South African Boerboel, South African Mastiff
The Boerboel (meaning “farmer’s dog”) is a large mastiff that was developed by working farmers in remote areas of South Africa. At the time of their development farms were miles apart in dangerous areas. These dogs were needed to keep both livestock and the farmers themselves safe. As a secondary role they were used for hunting the native large game, more for food rather than sport.
History of the Boerboel
The history of the Boerboel begins in 1652 when a group of Dutch East India employees founded Cape Town in South Africa (known then as Kaapstad). They were led by Jan van Riebeeck, who planned to face hostile natives and wildlife, and brought his ‘Bullenbijter’ with him. His Bullenbijter was the Dutch form of the German Bullenbeisser, which would eventually become the modern Boxer.
The town grew quickly with the arrival of Scandinavian, German, French, and other European settlers. All of which brought their dogs with them. These immigrants would bring the largest, most powerful dogs they could, typically mastiffs. It was costly and difficult to transport dogs at the time so few dogs made the journey. Once there many perished due to the climate, wildlife, and warfare with the natives. Originally dogs were bred with any other dog possible. While European blood was preferred, native African dogs were used as well.
Eventually two types of dogs emerged. One with a lighter build and a greater hunting ability, and a second larger and more protective breed. Over time the hunter would be further developed into the Rhodesian Ridgeback and the guardian would become the Boerboel.
One known distinct cross occurred in the 1928 when the De Beers company imported Bullmastiffs to guard their diamonds. These dogs were crossed into the Boerboel line repeatedly and the resemblance between the two breeds can be seen in modern lines.
By the 1970s there was little need for these large dogs as less people were living in rural areas. This loss, along with the import of foreign breeds left the Boerboel nearly extinct. In the early 1980s Lucas van der Merwe and Jannie Bouwer searched more than 3000 square miles to find remaining specimens. They located over 200 dogs on remote farms and ranches, isolation forcing them to be kept pure. Of those dogs around 70 were deemed suitable for breeding and were registered to create the new foundation stock.