The South African Boerboel. South African Mastiff

By BarkUpToday

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Alternative NamesSouth African Mastiff, African Mastiff

Country of Origin: South Africa

Group: Kennel Union Club of South Africa-KUSA

AKC– Working Group


Males: 24-27 inches

Females: 22-25 inches


Females 92-105 pounds

Males 125-145 pounds

Activity Level: Moderate ( loves swimming)

Special Needs: None.

Lifespan: 9-13 years

In 2010 the South African Boerboel was recognized into the AKC Miscellaneous Group, and the American Boerboel Club was officially designated the Parent Club for this breed.

Physical Description: The South African Boerboel is a muscular and powerfully strong dog. This breed is exceptional in tracking and protection work. He has a blockhead with dark markings on his handsome face, stomach under his fur, and roof of his mouth.

The Boeboel’s head is the essential characteristic of the breed and represents the whole character of the spectacular Boerboel. The top of the head surface is wide, flat, and muscular. The Boeboel’s face needs to blend in symmetrically with the head and be with or without the dark facial mask. Yet, keep in mind that the mask is most preferred.

The upper lip is fleshy and thick, and the lower lip is tight. The famous Boerboel muzzle is broad and deep. It should be straight and in line with the top of the Boeboel’s head. The muzzle tends to narrow at the sides as it nears the front facial part and needs to be in proportion to the size of the head. This can range from 3-4 inches in length. This does not include nose length. The nostrils are dark black, widely spaced, and large. The gentle and intelligent eyes are medium-sized and face forward. They’re also widely spaced. 

The eye color is dark brown, but it can be any shade of brown. The darling ears are V-shaped and medium-sized and hang forward. They’re also wide-set and carried close to the head.

The topline is straight, and the back is straight and broad in proportion to the body. There are strong back muscles with a short loin. The croup is broad and robust with plenty of muscle. The tail is high and does not curl over the Boeboel’s back.

The coat is short, thick, and can either be brindle, brown, cream, or coppery brown. The American Kennel Club (AKC) adds that “The recognized colors / patterns are with or without a mask; however, the black mask is desirable. Red, Brown, Reddish Brown, Fawn, Cream, brindle in any accepted color and Irish Marked. Limited clear white patches on the legs and the fore chest are permissible. Piebald, a white dog, with colored markings, total area of white may not exceed 33 percent or is disqualified, ticking or spots within the white to be disqualified. The Boerboel is well pigmented, especially on the lips, palate, the skin and hair around the eyes, nose leather, paw pads, toenails, the anus and the skin and hair around the genitals. Disqualifications – Blue colored (Powder Coat) dogs, any base color not listed, long coat, and nose leather in any color other than black.”

Temperament: AKC explains that “The Boerboel is a dominant and intelligent dog with strong protective instincts and a willingness to please. When approached is calm, stable and confident, at times displaying a self-assured aloofness. He should recognize a threat or lack thereof. He is loving with children and family. An aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted. Boerboels that are shown in competition should be trained to allow examination.”

Possible Health Concerns

The South African Mastiff is an active dog breed that may be susceptible to the following:

  • Hip Dysplasia is a hereditary, developmental disease. H.D. affects Mastiffs. H.D. occurs when the hip joint fails to develop correctly. In Boerboel’s with H.D., the head of the thigh bone does not fall into the hip socket. The poor fit results in the joint becoming loose and unstable. This leads to osteoarthritis.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is the name for a group of diseases that cause degeneration of the retina. This will include inherited abnormalities of the light-sensitive cells.
  • Hypothyroidism is a deficiency of the thyroid hormone and can cause weight gain in Boerboels and constipation, and cold sensitivity.
  • Heart Disease
  • Ectropion-eyes roll outward
  • Entropion- eyes roll inward
  • Vaginal hyperplasia– this is a proliferation of the vaginal mucosa.


The South African Boerboel needs to be socialized and trained from a young age. This breed is very different from the English Mastiff and is not lazy at all. This exceptional dog breed needs regular exercise and plenty of off-leash runs, and environmental stimulation.

Don’t allow young South African Mastiffs to play with larger dogs. All Mastiff puppies enjoy playing so much that they forget how big the other dog is. Make sure to protect your South African Mastiff puppy from injury when he is playing with other dogs.

Because South African Mastiffs go through growth spurts, they often become out of balance. Their hindquarters may grow higher than their front, thus shifting the weight load to the show. That said, your South African Mastiff may place his front feet down incorrectly, trying to compensate for being out of balance. He then becomes vulnerable to numerous injuries.

They are very hardy and are great outdoors on farms and smallholdings. The South African Boerboel is a dominating breed that is highly possessive of its family. They need lots of attention at home and make for the best companion dogs. Boerboel means a “farm” dog, which holds since these dogs thrive on farms in Southern Africa.


When fighting against the South African Mastiff’s tendency for obesity, think portion control! Your veterinarian can help you determine how many calories your South African Mastiff needs each day and will help you address his or her weight issue. Portion control is essential in slowing the rate of obesity in all dogs. 

Encourage your South African Mastiff to eat slowly, which will also help to reduce digestive problems and bloat. Try to stimulate your South African Mastiff by obtaining a Slow Feeder, which comes in different sizes. As with all dogs, feed only high-quality dog food appropriate for the correct life stage. 

South African Mastiffs that are overweight and on restricted diets still need to have proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and all other nutrients essential for good health. If you’ve decided to reduce your South African Mastiff’s calorie consumption each day, it’s important not to eliminate vital nutrition in the process.

As a South African Mastiff pet parent, you can cut back on the “low fat” prescription processed commercial dog foods. Instead, opt for the highest-quality, balanced, and appropriate diet that you can afford and practice portion control. This is very important for this giant dog breed. It will help prevent plenty of health issues later on in life. Consult with your veterinarian for the advice! 


This breed has a short, dense coat that is easy to maintain. That said, the South African Mastiff does shed a moderate amount and needs to be regularly groomed. During heavy shedding that occurs twice yearly, extra grooming is required.

Daily brushing with a rubber mitt or medium bristle brush will aid in removing loose hair and keep his coat healthy and shiny. It also promotes new hair growth and tends to distribute skin oils throughout the coat. Nails need to be trimmed regularly.

American Boerboel Club

South African Boerboel Club

Woofs & Wags!


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