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Boerboel with green background

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Working Group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 20 to 28 inches
  • Weight — 110 to 180 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Short and dense double coat
  • Coat color — Cream, brown, rust, brindle, or red, with puppies showing no significant difference in color compared to older dogs
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When needed
  • Life span — 9 to 13 years
  • Temperament — Calm, intelligent, affectionate, loyal, and strong
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — South Africa

Boerboel fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Boerboels Zeus and Moose. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Boerboels love Athena.

  • Despite their massive size, many Boerboels are strong and eager swimmers. They love this form of pup-friendly aerobic exercise, helping them to meet their rigorous activity needs.
  • The name Boerboel translates directly in Dutch, meaning “farmer’s dog.” They were originally known as guardians of the homestead and as all-purpose working farm dogs.
  • After their time guarding farms through the 1900s, they began to guard mines at the turn of the century. Today, they excel at providing both companionship and protective benefits.
Boerboel close up smiling

Boerboel temperament and characteristics 

Boerboels are loving and energetic. With the right socialization and training, many report that they become gentle giants and a perfect family-friendly companion for those with small children or multiple pets. They love demanding play like adventure hiking, running, swimming, and exploring, and are very intelligent dogs, equally enjoying toys that require intelligence and mental stimulation to solve. 

While some breeds tolerate children, the Boerboel actively savors their attention — with many pet parents reporting them acting like a “playmate” to their littles. Beyond their sweet-tempered nature with your family, Boerboels are extremely defensive and will guard those they love, giving you some extra support in keeping your little ones safe. This trait can be seen from Boerboel puppy stages to adulthood. 

Keeping their defensive “guard dog” nature in mind, Boerboel puppies and large dogs alike may benefit from consistent training early on. Socialization skills can go a long way to helping these giant pups feel safer around strangers or visitors in your home, helping them to build confidence and discernment in knowing who’s a threat and who is just stopping by. 

Common Boerboel health problems 

Boerboels are generally healthy dogs, but like all breeds, they may be predisposed to certain genetic conditions. Understanding the potential conditions your Boerboel might live with can help them to enjoy a higher quality of life with the preventative care they need. Here are a few conditions to watch for with this large dog breed.

  1. Panosteitis. Also known as growing pains, panosteitis can cause severe discomfort in boerboel puppies and adolescents. This condition can occur when there is inflammation around the bone tissue of the legs as the dog continues to grow. Your veterinarian may choose to medicate with pet-safe painkillers to increase their quality of life, as well as ongoing monitoring for your dog’s comfort.
  2. Elbow and hip dysplasia. Due to their size, mastiff-type dogs may run into problems with elbow and hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when there is misalignment between the head of the femur (leg bone) and the hip socket. Your vet may correct these conditions with first aid care or surgery, if needed.
  3. Heart disease. Heart disease can be common in large dogs, causing symptoms such as breathing difficulties and exhaustion. Vets can address this condition with lifestyle changes, medications and vitamins, or surgery.
  4. Ectropion and entropion. These conditions occur when the eyelid turns out (ectropion ) or inward (entropion), migrating from the correct and comfortable placement. Vets can address both conditions with surgery or medicated drops.

Cost of caring for a Boerboel

Boerboels begin as giant pups and grow into massive dogs, which means that they can run up a bit of a higher cost with the food, toys, and environment they need to thrive. Planning ahead is key to make sure your furry friend gets everything they need — without breaking the bank!

On average, Boerboels can run a first year cost of $3,500 to $5,000. This covers their purchase price, registration fees, vet visits and essentials for their first year of life. After this, you can expect to pay about $2,000 to $2,500 per year for the food, toys, and checkups for your Boerboel as they grow.

If you’re looking to save, you might consider signing on for pet health insurance. It can help to minimize any out-of-pocket expenses  you’ll need to pay in the event of a vet visit or medical issue — and you might even get extra benefits for signing up early on. If you’re looking for something more flexible, you might consider an alternative option like a pet savings account.

Boerboel puppy on trampoline

History of the Boerboel

Boerboels come from a rich history of origin, beginning in South Africa as companion dogs of the Dutch colonists. They were originally brought by Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, and continued to serve faithfully for hundreds of years before migration to Europe in the 1900s. These dogs were used as on-call farmer’s dogs and helpers, keeping the flocks and crops protected from strangers, animals, and the wild savannah.

Today, they are widely known and loved as defenders, companions, and loyal friends to families all around the world. They still use their skills as protectors to their loving pet parents and siblings, keeping homes safe just as vigilantly as they used to do on the South African farmland.

Caring for your Boerboel

Caring for a new Boerboel puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. But don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Boerboels are generally low maintenance, along with most mastiff-type dogs. However, there are a few essential things that have to get done.

