The history of the development of the Boerboel breed

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The history of the development of the Boerboel breed
The history of the development of the Boerboel breed

General description of the breed, versions of the origin of the Boerboel, possible progenitors of the variety, the use of the dog and the meaning of its name, popularization and the first steps towards recognition of the animal. The content of the article:

  • Versions of origin
  • Possible grandparents
  • History of application and meaning of their name
  • Popularization and the first steps towards recognition of the breed

Boerboel or Boerboel - a breed of dog that originated in southern Africa, belongs to the Moloss / Mastiff group. She was bred by crossing local African canines with various European breeds brought to the Cape of Good Hope by colonists from Europe. It is a general-purpose working dog, but modern specimens are mainly used as guards and companions. These pets are best known for their protective temperament, large size, tremendous strength and courage.

Versions of the origin of the Boerboel

Boerboel on a walk

The breed was developed by farmers in remote areas at the time of few records of dog breeding. Therefore, some part of her pedigree is shrouded in conjecture. The breeding area of ​​the animal is the current territory of South Africa. This species is a descendant of European Mastiff dogs with other varieties imported to the region and native African canines.

The mastiff / molosser family is one of the oldest of all dog species, but it also attracts a lot of controversy. Alano, Great Dane, Mastino, Molossus are characterized by large size, brachycephalic (depressed) muzzles, great strength, protective instinct and European or Middle Eastern ancestry. This family is considered very ancient (5000 BC) There are various competing theories about their genetic makeup.

Many argue that Mastiffs, the ancestors of Boerboels, were bred by the first Middle Eastern farmers who needed to protect their livestock from predators (lions, bears and wolves) and from villainous humans. Based on the surviving breeds, these people bred a race of giant, long-haired white guard dogs that spread throughout Europe and the Middle East with agriculture. They adapted to local conditions and became the ancestors of many molosser and lupomolossoid breeds.

Another similar theory is that mastiffs first appeared in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Food production led to the development of social classes and stratified societies. The new kings and emperors used their power to wage war on their neighbors in a constant effort to increase power and wealth. The then generals realized that a loyal, courageous, trained, and sometimes aggressive dog can be turned into a powerful weapon of war. This led to the creation of massive and ferocious dogs that were bred to attack enemy forces. The use of the military ancestors of the Boerboel was common in the area. Numerous artifacts dating back to 7,000 years ago show huge dogs taking part in battles.

The mastiffs are said to have exaggerated throughout Europe with Phoenician and Greek sailors and their countless organizations of trade and conquest. This version is preferred by many Boerboel breeders, who make a connection between them and the breed, and the dogs belonging to the ancient Assyrians who controlled the greatest empire, most of the present Middle East until the end of the 7th century. According to archaeological finds, it is completely unclear whether the canines depicted on the artifacts are real mastiffs or simply similar, large and cruel canines.

Many are inclined to the most common point of view that the first mastiff originated in Tibet from large dogs, which were chained outside the entrances to dwellings.It turns out that the Tibetan mastiff is the progenitor of all such lines (including the Boerboel), which was brought to Europe by Roman, Chinese and Persian traders who operate along the Silk Road. Recent genetic tests confirm this link.

It is also believed that the mastiffs are descendants of the molossus - a fighter of the Roman and Greek armies, which was bred by the Greco-Illyrian tribe molossi from Epirus, now consisting of parts of Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Montenegro. Molosser, as mentioned by many writers including Aristophanes and Aristotle, was a highly respected fierce war dog and spread throughout the Ancient World with the armies of Philip II of Macedon and his more famous son Alexander the Great.

The Romans first met the Molossus, the predecessor of the Boerboel, during a series of wars fought against the Greeks in response to their support of Carthage, Rome's greatest rival. They were so impressed that the Molossus became their primary war dog until the fall of the Empire, and accompanied the legions wherever they were in many conquered lands. The term "molosser" was coined to identify the group presumably descended from this canine.

However, surprisingly few descriptions and images of the molossus have survived. The ones that exist seem to be contradictory, and most do not accurately describe the typical mastiffs. Many have questioned his true personality and believe that it was a hound or a medium-sized working dog, similar to the American Pit Bull Terrier or the Catohuly leopard dog.

