History and Background
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
brave people took the initiative and the South African
Boerboel Breeders Association was formed.
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.
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……
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.
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.
Read came from warder with Her Venterspad stud.
From the Eastern Freestate, the Net Family and their
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.