About African Boerboels

about the Amazing Boerboel Breed


The main breed register for the Boerboel is SABBS. Boerboels can also be registered with other groups, including in the U.S.: NABBA, the USBA and the ABC. The Boerboel is now also eligible for registration with the AKC under their Foundation Stock program (FSS).

The SABBS Breed Standard does an excellent job at describing and testing what a Boerboel should look like. It does not, however, test for what a Boerboel should be able to do nor does it test temperament in any substantial way. There exists an extensive debate about the working Boerboel and how to test for the traits the historical Boerboel is said to have had.

Boerboel Associations

You can find additional information at these association websites



Boerboel Characteristics 

From a working perspective, a Boerboel should be able to complete the functions of a farm protection dog, to be a companion with sound nerve and correct temperament, and neither overly aggressive nor shy. The Boerboel should be agile enough to jump into the back of a truck, to keep up with a horse and to help out with farm tasks. He must be able to protect his owner and their property from humans and animals that invade his territory. These things cannot be tested for from merely appraising the looks of the dog, in our opinion.  We cannot guarantee that Dekken dogs will be able to do these things, only that this our hope for our Boerboels.

A Bit of History… Legend… Folklore (according to some)

There is conjecture about the origin of the Boerboel so what follows is one opinion and not to be taken as an absolute account.

The Boerboel is a large, strong, and intelligent working dog that has been bred in Africa since the seventeenth century. Various mastiff type dogs from Europe and large dogs from Africa contributed to the development of the breed. While no one can trace the Boerboel back to one or two specific breeds what is known is that Jan van Riebeeck brought with him a “bullenbijter” on his arrival to the Cape (South Africa). This dog was a large strong breed that resembled a Mastiff type dog.

With the arrival of the British settlers in 1820, other dogs were brought, including the bulldog and a Mastiff-type dog. In 1938, a Bull Mastiff was imported to South Africa by DeBeers to guard the diamond mines and in 1938 a champion male dog was imported. The immigrant and colonists dogs played a role in the development of the Boerboel. The “Boerdogs”, as they were known, were scattered by the Vootrekkers during the Great Trek and they continued to breed them.

According to tradition, after the Anglo Boer War in 1902, these dogs were cross-bred with the English long-legged Bulldog and in the late 1940s with the Bull Mastiff. The refining of this breed is still in developing stages, therefore there are still many challenges ahead.

A typical Boerboel’s characteristics are very similar to that of the Assyrian dogs of the period up to 700 BC.

In the seventh century before Christ, two kings reigned over Asia on separate occasions. Both kings used large dogs to hunt wild horses and lions. The existence of these kings, Asarhaddon and Ashurbani-pal, as well as their involvement with dogs can be seen in the Asian rooms at the well known British Museum.

These large dogs of Asia were of great importance to their owners as well as being the symbol of the god Gula. They were, according to stone carvings, also a great deal larger and heavier than the breeds known today. Darvin, in one of his writings about this period, mentioned a large dog figure on the grave of King Asarhaddon’s son. This statue dates back to the year 640 B.C.

From the works of Philemon Holland which he translated from Pliny’s Natural History, 1601, there are various references to prominent persons who made use of large dogs for various reasons. In the same writings reference is made to Alexander the Great. The king of Albania gave a dog to Alexander the Great as a gift. Alexander was very impressed with this gigantic dog until he wanted to use him to hunt bears, thereafter wild boars and later reindeer. The dog was not interested in the least and stayed lying down. Alexander the Great, the mighty king, the well known conqueror, was livid with the laziness shown by this dog and immediately had him killed. News of this tragedy quickly reached the king of Albania. Without delay he sent a replacement to Alexander the Great with a message: “Do not waste the dog’s time with small things. Give him a lion or elephant to fight with.” (from LionsHead Kennels)