Another version says that the mastiff was first bred in the British Isles, and it is the ancestor of all other types, including the Boerboel. The ancient Celts possessed a huge military dog ​​with which they fought against the Roman forces during the subjugation of England and Wales. The Romans were so impressed with the Celtic canines that they imported them throughout the Empire as guardians of property and combatants in gladiatorial arenas.

Many chronicles indicate that canines were one of the main commodities exported from Roman Britain, and there are several descriptions of the celtic war dog. However, some scholars believe that the exported individuals were actually terriers or spaniels, and the Celtic war dog was not a mastiff at all, but rather an Irish wolfhound.

The final version claims that mastiff was first developed in the Caucasus Mountains. Shortly before the beginning of the barbarian invasions of Rome, the Hunnic tribes drove out a significant part of the Caucasian tribe from their lands. They were known as the Alans and were very much feared as opponents in battle, mainly because of their massive and brutal war dogs - Alaunt or Alano. Very little is known about these canines, but they almost belonged to the shepherd type, a group of massive herding breeds native to the Caucasian highlands.

Possible progenitors of the Boerboel

Boerboel with a puppy

Once the molosser was developed, they were present throughout Western Europe towards the end of the Dark Ages. These dogs, the ancestors of the Boerboel, became especially popular in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, inhabited mainly by German-speaking peoples. The inhabitants included Dutch, Flemings and Frisians, who were considered Germans throughout the Middle Ages. In most Western European countries, molossians were mainly used as watchmen or war dogs, but in Germany this is not quite the case.

The Germans mainly used their mastiffs as agricultural and hunting dogs to capture and hold a strong beast (wild boar, bear, bull, wolf) both in the forest and in the arena. They were then crossed with sighting hounds to develop the deutsch dogge, better known in English as the boar hound or great dane. From this point on, the Great Dane will become the main hunting dog, leaving the more outdated variety.

In the following centuries, the older breed was also adapted, and became known as "bullenbeiser" and "barenbeiszer", which means "bull bite" and "bear bite".The species was appreciated because he was strong, ferocious and intelligent, and could keep dangerous animals for a long time. His "job" allowed the Bullenbeiser to remain more athletic, but significantly less than most other mastiffs. To get an idea of ​​what he looked like, you need to look at his descendant boxer.

Over the centuries, the Roman Empire and its “successors” were a complex composition of thousands of independent states, each of which had a different territory, population, geography and political system. Their inhabitants (upper and middle classes) contained Bullenbraisers, the ancestors of Boerboels. Largely pure breeding, represented by various localized lineages. After a long struggle for independence with Spain in 1609, the Netherlands gradually became a major international maritime power and Dutch traders traveled all over the world. In 1619, the Dutch pooled their reserves around the city of Batavia, now known as Jakarta. From that point on, the Netherlands showed great interest in expanding its colonial empire in Southeast Asia. The Dutch East India Company wanted terrain midway between Amsterdam and Batavia, where their ships could be replenished.

The obvious choice was the Cape of Good Hope, which is located in the farthest southwestern corner of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Its climate was similar to the nature of Europe and agriculture could be sustained in it. In 1652, a group of employees of the Dutch East India Company led by Jan van Riebeck founded the Cape Town colony. Expecting to meet dangerous animals such as lions and hyenas, as well as hostile natives, they brought with them the bullenbijter, the ancestor of the Boerboel.

The colony grew with the arrival of Dutch, Scandinavian, German and Huguenot colonists. Many of them brought their dogs with them. Because of the harsh conditions, people brought the largest, most powerful and harsh dogs. The high cost and complexity of the move allowed a minimum of European breeds to reach the cape. Upon arrival in Africa, virulent diseases, harsh climates, rough terrain, dangerous wildlife, and an almost constant war with indigenous populations meant even fewer of these pets survived. Due to the lack of imported species, they were crossed with any existing European breeds in order to maintain numbers and adapt future generations to local conditions. In addition, for the same reasons, the settlers also bred their varieties with the native African types.

