An intelligent, devoted, and somewhat controversial canine, the Boerboel dog is not for the faint of heart.
However, this giant breed has plenty to offer the right owner. Is that owner you? Join us today as we learn more about the Boerboel, his fascinating origin, and why we would recommend the Boerboel dog only to highly experienced dog owners.
The Boerboel At A Glance
The Boerboel is a muscular mastiff-type dog from South Africa.
Height: 23 to 18 Inches
Weight: 120 to 170 Pounds
Temperament: Protective, Devoted, intelligent, Confident, Courageous
Best Suited For: Experienced and Committed Dog Owners
Lifespan: 10 to 12 Years
Health issues: Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Ectropion, Entropion, Heart Disease, Vaginal Hyperplasia, and Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (AKA Bloat)
Breeds That Recognize The Boerboel:
- The American Kennel Club (AKC)
- The United Kennel Club (UKC)
- The South African Boerboel Breeders Association (SABT)
- The National Kennel Club (NKC)
- The American Boerboel Club (ABC)
- The Boerboel International (BI)
- And The United states boerboel Association (USBA)
The Boerboel is a restricted breed in many places around the world and in many regions throughout the United States due to his history as a fighting breed.
Why Is The Boerboel Considered A Controversial Dog? Let’s Talk About Origin.
Boerboels are bred working dogs with a history of protecting loved ones on farms in Africa.
The Boerboel, (pronounced Boar-Bull) is a type of mastiff dog with a long and tangled history. He is the product of careful breeding over centuries, and modern day Boerboel dogs are also sometimes called African Boerboels or South African Boerboels as a homage to their ancestry.
Like most dogs, the modern day Boerboel is the result of crossbreeding over time. This is a dog that was designed for two things – protection and work.
As a result, Boerboel dogs are large, heavy, thick-boned, intelligent, devoted and incredibly loyal to their family. They can be affectionate and loving with those they call their own, but with strangers and other animals Boerboel dogs can be quite aloof and even territorial.
In their early days, the South African Boerboel spent his time protecting his family and homestead from the dangerous predators native to Africa. This included fearsome animals like lions and hyenas.
Sadly, once dog fighting became a popular pastime in Eastern Europe, it quickly spread across the world. This is when dogs like Pitbulls were created, but the already sturdy, devoted and sometimes fearsome Boerboel was also the perfect candidate for those looking for bloody entertainment.
Although dog fighting has long been outlawed throughout most of the world, the Boerboel breed still suffers as one of the most popular fighting dogs today in the underground arena.
Sadly, this has led to the breeb being seen as aggressive and even dangerous. The truth is, like all dogs, the Boerboel can be raised, trained and socialized to be a wonderful companion and dog.
Let’s learn more.
The Boerboel Temperament and Personality Traits
Though banned in some regions, the Boerboel is actually known to be a devoted and loving companion.
If you type the word “Boerboel” into Google, some of the first articles that come up include titles like “Is The Boerboel Dangerous” and “Why Is The Boerboel Banned?”.
Like Pitbulls, Rottweilers, and other controversial canines with guarding tendencies, Boerboel dogs have been lumped into the category of dogs with aggressive tendencies due to a history they had no control over.
It is true that the Boerboel was once used as a fighting dog. However, before that he was used as a devoted and protective farm dog and versatile working dog.
The truth is, these are not inherently aggressive dogs unless improperly raised. In fact, they can do wonderfully with children in a family setting and are known to be affectionate and even gentle. However, they can become aggressive with strangers and strange animals if not properly trained and socialized.
With the right owner, a Boerboel dog can be an absolute gem. Though he is very large, he is relatively calm and even-tempered in his home.
However, in the wrong hands, Boerboel dogs can certainly be a disaster. It should also be noted that, as a mastiff type, the Boerboel is known for his massive jaw strength. This breed has one of the strongest bite forces in the canine kingdom, with a bite force of 450 pounds of pressure per square inch.
This is second only to the purebred mastiff, who has a bite force of 552 pounds per square inch.
But just because a dog’s bite is so strong does not mean the dog will bite. When it comes to the world’s most aggressive dog breeds, the Boerboel dog doesn’t even make the list.
Still, most studies and experts agree that the most aggressive dog is a dog that is an unneutered male. Aggression has also been found in dogs who have been raised by inexperienced first-time dog owners.
And this is where proper training and socialization come in for this particular breed. Read on to learn more.
The Importance Of Properly Training And Socializing A Boerboel
A properly socialized and trained Boerboel can be a joy to be around.
Boerboel dogs are highly intelligent, loyal, eager to please, quick to learn and very protective of those they love. These are some of the traits that made them so desirable when it came to protecting their families from wild animals on South African farms.
However, these are also traits that once made for a good fighting dog and they can also be traits that are disastrous in the wrong hands today.
