Boerboel Dog: What You Should Know About South African Boerboels

Boerboel Feature

The Boerboel, pronounced Boo-r-bull, is a large guardian dog which is also known as the South African Mastiff.

An impressive breed, they are one of the most powerful dogs in the world, exerting more than 450 pounds of pressure per square inch when they bite.

What does this mean? Well, a Lion and Great White Shark exert around 600 pounds of pressure per square inch.

So, they are an aggressive dog, right?


We’re not denying the Boerboel can become a dangerous dog if left to its own devices.

But, like all dogs with an experienced owner and early training and socialization, the Boerboel is renowned for being good with children, smart and trainable.

A huge character, in a huge body, read on to see if you’ve got what it takes to care for this giant guardian dog.

Quick Breed Summary
Size 24-28 inches
Weight140-200lb (male) and 120-160lb (female)
Lifespan8–10 years
Breed TypeWorking
Suitable ForOwners And Families With Experience Of Large, Powerful Breeds
Color VariationsFawn, Red, Brown, Brindle, Cream
TemperamentIntelligent, Energetic, Loyal, Affectionate, Confident
Other NameSouth African Mastiff, South African Boerboel

What is a South African Boerboel Dog?

South African Mastiff Dog Lying Down

Deriving from the word “boer” (meaning farmer), it is not hard to understand the original purpose of this dog.

The Boerbull was the only dog breed originally bred in South African to defend their home and land (i.e. a Guardian).

It is unclear where the Boerboel first descended from, but it is thought that the Dutch, German and Huguenot settlers brought large, guardian dogs with them to South Africa.

The interbreeding of these dogs eventually resulted in what we know as the Boerboel dog.

A relatively recent addition to the American Kennel Club, the Boerboel was admitted to the Working Group in 2015.

Whilst they were originally bred to be guardians and protectors, they are more than happy being family pets too. Despite their size and power, they can actually be incredibly lazy dogs.

Boerboel Puppy

Boerboel Puppy

Like most puppies, Boerboel puppies are easily influenced and laid back.

The mistake is thinking this will last as they are incredibly intelligent. Early training and socialization are a must. Otherwise, your easy-going Boerboel puppy can easily turn into an adolescent hooligan.

Boerboel prices can range dramatically, for a puppy, you can expect to pay between $1500-$2000 USD.

Because of their high price-tag, this reduces the chances a dog gets into wrong hands or with inexperienced breeders which reduces the number of Boerboel rescue dogs.

Due to their mother’s large size, litter sizes are often quite large (anywhere from 7 to 10 puppies).

You should expect your dog to reach full maturity anywhere between 18-24 months. Due to their weight, these guys are classed as giant breeds so pay attention to what you are feeding your puppy as they are growing!

Boerboel Mastiff Temperament Summary
Weight in Pounds (Min-Max Range)
8 weeks1620
3 months2430
6 months3240
9 months5265
12 months104 130
18 months 156 195

Boerboel Temperament Rating

Boerboel Mastiff

Being historic guardians, it is no surprise that these dogs love their people and family.

They are incredibly loyal and will take their duty protecting their family and home extremely seriously.

What is amazing, is how they do their job so calm and confidently. They are composed and have a stable temperament which is why the Boerboel is a sought-after family dog.

Boerboel Mastiff Temperament Summary
Weight in Pounds (Min-Max Range)
8 weeks1620
3 months2430
6 months3240
9 months5265
12 months104 130
18 months 156 195

The fact that the Boerboel loves their owner and family means he doesn’t tolerate being left alone.

They are often dubbed “velcro dogs” as they just like being with you, because of this they can suffer with separation anxiety.

Remember how powerful they are (bite force of 450 pounds of pressure per square inch), an unhappy or anxious dog, of that size, can do a lot of damage to your home whilst you’re away.

You should aim to keep time spent alone to a minimum with this dog and employ a dog walker or ask family/friends to pop in if you do need to head out for more than an hour.

They are intelligent and trainable, with the right dog trainer.

Training and socialization needs to start young (ideally as young as 8 weeks old) and must challenge them mentally. Make sure they encounter lots of new experiences, people and places frequently between weeks 8 to 16.

South African Boerboels can get bored and will find ways to keep themselves occupied if they are not stimulated.

Are These Dogs Good With Other Pets?

They can be friendly with other household pets too (if raised with them, or socialized from a young age). Like any dog, they need to learn that those other four-legged, two-legged or big-eared creatures aren’t so bad and are part of the family too.

These guys are large, and powerful. They can be the best family dog, but only when raised by people who understand their needs.

Caring For A Boerboel Mastiff

Female Boerboel

Dog owners who have raised powerful dogs before will know exactly what they are letting themselves in for.

