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Boerboel vs. Bullmastiff: Breed Differences & Similarities

Are you comparing the Boerboel vs. the Bullmastiff for a home guardian or family companion? These two breeds are quite different but share some striking similarities. Find out which of these two Molosser dogs are a better fit for your lifestyle.

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Last Updated: July 11, 2021 | 9 min read

Boerboel and Bullmastiff Outdoors

Comparing the Boerboel vs. the Bullmastiff for your next livestock or estate guardian? The Boerboel and the Bullmastiff might be two of the most similar-looking dog breeds. Side by side, you would be forgiven if you thought they were the same dog. However, once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a lot more differences than you first thought.

So, whether you are wondering what the connection is between these two breeds, or you can’t decide which one is better suited to you and your family, this guide is a must-read. The Boerboel is the largest of the two, and he is the more intense of the two to look after. The Bullmastiff is popular with families across America, but he is not suited to every family.

Both breeds can be wonderful family companions and excellent protectors of both home and property. Due to their size though, neither breed is recommended for novice dog owners. Curious to find out more? Let’s start the battle of the big dog B’s!

Breed Comparison

Boerboel

  • Height 22-27 Inches
  • Weight 150-200 Pounds
  • Temperament Confident, Intelligent, Assertive
  • Energy High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 9-11 Years
  • Price $1,500 and Up

Bullmastiff

  • Height 24-27 Inches
  • Weight 100-140 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Loyal, Brave
  • Energy Low
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 7-10 Years
  • Price $1,200 and Up

Breed History

To understand these beautiful dogs, you need to know where they come from and their breed purpose. Unfortunately, many dog owners jump into getting a dog without doing the necessary breed research. And when it doesn’t work out, the pup either ends up in a rescue shelter, or it leads to an unhappy life for both humans and dogs.

Boerboel

Boerboel Outside Looking Around
Boerboels originate from South Africa and are a guardian dog breed.

The Boerboel is a rare dog in America, but if you visit South Africa regularly, you’ve probably met one of these pups. They are one of the more popular South African dog breeds. ‘Boer’ means farmer in Dutch, and it was the Dutch that bred mastiff and bull-type dogs to create powerful protecting machines. The result? A Boerboel. He was the chosen canine for farmers wanting to protect their land and family from lions and other predators.

He’s not just a fighting machine, because he was also raised to be a family-friendly pooch who loved to mingle with his family. He is also known for his fondness of children. And he is often selected as a therapy dog because of how sweet he is. He was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2015. And in 2020, he is ranked as the 121st most popular dog breed. Because of his natural guardian tendencies, he’s often compared to other breeds like Rottweilers.

Bullmastiff

Bullmastiff Looking Around Outdoors
Bullmastiffs are also a guardian breed, with very different origins.

The Bullmastiff is also known as the ‘Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.’ And just like the Boerboel, he was created to protect the country estates and game preserves, but of the English aristocracy. He was also made from bull and mastiff-type dogs, and to be precise, he is believed to be 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. Courageous enough to protect estates and capture intruders, but obedient enough not to maul them to death so that they would face justice.

He hails from 19th century England, but it wasn’t until 1933 that he officially joined the AKC ranks. He is now the 51st most popular dog in America, making him much more popular with families in America. This is mainly due to his smaller and more accommodating size. He featured in the film Rocky as Sylvester Stallone’s pet dog and has been a huge hit with big dog lovers ever since.

Appearance

Boerboel vs Bullmastiff Resting
While these breeds may look similar, they are quite different!

After looking at their history, you know that both breeds were created by breeding mastiff-type dogs and bull-type dogs. And this is why they look so similar to one another. But, to the trained eye, there are slight differences. The most obvious is their size. The Boerboel is the largest of the two and can weigh up to double the weight of a Bullmastiff. Boerboel’s are often confused for the Cane Corso, or Mastiffs due to their appearance similarities.

This alone might sway you towards the Bullmastiff, but it doesn’t just stop there. The Bullmastiff has a long and thick tail that often gets him into trouble in the home – breaking many ornaments. The Boerboel is naturally born with a long tail, but it is common practice to dock it at the third vertebrae.

The Bullmastiff has a flatter muzzle than the Boerboel, and you can see the bull-type links in his face more so than the Boerboel. Many prefer this flatter face look, and equally, many prefer the longer muzzle. The flatter muzzle can sometimes cause health concerns, but we’ll cover this later. Both have long triangle drop-down ears, a square-shaped head, and a big fleshy nose.

They also share their coat colors, and the most common color in both the breeds is fawn and red tones. They also usually sport the black mask, and they both have the rarer option of the brindle jacket. Their coat is double-layered, and it is sleek and smooth to the touch.

Temperament

Bullmastiff and Boerboel Laying Together
Their temperaments can be similar, but also quite different.

