History of the South African Boerboel
A lion was one of the animals that a boerboel had to defend against.
Spotted Hyenas found out they are not the only canine able to claim top dog.
History of the South African Boerboel
Treat the dog right and the dog will treat you right
To start off with the origins of the boerboel are unknown however there are many theories on where the breed came from, but one thing is known and that is how the breed developed into the boerboel of today. The boerboel was a wild dog at one time and was breed with at least one type of wild dog.
A mastiff type dog was in 1121 a Tibetan Mastiff trained for hunting was given to a Chinese Emperor. The mastiffs where exported to other lands were they where breed with local dogs. The dogs where considered valuable in Babylon. Similar dogs were written about in the cuneiform during the Bronze age around 2600 B.C. Ancient Assyrians used dogs for hunting, protection, and war. Xerxes I of Persia used large dogs in war and after his army was defeated by the Greeks, mastiffs where kept as trophies of war.
In 3,000 B.C. rock art in central asia depict a large mastiff type of dog and looks much like a Sitehound dog. Today in that same area Saluki dogs are used to hunt. This is a breed of dog believed to be very ancient by the local people. The Saluki dog has a build much like that of a Sitehound.
Large mastiff types of dogs where written about in 2,500 B.C. were Marco Polo wrote of 5,000 huge mastiff like dogs kept in kennels and used for hunting and war by Kubla Kahn. The Roman leaded Hanibal used mastiffs like dogs in war. The British Mastiff is believe to have been established by the Phoenicians. The Romans later used these dogs in there colosseum in blood games.
The British have used mastiffs for centuries and it is recorded that Henry VIII gave 400 mastiffs to Charles V of spain to guard his Castle and Empire. King James I is said to have given 2 mastiffs to Phillip II of Spain.
The dogs of Africa were said to be spread from Assyria by Assurbanipal in 667 when he conquered Egypt. However since dogs have been around for thousands of years it is more likely that these dogs cross breed with other local unknown types of dogs.
One thing is for certain, the Boerboel has as far back as writing itself, has been considered the best war dog of all time. It was recorded that even the Mighty Roman War dogs where no match for this mighty war dog.
The Cape of Good hope was discovered in 1503 by Antonio de Saldanha in a voyage for Portugal. By the 1600's the Portuguese where being forced off the scene by the English and Dutch and in 1647 a Dutch ship named Nieuw Harlem ran aground at Table Bay. The first settlement was established at the most southern tip of Africa and in 1648 the crew was rescued.
Jan Van Riebeeck was born in Culemborg, Netherlands in April 21, 1619. Jan Van Riebeeck is known as the founding grandfather of Afrikaanerdom (Africanes). In 1651 Jan Van Riebeeck was requested by the Dutch East India Company to undertake the command of the initial Dutch settlement in South Africa. In 1651 he sailed from Texel and in 1652 he landed at the southern tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. He brought with him his family (wife and son) and a dog called a Bullenbijter (which was a large and strong mastiff) to protect him and his family from unknown dangers. In English the name of Bullenbijter is Bullenbeisser and this is how to say the name aswell.
After the trading post was established the settlement was to become self supporting through land grants made by the Dutch East India Company. These settlers became known as The Free Burghers (The Free Boer). These where men that where entitled to farm on their own account and in 1655 Jan Van Riebeeck was allowed to release officials from their duties for this purpose. The outpost had become a colony and this was the start of The Free State.
Settlers soon followed Riebeeck and formed settlements, these settlers where mostly Dutch, France, German, and English. These settlers also brought with them large dogs to protect them and their interest. The De Boers (a diamond mining company) later imported large bullmastiff dogs to guard the mines. Now while De Boers is a mining company the settlers known as The Free Burghers was shortened to the Boers and then finally to Africaans, where farmers and hunters.
The Cape came under British rule in 1795-1802 and again in 1814-1910. In 1835 the settlers protested the British rule and thus began the Groot Trek (Great Trek) and after which The Free State Capitol was formed and the Capitol was and is named Bloemfontein (located in South Africa). The second Boer war was from 1889-1902 ended with the Treaty of Vereeninging.
The Groot Trek (1830-1840) was a north eastern migration on a great scale that lead to several Boer Republics known today as The Free State which is located today in central South Africa.
The making of the Boerboel
The word Boerboel derives from the 'Africaans Dutch' word for 'farmer' thus is translated to 'farmers dog' or 'Boer's dog' in 'Africaans Dutch'. The word 'Boel' closest translation is 'a whole lot of dog'.
The name Boerboel literally means "Farmer's mastiff" Boer=Farmer and Boel= A lot of dog. The Boerboel is reliable, obedient and intelligent, with strong watch and guard-dog instincts. It is self-assured and fearless.
The Boerboel of pre 1600's was a mighty hunting and war fighting dog breed in Africa. Today's Boerboel was breed from this dog by the Boer farmers to be a better protector of the family, livestock and interest. This breeding took place over a 350 year time period. The original Boerboel is believed to be a dog from the Assyrians of 667 when Assurbanipal conquered Egypt. Two types of dogs were developed from this dog, the Hound and the Mastiff. The Hound was used for hunting and the mastiffs for guard duty.
