A Boerbel sits on a dirt path in a birch forest.

Imposing, immense, and intelligent Boerboels hail from South Africa, where they were bred to protect remote farms and homesteads from intruders and wild animals. Descended from mastiff-type dogs, Boerboels are big boned, with a large head and a stocky, muscular body. They are loving with family members, and gentle and playful with children. But as their guard dog role suggests, Boerboels are fiercely protective when they suspect a threat to their home or people. They require consistent training and socialization from an early age so they are manageable and well mannered.

Boerboels are a lot of dog to manage, both in size and personality, and only experienced, confident owners should consider the breed. Among the 'velcro' dogs, Boerboels follow their owners around the house and balk when left alone by turning to destructive habits. Training and socialization should be ongoing through a Boerboel's life, with a focus on consistency, gentleness, and positive reinforcement. This massive dog is sensitive to harsh treatment and may respond with aggression.

Other Names

The Boerboel is also called the South African Mastiff.

Physical Description


Boerboels have a shiny coat that is short and dense. The coat color can be any shade of brown, red, or fawn. They may also be brindle, or, more rarely, piebald. They frequently have a black mask.


Average Height: 22-27 inches


Male: 143-176 pounds

Female: 110-143 pounds

Breed Standard & History

Strength, courage, and steadfastness are the standout qualities of Boerboels. They are muscular and stocky, with a thick neck and big bones. Their size doesn't weigh them down, however, as they are both powerful and agile in motion. Their dark brown eyes are alert and attentive. When they are inquisitive, their forehead displays slight wrinkling. Boerboels' V-shaped ears hang forward, and they have deep black coloring on the facial mask, nose, and paws.

Boerboels developed when powerful breeds brought to South Africa by Dutch colonists were interbred with indigenous dogs. It is thought Mastiffs, Bulldogs, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks contributed DNA to the modern Boerboel. What emerged was a fearsome, versatile dog who could protect remote farms and withstand South Africa's heat. Fans of Boerboels began a breeding program in the 1980s to establish today's purebred standard. Boerboels soon became popular as companion dogs in urban areas of South Africa and gained modest popularity in other parts of the world as well. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2015.

AKC Breed Category

Working Group


General Temperament

Boerboels are strong-willed, dominant, and brave. They will assume a leadership position if allowed, which is why they require a self-assured owner who can take the lead. Training and socialization should start young and continue throughout the Boerboel's life. Thankfully, the breed is also smart and willing to please, so consistent training should result in an obedient dog. Boerboels are protective of their families and are particularly loving of the children in their pack.

Family Life

Are Boerboels Good with Kids? Boerboels are gentle and patient with kids with whom they're raised. However, because of their massive size and assertive personality, they should live with only older children who know how to treat dogs gently and respectfully. The breed should always be put in a secure room when your kids' friends come to visit because they may mistake them as a threat.

(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)

Are Boerboels Good with Other Pets? With their domineering personalities, Boerboels should never live with other dogs, cats, or small animals.


Boerboels were bred to protect and the instinct is strong in them.

Are Boerboels Good Guard Dogs? Boerboels take guarding their families and homesteads seriously. They aren't prone to barking, so pay heed when they do. Boerboels usually drive intruders away by their appearance alone. If not, they'll place themselves between their families and danger, and put up a ferocious fight.

Energy Levels

While strong and athletic, Boerboels are not excessively energetic. They often enjoy keeping watch over their domain from the comfort of their dog bed.

Specific Concerns:

  • Dominant personalities
  • Require confident, experienced dog owners
  • Early socialization and continued training are crucial
  • Prone to aggression towards other dogs
  • Very muscular and heavy
  • Highly protective



Boerboels consider their families their pack and should live indoors with them. They require plenty of attention at home and are known to follow family members around the house. Keep your Boerboel busy and challenged with puzzle dog toys and activities so they don't become bored and destructive.


Boerboels should spend hours outdoors every day so they get the exercise and mental stimulation they require. A large, enclosed yard is a good place to play and train your Boerboel. Ensure the yard is secure because Boerboels may try to escape, which puts them and others in danger.


A healthy, adult Boerboel requires between one and two hours of physical activity and training each day. They are excellent at most dog sports and agility training. Boerboels respond best to firm, confident trainers who treat them respectfully.


Boerboels have the stamina for play sessions and walks that last between 30 minutes and an hour. This breed does best when exercise and training are broken up through the day, with time for resting in between.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Healthy, adult Boerboels can run with you for about a mile. With their bulky frames, they are not exceptional distance runners.
  • Hiking Miles: Bred with the stamina to cover vast expanses of farmland, Boerboels can easily manage a half-day hike with you. Be sure your Boerboel is leash trained (and on a quality leash) and follows commands without fail before hitting the trail.


Boerboels require high-quality dog food designed for large breed dogs. The amount of food Boerboels should eat varies widely based on their size, activity level, and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Boerboel. Their daily food requirements should be split into two or three meals.

Alone Time 

Though brave and self-confident, Boerboels don't enjoy spending time alone. Bored Boerboels engage in destructive behaviors and can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Crate train your Boerboel, so he'll be happy in his dog crate for an hour or two. Beyond that, your Boerboel will likely act out.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

9-11 years


The Boerboel's short coat requires grooming only once a week. A bath once a month, or when they get dirty, will keep them clean and pleasant smelling. Wash your Boerboel's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush his teeth several days a week, and trim his nails every month or so to prevent painful cracking.

Common Health Issues

Boerboels may develop breed-specific health conditions—some serious—including:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Eyelids that turn inwards or outwards (ectropion and entropion)
  • Bloat
  • Heart ailments

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Boerboel by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Boerboels are not a breeze to train. They are strong-willed and dominant, and will make a play to be top dog, which should never be allowed. This breed requires firm, consistent training that is never punishing. Training should be a part of your Boerboels daily routine for his whole life.

Advanced Training

Advanced obedience training is a must to ensure the strong-willed, powerful Boerboel remembers his manners. They are also excellent candidates for dog sports and agility training.

Sporting Dog Training

While Boerboels were hunting companions in South Africa, they are not considered an adept field companion today.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Boerboels.

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No. Boerboels have a double coat that sheds and, as a result, leaves pet dander in your home. Pet dander is the primary cause of pet related allergies.

The Boerboel's stocky, dense physique isn't naturally suited to swimming. But some Boerboels can learn to swim and enjoy the water. Take your dog's lead when it comes to swimming and watch him closely in or near water.

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