The Dutch preferred the hunting dogs (ancestors of the Boerboel) of the San people, which had a hairline on their back that grew in the opposite direction from the main coat. Bullenbeisers were numerous, followed by mixed mastiffs. Surely, Great Danes and unknown types of German and French hounds were used, similar to the modern Hanoverian. Other breeds include the Rottweiler, Great Swiss Mountain Dog, Old German Belgian and Dutch Shepherd Dogs, German Pinscher, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Mastiff, Bloodhound, various hunting canines and the now extinct belgische rekel and belgian mastiff.

The history of the use of Boerboels and the meaning of their name

Boerboel on the grass

Some boerboel breeders claim that the inhabitants of the African south already had a mastiff type dog known as the Indian dog. It was assumed that it was she who was brought to Ethiopia from India, and she spread to South Africa. Gradually the European settlers became a separate group of African farmers or "afrikaners or boers". Equipped with equipment and weapons, the Boers continuously advanced deeper into the African continent.

The early settlers traveled with family or in very small groups, creating a new farm far from the nearest neighbor. Dogs, the ancestors of the Boerboel, were important to everyday life. They not only protected livestock from lions and leopards, but also protected families from wild animals and malevolent people. The dogs helped keep the big beast on the hunt by providing meat supplies.Finally, with them, the owners acquired a sense of security in a frightening place.

Boers crossed all of their dogs, resulting in two semi-separate types. One of them is lighter, more resilient, with keen eyesight and scent and was used for hunting is the current Rhodesian Ridgeback. The second is larger, more powerful, with a strong defense mechanism and a large amount of Molossian blood. This type was used for agricultural work and protection - it became known as the Boerboel.

Usually the word "boerboel" is translated as "farm dog", but this is debatable. "Boer" obviously comes from the Dutch "farmer" and also a term used to describe a certain group of African people. The "boel" part refers to dog, but it is not clear where the word came from, as the Dutch word for this is "hond". Some hobbyists believe that this prefix defines "big dog" or "mastiff".

Several Afrikaner to English dictionaries translate "boerboel" as mastiff. There is also some speculation that "boel" refers to the Dutch word for "bull" and this breed gets its name from the relationship to the bullenbeiser, or to distinguish it from the english bulldog and bullmastiff.

Popularization and the first steps towards the recognition of the Boerboel breed

Boerboel in hands

During the Napoleonic Wars, British forces occupied Cape Town in 1806 and took full control of the colony in 1814. As a result, a steady influx of British settlers with their dogs rushed into South Africa. Bulldogs were especially popular. A number of English mastiffs also appeared. It is believed that both breeds are sometimes mated with Boerboels.

Beginning in 1928, De Beers imported pure bullmastiffs to guard diamonds. These dogs have been bred with Boerboels on numerous occasions and are believed to have had a tremendous impact on the modern breed. Most of the sources on boerboel ancestry mention that during the 20th century the British imported the "champion dog of the hottentots," which also entered his lineage.

At one time, Boerboels spread throughout South Africa, but became less and less common in the 20th century. The population moved to the cities and these large, expensive dogs were supplanted by the more popular compact breeds. By the 1970s, the species was in serious danger of extinction. Most of the individuals crossed with other canines and lost their uniqueness.

But luckily for the Boerboel, in the 1980s, Lucas van der Merwe of Kroonstad and Gianni Bouver of Bedford decided to find the last specimens in South Africa and introduce them to the breeding program. They were able to find about 250 boerboels and their mixtures, but only 72 were suitable for selection and introduction into the breeding register. Initially, enthusiasts allowed additional registrations so that quality specimens that they could not find could be preserved in the breed's small gene pool.

By 1990, the South African Boerboel Breeders Association (SABT) was established and the species was recognized by the South African Nursery Union (KUSA). The dog has regained popularity in its home country as a farming and protective dog due to rising crime rates. Since the 1990s, boerboels have been exported to other countries where they have become in demand, especially in the United States, where World wide boerboels (WWB) was founded in 2004.

In America, the Boerboel population is growing slowly but surely. The breed is not yet recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), and the American Kennel Club (AKC). Registration with the AKC is the ultimate goal of American breeders and they created the American boerboel club (ABC) for this. In 2006, the AKC enrolled the species in its Foundation Stock Service program, which was the first step towards full recognition by the organization.

For more on the Boerboel, see the video below:

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