It is said that in 1652 when Jac Van Riebeek first came to the cape there was a tribe named the Hottentots who had and used a mighty dog that was part wild and part domesticated. They used this dog for hunting, defense, and war. It is this dog that was to become known as the South African Boerboel.
Through the years to come many miners, migrant farmers and investors came to the cape and brought with them the very best of guard dogs to protect them on their journey through this new harsh land. It was these dogs that where breed with the boerboel's and passed on the very best of traits such as temperament and behavior.
We will never know all of the breeds of dogs that went into the making of the Boerboel of today or to what extent. One dog is the Rhodesian Ridgeback which was initialy believed to have played a huge role however it is important to note that the Ridgeback was breed from the Africanis which was a dog the Hottentot tribe used for hunting and still exist to this day. This dog could hunt in below freezing temperatures and was the first dog to be recorded with a ridge on its back (1719). The Ridgeback was not breed from the Africanis dog till about 1879 by Cornelius Van Rooyen (of the boer republic). The Boerboel of today can withstand very cold temperatures just like the Africanis dog. This is a trait I believe could only be passed on by the Africanis dog or the original African Wild dog which would make more since.
The African wild dog that I am referring to was cross breed with a local dog to make the Africanis dog and both the wild dog and the local dog are now extinct. This wild dog breed was also the dog that breed with the Boerboel and it is believed this is where the Boerboel gets its wild traits from. These traits include the ferociousness, strength and the Alpha dog traits as well as hunting instinct that the Boerboel has. There are also no known pictures of this wild dog.
Another dog believed to have played a role is the Neapolitan Mastiff which has two distanced features or traits of note worthy importance. The Neapolitan Mastiff is highly protective of its home and family and also is known as a dog with no fear. These two traits combined where never recorded in any other dog of the time period (1600s) other then the Neapolitan Mastiff and are two traits shared by the Boerboel.
Other dogs know or believed to have been used in the making of the Boerboel are the Alpine Mastiff (of Saint Bernard), Azwakh, Sitehound, Boerhound (Great Dane) (German Mastiff), Bullenbijter (Bullenbeisser), Broholmers, Bull Mastiff (the old English Mastiff breed), European Mastiff, Italian Mastiff (Cane Corso), Long Legged Bull Dog, old English Bull Dog (not the English Bulldog of today), Spanish Mastiff, as well as many other unknown molosser and mastiff breeds.
The Alpine Mastiff of Saint Bernard was a very strong molosser type of mountain dog that is now extinct. This dog was of such great strength that it would make since that the strength of the Boerboel could have come from this very breed of dog.
The Azwakh and the site hound dogs are very fast and loyal dogs and if you look at the build of the Boerboel and the build of this dogs and take into consideration the Boerboel is very fast for its size as well as a great jumper it makes since these dogs or one of them had some influence as well.
The Boerhound of old and not the Great Dane of today was also a dog that was fast as well as had a boxlike head. It was also a very strong dog and fast dog with a great temperament. This dog was believed to have been used in the making of the Ridgeback. This makes since as this dog looks very much like the Ridgeback. It is believed this dog is what gave the Ridgeback its good temperament as the Africanis dog has a bad temperament. Although this dog was possessed by the Boer farmers and Cornelius Van Rooyen it is not known if this dog was used in the making of the Boerboel. The only trait in common is the temperament which the Boerboel has more in common with the Neapolitan Mastiff then the Boerhound. However it is quite probable this dog was breed with the boerboel at some point.
The Broholmer is a mastiff type dog of great size. It this Broholmers dog that is believed to have given the Boerboel its great size. The size of this dog is very close to the size of the Boerboel. It is a calm tempered dog which may be a trait shared by the two dogs because the Boerboel is a very calm dog. One might also notice the ears of the two dogs as being very similar.
The European Mastiff even the older version has very little in comon with the Boerboel of today. The only simularities are the face and size. The build is different as the Boerboel is broad in its stance and the Eropean Mastiff has a slim center stance. This dog was used as a dog to guard the hurd and that is about it.
The other dogs listed only had size and farm guard dog traits in comon with the Boerboel. While they may have been used there is not much in comon between the dogs outside of size. The English mastiff of old is now extinct. The smaller version of today is not the same dog and if one wanted to see the closest thing to it, it would be the American mastiff. The American mastiff has great size and a great temperment.
All of the traits of the Boerboel of today came from the Boerboel of pre 1650's and from some of the dogs listed here. The great fighting traits where always there as well as its natural ability to guard. Now as for the other traits mintioned here, it simply makes since when going back and looking at all the old dog types to decern which dogs had the biggest influence and which dogs did not.
The mighty Boerboel is a great family dog, highly loyal, and highly protective of its family and home. The Boerboel is known as the Lion Dog and the Dog With No Fear. It would stand in front of sure death in order to protect its home. It has a super temperament along with a unique instinct to guard. I would say family here however with this dog this would not only apply to its family and your family but would also refer to cattle or anything else it considers family and or home. Although the Boerboel is a hunting dog much like the Ridgeback it is first and foremost a protector. In fact it is the only dog in the world specifically breed for family protection and this was done over a period of more then 350 years by the Boer Farmers.
