Spitsvuur Boerboels, breeders of Boerboels, or the African Mastiff, for export of healthy puppies and mature dogs all over the world.

Breeding Policy

The Spitsvuur Breeding Policy.

Performance directed breeding program

Foreigners often ask:” How on earth was it possible to create a wonderful breed like the Boerboel?” The best way to answer it is to quote David Hancock:
“The Boerboel looks to be a magnificent breed, developed in a hard school by tough farmers who were threatened by every kind of dangerous predator, in testing terrain and a challenging climate. Hard-pressed pioneer farmers however resourceful, didn’t have the circumstances which exactly encouraged the conservation of rare breeds of dog. They had a need for brave powerful virile dogs and bred good dog to good dog until they obtained the desired result. Performance directed every breeding programme.”
I experienced this selection process that Hancock described myself in the years before the SABT was formed. If there was ever an illustration of the old truth “form follows function”, this was it. It is indeed worrying that it could no more be said that Boerboel breeding is done where “performance directs every breeding program.”

Functional dogs

Because we live on a farm in South Africa we keep the Boerboels not only for companions but still as working dogs in a sense. In this part of the world we have gangs of armed thieves spying on farmsteads to find soft targets to raid. The Boerboel is therefore very important to help make up the mind of the spy that this is an unhealthy place to visit at night. We do not hunt with the dogs any more like in my youth, and we do not work cattle with them, but they often accompany us to the veld.

“Form follows function.”

Every breed in history that ignored this truth failed miserably, yet it is very tempting for every breeder to take the short cut and go for form and not for function.  I am very weary of this pitfall.

What are the functions of the Boerboel?

If the function is so very important; we must ask ourselves: What are the functions of the Boerboel? The Boerboel must be a guard dog and a (working) farm dog. A guard dog does 99.9% of his work by intimidating would be intruders. Apart from the very necessary and obvious trait, temperament, he must have three very important conformational characteristics: 1) Size. 2) Head. 3) Muscling. Without discussing these traits it is obvious how important they are. There is no way that an intruder could be scared off with a smallish dog with a small long (hound) face and a narrow weak body. While we must always remain very careful not to over select for any trait, we must breed an impressive Boerboel. With all three these traits there is an optimum. If a guard dog is not agile he cannot patrol the premises. Too large and too heavily muscled Boerboels is not agile and will be lazy dogs and cannot be used for guard work either. Too much muscling is also associated with hip and elbow problems. A farm dog must be agile and strong in order to cover large distances with ease.

Breeding preferences for conformation

Our breeding preferences for conformation are therefore medium to large size, large head (but in proportion) and a well muscled body without losing agility. All this must be put on a sound frame. Without discussing frame in depth, it is neccesary to note that, in order to maintain the superiority of the Boerboel amongst the Mastiff breeds, we must give meticulous attention to the hindquarters as far as loin, rump and angulation of the hind limbs are concerned.

Non-Visual Factors

The dog’s conformation could be judged by a visual inspection or on a photo. What could not be seen is very important: Temperament and Health. Hancock describes it so well when he writes:
“The Boerboel appears to feature all the best attributes of the mastiff breeds: immense power combined with great faithfulness, physical stature combined with admirable tolerance and a temperament capable of placidity or ferocity, if its family is threatened.”
From this quote it is clear that the temperament of the Boerboel is the most remarkable feature of the breed and therefore it is not negotiable. We avoid using any Boerboel with a doubtful temperament.

Working qualities

In our selection the working qualities of the dog also plays a major role. A dog with the ability to work well with his master, remains stable under stress and easy to work with when tired or stressed, is the dog to breed from. The Boerboels superiority comes from selection for these traits and we will continue that.

Health issues

Health is another issue that poses a great threat to our precious Boerboel. Vaginal Hyperplasia or Prolaps is a major threat to our Boerboel breed. Unfortunately the best lines of today were bred from the carriers of that gene. This restricts our choice of alternative bloodlines very severely. In the absence of any scientific method to determine carriers, the bringing in of new breeding dogs remains a risk. Initially we avoided using any dog with a carrier in the pedigree. As new information comes to light, we have hope that this problem will be solved with research in a few years time. Therefore we are now using two dogs with carriers in their pedigree, but we indicate the risk very clearly.

