The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

The Purebred Boerboel

Information and Pictures

Duke the Boerboel wearing a choke collar sitting outside with its mouth open and tongue out. There is another dog running behind him

Duke the Boerboel at 1 year old

Other Names
  • African Boerboel
  • South African Boerboel
  • South African Mastiff

The Boerboel is a big, strong and intelligent working dog. It is well balanced with good muscle development and buoyant in movement. The dog should be impressive and imposing. Male dogs appear noticeably masculine and females feminine. All parts of the body should be in proportion with each other. The head is the most important feature of the Boerboel, as it represents its total character. It is short, broad, deep, square and muscular with well filled cheeks. The part between the eyes must be well filled. The top of the head is broad and flat, with prominent muscle development. The face should blend symmetrically with the head, and can be with or without a black mask. The stop should be visible, but not prominent. The muzzle is black with large nostrils which are widely spaced. The nasal bone is straight and parallel to the topline of the head which is deep, broad and tapers slightly to the front. The nasal bone should be 8-10 cm long. The loose, fleshy upper lip should cover the lower lip, but should not hang lower than the lower jaw. The jaws (mandibles) are strong, deep and broad, and narrow slightly to the front. The teeth should be white, well developed, correctly spaced, with a complete set of 42 teeth and a scissors bite. The broad, horizontally set eyes are any shade of brown, but darker then the pelt, with firm, well-pigmented eyelids. The ears should be of medium size, V-shaped and should be in proportion to the head. They are set fairly high and wide against the head. When the dog is alert, the ears should form a straight line with the top of the head. The neck shows a noticeable muscle curve, and is attached high at the shoulder. The strong, muscular neck is of medium length and in proportion to the rest of the dog. The skin of the neck is loose under the throat and becomes taut between the front legs. The body narrows slightly toward the loin. The topline should be straight. The back is straight, broad and in proportion, with prominent back muscles and a short loin. The rump is broad and strong, with good muscle development. The chest is muscular, broad and strong. The straight, short tail is attached high to the body. The front legs should be perfectly vertical. The hind paws are slightly smaller than the front paws. The big, well-padded paws are rounded with dark curved toenails. The paws should point straight forward. Dewclaws should be removed. The skin is thick, loose, well pigmented with moderate wrinkles on the forehead when the dog is alert. The short, dense, sleek coat comes in cream white, pale tawny, black, reddish brown, brown and all shades of brindle.


The Boerboel is reliable, obedient and intelligent, with strong watch and guard-dog instincts. It is self-assured and fearless. The Boerboel is very playful and affectionate toward its owner. Its favorite pastime would be to play a game of fetch loving every minute it spends with its master. Its jaws are strong and they will most often pop the ball it it playing with. Not to fret, it will just play with the popped ball! They are very gentle and good with children they know; allowing them to ride on their backs like a horse, loving every minute of the attention they are getting. Boerboels will do okay with other dogs, cats and other non-canine pets, letting birds come down and snatch from their food bowl! They will guard their family, friends and property with their life. When their owners are not home they will not allow anyone to enter the home, unless they know them very well. When welcomed visitors arrive they will accept them after being properly introduced. This breed requires a dominant owner. The authority the owner projects over the dog should be so strong that the dog will not bolt out the front door when it is opened. The objective in training this dog is to achieve a pack leader status. It is a natural instinct for a dog to have an order in its pack. When we humans live with dogs, we become their pack. The entire pack cooperates under a single leader; lines are clearly defined and rules are set. Because a dog communicates his displeasure with growling and eventually biting, all other humans MUST be higher up in the order than the dog. The humans must be the ones making the decisions, not the dogs. That is the only way your relationship with your dog can be a complete success. If one does not understand this concept 100% and have confidence that they can handle such a large guard type breed then this is not the dog for them. With the right owners the Boerboel can make a wonderful pet.

Height, Weight

Height: Males 25 - 28 inches (64 - 70 cm) Females 23 - 25.5 inches (59 - 65 cm)

Weight: 154 - 200 pounds (70 - 90 kg)

Health Problems

Due to artificial selection the Boerboel is a very healthy breed.