The personality of the Boerboel and the Bullmastiff is quite similar, too, but with subtle differences. They are both, without a doubt, protective of their family. Because of their nature, neither breed is suited to a first-time dog owner. Both breeds can have aggressive tendencies if they aren’t properly trained from an early age.

The Bullmastiff will make a better cuddler on the sofa and is less intense when protecting his family. The Boerboel is always on alert mode (can you blame him with lions about?) compared to the Bullmastiff, who is more relaxed. Although they will both defend their family just as well as each other, the Bullmastiff is typically more relaxed.

Thankfully, both breeds are calm in the home and loving towards their family. Because they are calm and protective of their pack, they are both naturally drawn towards children. Surprisingly, the Boerboel has the more obvious fondness of children and will gravitate towards them. In comparison, the Bullmastiff is a sucker for anyone.

The Boerboel is more used to working alone on the vast expanses of land in Africa. And he is better suited to dealing with situations by himself rather than be directed by his master. For this reason, the Boerboel is more independent. In the dog world, this means he is more stubborn, and he is harder to train. It’s a fair observation to say that the Bullmastiff is the slightly more obedient dog.

They are both great fun and love to play with their family. Just be careful of their sheer size, because even for adults, they are a handful. The Boerboel might not be as dynamic as the Bullmastiff, but he is more active for sure because of his more intense working energy.

Exercise

Molosser Dogs Outside
Bullmastiffs are less active than Boerboels.

The Boerboel is the more active out of the two, and that is because of his working history. Not only was he an estate protector, but he was also a herder, cart puller, and overall ranch hand. Compared to the Bullmastiff, who reacted to intruders on his master’s commands. So, if you are after a more active dog, the Boerboel might be your better option.

The Boerboel will need around 60 minutes of exercise every day, compared to the Bullmastiff, who needs approximately 45 minutes. The Boerboel’s exercise should also be more intense and mentally engaging to expel that deep-rooted working energy of his. For the most part, the Bullmastiff would be happy with a leisurely stroll around the block.

They are both playful, energetic, and intelligent, which means that on top of their daily exercise, they will need playtime throughout the day – the Boerboel more so. It’s wise to invest in indestructible dog toys or giant toys for bigger dogs, otherwise, they might turn their attention onto your favorite table’s legs.

Training

Boerboel and Bullmastiff Training
Both breeds are stubborn and will require patience when training.

Both of these guys need intense training as soon as you get them home, and neither of them is suited to inexperienced dog owners. It is also advisable to enroll them in puppy obedience classes as soon as you can do so. You need to get a grip on their dominant character before they assume the role of top dog in the house. Don’t underestimate their dominance.

But, those who can be firm but fair with them will find a happy relationship with their dogs. The Boerboel is the more stubborn out of the two breeds because he is used to running a ranch independently. Many find the Boerboel too much dog to handle, so unless you are super experienced, the Bullmastiff might be the more comfortable option. If you plan to crate train your pup, ensure you have plenty of space for an extra-large dog crate to properly train your pup.

Socialization is critical, otherwise, they will both treat the neighbor’s cat as they would a lion or intruder. Positive reinforcement is the best training method to use. The Bullmastiff’s favored reward will be edible treats, and the Boerboels will be whatever he is feeling that day. That’s stubborn dogs for you!

Health

Healthy Molosser Dogs
The Bullmastiff has a slightly longer life expectancy than the Boerboel due to its size.

Both the Boerboel and the Bullmastiff suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia and eye concerns such as entropion, progressive retinal atrophy, and conjunctivitis. In addition to this, the Bullmastiff should also be tested for a variety of heart concerns and thyroid abnormalities. Although the Boerboel is prone to fewer health concerns, unfortunately, he enjoys fewer years simply because of his extra weight.

The Boerboel, being from Africa, is more suited to a hotter climate compared to the Bullmastiff, who is from England, known for its cold and wet climate. The Boerboel has darker skin on his head and back, which protects him from the fierce UV rays. The Bullmastiff does not. It’s also worth noting that the Bullmastiff has a flatter brachycephalic face, which is another reason to keep him in a colder climate.

Nutrition

Hungry Bullmastiff and Boerboel
Both the Bullmastiff and Boerboel will eat quite a bit of food.

The Boerboel will consume around five to six cups of food every day, and the Bullmastiff will finish between three to four a day. This is all dependent on their age, size, and energy levels. They will both need a high-quality kibble that will provide them with a well-balanced diet. Both dogs are giant breeds. This means you’ll need an age-appropriate giant breed puppy food, progressing to a giant breed adult formula which they will likely eat for the majority of their adult life. We’d recommend adult food for both breeds that have a glucosamine and chondroitin boost before they even hit their senior years.

