AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BREED:
When thinking about writing this article for the breed I thought about all the websites worldwide that have waxed lyrical over the extensive history of the breed, when really what is more logical and believable is that the Boerboel was a working farm dog that came in different shapes and sizes. Throughout the years, like all breeds, different types have developed within the Boerboel - the two main ones being the Mastiff and the Hound. During the years up to the 1980’s, (before the breed standard was formalised) crossbreeding was in evidence, including Bullmastiffs, English Mastiffs, Bulldogs,Danes, Ridgebacks and it has been said, even St. Bernards, whatever worked best on the farm as a utility and guard dog was typically used. This is possibly where the different types have come to the fore with the large mastiff type staying around the property to guard the family and livestock and the hound type being more the running dog to venture out with the owner and horses to tend to sheep or cattle.
In the 1980’s a few people, fighting to preserve the true breed, set up a breed association. Only the highest quality dogs were chosen from a vast area to be the foundation dogs of this. Another three breed associations have been set up for the breed over the years in South Africa, all of whom have their supporters.
Now here we are almost 30 years later and the Boerboel is now used worldwide as a farm and guard dog but now is also enjoyed as a much loved pet, show and trials dog.
In South Africa the breed can now stand proud against the rest of the working group within the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA), and more and more breeders are now enjoying the success of the show circuit with their dogs and registrations are on the increase with KUSA. The main difference between KUSA and these other associations is that the original breed associations insist that your dog be judged in an appraisal and must score 75% and over to be classed as a breed worthy dog. Rules of age at appraisal vary dependant on the association used and compulsory health tests (including but not withstanding, hips and elbows) also vary before a dog is allowed to be bred from. Personally I feel that losing the compulsory health testing that the breed associations are now implementing will be a loss to the breed as we must all strive to improve the health of our dogs, Boerboels or otherwise. (KUSA only advises testing before breeding, it is not yet compulsory). Health tests now being done in the UK are as mentioned before but also we have heard of shoulders, knees and spines being X rayed by conscientious breeders, most breeders test for ent/ectroption and vaginal hyperplasia and some are also heart testing. Like all large breeds the Boerboel has seen varying degrees of problems including HD, ED and bloat.
There is also much talk of a temperament test within the breed but nothing has been finalised yet in this respect within any of the breed organisations.
Let’s not kid ourselves on here and pretend that this breed is for everybody, it’s not, but experience of a large, dominant/guarding breed will stand you in good stead. The Boerboel is normally a wonderful family dog, biddable, intelligent, loving and loyal to all the family. The Boerboel is a strong ,active dog, please bear this in mind when considering ownership as some mature males can reach up to 85kgs in weight. Owners have to be aware that this breed can be very dominant over weak minded people and other dogs, so a very firm attitude must be adopted from puppyhood when raising one of these dogs. All new owners are strongly advised to socialise and obedience train their dogs. Many Boerboel owners are now taking the KC’s CGC at various levels, they are enjoying agility clubs and I have heard of some being trained as PAT dogs.
Breed fanciers can usually enjoy 2-3 appraisals a year and there is a training day and get together perhaps once or twice a year, there has also been a fun show for charity held this year.
The good news for this breed in Britain is that there are a few dedicated breeders who understand the need for a larger gene pool rather than only breeding pet to pet and are bringing dogs and frozen semen in from all parts of the world to help improve the breed in all ways possible.
Written by Sandra Brownlie for The Dog World newspaper 2008