Hip and Elbow testing

Hip and elbow testing is a very important part of our breeding program but also a very taxing task because of the distance (more than 500km ) we have to travel with the dogs. The largest part of this distance is through the worst traffic imaginable.  We wait until we have enough dogs to make the trip worth while before we go. Sometimes a female will have her first litter before she is hip tested, but all our breeding dogs get hip tested when they are more than eighteen months old. While I am very weary of the problem, I prefer to breed with a good dog with not perfect hips, and improve the hips in the next generations, to breeding with a bad dog with perfect hips. In other words I believe it is easier to correct hips than temperament or certain conformational faults.

Breeding Selection

Progress in breeding depends on selection. Research has shown that genetic progress is greatly enhanced when progeny evaluating is done to identify (select) the best breeding sires and then using them extensively. At the moment we are conducting an evaluating scheme privately, although I believe it is the responsibility of the SABT to do that. The success of this scheme will depend on the quality of young sires that enter the scheme. In order to make sure we start with the best young dogs in the breed we select them from throughout the country. If I only select from my own animals and ignore the large majority of dogs in the country, the progress will be so much slower. We are already also selecting from the dogs outside South Africa. The quality of the young stock is extremely encouraging and shows that sustainable breed improvement of the Boerboel is possible.

Start with the very best

Genetics and animal breeding has been part of my life for many, many years. I am involved in the breeding and / or judging of a few cattle breeds, sheep, pigs and Arab horses. Racing pigeons and dogs was my first experiences with breeding, and rabbits while at university. With all these breeds I learned that breed improvement is possible with the application of knowledge and experience in conjunction with scientific methods. I also learned that there is no sense in putting great effort into improvement if you start with anything but the best. That is the reason why I can say with an open mind that the dogs I breed from is the best that I know of. There are of course others that I would like to bring into my program, but they will have to wait for a later opportunity.
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Breeding Tips

Breeders often request information regarding certain aspects of selection. This little piece was written to discuss something that is often misunderstood. The aim is not to lay down hard and fast rules, but to provoke some thought that might in the end enhance breed improvement in the Boerboel.

Selection preferences.

Selection is a process of choices. Choices must be made to determine the best individual, but choices must also sometimes be made to determine the lesser evil. Unfortunately every breeder must also choose between good animals with a fault and bad or mediocre animals without faults. These choices determine the parents of the next generation and thus the direction of the whole breeding process. Every dog has got faults. Breeding is the art of using the best individuals of the breed and emphasizing their strong points while eliminating their weak points. In general it is always advised by geneticists that the greater emphasis must be placed on the traits that determine performance the most. Breeds and breeders that concentrated on breeding a ‘good’ animal as opposed to an animal without faults, are always the most successful.

Select for positive traits

Successful breeders realize that a good dog is not a dog without faults, and a dog without faults is not necessarily a good dog. Quality is not determined by the absence of faults, but by the presence of outstanding traits that elevate the individual above its peers. Breed improvement therefore depends on the realization of the breeders that they must be positive and select those animals that will enhance the strong points of the Boerboel, even though it will still have faults. Because no dog is perfect, it is inevitable that some dogs will carry faults with them that must be eliminated in successive generations, but it will not prohibit breed improvement. In practical terms it will mean that the good breeder will select for a Boerboel with the best temperament, a good sized animal, with a big, typical Boerboel head, good muscling and agility. The less important traits should not be the deciding factor in selection, but where possible, should not be neglected, and of course they must not harm the health or the functionality of the dog.
Amongst Boerboel breeders the question is often asked: What about piebald dogs, what about dogs with ugly ears, what about dogs with bad hips, etc, etc.

Piebald dogs:

Piebald as an example

Personally I do not like piebald dogs and therefore it will be a good example to look at. There are some piebald genes in the Boerboel breed and some red and white or yellow and white specimens do appear from time to time. In fact, the very, very best Boerboel legends were bred from piebald dogs, especially on the female side.

Do not narrow the genetic base

There are some people that want to bar the piebald from registration. If that happened two and a half decades ago we would not have had most of our modern bloodlines. Some of the best families had a piebald bitch as the foundation. The principle involved is that we must not narrow our genetic basis that is already restricted, by eliminating dogs with an unimportant trait like an unwanted color. By discriminating against that color, but not eliminating it, the possible genetic contribution of the dog with the unwanted color is not lost, but the multiplication of that color is discouraged, either by discriminating against it on the scorecard, or the buyers discriminating against the dogs by not buying that color. Today the breed is in just as much need of the genetics of the piebald dogs as it was in 1983.

