Not only has the African Boerboel renown for its reputation as a family dog, but also because of its seemingly natural skills as a protector. Only acting when a threat is perceived, these amazing guard dogs have the capacity to act as the treasured family pet and to warn the family of danger at the same time. For clues to why the African Boerboel has such a natural affinity for protection, we need only look at the breed's history to understand why the beloved "farmer's dog" of its native South Africa is among the best guarding breeds today.
To understand the Boerboel's history as a protector, we need to go back to the 17th century, when the breed's ancestors arrived in South Africa. When the Dutch East India Company sought to establish a trading post at the southernmost tip of Africa in 1652, they sent Jan van Riebeeck to secure the area. Van Riebeeck and the colonists that followed him brought along their Bullenbijters, Boarhounds, Broholmers and other large dogs as protection. As the colonists set up their farmsteads, the responsibilities of their dogs increased to include hunting, guarding and other working duties. It is certain that these dogs were eventually crossed with the native African dogs in order to prevent inbreeding and to help create a stronger dog. These dogs came to be known as Boerboels, which is Afrikaans for "farmer's dog."
The pioneer farmers of the 18th and 19th centuries never had it easy and were constantly threatened by every kind of danger, from the environment to the wild African animals native to the area. Good looks were never the priority in the breeding of the dogs that would serve as protectors and hunters; only the strongest and smartest of dogs could hope to pass the test and be rewarded with passing on their genes to the next generation.
Today, South Africans have something of a romanticized view of the Boerboels and how they served their masters in the wilds of the African farmlands. It is said that the Boerboel would have spent the day with the children as they went out to the fields to keep an eye on the animals, hunted up a hare for their lunch, and then escort them back to the farmstead where he would then lie beside the family in front of the fire and protect them throughout the night. While it would take a dog of superhuman intelligence to be able to perform all these tasks, it is clear that these dogs played an important role in the life of South African farmers throughout their history.
It truly seems that these attributes have been passed down to the Boerboels we know and love today. It should come as no surprise that the African Boerboel is not only well loved for its love of children and its ability to take direction from all members of the family, but also for its natural affinity to protect the family it loves.