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The Boerboel or South African Mastiff is known for being a gentle giant. 

The Boerboel breed originated in South Africa in the 17th century for the purpose of guarding farms and homesteads. The breed was known for defending properties against large animals such as leopards and hyenas, so they have innate strength and bravery needed to take on such threats. In the 19th century, the original Boerboel was crossed with Bullmastiffs to form the dog we see today. 

Ranging from 55 to 70cm in height, and 68 to 90kgs in weight, the Boerboel is a giant dog! The natural colour ranges from predominantly black, brindle, and fawn. They have a short coat with minimal shedding. Their life expectancy is 9 to 11 years.


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Dog Breed Facts & Characteristics


South Africa

Also known as 

Boerboel / South African Mastiff

Bred for

Guard dog


Giant breed ranging from 55 to 70cm in height, and 68 to 90kgs in weight

Weight Range

68 to 90kgs


Black, brindle, fawn

Life expectancy

9 to 11 years


Short coat, minimal shedding


Calm, confident, intelligent, protective

Exercise requirements


Best suited for 

Single pet household

Apartment Friendly

Better suited to larger properties


Although they are a protective breed, they are known for being calm and gentle giants to their families. 

Their instincts for protection against the wild animals of Africa means they can be naturally wary of other dogs and pets. Socialisation when they are young is particularly important to help them become more accustomed to dogs, animals and other people and help to prevent unwanted behaviour like aggression. 

Boerboels require daily exercise and intellectual stimulation. Avoid exercising them with other dogs (such as dog parks) off leash if they are not particularly friendly with other dogs. 

Because of their large size and nature, they are best suited to a household of experienced dog people with plenty of space to stretch their legs and play. Apartment life would cramp the Boerboels style. 


They have a short, dense coat that requires minimal grooming, however going over the coat with a grooming mitt or similar once weekly will help remove loose fur as well as provide an important opportunity to examine the skin for signs of infection or irritation, to which the breed is susceptible. Ear cleaning should also be a part of the regular grooming schedule to help keep the ears clean and free from debris to help prevent ear infections. Prevent parasites by ensuring your Boerboel is on flea control all year round and tick prevention if you are in a paralysis tick area. 


When choosing a food for your Boerboel, select a large breed premium food appropriate to your dog’s age and life stage. Consider adding joint protection to your Boerboel’s meals as they are susceptible to problems like cruciate ligament disease and arthritis. Make sure your pup always has a supply of fresh, clean water available.

Common health concerns 

Between 2016-2020, Boerboels visited the vet for skin allergies, skin infection or itchy skin, ear infections, lameness, cruciate ligament disease and gastrointestinal problems.

Table: The five most common reasons for a Boerboel to visit the vet (excluding routine care visits) according to PetSure data from 2016 to 2020.



Average cost for single treatment
(average pet insurance claim amount)

Highest cost for single treatment (highest pet insurance claim seen for this condition)


Skin conditions, including allergies, infections, and itchy skin




Ear infections




Cruciate ligament disease




Gastrointestinal conditions




Cancer, including lymphoma and mast cell tumour



Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

Most popular Boerboel names

According to PetSure data from 2020, the most popular names for Boerboel were

Most popular names

  1. Diesel
  2. Biggie
  3. Gus
  4. Samson
  5. Simba
  6. Zulu
  7. Abbey
  8. Axel
  9. Bear
  10. Blue

Most popular female names  

  1. Abbey
  2. Dakota
  3. Ella
  4. Eva
  5. Heidi
  6. Isla
  7. Luna
  8. Matilda
  9. Missy
  10. Opal

Most popular male names

  1. Diesel
  2. Biggie
  3. Gus
  4. Samson
  5. Simba
  6. Axel
  7. Bear
  8. Blue
  9. Bronson
  10. Floyd

Did you know?

The name “Boerboel” translates from Afrikaans word meaning “farmer’s dog”.

Where can I get a Boerboel?

Even though they are a pure breed of dog, it may be possible to find one via a breed specific rescue organisation. You may also find a perfect giant dog for you and your family at your local rescue organisation or shelter who needs a loving home. 


  1. American Kennel Club, Boerboel, Accessed on 30/03/2021
  2. Mastiff Guide, Facts and Information about Boeboel Dogs, Accessed on 30/03/2021
  3. Wikipedia, Boerboel, Accessed on 8/4/2021

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Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Bei Bei
Bei Bei