A bit of cheekiness, a lot of love, and plenty of smarts to keep you on your toes, you must be an experienced dog owner before adopting a Boerboel.

Food and Diet Requirements

Boerboel Eating

Daily Food Consumption
Guide 2,000+ calories
Cups of Kibble Five Bowls of Kibble Required per Day

Not surprisingly this dog will eat a lot.

Ensure you feed a good quality dog food which meets his nutritional requirements.

When he is a puppy, ensure you are hitting his protein requirements and be mindful of how much calcium is in the food you feed.

Giant breeds grow at such a rapid pace, their skeletons become less dense and therefore weaker.

For that reason, a Boerboel needs much less calcium in their diet.

Excess calcium in giant breed puppies has been associated with a range of conditions including osteochondrosis and pansteatitis.

When choosing a food, ensure it is appropriate for giant breed puppies.

Also be mindful not to overfeed your Boerboel dog.

Obesity can be detrimental to skeletal development, none more so than giant breeds.

You should always see a waistline and he should have an hourglass figure from a bird’s eye view. As an adult, excess weight can place undue pressure on his joints, putting him at risk of hip or elbow dysplasia.

Exercising A Boerboel Dog

South African Boerboel

Daily Exercise Requirements
Minutes 120 minutes
Activity Level This is a high activity dog breed

Another thing to be mindful of with a giant breed is his exercise requirements.

Whilst a Boerboel needs plenty of exercise, a little more care needs to be taken, especially whilst he is a puppy to make sure he isn’t over exercised.

As a puppy, stick to the 5-minute rule.

5 minutes of exercise for every month of age is the maximum exericse your dog should undertake. For example, a 3 month old puppy should be exercised for 15 minutes per day.

Safety tips whilst exercising a Boerboel:

  • Stick to the 5-minute rule
  • Don’t allow your giant breed to climb up/down stairs
  • Don’t allow your dog to get in/out of cars
  • Keep running to a minimum

We know this is easier said than done with a puppy, whilst you can’t stop them running, you can limit their time spent doing it.

Work on recall as young as you possibly can, as he grows and gets bigger, no-one will appreciate a Boerboel bounding over to them, in total disregard to their owner.

In populated areas, you may be better keeping him on leash when walking, some people are intimated by large breeds, no matter how friendly and well trained he is.

As an adult, you should be aiming for 60-120 minutes exercise per day. They thrive in their own secured yard, where they can patrol and keep other animals at bay.

Training Advice For Large & Powerful Dogs

Boerboel Sitting

This dog thrives with positive reinforcement and reward-based training.

Start both training and socialization as soon as you bring him home (this should be around 8 weeks of age).

Show him where you want him to “go-potty” and praise and reward him when he does so. Distract from unwanted behaviors and replace with a more appropriate behavior.

Never use aversive techniques. We know, categorically, that punishment just creates and exacerbates problematic behaviors.

Socialize Your Boerboel

Introduce him to what the world has to offer; people, animals, everything, take it slow and don’t over-load him.

Despite his size and confidence, he is still a puppy and the world can be an intimidating place at times for him.

Socialize him with other friendly dogs. You want him learning positive social etiquette.

With his size and power, you cannot take the risk of him picking up unwanted habits from unruly dog! If this means you choose his friends for him, so be it.

Train Him From a Young Age

He’s smart and trainable, so keep his mind occupied.

Figure out if he is a food or toy orientated dog and use this to your advantage (choose brain games that suit him).

Does He Like Food Reward?
If he is a food dog, place treats under plant pots and encourage him to sniff them out. Then, only place one treat under a selection of pots, to see if he can choose the right pot.

Does He Like Toy Reward?

  1. If he is toy orientated, teach him the names of his toys.
  2. Throw a toy and encourage him to retrieve it.
  3. As he does, label the toy and praise and reward him.
  4. Repeat.
  5. See if he can choose that toy over another one on the floor.

When you are sure he can choose a toy based on its name, move on to labelling other toys (using the same technique).

Eventually, he should be able to select the correct toy when offered a selection.

Health Problems

Whilst typically healthy, the Boerboel, unfortunately is prone to two known health conditions: Dysplasia and Eye Lid ectropion.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia is common in large and giant breeds. This is where there is abnormal development in the joint causing pain and stiffness for your dog.

The conditions can be managed with medication and often surgery is an option. Genetics, nutrition and the environment can also contribute to the development of these conditions.

Eye Issues are also common in the Boerboel too. These are conditions which affect the eye lids; ectropion and entropion. Either where the eyelids turn outwards or inwards.

For that reason, eye tests are recommended for the Boerboel.

Boerboel Appearance, Coat and Grooming

Boerboel Appearance

A giant dog breed with a strong, muscular appearance.