Off the bat, you’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. This helps them to have the healthiest and strongest start yet. We also recommend puppy-proofing  your home early to protect your furniture in advance of any Boerboel puppy teething. Lastly, you’ll want to consider signing on for FidoAlert. This convenient free service provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared in case your pup happens to be an escape artist.


Boerboels are large dogs, and do best in environments that fit them well and have plenty of space, such as large homes with large yards to romp in. If you live in a smaller space, not to worry — they do equally well with trips to the dog park or your local community green belt. Ideally, you’ll want to get your dog out for at least one to two hours of exercise per day, having them run, jump, or swim their energy out. You might also try a fun and stimulating game, like fetch or frisbee.

As you do this, you’ll want to make separate time for extra love and attention for your Boerboel. They are extremely attached and loyal, and may need a little bit of extra time in your day for cuddles and affection. Doing this early on can give your Boerboel the attachment and foundation they need to feel safe and comfortable in their space.

Boerboel dogs running down a path


Boerboels have a unique short haired double coat that can result in shedding or mats without the proper care. On average, you should consider monthly baths to keep them clean without the risk of excessively drying the skin and fur oils. If they happen to get dirty on a playdate, though, feel free to give them an extra rinse-down!

Brushing should be far more frequent, occurring after baths or at least once weekly. Doing this helps to keep the undercoat clear of buildup, distributing the oil naturally and removing excess fur plugs. You might try to reward your Boerboel with a treat if they get extra wiggly, training them to be compliant in this grooming step through positive reinforcement.

Finally, you’ll want to complete routine tasks (such as nail trimming and ear cleaning) at least once per month, or as needed.  They may also need a little extra help with regular teeth brushing to keep plaque at bay, which should occur at least every other day.

Diet and nutrition

Boerboels need a nutrient-rich diet to support their large frame.  A common misconception across many pet parents is that these large dogs need extra protein and fat to compensate for what they burn. However, many sources agree that a high-quality dog food that features just slightly more protein than average is sufficient. Owners should also consider looking for options that have moderate to low-fat content to help avoid conditions such as obesity.

On average, your Boerboel should eat about 6 to 10 cups of dog food as an adult, split between morning and evening hours to keep their blood sugar stable. Puppies might eat a bit less, ranging from 4 to 6 cups. As always, we recommend connecting with your vet regarding the proper amount you should be feeding your Boerboel. They can give you personalized recommendations based on your dog’s unique nutritional needs.

Training your Boerboel

Boerboels are extremely friendly, obedient, and intelligent, making them easily trainable in the hands of the right trainer. Due to their intelligence, however, you might find that you need to keep sessions short, directed, intense, and interesting to keep your pup engaged. There are many ways to do this!

Some pet parents find success with positive reinforcement (such as praise), use of treats throughout your training session, or clicker support to show your Boerboel when they’ve done something correctly. Others may choose to mix up training time with different toys, goals, and skills, constantly challenging their dog in new and exciting ways. We encourage you to try out a range of different methods to see what works best for your Boerboel dog.

Boerboel training by a lake

Breeds similar to the Boerboel

Not quite sure that a Boerboel is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Bullmastiff. This dog is extremely similar in appearance to a Boerboel, standing at a slightly shorter stature but sharing just as much love and affection.
  2. Tibetan mastiff. These gentle giants are considered to be calmer than Boerboels and less defensive, but are known to be slightly less intelligent and focused. They do share the affectionate and loyal characteristics of a Boerboel, and are known to be good with children.
  3. Cane Corso. Cani Corsi are the Boerboel’s more playful, affectionate counterparts. They are known to be rather silly and unfocused compared to the intelligent Boerboel dog, but are equally defensive and loyal to their loved ones.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Boerboel a good family dog?

Boerboels are considered by many to be a great family dog, especially for those with young children or other pets. Early socialization and ongoing training are key to making your integration process a success!

Are Boerboels aggressive?

Boerboels are not generally aggressive, unless they encounter strangers. Training from puppyhood can help them to behave appropriately and discern who might be a friend vs. who might be a threat.

Which is better: Cane Corso or Boerboel?

Cani Corsi and boerboels are equally lovable and smart — giving their pet parents an amazing ownership experience. While the boerboel is more serious and focused, cane corsos are known for their more bubbly personalities, giving their pawrents completely different experiences.

What breeds make a Boerboel?

Boerboels are descendents of mastiffs and bulldogs, gaining all of their protective instincts as well as their innate love and affection.

Is a Boerboel dog suitable for a first-time dog owner?

A Boerboel can be a great choice for an engaged, first-time dog owner. However, due to their high intelligence and exercise needs, we recommend that all pet parents do research and determine if their lifestyle would be a good mutual match.