The History and Background

 In dictionaries you will find the following definition of a Boerboel. "A big 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 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 326 B.C. he received a present of 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 is 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; 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 "Bullenbitjer", 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.

These dogs arrived here from many different countries. As the pioneers moved further and further inland and settled on remote farms, 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 today’s 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 that period after the Trek, on the distant farms, the Boerboel interbred further and only the biggest and strongest dogs survived. His pioneer owner requested 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 "Boel". The years that followed almost brought tragedy to the Boerboel. Urbanization caused cross breeding with anything that could bark and the typical "Boel" 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 900 members.

 They are widely spread throughout South Africa and Namibie. 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 1990, the first country-wide appraisal tour was undertaken by Jannie Bouwer of Bedford and Lucas van der Merwe of Kroonstad. Lucas’s wife Anneke went along as Secretary. A total of 5500 km. was covered, 250 dogs were seen and only 72 were selected to be registered. The big dream was taking shape……

  Founder Members

  In the early 1980’s the five founder members arranged a meeting in Senekal at the High Schools Hostel in the common room. A sleepy village situated on the wide-open plains through which the great trek moved on its journey northwards into the "wide unknown". The founders had one common purpose. Africana must live and survive. They shared a common dream with singular passion, each a breeder of the Boerboel, the dog they knew and loved. The inseparable companion of our ancestors. Living Africana.

 They arrived on a crisp high veld morning, one by one. From Utrecht in Natal, Johan de Jager who is a sheep farmer and Chairman of the South African Wool Board. He is also the owner of the Rustverwacht Boerboel stud. Lucas van der Merwe from Kroonstad, Game rancher and International Hunting Safari Operator and his giant Boerboels, Plestiek and Flenters. Johan du Preez of Senekal, civil engineer and bridge builder with his Friedenheim Boerboels, Leeuw, Duiwel and Mosadi.

Mrs. Owen Read came from warder with Her Venterspad stud. From the Eastern Freestate, the Net Family and their Moormoel dogs. Of course, the audience……………. Some very uninterested schoolboys who came only for scrounging tea and cake afterwards. Names of famous dogs of yesteryear can never be forgotten - Rhabe Tia-Tia, Rustverwacht Koera and Spogter. The great traveller, Kringkop Ditsem, Mizpah Plestiek and his bitch, Flenters. Hofni Wagter and Hofni Ounooi……. Rest peaceful, old friends.

  Our society, built on your reputation and your seed. We shall not forget you. After the society came into being, things started moving. Thousands of kilometers traveling to find more Boerboels. When an advertisement for Boerboels appeared, somebody followed it up, more potential members were found. Leon Riekert of Pretoria with his Leonard stud, Babs Bosman from Douglas and her Ravata dogs, Ella Louw from Volksrust with Waterval, Steyn Opperman from Ficksburg with Christian, Nic van der Linde from Standerton and his Geelbos Boerboel, Klaas van Waveren from Poetersburg in Transvaal with Ysterberg…… many more followed.

 Famous names that had great impact on our breed. The members became more. The first A.G.M. was held in the beautiful gardens of the Botanist, Professor Barkhuizen of Kameeldrift, Pretoria. In 1990 the S.A.B.C. made a short Boerboel documentary, screened on 50/50, and the questions began arriving……. Where, when and how did the Boerboel orginate? The great search started all over. Lucas van der Merwe and his wife Anneke, took to the road…… They traveled from the offices of the Kennel Union in Cape Town via many bypasses, to Louis Trichardt in the North.

 Where the world authority on dogs, Dr. Daan Marais lives in his castle with a giant Baobab tree as centerpiece in his living room…. Brittle, dust, books, old paintings, drawings.. a mind-boggling experience lasting four days… and light began to color the edges of the clouds. Eventually, information started rolling in, mainly confirming all the surprising discoveries. One source was the British Museum of natural History……A copy of a painting, circa 1400, arrived with a typical Boerboel-like dog in the centre of a royal gathering in the court of King Charles. Other stories, books and prints with evidence followed - enough to make any inquiring mind turn……. The Boerboel has arrived.


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