Concentrate on performance traits

Breeding history in other species has shown that genetic progress comes only by concentrating on important performance traits and correcting faults when possible. Faults like bad feet, slack pasterns, straight hind legs, hip dysplasia and too wide chest could inhibit movement and functionality greatly, and must be avoided. Let us take hip dysplasia as an example.

Hips:

Select for important traits while retaining function

Breeding with a Boerboel with dysfunctional hips is unacceptable, because it will hamper his performance as a working dog. On the other hand, by breeding only with dogs with perfect hips the primary breeding target shifts to hips and you get good hips but the dog lacks most of the other desirable traits that distinguish the Boerboel from the other breeds. In that way we will end up with a dog that will have nothing but good hips. The sensible way to go about breeding good Boerboels is therefore to select for the important traits amongst the dogs with acceptable hips, while always striving towards perfect hips. Because of the strong emphasis on 0-0 hips as a Boerboel marketing tool, inferior dogs are often used as breeding dogs, and that slows down breed improvement drastically.

Genetic vs environmental factors in hips

According to the knowledgeable people only about 50% of the HD (hip dysplasia) score of a dog is due to its genetic makeup. The rest is due to environment like feeding (Ca content, Mg : Ca : P ratio, Vitamin C, etc), exercise, etc. If the Boerboel breeder does everything possible to protect his puppies and dogs from HD, and he feeds and exercises them correctly, he will have very little hip problems with his Boerboels, but the good environment will, to a certain extent, mask the genetic inability of the dog to develop good hips. If the breeder is therefore eager to distinguish the dogs with a good genetic makeup for hips he will avoid the different aids available to strengthen hips, but rather select for hips under sub optimum feeding conditions. Thereby he will have a bigger differentiation between dogs with genetically bad hips and the dogs with normal hips. Unfortunately the number of dogs that test badly for hips will be much higher.

Breed Improvement vs Fault elimination:

Formulate clear priorities

Breed improvement in the Boerboel could only be achieved by formulating the priorities very clearly. When a car develops a fault and the fault is eliminated, it is just restored to what it was before. To improve the car, something, like an air conditioner must be added. Improving the quality of the Boerboel could only be achieved by improving the strong points of the breed. The Boerboel will be a better dog when he is more functionally efficient. That could be achieved by improving the traits that contribute to the function of the Boerboel like temperament, strength and appearance. By eliminating certain colors or fancy points or hip score above a functionally efficient score, does not improve the quality of the dog, it only eliminates faults. Breeders must clearly distinguish between Boerboel improvement and fault elimination. If the breeder chooses the last as his priority, he is going nowhere. If he chooses the first, but does not manage some faults properly, he is also going nowhere.
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Finding new Bloodlines / Families.

In the breeding process breeders are constantly eliminating at the bottom and multiplying at the top.  This inevitably leads to a concentration in one or two families. After a few generations of careful breeding by a knowledgeable breeder, the resultant population is very homogeneous and uniform. Visitors comment that the breeder made a wonderful job and the breeder feels that the whole effort was worth while. There are however a few dangers lurking in this utopia:

1. Genetic diseases

It is a well known fact that every one of our beloved dogs carries 4 or 5 genetic diseases. Most of these diseases are unknown to the breeders and will only emerge with time or better testing methods like a Progeny Testing Scheme. When that happens and you find yourself with 100% of your dogs from the same family that is all carriers of the same genetic disease, you as a breeder are at the end of the line.

2. Misguided selection priorities

Every breeder has got some faults in his or her selection priorities, and will therefore keep on selecting for one or more bad traits or will be unable to recognize certain shortcomings in their own dogs. This could be eliminated by adequate exposure to dogs from other breeders. This fault is particularly evident in kennels where the breeder stuck to own bred stock, on both sides of the pedigree for five or six or more generations.

Maintaining multiple breeding lines

In the Boerboel Breeding world of today there are only about a handful of breeders with numbers that would justify the keeping of two or more lines or families, and therefore we at Spitsvuur are very eager to comply and maintain a few lines. Just recently we realized that one of our lines was getting totally dominant and some others were disappearing. We also noted that we had just about 100% homebred females or females bred from our own males. This is in contrast to our experience of a successful breeding operation.