Training and socialization are important for all dogs, but they are an absolute necessity when it comes to large, devoted dogs with guarding instincts like the Boerboel. If not properly trained and socialized during puppyhood, a Boerboel dog has a good chance of growing up with serious behavioral issues that could be problematic and even dangerous.
If you’re considering a Boerboel, you should prepare for early training beginning while your dog is still a very young puppy. It’s never too early to begin training a Boerboel, which means you can start working with your dog from the moment you bring him home at around seven or eight weeks of age.
Training should be firm yet patient, and most importantly it should be consistent. It’s also vital not to use aversive training techniques with a Boerboel dog, as this could lead to fear-based aggression down the road.
Instead, use positive reinforcement with your Boerboel during training and take advantage of treats and tons of praise. Remember, the Boerboel is eager to please and enjoys learning, so the more fun you make the sessions the more you will get out of this clever and devoted dog.
Healthy Breeds Dog Treats for Boerboels
We love that these dog treats are specifically designed with the Boerboel in mind. The treats are also specified as training treats and are ideal for keeping your dog in shape while also training him to be the best Boerboel he can be.
These are chicken treats that are suitable for all life stages, which means you can use them while your Boebreol is still a puppy. Each treat contains only four calories so it’s ideal for large breed dogs who can be prone to hip and joint issues down the road, especially if they become obese.
Training should not stop once your puppy reaches adulthood and should instead carry on throughout his entire life. Along with proper training, early socialization is also an important part of ensuring your Boerboel grows up happy, healthy and well rounded.
You can ensure your Boerboel is properly socialized at an early age by introducing him to as many new experiences as possible.
Remember, you’re not always in control of how your dog views certain experiences, but you can help ensure first impressions are positive for your dog by not forcing him into a situation that is clearly frightening for him and by gently encouraging him with patience and treats.
No matter how well trained and socialized your Boerboel is, it’s still important not to leave young children or other pets unsupervised with a Boerboel dog. We also suggest working with children on how to recognize basic canine body language so they may better understand when their dog is feeling anxious or stressed.
Understanding The Exercise Needs Of A Boerboel Dog
Boerboel dogs are active and energetic. They require routine exercise each and every day.
As mastiff types, Boerboel dogs are considered giant breed dogs with moderate exercise needs. They require lots of space to roam freely and will do best in homes with lots of land or at least a decent sized and securely fenced yard where they can romp at their leisure.
This means, quite obviously, that the Boerboel dog does not do well in apartments. He is also not the best fit for more laid back dog owners who prefer dogs with very little exercise needs.
On average, a Boerboel will need at least a good hour or so of exercise committed to him each day. This could include vigorous walks, a long hike, and plenty of free playtime.
When walking a Boerboel, be sure to walk him on the proper equipment to ensure you have control over your dog and that both you and your dog are safe. Remember, many Boerboel dogs can grow to weigh more than their owners, so it’s important to have the right walking equipment that you can use confidently.
For large breed dogs like the massive Boerboel, we recommend a front clip no-pull dog harness like the harness listed below.
Auroth Tactical Dog Training Harness
We like tactical dog harnesses for very large and powerful dogs because these types of harnesses are generally more sturdy and heavy duty. The above dog harness also comes with two options for clipping your leash, with the front clip option helping to reduce pulling with your dog.
When your dog walks with a front clip harness, this harness gently guides him back to you when he gets ahead without putting dangerous or uncomfortable pressure on his throat and trachea.
These types of dog harnesses have been found to be much more effective than aversive walking equipment like choke chains and prong collars, and they are also safer and more natural for your dog.
Along with physical exercise, it’s also important to remember that the Boerboel is a highly intelligent dog that also needs plenty of mental stimulation.
Consistent training can help keep your Boerboel engaged, but so can implementing obstacle courses in your backyard, investing in puzzle toys, and ensuring you give your dog a job to do around the home.
Remember, Boerboel dogs were bred to work, and working dogs at heart are always generally happiest when they have a job to do.
Extreme Dog Toy KONG Chew
When you’re away, we would recommend investing in a quality KONG toy for large breed dogs.
Large KONGS have a number of purposes and can be filled with plenty of different treats or kibbles to help hold your dog’s attention. Dogs like the Boerboel may also enjoy chewing a KONG filled with dog-safe peanut butter that has been frozen overnight.
Just be sure that the KONG product you provide for your Boerboel is strong enough to withstand his jaw strength!
How To Properly Groom A Boerboel Dog
A proper grooming routine will help ensure your Boerboel looks and feels his best.
Boerboel dogs are high-maintenance in a number of ways, but grooming is not one of them. These dogs have short, mildly shedding coats that are easy to keep clean and don’t collect too much dirt and debris.
