I would like to think of the “general appearance” of a breed, as the first impression of a dog, or what is most noticed about a breed at first glance. The general appearance may even be considered as, “What does someone that has never seen this breed, notice?”
For instance, the Dalmatian has his spots, the English Bulldog has his pushed in face and wide stance, the Great Dane has his height.
The words chosen to describe the general appearance have been carefully selected, so that the Boerboel can be easily identified amongst enthusiasts, and to leave the correct impression with first time observers. A proper Boerboel cannot be mistaken for any other breed of dog.
Is large, with a strong-boned structure and a well- developed musculature.
There are many breeds that are large or have well developed musculature. The main point that I would like to draw attention to is that a Boerboel should have a “strong-boned structure.” In more simplistic terms, Boerboels should have the thickest, sturdiest legs when compared to any other breed. One of the first things you can look for when judging, if a dog has a strong-boned structure, is the thickness of the hocks. The hocks should start thicker than the stifle bone and appear to increase in thickness as they go down and join into the hind foot. When comparing, a 70kg Boerboel male should have front legs as thick as or thicker than the forearms of a 70kg human. Many modern dogs do not achieve this desired thickness. Although it is very aesthetically pleasing to see a dog with extremely thick bones, there is also a practical reason for it. Thick bones are attached to large joints, which handle the stresses a big powerful dog puts on his bone structure and joints during his day- to-day movement, whatever the dog is doing, with more ease than thin bones with small joints. (Greyhounds have the thinnest bones and joints and are always breaking ligaments, tendons and sometimes bones.)
The profile of the head and body appears blocky.
This is the main, defining visual point that separates the Boerboel from any other large breed of dog. Great Danes are large but they are thin. The Boerboel body is blocky; he is wide, relative to his height, and his body is longer than it is high, like a concrete block. This blocky shaped body allows the Boerboel to be powerful, and at the same time agile. The head is also a blocky shape (there will be more about the head later). Most of the points in the breed standard can be related back to this “blocky” look.
Has an impressive demeanour created by the combination of conformation, carriage, confidence and powerful movement.
This sentence represents the “WOW Factor” of a dog. Impressiveness is one of the most overlooked aspects of a Boerboel, especially by breeders and appraisers, even though it is one of the first points to be asked for in the breed standard and one of the most important qualities when looking at a true Boerboel. A dog can have close to perfect conformation (a high appraisal score) but not look the slightest bit impressive. This is because he lacks confidence, and a few important conformation points. Breeders have been most neglectful in the past few years of breeding the proper Boerboel temperament which is paramount to having an impressive looking dog.
Maestro Trompie was a very confident large dog. He had powerful shoulders, great musculature, especially on his neck, and a good Boerboel head. He also had the calm confident temperament needed to be an impressive Boerboel. Oom Bert Krabe once commented on his neck saying that it is as big, if not bigger than any of the top Ysterberg male’s necks. Considering Oom Bert was part of the Ysterberg breeding program that was a huge compliment.
Dogs who lack confidence carry their head low and try to make themselves look smaller, which is unimpressive. The best example I have personally seen of this lack of confidence affecting how a dog looks, is with a particular dog that was of another mastiff breed. This dog had everything in his confirmation to make him one of the most impressive dogs in the world. He weighed about 80kg had extremely good movement and construction, with massive thick legs plus a big impressive head. The problem was, as I approached, he shrunk down to the size of a 50kg dog, and was slinking away from me to go hide in his kennel. It was upsetting to see. I have seen the same dog look very impressive when other dogs are around, pumping himself up to look more like a lion than a dog. Once again, to make it crystal clear, a dog must have a confident attitude for him to look impressive.
There are five main conformation points that make a Boerboel look impressive. These are in no particular order: A wide chest (less for females), thick legs (bone), a neck that shows a prominent crest (less for females), good musculature, and a good head, which will be discussed in detail later in this chapter.
Avalonia Waldor only scored 82% in his appraisal but was considered one of the most impressive Boerboel ever, by everyone who had the privilege of meeting him. Waldor had confidence, very thick legs, extremely wide chest, a large arch on his neck and a large correct Boerboel head to go with it. All these traits, at the very extreme end of the spectrum, combined to create one of the most impressive dogs ever.
I have seen many dogs that were extremely impressive who did not have perfect confirmation and yes they had low appraisal scores, some as low as 78%. They did have a lot of confidence, appeared fearless, and carried themselves as if they were royalty.
This pup is Ysterberg and Mouzer Sheriff. He is a great example of how confidence can make a dog look impressive irrespective of size. This pup’s wide chest and confident demeanour give him a “wow” factor at only eight weeks of age, an impressive little pup!
Confidence, combined with powerful movement, and at least three of the above-mentioned conformation points, in a large dog, will be an impressive dog.
Has powerful, buoyant and unencumbered movement, notwithstanding its size.
The movement of the Boerboel is a defining point of the breed. Movement, therefore, should be considered one of the most important aspects of the breed that should be preserved.
To a knowledgeable dog breeder, the above movement standard says so many things; it doesn’t just outline movement. To have the correct movement, the dog must be physically sound and constructed quite well. A dog with bad construction or poor, aching joints, cannot move in a fluid and efficient manner.
Both the terms “powerful” and “unencumbered,” relate to the dog’s musculature and his skeletal assembly. A dog must be well-muscled and have a strong, sound bone structure to move powerfully. At the same time, if a dog is overly muscled, his movement will then be restricted by too much muscle, a bit like a body builder. In this case, the desired “unencumbered movement” will not be possible.