His head is block-like and males should always be bigger than females.

The Boerboel tends to come in a range of colors including:

  • Fawns
  • Reds
  • Browns
  • Brindle

They tend to have a black mask, which is why lots of people look for black Boerboels and some can even be piebald, and some have white markings.

Their coat is short and soft.

With their smooth coat, grooming is a breeze! One or two brushes a week is ample with this dog breed. Odors also don’t have much hair to hold on to, so you won’t notice a particularly doggy smell in your home.

Relatively low shedding, the biggest mess they will make is when they bring mud in on their paws.

They can suffer with their eyes and ear infections, so ensure you check these 2-3 times per week. Starting handling from a young age will help here.

Clean both eyes and ears when necessary and if you notice any changes, pop to see your Veterinarian.

Regular teeth brushing is must to keep those pearly whites, pearly!

Again, introduce teeth cleaning from puppyhood, short sessions, regularly. Studies have shown that daily teeth brushing, as opposed to weekly, is the most effective at reducing bacteria and plaque buildup


A powerful dog, not for first time owners, the Boerboel is intelligent, loyal and confident.

Whilst he does need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to fill his day, he can also be incredibly lazy when the day is done.

He loves nothing more than being with his people and family; following them everywhere they go.

Early training and socialization is necessary with the Boerboel, this pliant and easy-going puppy can quickly turn into an adolescent hooligan without the right guidance.

He will soon chomp his way through your dog food supplies, so consider how his daily needs fit in with your budget.

A strong and stable companion and a loyal protector of his family, but can you give him what he needs? Let us know below.

About John Woods 299 Articles
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.


    • At five months of age, this breed is still a puppy. Her character will be made at the age of about 3 years, not before. However, you should see her character starting to change when she reaches 9 to 10 months. Also, the breed is not a barking one: they need a good reason for barking. Hopefully for you, she is not aggressive, but it’s too early to say that she’s not aggressive (wait for a few months before making such an assessment). I hope the best for you and your dog!

  1. Good day. My boerboel got his rabies injection. After that he is very angry towards my husband. Sometimes he behave normal but the next time he is thunder to my husband so that he can’t get out of the house. What can the problem be and is it treatable? He is 3 years old.

    • There are anecdotal reports from owners about changes in their dog’s behavior post vaccination (various vaccinations). It could be worth speaking with your veterinarian about the change in behavior? Alternatively, seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian in your area. Once you are confident there are no health issues, it would be worth seeking the advice from a qualified behaviorist. Behavior associated with health issues can often be unpredictable, but with the right intervention, often manageable. We hope you get to the bottom of your dog’s change in behavior.

  2. My Boerboel is 3 months and very aggressive especially in the mornings, what could be the reason?

  3. We have been the proud owners of 5 Boerboels – Pumpkin, Simba, Mufasa, Sarafina & Sarabi (notice names from Lion King after our first Pumpkin). The two males Simba (sadly died of brain tumor age 4) and Mufasa (now 6 1/2) both weighed over 200lbs. Pumpkin died at age 11 and weighed 140. Sarafina & Sarabi are sisters and 140+ lbs. Sadly Sarabi (“Daddy’s Little Girl:) had to be put down due to some issues with 3 of her 4 legs. We have a beautiful painting of all 5 of them. They definitely protect us yet are the sweetest dogs ever. And, yes, they do sleep with us (or us with them).

  4. My female Boerboel is 13 months and 27 in at 145 lbs, she has grown way too fast and has caused some problem, her grandfather is in south Africa And 220 lbs and her parents are both big at 165 and 195 but we are working through it. All said the Boerboel Mastiff is the best dogs I’ve ever owned and yes they are like Velcro sidekick to the second power!

  5. I have a 7 month old female named Marli and is a very sweet pup. Sometimes she barks/growls at objects that are new to her, or even familiar ones that have been moved to a new location. She will even bark at me when she is out in the back yard and notices me walking back from the mailbox. It makes me wonder if a Boerboel’s sight and smell need time to develop until they’re more keenly attuned to their surroundings. Your thoughts?

  6. Am a first time dog owner. My boerboel is 8months what food should i give her because she isn’t eating

  7. I LOVE my Boerboel Leela!! Shes about 2 yrs old now, and roughly 160 lbs of solid muscle! So incredibly intelligent, intuitive, and obedient. Boerboels tend to bond with one specific person in the home and that would be my boyfriend. She never loses sight of him. Leela’s definitely a “Velcro Dog”!! But completely loyal to our whole household. She is very good at sensing emotions and responding lovingly and carefully. Her best friend is our cat, they snuggle up together everyday. Please don’t tell my Rottweiler Roshi, but Leela is the best dog I’ve ever had!!

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