. With this said, they are not known to suffer from separation anxiety when owners are out and they find themselves on their own. However, if left for too long, boredom would quickly set it which often sees dogs being destructive around the home.
Boerboels are not known to be "barkers" and most will only bark when necessary because there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their environment. Boerboels don't bark for the sake of it which is why they are so highly prized watchdogs in many countries of the world including their native South Africa.
Most Boerboels like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Boerboel off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Boerboels are natural watchdogs and as such, they do not need to be taught to "guard or protect" which could end up making a dog more dominant and aggressive which is something to be avoided at all costs. Their size alone is impressive enough to put any wrong doers off, but the need to protect makes a Boerboel a formidable watchdog. They have an amazing perception for any impending threats and will place themselves between an owner and the threat as a way of protecting them.
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. The key to successfully training a Boerboel is to make sure they understand the limits and boundaries which a dog must respect from an early age.
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.
Like all puppies, Boerboels are very cute which means it is all too easy to spoil puppies when they first arrive in their new homes. However, owners need to start out as they mean to go on, bearing in mind that a cute puppy quickly grows up to be a powerful and dominant adult dog. This means setting out ground rules, limits and boundaries so that a puppy understands what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It also helps establish who is the alpha dog in a household, something that is extremely important where Boerboels are concerned. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
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.
As such, Pets4homes advises that Boerboels are not the best choice for families with babies or very young children. Anyone who already shares a home with a Boerboel and who have younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
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.
The average life expectancy of a Boerboel 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:
Boerboel puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Boerboels are known to like their food a little too much and the fact they tend to be quite lazy by nature, means they are prone to putting on weight. With this said dogs can gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given.
Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Boerboels are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Boerboel breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Black coated Boerboels can be tested to establish whether they carry the "dilute gene"
Boerboels are not a Kennel Club registered breed, as such there are no breed specific restrictions in place for the breed. However, prospective owners should only contact responsible breeders who ensure their studs are health and temperament tested.
Currently there are no Assured Breeder requirements for the Boerboel because the breed is not yet Kennel Club recognised.
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.
Boerboel puppies can be extremely boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
Things you'll need for your puppy
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Boerboel puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Boerboel puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Boerboels need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Boerboel in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Boerboels need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Boerboels don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
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 glossy and regular brushing helps reinforce a 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 builds 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 must 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 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 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 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 which is a condition that should always be taken very seriously and as such veterinary attention should be sought straight away.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Boerboel puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 24 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Boerboel must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Boerboel can be fed the following amounts every day:
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 £58.41 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £121.56 a month (quote as of December 2017). 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 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 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 £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 responsibly bred, healthy Boerboel puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Boerboels have become one of the more popular large breeds both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Boerboels there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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