Boerboel: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

boerboel outside in front of flowers

EstrellaBuena / iStock / Getty Images

The boerboel is a large working dog breed from South Africa that has a smooth, short coat and a muscular build. Its head is big and blocky with a relatively short nose and V-shaped ears that hang down. The overall appearance of the boerboel displays power and courage. This mastiff-type dog was bred to be a guardian, and it can even defend property against lions. It’s generally very devoted to its family. But it is a lot of dog to handle and consequently not ideal for novice dog owners.

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 22 to 25 inches (female), 24 to 27 inches (male)

Weight: 150 to 200 pounds

Coat: Short, smooth

Coat Color: Brindle, brown, cream, red, reddish brown, or tawny with/without white markings, black mask, piebald, and/or Irish marked

Life Span: 9 to 11 years

Temperament: Courageous, alert, protective

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: South Africa

Characteristics of the Boerboel

The boerboel typically has a confident temperament but is affectionate with its family. It can even be good around kids, but it’s often wary of other dogs and strangers. High intelligence, sometimes with a stubborn streak, also helps to shape this dog’s personality.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Boerboel

The powerful boerboel was chiefly developed by Dutch and other European settlers arriving in South Africa during the 1600s to guard their homestead. They brought with them their mastiff-type and bulldog-type breeds, which ultimately interbred with other breeds to give rise to the modern boerboel.

These dogs could run off lions, leopards, and baboons from their property. They were alert, powerful, and courageous. And they wouldn’t back down from a threat. 

Today’s boerboel still retains those characteristics. But it also tends to be gentle and friendly with its family. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 2015, and it still remains fairly uncommon in North America. 

Boerboel breed on display at the 140th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Jan. 21, 2016
 John Lamparski / WireImage / Getty Images

Boerboel Care

This large dog breed needs plenty of space to exercise every day. Its grooming needs are fairly straightforward. Plus, early and consistent training and socialization are essential for a well-mannered dog.


Plan to spend at least an hour exercising your boerboel every day. Long walks, jogging, hiking, and vigorous playtime all are ideal ways to get some of the dog’s energy out. Puzzle toys also can present mental challenges for this intelligent breed.

Be sure never to let your boerboel off leash unless it’s in a securely fenced area outside. This dog might become aggressive around strangers and other dogs. As such, it’s often not a good breed to take to a dog park.


The boerboel typically only requires basic grooming. Brush it weekly with a soft-bristle brush or grooming mitt to remove loose fur and distribute skin oils. Expect periods of higher shedding often in the spring and fall, during which you’ll have to increase brushing to keep up with the loose fur. 

Bathe your dog every month or so, depending on how dirty it gets. But check whether its ears need cleaning at least weekly. Trim its nails roughly once a month, and aim to brush its teeth every day.


Start training and socializing your boerboel when it’s a puppy to instill good behaviors. A full-size boerboel with poor manners can be very difficult to handle. This intelligent breed typically learns quickly and responds well to positive-reinforcement training methods, such as treats and praise. But it can be stubborn and independent. So it’s essential that you are consistent with your commands and don’t let bad behaviors slide. 

When boerboel puppies are regularly exposed to different people, other dogs, and various locations, their protective instinct might be able to be somewhat muted. Having lots of positive experiences around strangers is key. But they likely will always have some degree of wariness around strangers.

Boerboel puppies outside
AfricaImages / Getty Images
Boerboel sitting outside
 JFJacobsz / iStock / Getty Images
Boerboel standing on a path
MirasWonderland / iStock / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The boerboel is overall a healthy breed, but it is prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water accessible for your boerboel. And feed it a quality canine diet with balanced nutrition, typically via two measured meals per day. Discuss the type of food and the amount with your vet. You might need to adjust the diet based on factors including age, activity level, and more. Also, be mindful of treats and other extra food, and regularly monitor your dog’s weight. Large breed dogs in particular should stay at a healthy weight to avoid putting added stress on their joints. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a Boerboel

Boerboels aren’t common at animal shelters and rescue groups in North America, but it is still possible to find them. See whether you can get your name on a breed wait list. Likewise, you might have to travel far for a breeder and wait some time for puppies to be available. For a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $2,000 on average.

For further information to help you find a boerboel, check out: 

Boerboel Overview

  • Typically affectionate with family

  • Usually learns training commands quickly

  • Low-maintenance coat

  • Can be dominant and stubborn

  • Can be aloof with strangers

  • Not always friendly with other dogs

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Do plenty of research on the boerboel before bringing one home to make sure the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to boerboel owners, responsible breeders, rescue groups, and veterinary professionals. Spend some time around the breed too if you can.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are boerboels good family dogs?

    Boerboels are generally loving with their family and are often good with children, provided that they have proper training and socialization. But dogs should always be supervised around young children. 

  • Are boerboels aggressive?

    Boerboels were bred to be guard dogs, and as such they have a strong protective instinct. They can be wary of strangers and other dogs, and they might become aggressive toward perceived threats, which makes proper training and socialization crucial.

  • Are boerboels good apartment dogs?

    Boerboels are best for a home that has a secure yard in which they can run freely. They are likely too large for an apartment and might feel the need to protect their property from strangers in an apartment complex.

Article Sources
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  1. Boerboel. American Kennel Club.

  2. Boerboel Puppies For Sale, American Kennel Club Marketplace.