English Mastiff vs Boerboel: Who’s the Better Mastiff?

Large canines hit it differently for most dog lovers in America. People would agree that they are more capable of guarding homes and properties in contrast to smaller breeds yet their instinct to protect doesn’t overshadow their calm and gentle temperaments.

One group that gradually rises to fame is the Mastiff. Specifically, the English Mastiff and the Boerboel are what make potential owners scratch their heads in deciding which breed to go for. 

Although both dogs are different, they are undoubtedly fantastic as family pets. For some, the English Mastiff would be better than the other, but it boils down to preferences. To aid you in making a major decision, we have laid out a comprehensive article that touches every important aspect of knowing both breeds. 

Breed Origins

English Mastiff

The modern-day colossal English Mastiff belongs to the ancient lineage of the Molosser. His ancestor is huge and has been commonly used as a guard, a war dog, or simply just a pet.

During the old times, the Mastiff has been referred to as a dog-like beast. Indeed, he is intimidating enough to shoo off intruders or protect the flock day and night. The English Mastiff has been depicted as well in several 2500 B.C. ancient murals showing how he fought against the mighty lions near the Tigris river.

Eventually, this canine arrived in England where he finally got more developed as a dog with lesser aggression. However, he remained not to be underestimated as he worked excellently as a patrol guard in numerous estates. 

The two world wars threatened this large dog’s existence due to food shortage. Luckily, two English Mastiffs from Canada helped in reigniting the almost extinct Mastiff breed.


Hailing from South Africa, the Boerboel (pronounced as boo-r-bull) means “farmer’s large dog”. True to its name, this enormous canine was indeed bred to become an aid for farmers in the 1600s. Not only was he tasked to guard and protect the homestead but he was also brought along to hunt after dangerous wildlife animals such as the hyena, baboons, and other big cats.

It is believed that when Egypt was conquered, Assyrian dogs mainly spread in South Africa. They were then further developed resulting in two types which were the Mastiffs and the Hounds.

When the Boerboel dog emerged, farmers could somehow sigh in relief knowing that they have colossal canines that can lessen the threats of dangerous predators in a challenging climate. 

Soldiers, European settlers, colonists, and African migrants were the primary reason why this large African Mastiff got to the US. Although the preservation of the breed’s purity was challenging, breed enthusiasts sought a way to ensure that Boerboels regain their pedigree.

Size, Appearance, & Coloring

English Mastiff

The English Mastiff is the largest dog in the world and that’s an understatement! The height starts at 27.5 with no set limit after that from the American Kennel Club. Even though he can be tall, it is still imperative that his weight reasonably amounts right to his height. His mass can be anywhere between 120 to 230 pounds, yet some Mastiffs can be heavier than that.

Aside from the size, the English Mastiff’s trademark is his beautiful yet mysterious black mask that spreads around his eyes and mouth. His jowls are very loose making him drool uncontrollably. His eyes are soft and gentle to look at while his ears are small and dark in color.

The hind legs are muscular while the front legs are straight. His body is stocky and heavy-looking covered in a short coat that can be fawn, brindle, or apricot in color.


Photo from: diva05.04.21 (IG)

The Boerboel Mastiff has a striking resemblance to the English Mastiff. He is big as well but the AKC has set the ideal range of 22 to 27 inches for the height depending on the gender and weight that can reach 150 to 200 pounds. He’s indeed smaller than the English Mastiff, however, he remains to be a ginormous pet.

In terms of this dog’s features, telling him apart from the English Mastiff won’t be easy. But, by looking at the ears and the jowls, you’ll instantly recognize which is which. Boerboel’s ears are leveled on his nose while his lips are much tighter. That’s just it! His coat is also short, double-layered, and smooth to the touch.

While the English Mastiff has strictly three colors to choose from, the Boerboel, on the other hand, enjoys more choices of colors: brindle, brown, cream, tawny, reddish-brown, and red.


English Mastiff

You might be worried about the English Mastiff’s bloody past manifesting at one point. Although his history was rough, modern English Mastiffs are now bred to be even-tempered. Sure, they can still become aggressive dogs, but that will only exhibit if they are incompatible with their owners.

English Mastiffs are sociable dogs who like to have company. He can play well with kids as long as they are older. If he grows with them as a puppy, he’ll have an even stronger bond and urge to protect them as if they are his pups. 

Friendliness is a natural trait too. With proper socialization, your other dogs won’t feel scared being around their bigger sibling. Visitors would also feel less threatened and the chances of aggression from the great English Mastiff will be significantly low. 


Labeled as an alpha dog, the Boerboel takes security to another level. His level of mistrust of strangers is so high making him an excellent watch and guard dog. Despite his serious attitude in ensuring his family’s safety, the Boerboel remains to be a playful and affectionate family dog. Bringing him home as a puppy and letting him watch your kids grow will eventually make him a perfect companion. 

He’s fearless when met by an opponent but a softie when petted by the kids. He may be a walking contradiction, but that all depends on what kind of situation he’s facing. You might be wondering what he’ll act like around other dogs. Well, the Boerboel Mastiff will have a lower tendency to show hostility toward those he grew up with.

