-A +A

10 Things to Know Before Judging the Boerboel

Learning the fine points of this South African mastiff
1. Knowing the history of the Boerboel will help greatly in understanding the multiple components of this working dog. The foundation of the Boerboel we know today began with Jan van Riebeeck, who established his family in the Cape of South Africa in 1652, bringing his personal dog, known as a Bullenbitjer, to protect them against the wildlife and wild, unknown territories. This large, mastiff-type dog was bred with the local dogs and other Mastino types, and then, through inbreeding, produced a dog of extreme hardiness – a true South African mastiff. A dog of strength and power, and sound mind and body, he aided his master in the hunt and protected his family with undying loyalty. This mastiff-type dog had to have correct conformation, agility and the ability to think for himself. 
Scarlett, used as the model for the breed's AKC standard illustration.
2. The Boerboel is every bit a mastiff, but not so cumbersome that he loses any soundness of movement. The preferred heights are 24 to 27 inches for males, 22 to 25 inches for females. Attention should be called to balance, proportion and sound movement: These are of utmost importance for the Boerboel – more than size. Dogs should be proportioned just longer than tall.
3. The head is extremely important for Boerboel type. Many of the Molosser breeds – including the Cane Corso, Perro de Presa Canario and Tosa – are so similar in body style that judges are going to have difficulty in telling them apart. The crucial element is the headpiece. 
The largest section in the Boerboel standard is devoted to the description of the head. (The Boerboel standard adopted by the American Kennel Club was comprised of multiple Boerboel standards from South Africa, the country of origin.) 
Head should be “blocky, broad, deep, square and muscular, with well-filled cheeks.” There should be moderate wrinkling over the forehead when the dog is at attention. The cheek bone is well muscled, but not too prominent.
The skull is “square, flat and muscular,” with a stop that is not overly steep, but well defined. The muzzle is “broad, deep and narrows slightly towards the nose, straight and almost on a parallel plane with the skull. The muzzle measures slightly more than a third of the total length of the head.”
The nostrils are large and completely black, with the vertical line of the nose perpendicular to the lower jaw.
The head is clean, without excessive skin or wrinkling.
Full dentition is preferred, and ideally the dog should have a scissors bite. Overshot or undershot more than 1/4 of an inch is a disqualification, as is wry mouth. Two or more missing teeth is a serious fault.
Eyes are widely spaced, with tight-fitting eyelids with complete pigmentation, showing no structural weakness. They should be of medium size, not protruding or receding and dark brown (preferably darker than the coat). Bird of prey eye is a serious fault, blue eyes are a disqualification. Personally, I like the darkest eye possible. It is very easy to lose dark eyes by allowing light eyes into your breeding program. 
The ear is of medium size, with medium leather, V shaped, hanging forward and close to cheek. They are wide set and when at attention seem to broaden the skull on a flat line.
The Boerboel has an expression of intelligence and alertness. 
Prick ears are a disqualification.
4. The Boerboel should be strong boned with good muscling. The front legs should be straight, whether viewed from the front or side, without being toed in or easty-westy. Elbows held close to body. This is very important for soundness and structure of the shoulder. Length to elbows is 50 percent of height at top of withers. This is significant because the chest is deep and wide, making for proper body-to-leg proportion. 
The shoulder should have a moderate angle with equal lengths of upper arm and shoulder blade.  
The Boerboel is nothing if not functional, as this carting exercise demonstrates.
5. The rear quarter, like the front, should be strong boned with good muscling. Harmonizing with the front quarter, the rear quarter should also have moderate angulation. Upper thigh is broad and deep, with well-defined muscling. Lower thigh should also be well muscled with good substance to the hock. The Boerboel should have a short, sturdy hock, with the hind feet pointing straight forward. A short hock shows strength; a long hock, weakness.
Front and rear dewclaws are generally removed.
Head study of a typical Boerboel puppy.
6. The neck and shoulder should flow together into the topline and body. The dog should give the appearance of “one piece,” not different parts stuck together. The back should always be level, standing or moving. Since the dog is only slightly longer than tall, the loin should complement the length of rib. The croup should be broad, flat and strong.   
The tail is thick and set fairly high. It is traditionally docked at the third or fourth vertebrae, but can be shown naturally. If natural, the tail should reach the hock when standing and be carried with a slight curve when moving. Length of tail is not as important as set and carriage.
7. Movement is the ultimate test for correct conformation! With correct balance of front and rear angulation, the dog should move with power and purpose. Proper reach and drive is neither frantic nor accentuated, cobby nor restricted. Efficiency is the result of proper structure and movement.
The Boerboel should single-track; as he gaits faster, his legs move to center.
8. The coat is short, dense, smooth and shiny. Skin should be thick with excellent pigment. Acceptable colors are all shades of brown, red or fawn, with limited white patches on the legs and the forechest permissible. Any color of brindle is acceptable, as is piebald (a white dog with colored markings – total area of white may not exceed 33 percent) and Irish marked (a dog with up to 30 percent white, with standard socks, collar and blaze markings). The recognized colors are with or without a mask, although a black mask is desirable.
Because pigment is a very important concern for survival in the harsh weather of South Africa, pink paw pads are a serious fault.
Disqualifying colors are black (black without a trace of brindle), black with white markings, powder coat (a blue dog that appears to be dusted in powder), long coat and nose leather in any color other than black. 
Rare breed BIS/BISS Ch. Centurion's Georgia Peach, PN, RA, RE, CGC, HIC ("Peaches"), the first AKC-titled Boerboel, has achieved a Rally Excellent title.
9. The temperament of the Boerboel is what attracts so many fanciers. This is a self-assured and intelligent dog with strong protective instincts. Although not a dog for the beginner, their willingness to please makes for great trainability for the experienced owner. The Boerboel’s devotion to his family is unequaled.
10. Given the protective nature of the Boerboel, a judge should be confident and straightforward in his or her judging procedure. The Boerboel was only accepted into the Miscellaneous class as of January 1, 2011, so there will be quite a few novice handlers as well as novice dogs. A slow, steady, calm approach will give everyone enough time to be ready for the examination.  
In conclusion, the Boerboel is a new breed for most AKC judges. Please think “mastiff” – with agility. Good conformation and balance are a must for the Boerboel; soundness with proper movement cannot be stressed enough. Conditioning is essential for proper muscle tone – of great importance, as the Boerboel is a true athlete!
There has been a lot of speculation regarding the future of the Boerboel in the U.S. Some within the breed worry that the Boerboel will lose its inherent abilities. This responsibility is on the shoulders of the breeders and the American Boerboel Club’s judges’ education program. As the parent club for the Boerboel in the United States, the American Boerboel Club encourages all Boerboel enthusiasts, no matter what your interests are, to join us in moving the breed forward through a democratic process. This is a golden opportunity to make a difference for this wonderful breed in the United States and to meet others around the world with a similar interest. 

About the Author

A professional all-breed handler for the past 20 years, Mileah "Sweetie" Kay has owned and successfully bred Rottweilers for more than 30 years. The AKC liaison for the American Boerboel Club, she trained, handled and co-owned the first AKC-titled Boerboel.
© Modern Molosser Magazine. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.