My Take on the Boerboel:
There are various written standards out there, but they change like fashion, and the drift over the last 15 years is towards shorter heavier less functional dogs. Setting aside the dubious value of visual standards on the whole, they will be of limited value, as the breed is rather phenotypically diverse (they look different) The easiest way to get a visual feel for the breed is probably to google image it.
The Boerboel has been the subject of such hype it’s difficult to know what to say. Perhaps the most significant point is this: they are still a hell of a lot closer to what a mastiff was and should be than the English Mastiff or Bullmastiff of today. Of course the Boerboel is no less immune to the selection pressures that effectively ruined those breeds. Perhaps more than anything its circumstance has bought it a temporary reprieve, a delay, in that seemingly inevitable drift towards the liability friendly foot stool.
Relative other rare breed Mastiffs; Cane Corsos, Dogo Canarios, Filas, Dogos, Tosas etc. I think the one safe generalization that can be made is none are as consistent as those selling them would have you believe. The simple truth is there is variety, and issues, in all those breeds, so to the Boerboel.
The Boerboel is supposed to be a family, farm, stock, and property protector. An all around farm dog; a utility dog. And a good one is every bit of that. Possessed of manageable prey drive. Naturally protective of its territory, relatively suspicious of strangers, born with as much velcro as any dog I’ve encountered, and extremely biddable.
The truth however is that they are all over. There are some uncanny smart Boerboels, but I wouldn't call smart the norm. There are calm stable Boerboels, but there are fear biters too. There are Boerboels that would play Frisbee with a burglar and love everybody. And there are quite a few which could properly be called man stoppers.
The reality is there has not been concerted, meaningful, or lengthy enough selection process to guarantee the sort of consistency regards temperament many a puppy peddler will have you believe. As a result you can get a just about….anything. And testament to the contrary, in my opinion, should be regarded as, deception or ignorance, but a red flag regardless.
Having said that, and I’ll make no friends for having done so; I would also say this. They tend to be very good with children. And they stick around as good or better than any breed I’ve known. And they tend to be low enough in prey drive that they can easily be taught to leave your farm animals alone.
They are not super dogs, they are not psychic, they cannot tell good leopards from bad leopards, much less people. They do not fight lions, or hyenas. They are as unlikely descended from war dogs or ancient civilizations as they are a "land race breed" that made itself across S. African farmlands. Most likely, they are descendants of bull mastiffs brought over by the English to guard diamond mines, that were primarily bred by the Afrikaners for personal protection, until such time as they became profitable. The proverbial beginning of the end.
All that said. In a mastiff they still deserve to be right up at the top of anyone’s list. Just know there is significant variation within the breed, and significant health issues, as there are with all the mastiff breeds. And people representing them any other way are dishonest, ignorant, or both.
Extremely biddable dogs, very people oriented, very sticky; you’ll not find a dog less interested in roaming. A utility dog needs more than anything to do, or not do, whatever its owner wishes; and a Boerboel is a utility dog, a consummate yes man. They love their people, and should be inclined to want to get between them and anything they suspect might be a threat. Who and what they regard as welcome is largely a matter of how you condition them, but the proper temperament is one that seeks to protect, and is naturally territorial and wary of strangers approaching that territory.
Energy level: 4-6
They vary of course, but in general they are fairly laid back. They fire up for events, but have no problem lying around between time; not pacers by any means.
Variety aside, the breed should be considered likely smarter than all the main stream mastiffs who have already suffered the slings and arrows of popularity ( english, bull, etc. ) but not canine rocket scientist by any stretch.
Cause that’s what a Boerboel should be, eager to please.
They wait for you outside whatever door you last went in. They live for their people, four legged shadows. They are waiting for you to tell them what to do, always.
Like secret service agents next to a U.S. President in a crowded mosque. I've had Boerboels stay at my side when we run, even if other dogs in attendance break off to chase wildlife through the woods, the Boerboels can be called off almost anything to return to your side, instinctively, which is rather remarkable really.
I’ve never owned a dog less inclined to roam, for most of the Boerboels that I’ve had, fence was not even necessary
Prey drive: 3/4
Moderate, nothing that their biddability won’t compensate for. I.E. they would just as soon kill your stock if you encouraged it, like most dogs, they can refrain from doing so if they understand it's not encouraged. But if you give one the green light to hunt whatever, they will do so with gusto.
Dog aggression: 6-8
These are dominate animals, same sex adults will not settle rank peacefully. It’s a trait that’s largely understated in Boerboels, because it doesn’t sell dogs. But it's a reality in most half way serious dogs.
Human aggression: 6-9
Always a touchy subject, but what a Boerboel is supposed to be is a man stopper. And you can’t be that without being willing to lay tooth on a man. The truth is, natural born man-stoppers are much harder to find in Boerboels ( as in most “protection” breeds ) than some of the marketing might have you believe. Evolutionarily speaking, dogs that wouldn’t back down from a human tended to catch the sharp end of things; spears, swords, arrows, and more recently bullets. So it should come as no surprise that dogs with that sort of backbone are actually quite hard to find… but we’re always looking :)