In dictionaries you will find the following definition of a Boerboel: a big farm dog of uncertain origins. Thankfully, this is now something of the past.
South Africa's own dog, the Boerboel, is now a full-fledged breed.
Long research has revealed that the ancestry of the Boerboel can be traced as far back as the time of Herodotus and to Tibet, Assiria and Babylon.
In Assiria dogs were used as soldiers, even covered with reinforced material to protect them. When Assurbanipal conquered Egypt. These dogs were also taken along and thus they were spread further into the known world.
Later Alexander the Great was responsible for spreading them to Europe. Apparently in 326bc he received a present 156 of these large dogs who had been specially trained to fight lions and elephants.
Through the ages these dogs developed into two definite strains, the mastiff which was mainly used for protection and as soldiers, and the hound which was used for hunting purposes. Both these dogs were large and strong and typical working dogs, with only slight differences in appearance and build.
It is reputed that all dogs of the western world are descended from these two dog types. About 600 years ago the Europeans started specialized breeding from these two basic dogs and through fine-selection and cross-breeding the different breeds evolved.
Some dogs were bred especially for hunting. Others had to retrieve the prey, guard and herd the livestock and for many other uses they could be put to, but the basis of all these dogs was still the original strong breed of the past.
When Jan Van Riebeeck came to the cape in 1652 he brought his own dog along to protect him and his family in this wild and unknown country.
This dog was known as a "bullenbijter", a large, heavy mastiff-type dog. At this time the original dog had been much diversified and many of the western world countries had its own distinctive, specialized breed of dog.
The settlers who came after Jan Van Riebeeck also brought along their strongest dogs to protect them against all the unknown dangers of this strange land. Thus dogs arrived here from many different countries.
As the pioneers moved further and further inland and settled on remote farms (the groot trek), the dogs were forcibly isolated and a lot of inbreeding took place which had the result that the characteristics of the original Assirian dog started to reappear.
Survival was of the utmost importance and it was here that the hardiness of todays Boerboel was 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.
During the groot trek the Boerboel had most of the features that it has today and is clearly recognizable from old drawings. In the period after the trek, on the distant farms, the Boerboel interbred further and only the biggest and strongest dogs survived.
His pioneer 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. Urbanization caused cross breeding with anything that could bark and the typical "bole" started to disappear. It was only in the eighties that a serious search started again for the original farm dog.
A few brave people took the initiative and the South African Boerboel Breeders Association was formed. 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.
A search covering thousands of kilometers followed. Selective breeding started, many disappointments followed, but also immense joys! At last the dog of our forefathers was ready to be registered as a pure breed.
In the meantime the breeders association has grown to over 500 members. They are widely spread throughout South Africa and Namibia. Each year in November they have a big get-together and people from all over converge on Kroonstad and dogs and people all look each other over.
In august 1980 the first countrywide selection tour was undertaken by Jannie Bouwer of Bedford and Lucas Van Der Merwe of Kroonstad. Lucas' wife Anneke went along as secretary. A total of 5500km was covered, 250 dogs were seen and only 72 were selected to be registered. The big dream was taking shape....
The character of the Boerboel:
The Boerboel has been bred to be a stable family companion and protector on the farms and in the home.
A cranky, temperamental dog that stays surly after being reprimanded, is not a Boerboel.
You should purchase a Boerboel for his even character. This was and always should be his main quality.
Your Boerboel should qualify himself as your best friend. He should know what you are thinking, when you feel threatened, he should know when you approve or disapprove of a stranger and share your feeling. He should be able to recognize your fear. Any Boerboel owner should be able to confirm this. These traits should be recognizable from puppyhood. He should, with a growl, be able to tell you: "Im here, always. I will guard you with my life."
If you allow him to attack, he will growl like a lion and fight ferociously without taking his own safety into account.
No wonder Aristotle named the forefathers of these dogs:
Leontix (sons of lions). The Romans also apparently believed that these dogs were obtained by crossing a dog and a lion.
He is definitely a child's friend and playmate. He does not only accept one person as his master, but accepts the protection of the whole family as his duty and is affectionate to all of them.
Many a story has been told about a Boerboel spending hour after hour guarding a little baby in a pram. He feels the whole family belongs to him and his sole purpose is to protect them, with his life, if necessary.
Our forefathers required the following from their Boerboel:
During the day the dog must go to the veld with the children to guard the sheep. There he should catch a hare for them to cook for lunch. He should also protect them against all danger that may threaten them. Tonight he should lie in front of the fire at home and protect the whole family against anything that may be lurking in the dark.
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