The Boerboel was developed in a cruel and harsh land full of danger and with no veterinarians in sight. This was a wild and untamed land with many predators such as the baboon, hyena, leopard, lion, and the puma. This breed of dog not only had to protect the family and livestock (herd) from such predators but also had to be able to hunt. It has been said of the Boerboel that a leopard or a puma is no match, a hyena or a baboon are about even to the Boerboel (with the tail docked), and the Boerboel can even take on a lion one on one and defeat it 3 out of 10 times. Ever wonder where tail docking comes from? The Boerboel was the first dog known to have had the tail docked, and the purpose is so that a Baboon cannot grab the tail and throw the Boerboel when losing a fight. It is also worthy to note that when a baboon sends out a baboon for a fight, it only sent the very best out of the group (the Alpha baboon). The word steadfast comes to mind when reading up on the Boerboel because like a soldier that holds his ground even to the last, the mighty Boerboel had to be just that.
The Boerboel has a long history that has been recorded through time. The Boerboel has survived wars like the Zulu war. Rulers and Kings of old have recorded writings of these dogs describing them as being the fiercest dogs ever faced in battle. There history is said to go back to ancient times as far back as Babylon, Herodotus, Tibet, and 640 BC Assyria. While this might also be true of other dogs as well, too days Boerboel was breed and formed into the dog it is today from the time of 1652 begining with the Burgher Farmers.
Make no mistake about the roles of the Ridgeback and the Boerboel because while the Ridgeback was used for hunting the Boerboel was used for guard duty. The Rhodesian Ridgeback can keep up with a rider on a horse for up to 30 miles which shows what it was breed for. The Boerboel was breed for living in the house or hut with the family in order to protect the family from lions.
It has also been said and documented that the Boer Farmers would not allow any Boerboel that would sulk or so much as growl at a family member to breed. This was because the Boerboel had to also be a companion for the little kids in order to protect them as well. If a Boerboel was to act cowardly or sulk the farmers would dispatch it right away because there was simply no room for an un-loyal or a cowardly dog during these hard times. The farmers had to be able to count on the dog to do its duty even when they were not around and it was as simple as that.
The dog with no fear: Aristotle was named the forefather of the Boerboel because of the ferociousness with which the dog will fight. The Boerboel is so fearless in battle that the Romans thought the dog to be cross breed with a lion itself (However we know this today not to be possible). The Romans referred to the Boerboel as the Leonix (sons of Lions) henceforth the name Lion Dog was given.
The most interesting thing about the Boerboel is that no one really knows where the dog originaly came from for sure. There is evidence of the dog coming from many locations and from many time periods. I do not belive anyone will ever know for sure however, what is known is that this dog will live in history as being the best war dog and perhaps the greatest hunting dog of all time.
Remember the boerboel was bred from a wild dog and because of this was never allowed in the dog fighting pits with other breeds of dogs as this was considered unfair. As the South Africans lost desire for a working dog for plowing; hunting and guard duty was about the only reason to own one. The South Africans did not keep the boerboel as a pet, and with few lions around and cattle or tractors to plow, the boerboel became endangered and almost extinct in the 70's.
In 1980 the first country wide search took place and a total of 5,550 kms was covered. In all about 250 dogs where looked at and 72 out of the 250 where selected for breeding in order to save the breed from extinction. In 1983 the sabt (sabba in english) was formed in order to save the breed from extinction and to establish the Boerboel as a breed. This search was head up by Lucas Van Der Merwe of Kroonstad together with Jannie Bouwer of Bedford. SABBA stands for South African Boerboel Breeders Association.
In 1997 John Blackwell purchased 6 Boerboel's worthy of breeding in South Africa and started breeding them here. He imported 32 more Boerboel's of which he said only 7 where worthy of breeding. John Blackwell also started a registry for the Boerboel's named the United States Boerboel Association (USBA) for the purpose of keeping a registry for the Boerboel's. John Blackwell is accredited with bringing and introducing the Boerboel to the United States for the sake of breeding the dog as well as introducing the Boerboel, via the internet.
(co.za refers to an African web site)
Africanboerboel.co.za, Beep.com, Boeboel.co.za, Boerboel.in, Boerboel.org.uk, Britannica online,Dopperboerboel.co.za,GrootTrek.com Historyofnations.net, History of South Africa by Wilhelm Griitter and prof. D. F. Van Zyl 1981, John Blackwell via internet, Molloserdogs.com, Newworld encyclopidia.org, Petsinform.com, SABT.co.za, sahistory.org.za, USBA, Wikpidia.org.
Below are some of the dogs that existed during the time period the Boer Farmers where breeding the boerboel except of corse for the Ancient picture or drawing. I do not belive all of these dogs where used in the making of todays boerboel however some where and maybe most where. However any of these dogs could have breed in to the boerboel blood line because though trade any of these dogs and more that are not listed could have played a roll in the making of this might legendary breed.
The South African Boerboel