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Boerboel Dog: Breed Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on June 25, 2024 by Dogster Team

Boerboel dog with collar standing on grass

Boerboel Dog: Breed Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

The Boerboel has a presence that you can’t help but notice. It is a giant breed, with some pups tipping the scales at over 150 pounds. They are one of two dogs originating from Southern Africa, along with the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Their intimidating size is an asset for an all-purpose farm dog and guardian.

Breed Overview

Height:

22–27 inches

Weight:

150–200 pounds

Lifespan:

9–11 years

Colors:

Cream, tawny, brown, brindle, red, reddish brown

Suitable for:

Active families looking for loyal and affectionate guardian

Temperament:

Loyal, intelligent, kid-friendly

The dog’s story begins with the German Bullenbijter, also known as the Bullenbeisser, a mastiff-like canine. European settlers in Africa interbred dogs from their homelands to come up with the breed we know today as the Boerboel. The name translates roughly as “farmer’s Bulldog,” which is fitting, given their role. They are a recent addition to the American Kennel Club (AKC), with recognition in 2015.

The Boerboel has won a loyal following in the United States. This dog has moved from obscurity to number 118 on AKC’s list of the most popular breeds. This rise is surprising, given the breed’s size and temperament. We don’t recommend them for first-time pet owners, and they need someone who understands how to train a pooch with their protective nature.

Boerboel Characteristics

Energy
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High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Trainability
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Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Health
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Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Lifespan
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Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Sociability
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Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Boerboel Puppies

Boerboel puppy sitting outdoor
Image by: ALEX S, Shutterstock

We recommend only purchasing puppies from the American Boerboel Club (ABC) list of approved breeders and buying from a reputable seller who conducts the recommended pre-breeding screenings. While relatively healthy, the breed has a risk of several congenital and hereditary conditions that these tests can identify.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Boerboel 🧠

The Boerboel is an intelligent animal. It was necessary when patrolling the homestead against predators, and they had to be alert to respond quickly to threats. It also came in handy when hunting. After all, their quarry (large cats and other formidable game) is equally intelligent. These felines present additional challenges with their stealth and quiet manner.

Pets need mental stimulation. Our animal companions must have enrichment, or they’ll find ways to entertain themselves. Imagine the damage a 200-pound bored Boerboel could do to your home. It’s worth noting this dog doesn’t tolerate being alone well. Therefore, you must also consider your time commitment. This pooch will reward you with fierce loyalty and abundant affection.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Boerboel can make an excellent family pet. They are reliable guardians. Traditionally, their role was to subdue intruders until the owner could deal with the interloper. Therefore, they aren’t big barkers. However, you should heed the warning if your pup has something to say. These dogs are surprisingly good with children. However, we recommend supervising playtime because of their size.

boerboel outdoors
Image by: Asonia, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽 

We don’t recommend getting a Boerboel if you have other pets. The dog is mildly tolerant of other animals. Remember that they are hunters, and they have a high prey drive and may chase a cat running from them. They also have a high wanderlust potential that stems from their instinct to track down their prey.

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Things to Know When Owning a Boerboel

Many of these points underscore the unique challenges of owning a giant breed. It affects every aspect of pet ownership. It also places a greater onus on you to ensure the proper training and socialization of your pet. We strongly urge you to contact your municipality before getting a Boerboel. Some places mistakenly have breed-specific legislation that may affect the legality of owning this dog.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

You should feed your puppy a diet formulated for the breed’s size and life stage. Large dogs mature slower than small ones. They may not reach sexual maturity until the animal is 2 years old. That can affect many decisions you must make as a pet owner, such as when—or if—to spay or neuter your pet.

You should feed a puppy three to four times daily based on the feeding instructions on the product’s label. Dry food offers an affordable option versus canned products. Look for a diet that is labeled complete and balanced. You can rest assured that your pet’s nutritional needs meet the recommendations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).1

You should cut back your pet’s feeding schedule to two meals daily once they become adults. Remember to transition your dog slowly to an adult diet to meet their different nutritional needs. Puppy food is too rich for adults, and this breed has a moderate tendency for weight gain if overfed. We suggest monitoring your pooch’s body condition and adjusting their intake as necessary.

Exercise 🐕

The Boerboel needs daily exercise to stay physically and mentally healthy. It will provide welcome enrichment and interaction with other people and experiences. We don’t recommend taking your pup to dog parks or going off-leash because of the risks they present to other pets. Long walks are an ideal way to ensure your pet gets enough exercise, and it’s a good way to reinforce their canine manners.

male owner walking his young Boerboel dog
Image by: Dmitriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

Training 🎾

A commitment to consistent training is imperative with this breed. It’s easier and safer to control your dog’s behavior when they’re young than trying to rein in an older pet. We strongly urge you to take your role seriously. This breed may not be the best choice if you live alone or travel a lot. As we’ve mentioned, the Boerboel isn’t appropriate for novice pet owners.

Positive reinforcement is the best approach for this surprisingly sensitive animal. The ABC recommends the Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) approach to training. It asserts you as the alpha to avoid dominance issues. We suggest reserving treats as training aids to reinforce this method, but they should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s caloric intake.

Grooming ✂️

The Boerboel has a short coat that sheds moderately. You can cut down on the hair by brushing your pet with a hound glove weekly. It’ll improve circulation so that your pooch will look their best. You should also check your pet’s teeth and ears and trim their nails as needed, although daily walks through the neighborhood will help keep them in check.

young Boerboel dog sitting on grass and looking up
Image Credit: McCann Michelle, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

The fact that the breed is relatively new to the US market means less inbreeding and potential for health problems. Nevertheless, the Boerboel is susceptible to conditions that plague many large dogs, such as hip dysplasia. Reputable sellers will conduct the recommended tests. We recommend avoiding breeders who don’t do these vital health screenings. Stick with individuals who offer a health guarantee.

Minor Conditions
Serious Conditions

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Male vs. Female

The size differences between the sexes are significant. A male can get pretty large. Therefore, understanding your limitations with an animal this big is imperative. Training this pup can be challenging without taking into account their size. Establishing your dominance is essential. Some may find a female dog easier to handle.

Training and socialization are the keys to ensuring an obedient pet. While genetics plays a role, the environment also shapes a dog’s behavior. If you can handle the task physically, either sex will make you a delightful pet.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Boerboel

1. Genetic Research Reveals a Distant Link to Mastiffs and Bullmastiffs

One study examined the genetic relationship between various breeds. The Boerboel forms their own line, eventually merging with the breed cluster containing the Mastiff and Bullmastiff. That helps explain their similar statures and large heads.


2. The AKC Breed Standard Recognizes This Breed’s Sometimes Off-Putting Attitude Toward Other Dogs

You’d expect a pup raised as a guardian to be wary of strangers and other animals. The breed standard acknowledges this aspect of the animal’s history: “An aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted.”


3. One of the Boerboel’s Ancestors Is Not Extinct

The German Bullenbijter was one of the breeds that enthusiasts interbred initially with other dogs to develop the Boerboel. Sadly, they went extinct because of crossbreeding, which diluted their genetic diversity.

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Final Thoughts

The Boerboel is a handsome dog with a robust and muscular body. You’ll undoubtedly feel well-protected with this dog by your side. However, this breed isn’t appropriate for everyone. You must be able to handle an animal this big confidently and securely. In return, you’ll get a loyal and affectionate pet that will bring you and your family much joy.


Featured Image Credit: AleksaMayer, Shutterstock

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