However, the Boerboel dog does shed year round and sheds a bit heaviest during the shedding season which occurs during spring and fall. For this reason, the Boerboel dog may not be the ideal dog for those who suffer from allergies.
Still, routine grooming for this giant dog is a small task in comparison to many other breeds.
To help reduce shedding and loose hair, it’s recommended that you brush your Boerboel with a quality grooming brush at least once a week.
FURminator Curry Brush
For keeping your Boerboel’s coat healthy, we recommend the above FURminator Curry brush. This grooming tool is ideal for short-coated dogs like the Boerboel and helps to collect loose hair and any potential dirt or debris picked up by your dog during play.
We also like that this dog brush comes with an easy-grip handle to make efficient brushing easier and painless. Your Boerboel will actually enjoy the experience as well and the process can be a wonderful bonding experience for the both of you when done correctly.
Along with brushing, the Boerboel dog will need occasional bathing once every six weeks to two months. When you do bathe your Boerboel dog, be sure to use a dog-safe shampoo that is gentle on his skin.
Some Boerboel dogs can struggle with skin sensitivities and allergies, so a quality dog shampoo that is made with gentle ingredients is important. Avoid dog shampoos that contain dyes, parabens, chlorine, alcohol, and other additives that could be harmful to your dog’s coat.
Natural Dog Shampoo By The Natural Dog Company
For the Boerboel dog, we like the above all natural dog shampoo by the Natural Dog Company. This shampoo is hypoallergenic and specified for dogs with sensitive skin.
It can even help to reduce itchiness from skin allergies and is made with natural, soothing ingredients that will help to hydrate your dog’s coat and skin using lavender oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, eucalyptus oil and kelp powder.
This shampoo is unscented and tear-free, and does not contain alcohols, sulfates, parabens or other toxins.
Brushing and bathing your Boerboel dog is important, but so is routine teeth cleaning, ear cleaning and nail trimming.
Like many dogs, the Boerboel can be prone to ear infections, so he should have his ears checked and kept free and dry of moisture, waxy buildup and debris. It’s also important to try and brush your Boerboel dog’s teeth at least once a day using a dog safe toothbrush and toothpaste.
Last, make sure you have your Boerboel dogs nails trimmed or ground down regularly to keep them from cracking or splitting during exercise or play.
The Boerboel Dog’s Average Lifespan and Common Health Issues
Because of their large size, Boerboel dogs can be prone to suffering from bone and joint issues as they age.
As a large breed dog, the Boerboel can be prone to a number of health issues you should be aware of and that may even be costly down the road if proper measures are not taken.
With a lifespan of between 10 and 12 years, the Boerboel dog can be predisposed to health issues including:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Heart Disease
- Vaginal Hyperplasia
- And Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (AKA Bloat)
While it’s not always possible to determine ahead of time what your unique Boerboel dog may develop as he ages, there are a few ways you can go about preventing or combating certain health issues in your dog.
Keep Your Boerboel On A Quality Diet:
The Boerboel is a large breed dog that develops quickly. He is muscular and active, and therefore he requires a dog food that is specified for his age, weight and activity level.
The Boerboel dog does best on a high protein dog food that is made with real meat protein and is also a good source of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, carbs and water.
High Protein Blue Buffalo Large Breed Dog Food
Blue Buffalo is a quality dog food brand we like because it is made with high quality ingredients that are free of any additives, byproducts, corn, soy, wheat or gluten. This dog food is also specified for large breed dogs and helps support their bone and muscle development as they age.
You can order this dog food in grain free recipes or typical recipes depending on your preference. It is also available in different protein types including chicken or salmon.
Consider Investing In A Slow Feeder To Combat Bloat
Along with ensuring your dog is on a quality dog food, we also recommend you invest in a slow feeder to help combat bloat.
Also known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, Bloat is a life threatening condition that occurs suddenly and is very common in large, deep chested dogs like the Boerboel.
Bloat occurs when air fills the intestines, causing the stomach to flip. This leads to other organs going into shock.
Without immediate medical attention, Bloat is often fatal. Sometimes this condition comes on suddenly, but it can also be triggered by a dog eating or drinking too much too quickly or eating or drinking immediately after exercise or play.
Vimi Slow Feeder
The Vimi Slow Feeder is designed for large breed dogs and helps prevent bloat by forcing your dog to slow down during mealtime. This not only reduces the amount of air swallowed by your dog when he eats, but it also helps encourage healthy digestion, healthy weight, and healthy eating habits.
For intelligent dogs like the Boerbeol, the slow feeder can also make meal time more fun because it will feel like a game. This can in turn help keep your Boerboel mentally stimulated and happy.
Keep Up With Routine Vet Visits:
Because he is a large breed dog, the Boerboel can be prone to some serious bone and joint issues. These issues can be exasperated as your dog ages. For this reason, we suggest keeping up with routine vet visits to help combat any potential health issues from becoming worse.
