south african boerboel mastiff breed feat

The South African Boerboel Mastiff Breed

The Boerboel Mastiff – Born to Guard

african boerboel mastiffIf there’s one thing that sets the Boerboel mastiff from the other mastiff breeds, it is that this particular breed has the reputation as being the best guard dog among the lot.

That should say a lot since, generally speaking, mastiffs are born to be very protective of their masters and there is hardly anything that can deter them. Can you just imagine what the best of the best would be like?

The Boerboel mastiff is the only dog in the world said to be bred specifically to guard and protect their masters without being too aggressive. The word Boerboel is actually an Afrikaans word which means ‘farmer’s dog’. This breed was developed in Africa to be a working dog and a protector.

It is also known as the South African Mastiff

Physical Traits

2 south african mastiffs

The qualities of the Boerboel mastiff should be quite evident in its appearance. These dogs are large and muscular, which makes them a very impressive breed. While they don’t look mean (they look quite amicable even), anyone and anything alive would be quite unwilling to be regarded as an enemy by a massive creature such as this.

Just their sheer presence of the South African Mastiff is enough to intimidate oncoming predators and strangers. You’ll find that these dogs can tip the scale to 200 pounds (90K) and with most of that being ripping muscle compacted into a height of 28 inches, these dogs are a powerhouse! These powerhouses come in a verity of shades of colors and markings including light shades of brown, tints of black, brindle, and red. So you have your choice when it comes to color.

Also, it is different from other large dogs in its movements as it carries its weight with a bit more grace; moving fluidly and are athletic, As opposed to other mastiffs. They also have fewer wrinkles than the many other mastiff breeds; with only a slight wrinkling of the skin of their brow – because of this the Boerboel mastiff is often confused with the Bulldog breed.

A Little History for a Big Dog

south african mastiff in woodThe South African Mastiff, also commonly known as the South African Boerboel ( ‘Boerl’ – meaning farmer, ‘Boel’ – meaning bull or Mastiff) is claimed to fame by its superior skill of guarding a territory and its owners. This breed came about specifically to guard the people of the Great Trek during the rebellion against British colonization of Africa. During this “Great Trek,” thousands were displaced and used the guardianship of the Mastiff to protect them from predators such as lions and to aid in hunting.

The Boerboel mastiff breed was developed from several breeds in Africa that were crossed with the large Mollaser type dogs and the existing mastiff types that the English brought to Africa in the 1820’s. The English bulldog and the Bullmastiff are considered key breeds in the development of the Boerboel – I guess that explains why these dogs are usually mistaken to be bulldogs.

The specific origin of the South African Mastiff is really sketchy. Due to this continuous breeding by various scattered colonies, using various dogs, brought in by European settlers and mixing them with other indigenous African dogs, there’s little hope in pinpointing the past influences of this breed.

It can be speculated that the “bullenbijter” mastiff brought in by the Dutch East Indian Trading Company including long-legged bulldog and other varieties of molossers brought in by European settlers had the greatest influence on this breed we know today.

A Boerboel Mastiff’s Temperament

2 south african mastiffs

If you’re considering getting a Boerboel Mastiff for your home, please be aware that this breed is highly dependent on human companionship. If left on their own for extended periods of time, they can become destructive and bad-tempered. You’ll also want to have a large backyard where your Boerboel can run and play; preferably an acreage as this breed will go stir-crazy cramped up in an apartment. In training, it is better for you to designate their territory or else they will expand their area of responsibility too wide.

Through play and attention, the South African mastiff will develop a favorable temperament of being loving calm and obedient. They’re naturally intelligent and confident so their guardian style can be very territorial without aggression (unless they are trained to do so). The level of obedience you will obtain from these dogs will depend on your status as being the alpha master, or pack leader in the dog’s mind; this needs to be established to have full obedience and it’s not hard to do.

On the flipside of the coin, if you do not establish dominance over this Mastiff, and do not give them the adequate amount of socialization and playtime you can have some trouble on your hands; as their natural guardianship and territorialism instincts can become aggressive and even dangerous. Also, they may bark loudly whenever strangers and other animals are spotted. Furthermore, they will not hesitate to use force when the intruder does not heed their warning.

Because they are born to be guard dogs, they are fiercely protective of their family and their territory. However, they are usually quiet and docile, especially in the presence of their masters and those who they can recognize to be a friend. Now don’t see the protective nature of this breed as a problem for a family pet. The other side of their aggressive behavior towards any intruders is a genuine intention to protect everyone in their family. Instead of using their massive strength, they will display gentleness when playing with your children. When properly socialized, these dogs will also be fiercely protective of your other pets. And they are known to get along very nicely even with cats and chickens.

So socialization for the South African Mastiff is essential. Make sure to give your mastiff proper introductions to new people so they feel comfortable around them. If it’s the first time “big fluffy” meets Aunt Martha, give them a quick introduction so fluffy knows Martha is cool. Your search for the perfect guard dog for you and your family may not have begun with the Boerboel but it should certainly end with one.

9 Tips For The Potential Boerboel Owner


Here is a little advice in your search for your next family member, your dog.

  1. First of all, never go visit a breeder for the first time to look at pups. Pups are always sweet and adorable, and it will cloud your ability to be objective in your search.
  2. Always ask for proper health certificates and pedigrees (in actual black and white!) on the parents to the pup you are hoping to get.
  3. Visit as many breeders as possible before making a decision to buy.
  4. If/when you decide to buy a pup, ask the breeder to help you pick the one that has the personality/character that fits your family. The breeder is the one that knows the pups and a good breeder will not let you fall for “the cute factor”, color or other not important factors.
  5. Do not bring your children when picking your pup! The decision you make is adding a member to your family for the next 10-15 years, and it should not be done on impulse or without serious consideration to how this will affect your family for time, money and space.
  6. Remember that you are not obligated to buy a pup with a certain breeder, just because he/she has taken the time to show you his dogs.
  7. Never buy a pup because it needs to be “rescued” from a terrible living condition. Not only will you most probably get a poorly socialized pup, but chances are that it will also be in bad health. Plus you actually support a “backyard breeder”.
  8. Make sure that your pup is microchipped, as this is demanded by law, and if not, it might get you in trouble later.
  9. If a breeder is busier telling you bad stories about other breeders, than they are telling good things about their own breeding, ask yourself; Why can that be? Most gossip is exactly just that and not an expression of actual facts.

Good luck in the search for your next Mastiff!

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About the Author Joycey

All my life I've been in love with one big dopey Mastiff family member after another. No other breed has given so much pleasure, so it's a joy for my team and I to research everything there is to know about them in this blog. We hope you enjoy the reading as much as we enjoy the writing :)