The Boerboel [ˈbuːrbul], also known as the South African Mastiff, is a large, Molosser-type breed from South Africa bred for the purpose of guardingthe homestead. These dogs were bred as working farm dogs.
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The word "Boerboel" derives from "boer," the Afrikaans/Dutch word for "farmer." The English word "bull" sounds to Dutch ears like "boel," hence the name Boerboel. Boerboel, therefore, translates as either "farmer's (bull) dog" or "Boer's (bull) dog" and should be pronounced somewhat like "burbull." The Boerboel is the only South African dog breed created to defend the homestead.
Despite the Boerboel's long breeding history, there is great uncertainty as to how many and which breeds were used to create it. It is generally believed that the breed was created from interbreeding native African landrace dogs, such as the Africanis, with breeds brought into South Africa byDutch, French, and British settlers.
The most likely origins date back to Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival to the Cape in 1652. Van Riebeeck brought a "Bullenbijter" with him. Those originals settlers, and later European settlers, also had large, strong dogs that almost certainly bred with the indigenous, domestic dog breeds of South Africa.
Later, in 1928, the diamond mining company De Beers imported Bullmastiffs to South Africa to guard the mines. This breed was also crossbred with Boerboels in the region.
The Boerboel was first introduced to purebred enthusiasts throughout the world, including the United States, by the American anthropologist Dr. Carl Semencic, first in an article in Dog World Magazine and later in his book entitled Gladiator Dogs which was first published by T.F.H. Publications in 1998 and later republished by another publisher in 2013. Semencic credits his early familiarity with the breed to his own travels to South Africa, but especially to his frequent correspondence with the head of the first South African Boerboel club, one Mr, Kobus Rust. Later, the Boerboel Breeders Association was established in 1983 in the Senekal district of the Free State with the sole objective of ennobling and promoting the Boerboel as a unique South African dog breed.
Today, Boerboel breeding is both a hobby and an industry in South Africa. These dogs are now exported from South Africa to other parts of the world.
The protective character of the Boerboel is still evident and is much sought after, as is the calm, stable, and confident composure of the breed. The dogs are obedient and intelligent and have strong territorial instincts. The Boerboel remains the guarding breed of choice amongst current day farmers and is very popular for the same reason in urban communities.
The name boerboel is commonly misspelled as boerbul, boerbull, and borbull.
There is also a divergence of standards. The Kennel Union of South Africa does not accept the black coat but the SABT does, so a buyer needs to decide what standard to follow, as if a dog has a black coat or is the descendant of a dog with a black coat they cannot be registered with AKC, KUSA, BI or Ebbasa.