Trainability & Intelligence Level

English Mastiff

Photo from: argo_theenglishmastiff (IG)

Intelligent and sensitive. The English Mastiff would need an owner who sticks by the rules and is careful with his words. Every puppy you train responds well to positive reinforcement, consistency, patience, and kindness. Since he can get bored or distracted easily, we suggest you keep each session short.

Moreover, acknowledging that he’s a smart breed would mean giving him challenging drills due to his great thirst to be mentally and physically stimulated. Use treats to reward good behavior or incorporate words of praise to moderate his dependence on food.  


Photo from: Boerboel.realm (IG)

Consistent training along with other proper training methods will always result in an obedient Boerboel dog. He has a pack instinct that needs to be managed as early as puppyhood and this should include training as well.

Since he has a prevalent alpha trait, the owner should be more dominant than him. Obedience training is highly imperative so if ever conflicts arise, you can easily command your dog to behave and follow your orders.

Socialize him properly with other dogs and humans. Let them navigate their surroundings and make sure he’s not collecting his energy by laying on the couch all day long. Boredom in dogs will make him develop hard-to-manage traits which can be a hindrance during training.

Exercise Needs

English Mastiff

Regardless of what dog breed you have, exercise should always be part of your pet’s daily routine. There will always be varying lengths when it comes to how long your dog should sweat off his excess weight. In the case of the English Mastiff, an hour of exercise divided into shorter sessions will do.

Over-exhausting him will cause major damages to his body in the future. Since his legs are supporting a very heavy body, if his full weight gives a massive contact down the lower areas, his joints will suffer greatly. Let him have gentle and peaceful walks or let him inspect the yard on his own.


This is where the Boerboel provides a clearer edge against the English Mastiff. If the Mastiff possesses moderate levels of energy, this South African dog, on the other hand, is high in vigor! His exercise requirement can be fulfilled through a 60-minute daily walk and the remaining hour can be spent on other rigorous activities.

A word of caution for Boerboel owners, bringing this dog for a walk in the park is not recommended. His protective instinct might spark and this would lead to him finding the other dogs as threats. 

Maintenance Level

English Mastiff

English Mastiffs aren’t high-maintenance dogs. Although this is the consensus, you should still understand your pet’s behavior so you’d know how frequently his grooming should take place. If your dog likes to stay clean and deliberately avoids muddy areas or puddles, baths can only take place every 6 weeks or whenever necessary. Meanwhile, brushing will have to be done every week.

As it is with other pets, checking on his other parts for signs of infections is imperative.


Thanks to his coat quality and length, the Boerboel won’t require much grooming. He is an average shedder, however, so brushing and baths should take place occasionally. The cleaning of his teeth, ears, and nails should be done more often to see if there are any bacterial infections. Make sure you only use tools and products meant for large dogs so that their hygiene won’t be compromised.

Health Issues

English Mastiff

Photo from: robot_fists (IG)

Thanks to the widespread use of ethical breeding, English Mastiffs are generally a healthy breed. But, due to his size, he can still be prone to several health issues including hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, eye problems, and cancer.

Another life-threatening condition large-sized dogs suffer from is bloat. Some experts recommend performing gastropexy when the puppy is getting spayed or neutered to prevent this. 


Photo from: boerboel.realm (IG)

All dogs can develop genetic health problems no matter how healthy they can be. This doesn’t exclude the Boerboel canine as he can have certain health problems like vaginal hyperplasia, heart disease, hip dysplasia, ectropion, and entropion. 

The Boerboel is also predisposed to suffer from bloat. Every after meals, encourage him to rest for at least an hour to lessen the chance of this health problem from manifesting. 

Breed Popularity

As per the latest AKC breed popularity ranking, the English Mastiff consistently enjoys the 29th spot since 2013. On the other hand, the Boerboel is at 121st out of 200 recognized breeds. His rarity might have largely influenced his fame, but yet again, this may eventually rise in just a matter of years.

Fun Facts

English Mastiff

  1. The English Mastiff was crossed with a bulldog to breed the Bullmastiff.
  2. Aicama Zorba of La-Susa is the world’s largest dog with a height of 8 feet 3 inches and a weight of 343 pounds. 
  3. A female English Mastiff has a large litter size from 10-12 or even 24 puppies!


  1. The Boerboel breed is banned in 12 countries.
  2. A Boerboel is a certified Molosser.
  3. Despite being shorter and stockier than other Mastiff types, the Boerboel is the most agile in the family.

Who’s the Better Mastiff?

For more laid-back people, the English Mastiff whose exercise needs isn’t too much would be right for you. He might just need to eat more yet nevertheless, his temperament makes up for it. Meanwhile, Boerboels would require more active owners who are firm and capable of handling their dominance. They can be great for security as well as a cuddle buddy.

See which dog suits your situation more and never ignore their personalities. So, which Mastiff do you think you should get?