The Boerboel should convey an impression of strength, grace, agility, and intelligence. More important than size is the proportion—the body should be slightly longer than it is tall. Males should be larger and have heavier bone than females, who should look distinctly more feminine than the males. The head is blocky and broad; the muzzle should be broad and deep; the forehead should wrinkle when the dog is interested in something. Only black nostrils are allowed.
The medium-sized eyes should face forward, be widely spaced, be some shade of brown, and have an intelligent expression. The ears are V-shaped, widely set, and of medium size. The neck is powerful and flows smoothly into the shoulders. The chest is deep and broad. Topline is level and the entire body—including thighs, shoulders, and croup—is muscular and very solid. Tail is thick and set high; when left natural (instead of docked), it should have a slight curve upward.
The coat is dense, short, and smooth. It can be a wide variety of colors, including brown, red, or fawn, brindle, piebald, and "Irish Marked." A black mask is desirable. The skin should be dark on the stomach and under the fur—the dogs were bred this way to protect them against sun and heat. Pink paw pads are a serious fault.
The gait should be powerful yet agile.
A descendent of the Bullenbitjer, a large, heavy Mastiff-type dog brought into South Africa with Dutch pioneers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Boerboel was used as a general farm dog. The name, pronounced "boar-bowl," translates to "farm dog" or "farmer's dog." The original Bullenbitjers were probably bred with native South African dogs, resulting in a breed whose talents included deterring predators, tracking game, and guarding the farm against intruders. Today the breed's calm and confident demeanor, as well as its impressively strong build, make it an increasingly popular breed in the United States and Europe. The breed has been banned, however, in Denmark, where it is considered a fighting dog. The Boerboel joined the AKC Working Group in 2015.