10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Boerboel

The Boerboel is a South African dog breed that has received a fair amount of international interest in recent decades. Since it is a mastiff, it should come as no surprise to learn that it is a large, powerful dog, which are characteristics that make it well-suited for its original responsibilities as guard dogs in South Africa. After all, it takes a lot of dog to scare off something like either a baboon or even a lion. Never mind actually fighting such animals. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about the Boerboel:

1. Sometimes Called the South African Mastiff

It is not uncommon for dog breeds to have nicknames. For example, the Boerboel is sometimes called the South African mastiff. The first part refers to the place where it came into existence, while the second part refers to the fact that it is a rather sizable example of Molosser dogs.

2. It Is a Molosser

Speaking of which, Molosser refers to an entire group of dog breeds that are believed to be descendants of a shepherd dog from Molossia, which was a part of ancient Epirus. Generally speaking, they tend to be big dogs with pendant ears, short necks, and broad muzzles, but there are some smaller dog breeds included among them as well.

3. Name Comes from Afrikaans

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Boerboel’s name comes from Afrikaans. For those who are unfamiliar, Afrikaans is a language spoken in South Africa as well as some of its neighboring countries. It started out as the vernacular version of the Hollandic dialect of the Dutch language, but has seen sufficient evolution for it to be considered its own language.

4. Name Can Mean More than One Thing

There are a couple of potential meanings for the Boerboel’s name. This is because “boer” is Dutch as well as Afrikaans for “farmer.” However, Boer can also refer to particular groups of the descendants of the Dutch-speaking settlers in South Africa, which is complicated enough that interested individuals might want to look into it on their own. As for “boel,” it was slang for “dog.” In other words, Boerboel can mean either “farmer’s dog” or “Boer’s dog.”

5. Farm Dogs

Given this, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Boerboel is a farm dog. In particular, it is famous for its ability to protect itself as well as others, which was critical considering the lions and other large predators that can be found in South Africa. Due to this, Boerboel has proven to be very popular with urban dog owners as well.

6. Uncertain Ancestors

It is believed that the Boerboel is descended from dogs brought over by Dutch-speaking colonists, which bred with landrace dogs from the local region. However, it is unclear exactly which dog breeds have contributed to the Boerboel that exists in the present, not least because the Boerboel started coming into existence in the 17th century.

7. Made International By Gladiator Dogs

The Boerboel has been popular in South Africa for some time. However, it wasn’t until 1998 that an American anthropologist named Dr. Carl Semencic made it better-known in other countries by publishing a book called Gladiator Dogs, which was following up on an article by the same author. As for Semencic, he credited his awareness of the Boerboel to his correspondence with a South African enthusiast as well as his South African travels.

8. Sometimes Called Velcro Dogs

People sometimes call the Boerboel by the nickname of Velcro dogs. This is because the Boerboel tends to want to be around their owners, meaning that they will stick around in their company instead of wandering off on their own. Something that says a lot about the purpose for which they were bred.

9. Needs Firm Handling

Interested individuals need to know that a Boerboel needs firm handling from an early age if they are to grow up into well-adjusted dogs. This is particularly true because the Boerboel can be pretty territorial, meaning that poor training can very easily make them aggressive and otherwise poorly adjusted.

10. Banned in Some Countries

The Boerboel is banned in some countries for a number of reasons. For example, it is banned in Denmark because it was suspected of being used as a fighting dog. However, most of the countries such as Russia and Ukraine seem to have banned it because it is considered to have the potential to be more dangerous than most other dog breeds out there.


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