What Are the Differences Between Bullmastiffs & Boerboels?

By Jane Meggitt

If you're in the market for a large canine, either the boerboel or the bull mastiff fills the bill. These two dogs resemble each other, although the boerboel has a more square head than the bull mastiff. Boerboel simply means "farm dog" in Afrikaans. The breed is also known as the South African boerboel. The breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club registry in 2015. Bull mastiffs have been recognized by the AKC since 1934.

Guard Dogs

South African farmers bred the boerboel as a protection and all-around working dog. He was later used for guarding diamond mines in his native land. The bull mastiff originated in England, where he was developed as a guard dog for large estates and a deterrence against poachers. His name gives away his lineage, as the breed originates from a cross of mastiffs and bulldogs. Both dogs still make good watchdogs, although neither barks much. Their sheer size is enough to scare away most intruders.

Size Differences

Male boerboels mature between 24 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing between 140 and 180 pounds. Females are smaller, standing between 22 to 25 inches tall and weighing between 110 and 150 pounds. The male bull mastiff stands between 25 to 27 inches tall when full grown, with females 24 to 26 inches high. They weigh slightly less than boerboels, with males maturing between 110 and 130 pounds and females tipping the scales at between 100 and 120 pounds.

Coat and Color

The boerboel's short coat appears in various shades of brown, including tawny, cream and reddish brown. It also appears in brindle, or dark striping on a brown undercoat. Boerboels may have white markings and a dark mask. Large amounts of white on the body are also acceptable. The bull mastiff's short coat appears in fawn and red, with red brindle, fawn brindle and red fawn as acceptable shades. The black facial mask is the only acceptable marking in the AKC breed standard, except for a tiny white spot on the chest.

Dominant Dogs

Both breeds are dominant dogs, and not recommended for novice dog owners. Neither particularly cares for other canines, and males especially dislike other male dogs. If you ever bring another dog into your household, make sure it's the opposite sex of your boerboel or bull mastiff. Because of their strong prey drive, neither breed does well with cats or other small pets. However, the boerboel can accept noncanine pets with whom he's grown up. The bull mastiff can make a good family dog, as can most boerboels. That doesn't mean a dog who is fine with the household's children will do well with strange kids.

Training and Exercise

It's important to train and socialize either breed from puppyhood, since they are independent canines and need firm boundaries. Obedience training is a must, and both breeds usually do well. It's important to consistently reinforce that training, so you're confident you can control your giant dog in any situation. The boerboel is far more active than the bull mastiff and requires a fair amount of daily exercise. The bull mastiff is less energetic and a couple of daily walks can fill his exercise needs.