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   History of the South African Boerboel


The Boerboel has a long history as one of the outstanding dogs of Africa. Whilst the most recent developments in the breed have been recorded as having taken place within Southern Africa over the last 350 years, the typical characteristics of the breed are very similar to those demonstrated in contemporary pictures of Assyrian dogs of the period prior to 700 BC.

It is recorded that Jan Van Riebeeck brought his own dog along to protect him and his family when he came to the Cape in 1652. This dog was known as a 'bullenbitjer', a large and strong mastiff type of dog. This dog and its descendants doubtless interbred over the centuries with other local and imported varieties of large dogs and natural selection will have played its part in establishing the ideal breed for the local conditions.

Roenard Martiens


The settlers who came after Jan Van Riebeeck also brought along their large mastiff type of dogs with them to the colony. These dogs arrived from many different countries. In 1938, for example, authenticated bullmastiffs were imported from Britain by De Beers to serve as guard dogs on the South African diamond mines. As the colony and population grew, many farmers decided to leave the colony and strike out on their own to found huge farms in hitherto unknown lands. Their faithful dogs went with them to guard their families and their livestock. As these families settled the land, their dogs became isolated on the farms and the genetic pools became very closely related with some mixtures added from large native breeds. Inbreeding within isolated groups resulted in traits from their ancient ancestry surfacing once more. Conditions in the bush were such that only the strongest and most intelligent dogs survived and it was here that the hardiness of today's Boerboel was perforce bred into the dog. There was no veterinary surgeon or medicines available for dogs and they had to look out for themselves to a large extent.

Corma Buks


In the period after the Groot Trek, on the distant farms, the Boerboel interbred further. Their owners required him to be a friend of the family, a worker, provide protection and also to be a fighter. They could not afford to have a disobedient, moody, finicky, sickly dog they had to be able to rely on him to protect the family, work, kill and fight. At the turn of the century the characteristics of the old original dog were clearly visible and the dog was generally known as the 'bole'. The years that followed almost brought tragedy to the Boerboel. The Boerboel's isolation on the farm was compromised by the urbanization. As a result, the limited gene pools were no longer pure since the dogs were either intentionally or unintentionally cross-bred with any other dog. Since neutering and spaying were not an option until the middle 1900's, the typical 'bole' started to disappear. It was only in the 80's that a serious search started again for the original farm dog. A group of concerned people took the initiative and, in August 1980, Jannie Bouwer of Bedford and Lucas Van der Merwe of Kroonstad undertook the first countrywide selection tour. Luca's wife Anneke went along as secretary. A total of 5.500 km were covered, 250 dogs were seen and only 72 were selected to be registered. Their main aim was to let the original Boerboel take its rightful place as a uniquely South African dog among the other dog breeds of the world.

Avontuur Alfons


The definition of the breed has been achieved since the establishment of the South African Boerboel Breeders Association (SABT) in 1983, and the first nationwide appraisal of dogs which took place in 1990; the refinement of the breed has been underway since then and many challenges lie ahead for those involved in the breeding of these magnificent dogs.



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