What Is A Boerboel
The Boerboel is a large dog breed that originates and was developed in South Africa. The name Boerboel comes from the Afrikaans/Dutch words of “boer” (farmer) and “boel” which refers to the Bullenbijter (Bull Biter) ancestry of the breed.
From its appearance the Boerboel has very obvious mastiff dog ancestry but in order to withstand the harsh conditions of 1800 southern Africa many other strains of dogs had to be introduced to the genetic mix. The earliest progenitors of the Boerboel dog breed probably date all the way back to 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck (the man who founded the Dutch settlement at Cape of Good Hope) first arrived in southern Africa.
History Of The Boerboel
When he first set foot in southern Africa Jan van Riebeeck had with him a huge imposing dog that was a Bullenbijter (Bull Biter). The dog was there for one main reason; protection. Van Riebeeck’s large Bullenbijter with its enormous mastiff beefiness proved more than capable to function as protector and enforcer.
Impressed by Riebeeck’s Bullenbijter other settlers followed his lead and soon the various settlements were teeming with large imposing dogs that hailed from all across the European continent. Inevitably with time crossbreeding of those various specimens took place planting the genetic seed for the Boerboel dog as we know it.
Big and imposing as those foreign dog specimens were there was one opponent that they were no match for and that was mother nature African style. Not long after the introduction of their various dog breeds to southern Africa many of them succumbed to the harsh conditions to which they were exposed. Those harsh conditions were in the form of the African heat and a wide array of African diseases to which the dogs were no match!
So the settlers took the most logical step which was to crossbreed their oversized dogs with the much hardier and disease resistant local African dogs. One such local dog was the Khoi dog from which the Boerboel inherited its much greater tolerance to heat (as compared to other mastiff dog breeds), an exceptional resistance to Tick Bite Fever (amongst other diseases) as well as its intense dislike for big cats especially the leopard!
Why The Boerboel Is So Resilient And Has A Great Temperament
One of the breed standard requirements of the Boerboel dog is that it have a super stable temperament. The Boerboel’s fantastic temperament did not arise by accident but rather was planned for during its development. Here’s how it came about:
After the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806 and by the year 1820 when more and more British settlers took up residence several Afrikaan and Dutch settlers felt they had no recourse but to relocate to avoid the harsh yoke of British rule. So began what is now known in history as the Great Trek!
The period of the Great Trek spanned several decades and involved the migration to very remote regions; a process that played a significant part in the development of the robust nature and signature character of the Boerboel dog.
The trek of the 1830s – 1840s (the Great Trek) was an exodus that involved more than 10,000 Afrikaan and Dutch families, a journey that also included theirs strongest and best dogs. These treks into the interior unchartered regions of the heartland were relentless and unforgiving. Before the trek was over many fell by the wayside, both dog and man!
By the time the trek was over and the migrants resettled in the deepest regions of the heartland only the hardiest of dogs had survived and it was from this gene pool that the modern Boerboel gets its genetic robustness and stamina.
Due to the limited amount of contact with the outside world and with few dogs alive after the trek the settlers had little option but to replenish their dogs from the few that remained. In this manner the homogeneity of the Boerboel dog breed was fashioned.
The Mutli-Purpose Boerboel Dog
Having settled in the very remote inner regions of southern Africa the Dutch farmers had to rely ever more on their Boerboel dogs. And thus the Boerboel dog had to be much more than a four-legged companion in those early days and during the 17th and 18th century the dog very often had duties that were akin to those of a ranch foreman.
When, as happened quite often, the farmer had to leave his family behind unattended on the farm the responsibility fell on the Boerboel dog to keep them safe from every and any conceivable threat. The Boerboel dog’s duties were not limited to looking out for its human family but it also protected the livestock of the farm from such predators like leopards as well as human predation.
Other duties of the Boerboel included being a pet or companion to the family.
These dogs were expected to interact well with all members of the family and despite their phenomenal power were bred for a well-balanced disposition such that they could be entrusted to safeguard and attend to even the very youngest of the children without posing as any kind of threat themselves. Any dogs that were perceived as dangerous to the children were immediately culled! This is how a dog that has the power to thwart even a leopard attack can still be the trusted, gentle minder of children.
The Boerboel is a large dog weighing anywhere from 150 – 200 lbs and individuals have been documented on record as having killed leopards. In other words this is a formidable dog breed characterized by enormous power and capable of causing a lot of damage, but this is a dog breed that was also renowned for its exceptional gentleness, loyalty and kindness towards members of its family.
In fact the Boerboel has been described as being the most protective dog breed without being aggressive. In other words unlike some other protective dog breeds the Boerboel will not initiate a vicious uncontrolled attack when confronted with a stranger on its territory. Rather the Boerboel will assess the situation and perceive the stranger’s intentions (and if you are around it will read your body language) before deciding whether the situation be categorized as a threat; then the Boerboel will counter the threat with the necessary force to defuse it!
Article on boerboels written by Kayye Nynne