The “buoyant” movement is one of those defining points that make Boerboels different to every other mastiff breed out there. The first time someone sees a Boerboel move, they should comment on the movement and how astounding it is to see such a large dog move so effortlessly.
When you look carefully at a Boerboel moving, it should appear that it is almost floating, and the amount of effort seems much less than the actual speed achieved. It’s as if their feet are like springs, storing the energy of every step and springing it back up, propelling the dog effortlessly.
The last part, “not withstanding size,” also has a concealed meaning. The obvious interpretation is that every Boerboel should have powerful, buoyant, and unencumbered movement, regardless of size. The second message is that you can go bigger and bigger with your Boerboels, even as high as 1 metre at the withers, as long as very good movement is maintained. As soon as you lose movement, you have gone too big. The movement of the dog will be the deciding factor to the limit of size…not a measuring tape. At the same time, it is wrong to breed dogs that may be the correct height, but… have bad movement. These dogs obviously have something intolerably wrong with their structure and shouldn’t be used in breeding.
Is symmetrical and perfectly balanced within the desired proportions for the breed.
I have seen dogs that have one leg turned out more than the other, and I have seen a dog with one leg thinner than the other. There was definitely something not right with either dog. When a dog does not have one side of his body the same as the other side, he is telling you that there is something wrong! If it is caused by an injury, then it is still acceptable to consider that dog for breeding. If there is no history of injury, then it is most likely genetic and that dog should be discarded from any breeding program.
The Balance of the dog is relating to whether one part is too big or too small for the rest of the body. Is the head too big or too small? Is one part of the body too long or too short? If you are looking at a dog, and you feel there is something not quite right with his conformation, but there are no obvious faults, usually the balance is out in the way he is put together. With a careful analysis of the dog’s construction, you will be able to determine that one of the body parts is too long, too short, too big or too small; perhaps, not for the breed, but for that particular dog.
Has a distinct sexual dimorphism, with the bitch less prominently developed.
Sexual dimorphism is the difference between male and female. For the Boerboel, the male must look masculine and the female must look feminine. You can see this difference between the sexes in most mammals. When you are looking for the physical differences in the structure of males and females, there are many mammals where the differences are blatantly obvious. Males are almost always larger than females. They carry more muscle mass in their shoulders, upper back and neck, and the muscle is usually more defined and firmer looking than in the female. Females are almost always smaller. They carry more muscle mass in the rump and back legs, and have more overall body fat compared to the males from the same species.
The traits I have just described are all due to the difference in sex hormones. Males have over ten times more testosterone than females. It is this hormone that gives the androgenic (masculine) traits. When a female has too much testosterone, she will begin to exhibit male-like traits.
Great examples of sexual dimorphism in nature are the differences between lions and lionesses. The male is much larger, and their muscular shoulders and neck are accentuated by the mane around their neck and shoulders. Sexual dimorphism is very clear in humans as well. You can look at a masculine man from behind and know he is a man, because of the muscular shoulders, and wide back. Similarly, you can easily identify a feminine woman from behind. She will have a wider bottom than the man and also be smaller in size. Even in wolves, when you have a male next to a female, it is easy to see that the male is larger than the female and he carries more weight in the front, compared to the female. The female will look less toned around the shoulders and should carry a bit more weight in her hind quarters, compared to the male.
This is a Schematic top-view drawing of the correct male and female form. When looking at these drawings of the male, left, and female, right, it is clear that the male is larger. When you look more carefully, you can also notice the male is much larger in the shoulder and head region, when compared to the female. The female has a noticeably larger hindquarter. Looking over the top of dogs is one way to make a distinction of sexual dimorphism.
Correct Male, side view
Correct Female, side view
Schematic side view drawing of the correct male and female forms. At first glance both dogs look alike, other than the male has the penile sheath hanging down.
When you look carefully, you can see that the male has a much larger head, neck, and shoulders compared to the female. His neck has a more prominent crest, and there is a lot more muscle mass in his shoulders. The female has much larger rump and thighs for her body size and, proportionally, most of her muscle mass is in her hindquarters. The female’s belly and flank sit lower than the males.
This particular female looks very impressive. She has a masculine body type. The owner stipulates that she has come into season many times, and been bred many times, but never fallen pregnant. Notice that this bitch has hard looking muscles. She has defined shoulders, and is very dry looking at the rear.
When females look feminine like this, they are able to produce many offspring and look after them. Evolution Six has had many litters of pups naturally, and raised all the pups without help. Notice that this bitch has soft looking muscles; also, her back end is a lot more bulky than her shoulder area.
Why is sexual dimorphism so important? I’m not sure of the evolutionary reason, but for millions of years in mammals, nature has made the female smaller than the male, and given both sexes their distinct shapes, as we have just discussed. When you begin to breed large females who are as big as the males, and they have the male form (too much testosterone), then these females are usually infertile, or have been known to kill their own pups for no apparent reason. If they do manage to have offspring, if the daughter is even more masculine than the mother, she will most likely be infertile. If you were to breed an entire line of animals like this, you would eventually come to a dead end. All your females would be infertile, and you would end up with no more offspring to continue your breeding program. There are many examples of this happening when breeders do not keep the females looking like females and males like males. I cannot emphasize how important a distinct sexual dimorphism is to any breeding program, let alone a specific breed of animal.