Before the age of seven, it’s recommended that your Boerboel sees the vet at least once a year. After he reaches seven, Boerboel dogs should see the veterinarian bi-annually for routine wellness exams and check-ups.
Look Into Purchasing Pet Health Insurance:
Though mostly healthy, the Boerboel dog can be costly if he does develop any of the above listed health issues. If you’re concerned about medical costs when it comes to raising a Boerboel dog, we suggest considering pet health insurance.
Consider Having Your Boerboel Health Screened:
A canine DNA kit can help give you plenty of information about your Boerboel dog and his ancestry, as well as any of the particular health issues he is predisposed to or most likely at risk of inheriting.
This can help when it comes to preventive care and maintenance of your dog over time.
Make Sure You Get Your Boerboel From A Reputable Source:
Last but just as important, it’s best to try and get your Boerboel puppy or rescue dog from a reputable source. This would include reputable breeders who understand the importance of responsible breeding practices or shelters who have taken care to ensure the health of their dogs before placing them for adoption.
But we will talk in more detail about this further down. For now, let’s discuss whether or not the Boerboel and you would make a good match.
The Boerboel And You – Is This The Perfect Match?
Boerboel dogs can make great additions to homes with experienced dog owners.
Some people are attracted to the Boerboel for the wrong reasons. This is a dog that is very large, highly intelligent, and famous for being an intimidating, athletic guard dog.
However, at his core the Boerboel dog is a gentle, loving and intelligent dog with complex emotions and who requires a hands-on and committed owner that understands working dog breeds.
For this reason, we would not recommend the Boerboel to the novice or relatively inexperienced dog owner.
These dogs do best with owners who have the time and energy to commit to these high-maintenance canines and who are willing to train, socialize, exercise and care for these dogs in the unique ways they need.
Boerboel dogs can do well with children and other dogs they are raised with, especially when well trained and socialized. Still, it is important that you always supervise youngsters around the family dog, as we mentioned above. It’s also important to remember that Boerboel dogs are very large, and they are not the ideal apartment dogs for this reason.
They do best in homes with plenty of space and a securely fenced yard where they can roam and play freely.
They should also have an owner that is available and flexible, and has time to commit to this affectionate, devoted and family-oriented canine.
If you are considering a Boerboel dog, it’s also important to keep in mind that these dogs are not permitted in all regions of the United States. Before investing in a Boerboel, it’s a good idea to look into the laws of your area and find out whether or not a dog like the Boerboel falls under certain breed laws.
Expert Tips On Choosing A Breeder Or Rescue To Obtain A Boerboel
When looking for a puppy or rescue dog, it’s important to go through sources you trust.
If you’ve decided that the Boerboel is the best dog for you after reading this article, then congratulations. This is certainly not the most low maintenance dog in the canine kingdom, but when raised with the right family, he can be an absolute treasure.
When looking for a Boerboel or rescue, be sure to do plenty of research and only go through sources you trust. Remember, the key to ensuring your Boerboel is happy and healthy throughout his life often begins before he is even born.
Responsible breeding practices are very important when it comes to obtaining a healthy and well-rounded Boerboel dog.
If you opt to go through a breeder, however, prepare to spend a pretty penny. Well-bred Boerboel puppies from a reputable breeder can cost between $1,200 and $2,500. This price can vary depending on your region and the quality of your Boerboel puppy’s parent breeds.
For Boerboel dogs specifically bred for work or show, this price can be upwards of $7,000 in some areas.
With that being said, be careful of going through breeders who do not have an adequate understanding of this specific breed and who have not used responsible breeding practices. Avoid dog breeders selling Boerboel puppies for much less or much more than their average cost without providing the proper paperwork, and don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions.
When you go through a reputable breeder, you should be provided with paperwork proving your puppy has been screened and cleared of any serious health issues. You may also be able to meet or see the parent dogs to get a better idea of what your Boerboel puppy will grow up to look and behave like.
If you prefer to rescue your Boerboel, you’ll be happy to learn that there are several breed specific rescues in the United States dedicated to this dynamic dog breed.
Though rescuing a Boerboel is often a fraction of the cost of going through a breeder, there is still a fee that comes with adoption. On average, adopting a Boerboel dog can cost between $250 and $500.
However, there are often hidden savings and perks of rescuing a dog. For example, if you rescue a dog older than two you are skipping that wild puppy phase. You may also be able to adopt a dog that has already been microchipped, spayed or neutered.
Most importantly, when you rescue a Boerboel, you are offering a dog in need a loving forever home, and you certainly can’t put a price on that!
We hope this has been an informative article on the Boerboel breed and that you were able to make a decision as to whether or not this would be the perfect dog for you and your family.
We are eager to hear what you think! Leave us your thoughts about the Boerboel in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.