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History / Standards

There are some great websites that tell about the history of how the Boerboel breed came into existence, but we won’t go into that here. Please see the SABT website for a more thorough history.

Simply put, the Boerboels were bred in South Africa as protection of the farms and families there. They were courageous in fighting off the large wild animals of SA like the lions and hyenas. Their loyalty to the family is their most beloved trait.

South African Boerboel Breeders Association
The SABT Standard of the Boerboel Breed


General Boerboel appearance

The Boerboel is a big, strong and intelligent working dog, which was bred in south Africa since the seventeenth century. Various mastiff types dogs from Europe as well as big dogs from Africa contributed to the development of the breed. The Boerboel is well balanced, with good muscle development and swift in movement. The dog should be impressive, and imposing. Male dogs appear noticeably masculine and bitches feminine.

Boerboel balance

The Boerboel is a perfectly balanced dog - all parts of the body should be in proportion.

Boerboel temperament and characteristics

The Boerboel is reliable, obedient and intelligent, with a strong watchdog instinct. It is self-assured and fearless, but perspective to the needs of the family.

The Boerboel head

The head is the most important feature of the Boerboel, as it represents its total character. The head is short, broad, deep, square and muscular with well-filled cheeks. The part between the eyes must be well filled.

  • Top-line of the head/occiput
    The top of the head is broad and flat, with prominent muscle development.
  • Face
    The face should blend symmetrically with the head, and can be with or without black.
  • Stop
    The stop should be visible, but not prominent.
  • Muzzle
    The muzzle is black with large nostrils that are widely spaced.
  • Nasal bone
    The nasal bone is straight and parallel to the top-line of the head. It is deep, broad and it tapers slightly to the front. The nasal bone should be 8-10cm long.
  • Lips
    The upper lip is loose and fleshly, and should not hang lower than the lower jaw. The upper lip (beneath the muzzle) should cover the lower lip.
  • Jaws
    The jaws (mandibles) are strong, deep and broad, and narrows slightly to the front.
  • Teeth
    Teeth should be white, well developed, correctly spaced; a complete set (42 teeth), and should have a scissors bite.
  • Eyes
    The color of the eyes can be any shade of brown, but darker than the pelt. Eyes should be horizontally set. It should be broad-spaced with firm, well-pigmented eyelids.
  • Ears
    The ears should be of medium size, v-shaped and should be in proportion to the head. They are set fairly high and wide against the head. When the dog is interested, the ears should form a straight line with the top of the head.
Boerboel neck
  • Profile
    The neck shows a noticeable muscle curve, and is attached high at the shoulder.
  • Length
    The neck is of medium length and in proportion to the rest of the dog.
  • Appearance
    The neck is quite strong and muscular, firmly attached to the head and gradually broadens up to the point where it is attached to the shoulder. The neck, head and shoulder should from a unit.
  • The skin of the neck
    The skin of the neck is loose under the throat and becomes taut between the front legs.

Boerboel Body

The body narrows slightly towards the loin.

  • Top line
    The top line should be straight.
  • Back
    The back is straight, broad and in proportion, with prominent back muscles and a short loin.
  • Rump
    The rump is broad and strong with good muscle development.
  • Chest
    The chest is muscular and strong. The chest should be broad and deeply set between the forelegs, with well-attached and curved ribs. The rib cage should be in proportion to the chest.
  • Tail
    The tail is attached high to the body. It should be straight and preferably short (three joints). Long tails are acceptable.
  • Forequarter
    The forequarter is strong, muscular and in proportion to the rest of the dog.
  • Shoulder/withers
    The withers should be well attached, correctly angled and with good muscle development.
  • Upper arm
    The upper arm should have good muscle development. Front legs the front legs should be thick, strong, and muscular and should stand perfectly vertical.
  • Front pasterns
    The front pasterns are short, strong and a vertical extension of the front legs and pastern joints.
  • Front paws
    The front paws are big well padded and rounded and with strong dark and curved toenails. The paws should point straight forward.
  • Hindquarter
    The hindquarter should be strong, firm and in proportion to the rest of the dog, with the ability for effective propulsion.
  • Upper thighs
    The upper thighs are broad, deep, well developed with prominent muscles.
  • Second thigh/gaskin
    The second thighs should be well developed with prominent muscles.
  • Knee stifle
    The knees are strong, firm and correctly angled.
  • Hock joints
    The hock joints are firm with correct curving.
  • Hocks
    The hocks are relatively short, strong and thick. The hocks are parallel. (Dew claws should not be present.)
  • Hind paws
    The hind paws are slight smaller than the front paws. They should be well padded, rounded and should point straightforward. The nails are strong dark and curved.

Boerboel Movement

Movement should be easy, smoothly powerful, by means of good propulsion of the hindquarter and parallel movement of the legs. In movement, a straight top-line should be maintained.


The skin is thick, loose, well pigmented with moderate wrinkles.


The pelt is short, sleek and dense. Recognized colors are cream white, pale tawny, reddish brown, brown and all shades of brindle.

Boerboel Size

  • Male
    The ideal height for a male dog is 66 cm. (26 inches) at the withers. It can, however vary between 64 cm. (25 inches) and +70 cm. (+28 inches) at the withers.
  • Bitches
    The ideal height for a bitch is 61 cm. (24 inches). It can vary between 59 cm. (23 inches) and 65 cm. (26 inches).

General Boerboel health

The Boerboel enjoys exceptional health, due to natural selection.


The Boerboel is well pigmented, especially on the lips, paws, toenails and genitals.

Boerboel Disqualifications

  • A dog which is too small. / A dog which is too big.
  • A noticeable over bite. / An under bite of more than 1cm.
  • A sharp mouth. / A narrow mouth. / A long mouth.
  • Cows hocks. / Straight hocks. / Sickle hocks.
  • A head which is too small and nondescript.
  • An overly aggressive dog.
  • A narrow chest.
  • A hollow back.
  • Bandy legs.
  • Erect ears.
  • Blue eyes.
  • A liver colored muzzle.
  • Any sign of another dog breed.
  • Clumsy and unbalanced movement.
  • A piebald dog without sufficient pigmentation.
  • A piebald dog without any of the five acceptable colors around both eyes and on both ears.