The word "Boerboel" derives from "boer", the Afrikaans/Dutch word for "farmer". The English word "bull" sounds to Dutch ears like "boel", hence, the name Boerboel. Boerboel, therefore, translates as either "farmer's (bull) dog" or "Boer's (bull) dog" and should be pronounced somewhat like "burbull". The Boerboel is the only South African dog breed created to defend the homestead.
It is generally accepted that about 2700 years ago there were massively sized dogs being bred in the area of the present day middle east. These dogs were reportedly big enough to fight lions and elephants. Apparently some of these dogs found their way to Africa and we know that in the southern part of Ethiopia, dogs known as the Indian dogs were found that met the description of the Albanian or Assyrian dog from which the Canis Molossus were probably bred. In Ethiopia these dogs were even milked, and from there the name Cynomolgi, or dog milkers evolved. The Cynomolgi dogs were also used to hunt game and keep the Wildebeests from their huts during the annual migration. It could be accepted that these Cynomolgi dogs moved south with the people of Africa and that these dogs also played a large role in the foundation stock of the Boerboel.
The Bullenbijter – When Jan van Riebeeck and his entourage arrived in Cape Town in 1652 from Holland they brought with them dogs that were referred to as Bullenbijters. Later they were joined by other Mastiff type dogs from France and Germany. Still later certain working English Mastiffs came to South Africa that also possibly had a role to play in the formation of the Boerboel.
1652 – 1838: Expansion into Africa – In the years between 1652 and 1838 (when the great Trek northwards started) there was a steady expansion of the agricultural activities and contact with the African dog owner increased proportionally. After 1838 the influence of the African ancestors of the Cynomolgi dogs on the Boerboel foundation stock would have been much bigger. This influence of the African dog might be the explanation for the fact that the Boerboel is structurally much better than the other Mastiff type dogs. It is important to note that the African dog owner, especially those that use their dogs with the cattle herds, is a very dedicated master to his dogs. Because he lives in the veld with the dogs and an assegai as protection for the cattle and sheep against predators, he selects his dogs with care. He also knows his dogs very well and knows exactly what to expect from each one when danger looms. Because of this knowledge he could make an informed decision concerning selection for the next generation. This then was the genes that were available to the Boere to breed their famous Boerboels.
The Boerboel was first introduced to purebred enthusiasts throughout the world, including the United States, by the American anthropologist, Dr. Carl Semencic, first in an article in Dog World Magazine and later in his book entitled Gladiator Dogs which was first published by T.F.H. Publications in 1998 and republished by another publisher in 2013. Semencic credits his early familiarity with the breed to his own travels to South Africa but especially to his frequent correspondences with the head of the first South African Boerboel club, one Mr, Kobus Rust. Later, the Boerboel Breeders Association was established in 1983 in the Senekal district of the Free State with the sole objective of ennobling and promoting the Boerboel as a unique South African dog breed.
Today, Boerboel breeding is both a hobby and an industry in South Africa. These dogs are now exported from South Africa to other parts of the world,
The protective character of the Boerboel is still evident and is much sought after, as is the calm, stable, and confident composure of the breed. The dogs are obedient and intelligent and have strong territorial instincts. The Boerboel remains the guarding breed of choice amongst current day farmers and is very popular for the same reason in urban communities all over the world.
If you're serious about owning a Boerboel and want some more information on whether the breed is the right choice for you, please click on over to our OWNING A BOERBOEL page.
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