Historically the Boerboel developed as a general farm dog for the pioneers who settled in South Africa since the seventeenth century. These dogs often were a first line of defence against predators and were valuable in tracking and holding down wounded game. Old farmers told many a tale of the strength, agility and courage of the Boerboel. The dangers and harsh conditions of Southern Africa allowed only the fittest to survive.
The protective character of the Boerboel is today still evident and is much sought after, as is the calm, stable and confident composure of the breed. It remains the guarding breed of choice amongst current day farmers and is very popular for the same reason in the urban communities.
The origin and purpose of the Boerboel should be understood in order to preserve the unique identity and qualities of the breed as a South African developed mastiff. Type, conformation, functional efficiency and mentality are equally important in the evaluation of the Boerboel as a whole. The aim with the Breed Standard is to provide clear guidelines for breeders and judges to promote a singular vision of the ideal Boerboel.
Modern day owners and breeders of the Boerboel need to understand that the work and the conditions that the Boerboel worked under are what formed the breed. That is why type, conformation, functional efficiency and mentality are all traits considered to be equally important.
Type and conformation are visual traits which can be seen at any time. Functional efficiency is tested over time and under many different physical stresses. A dog who never leaves his yard, or is just simply walking around a show ring, is not being fully tested for his function. To test efficiency, the dog needs to be out on the veldt, either covering long distances or exploding into a sprint, chasing something through scrub and jumping obstacles. How well the dog does these things, when compared to other dogs, will be the correct way to judge his functional efficiency.
This female has a very powerful hindquarter; she looks like she can really move. This is confirmed, because she is often seen continually leaping and looking over her 6ft fence. She jumps so high, that you can see her head and shoulders exposed over the fence. This is a good example of conformation being supported by functional efficiency.
The dog then, needs to be able to do this kind of work day-in and day-out for many years. In some cases, Boerboels have worked on farms for more than ten years. When a dog has gone through such rigorous work for many years, the functional efficiency and structural integrity of the dog has been tested completely.
Mentality of the Boerboel is as important as the other traits but much harder to test for. To test a Boerboel’s mental strength, the dog must be put through many different stressful situations before an accurate analysis can be made.
Also, it is important that someone with the correct knowledge and experience with dogs is evaluating the reactions.
Type and conformation are important to preserve the identity of the Boerboel, and they both can be evaluated by the appraiser at an appraisal. Functional efficiency is important, because it verifies that we are breeding the correct conformation (what is the point of breeding a dog who looks a certain way, but he is physically unable to do the job you are breeding him for?). However, we cannot judge this properly at an appraisal. Even though we can see if a dog moves well, we cannot know if that dog would fatigue or break down if asked to move for long periods of time. (There are just to many variables.)
Work and time are the best judges of functional efficiency. Mentality is very important, because it doesn’t matter how well a dog is conformed to the breed standard, and how efficient his body moves, if his mind freezes when he is stressed. Once again, it is hard to fully explore a good Boerboel’s mental strength at the appraisal.
These four parameters are all important when we envision the TRUE Boerboel.