Living Conditions

The Boerboel is not recommended for apartment life. It should, at least, have a large, fenced-in yard to run and play. The Boerboel can live outdoors. This breed should not be left to run on its own for it is very protective and sometimes does not take too well to strangers.


The Boerboel will get a lot exercise if it has a large yard to run and play. However it needs to be taken on a long daily walk. Boerboels love to play and would love a good game of ball.

Life Expectancy

About 10 years

Litter Size

About 7 to 10 puppies


The Boerboel is fairly easily to groom. An occasional brushing and a monthly bath and dip are all they need. This breed is an average shedder.


The development of the Boerboel can rightfully be described as a true South African success story and is today a beacon for those who have made a contribution to improve the breed. The refining of the breed is still on the developing stage. Much has already been written on the descent of the Boerboel but nobody can state with certainty that it is bred from one, two or more breeds of dogs. What is confirmed by investigation is that Jan van Riebeeck brought with him a "bullenbijter" on his arrival to the Cape. This dog was a large strong breed which reminded one of the Mastiff type of dog. Those who followed Van Riebeeck to the Cape had also brought with them only the largest and strongest dogs and over a period of decades only the strongest survived in the now desolate country. With the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820 they brought amongst others the Bulldog and Mastiff type of dog. (In 1938 the real Bull Mastiff was imported to South Africa by De Beers to guard the diamond mines.) It is also known that they imported a champion obtained from the Hottentots, who played a role in the development of the Boerboel. The "Boerdogs" (as they are known) were scattered by the Voortrekkers during the Great Trek and they continued to breed with them. According to tradition, after the Anglo Boer War in 1902, these dogs were cross-bred with the English long-legged Bulldog and also with the Bull Mastiff in the late and early 1950s. The history is especially known among the farmers of the North-Eastern Free State, Northern Natal and in parts of Transvaal.


Mastiff, AKC Working

  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • EBBASA = Elite Boerboel Breeders Association of South Africa Boerboelclub (Nederland)
  • HBSA = The Historical Boerboel Club of Southern Africa
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • RIBC = Russian International Boerboel Club Samba Global
  • SABT = South African Boerboel Association
  • SAMBA Global = International organization, whose primary goal is to aid the protection & development of the South African Boerboel
  • USBA = United States Boerboel Association
Mia the South African Boerboel as a puppy licking the face of a child rolling around in the grass

Mia the South African Boerboel as a puppy at about 6 weeks old

Mia the Boerboel puppy laying on the carpet with a dog bone in its mouth

Mia the South African Boerboel as a 6-month-old puppy

Keano the Boerboel sitting outside looking at the camera holder

Keano, a ten-month-old Boerboel from Cape Town, South Africa

Close Up - Otis the Boerboel laying at the top of a wooden toy sliding board in front of the green slide

Otis, an African Boerboel at 2 years old, weighing 150 lbs., "He loves to lounge on the kids’ swing set."

Bolt the Boerboel puppy laying on a sidewalk looking into the distance.

Bolt the Boerboel puppy at 5 weeks old—"Bolt is a purebred Boerboel who is warm and lovely."

Left Profile -  Boerboels looking into the distance

Photo courtesy of Desert Sky Boerboels

Bakari the Boerboel sitting outside in grass and looking to the left with a person trying to put him in a stack pose

African Boerboel Bakari at 10 months and 130 pounds

Close Up - Bob the Boerboel standing in sand with its mouth open and its tongue out and eyes squinted

Bob the Boerboel—Photo courtesy of Estrones' Boerboels in Botswana, Africa

Bob the Boerboel  standing next to a boy who is behind Destiny the Boerboel

Mboys with Bob and Destiny—the three family friends. Notice the relative sizes of their heads? Photo courtesy of Thokwengs' Boerboels in Botswana, Africa

Front view looking down at the face of a large black dog with a huge head, brown eyes and a big black nose with extra skin laying down on a person's bed.

Creed the black Boerboel dog

See more examples of the Boerboel