Both of these guys are at risk of obesity, so be careful not to overfeed them. Their joints already carry more than enough weight, so please don’t add any more to them. This will only increase their chances of developing other weight-related health concerns. They are also at risk of gastric torsion, which is linked to feeding routines and exercise times. It is a life-threatening condition.

Grooming

Big Molosser Dogs
Both the Bullmastiff and Boerboel have similar grooming needs.

Both the Boerboel and the Bullmastiff have similar coats, and so their grooming needs are identical. Their coats are short and sleek, and they only need brushing once a week throughout the year. During the shedding season, a brush twice a week will help you to manage his shedding and prevent it from falling onto your outfit as much.

Bathe them once every 8 to 12 weeks to keep them clean and free from dirt and grease. Invest in a gentle doggy shampoo that will not irritate their skin. They both suffer from eye concerns, so when you groom them, be sure to cast your eye over theirs. And note any changes that might need veterinary attention.

Puppy Price

South African Mastiff and Bullmastiff Puppies Outside
Boerboels are going to be slightly more expensive than Bullmastiffs due to their rarity.

The puppy price of the Boerboel is slightly higher than the Bullmastiff, and that is because he is a little rarer. Expect to travel to meet a reputable breeder. And don’t be surprised when they question whether you are up to the challenge of owning either of these guys.

Beware of backstreet breeders and puppy mills who will charge less for their pups. And although this might sound tempting, you can be sure that you will get a dog who is probably unhealthy and has never known any love. This will lead to higher vet bills and potential behavioral problems in later life.

Final Thoughts

So, now you know that there is an equal amount of similarities and differences between them. Their similarities stem from the fact that they are bred by the same dogs. But because they were used for slightly different purposes and worked at different intensities, they are distinctly different.

Although the Boerboel is the least popular, he might be the better option for your family. He is better suited to a hotter climate and suffers from fewer health concerns too. Or maybe you have a smaller home and can’t quite stretch to the needs of the Boerboel. The Bullmastiff is cheaper to care for but doesn’t live quite as long as the Boerboel.

Thankfully, both of these protective breeds are family-oriented and would do anything for you. So, if you can tick off their needs, they will live up to everything you could ask for, and much more.

Leave a Comment

8 Comments

Tom Rodman

January 13, 2021 at 12:30 am

I read the article as an owner of a bullmastiff almost 20 months old. He weighs about 141 three months ago at a checkup. I decided against the Boerboel mainly because of the sheer size and strength. I still don't know if my bullmastiff will decide to want to see the husky on the side of the street and dislocate my hip replacement. Powerful at his size anyway. Thanks for a good article to read and hope it helps its way to future molosser dog owners.

Kelly Wilson

January 14, 2021 at 4:23 am

Thanks for the comment, Tom! It's hard to go wrong with a Molosser dog - we have two! Good luck with your pup!

Marie

March 13, 2021 at 4:28 pm

I’m a first-time dog owner by default, COVID necessitating the need for someone to take in not only one, but two bullmastiffs, mother, and son! Add to that two indoor/outdoor cats, and, in November, an apparently abandoned schnauzer, male. I’m happy to report that we’re all getting along well with minor spats between the schnauzer and one of the cats.

We’re living in a very small hunting camp in the middle of nowhere. It’s a tight squeeze at night, but everyone has his or her spot. By day, there’s a whole state forest in which to roam. I’ve arranged for the regular delivery of bulk food to a garage 13.7 miles where the paved road runs out, then I come with the truck. Not a bad way to sit out this pandemic!

Kelly Wilson

March 15, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for the comment, Marie! Sounds like you have your hands full, but are at least enjoying life while you are doing it! Thanks for the comment, and good luck!

Christian Langish

June 12, 2021 at 5:41 am

I have 5 Boerboel (3 male, 2 female) best dog breed I’ve ever owned Hands down. I’ve had APBTs, Rottweiler, GSD, hounds, None have came even close to a Boerboel. Overall as a dog. Protection, independent thinking, strength. Family companion. They are magnificent. With a 75 month old daughter. They are so gentle and watchful of her. I would never own another breed again.

Kelly Wilson

June 14, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Sounds like a couple of great pups, Christian! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Joe Trunzo

July 4, 2021 at 10:23 pm

I've owned bullmastiffs and they are excellent dogs. From my experience, almost everything in this article is correct. I've also owned Rottweilers excellent dogs but need more training. I think my next dog will be a Boerboel. Excellent article! I own 35 acres which is plenty of room to roam.

Kelly Wilson

July 6, 2021 at 1:40 am

Hey Joe! Thanks for the comment and the compliments. Yes, I'd agree that 35 acres is plenty for your Boerboel. Just be prepared to exercise them a bit more than your Bullmastiffs, and you should be good to go since you have experience with both breeds. Thanks for stopping by!