Finding new families

With all the above in mind we set out to find a few new families. This was done with renewed vigor and is now again an ongoing process. Although it is not easy to find what you are looking for, it is very interesting and rewarding. One of the greatest advantages of being an appraiser is the fact that you get to see a lot of dogs. Every dog at an appraisal and every dog that is judged at the shows is a potential breeding dog for Spitsvuur.

Slow Process of combining desirable traits

Sometimes when looking for a certain trait, it is not possible to find exactly what you are looking for, and then you must be satisfied to start the whole process in small steps by combining two animals with traces of the desired traits, and selecting from their offspring something better than the parents, and in that way you work towards the ideal that you set out to achieve. The process is seldom a quick one and seldom an easy one, but it is always rewarding to get the results. Off course you sometimes end up with something you did not bargain for. It may be something good, or it may be something good accompanied by something so bad, that it is not acceptable, and must be discarded.

Investing into a widened genetic basis

In the last seven months we have selected 27 puppies that must contribute to the widening of the genetic basis at Spitsvuur. Amongst them there is tremendously interesting puppies that we have got very high hopes for. The majority of these puppies are not home bred. In a few months time, those that make the grade will be incorporated in the breeding lineup and they will be available as parents for the new generation. Judging by the effort that went into their selection, they will also produce offspring that will satisfy the new owners, but we have an expectation that they will take the Boerboel Breeding to new heights.

About inbreeding

Just for the record it must be stated that inbreeding is not necessarily a bad thing, and if handled correctly, could go on for many, many generations without adverse effects. The requirements for success are very high. You must start with a sound specimen. The breeder must be an expert and extremely stringent selection must be applied. There are very interesting work done on this aspect, but one of the most enlightening reports is the one where researchers bred albino rats for 22 generations, brother to sister, eliminated all known genetic defects, and ended up with excellent specimen, that are, for all practical reasons, clones of one another.

Identification of unrelated lines

In the Boerboel breed we have the situation where the great majority of the good dogs are very strongly related and sometimes inbred. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to identify unrelated lines and develop them to the point where they can compete with the best lines of today. The results of this project is very encouraging and we will put in a great effort to make this whole project work. At the moment we are doing this in collaboration with three other breeders.

23 responses

  1. Sugathan Gopinath

    Congrats Mr.Lukas. No other breeders web sites are giving so much insighting details and information about boerboele breeding.Thanks for your patience and passion.You are absolutely different from other breeders( that is why i liked you so much) as a good responsible breeder.Iam well aware that some of the breeders are deadly against your views/new vision.Absolutely through my personal experience i can state one thing that none of them are more gentle than you in money matters.They are simply talking ethics but jealous about you especially about your black breeding stock.Since boerboele are a developed and recently standardised breed how one can keep away black color from the evolution/development of the breed.Then what is the meaning of evolution?They are jealous and the jealousy and ego will block the entire evolution/progress of the breed and the breeder.Thank you and all the best.

    25/06/2012 at 7:07 pm

    • Thank you Sugathan. I appreciate what you said. I believe it is not neccesary to promote the black dog, or to fight the small anti black group. The facts are clear and the black Boerboels are so well established that they are not endangered any more. The danger now lies to the other side: People will exploit the rareness of the black dog and charge too much for inferior dogs. That will harm the image of the black dog. Again; I appreciate what you said.

      10/07/2012 at 10:46 am

      • tommy kourie

        Sir, i live in kibler park, i have a stunning 3 yr old male boerboel. I would like you to see him. I am looking for a female. Please let me know if you have any available?

        25/08/2013 at 8:09 pm

  2. Woye

    Hi Mr. Lukas,
    I have got to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading the well-scripted articles on the Boerboel on your site. You would think you know enough already about the breed until you meet the masters – kudos. Quantity-wise, the Boerboel was a booming breed in Nigeria before I moved to the UK and some of the breeders there would do very well learning from your write-ups. The breed isn’t the most common here in the UK, though. I have had to have meet-ups arranged around London with V. Naidu in London and some very few ones up north I intend to pay a visit later. I was directed here from Carl’s site after I read an article on which your site was referenced, although Spitsvuur was always a household name (in the head). The breed is starting to bloom too, with some of the dutch breeders and some others all over Europe doing a fairly OK job. Had my first Boerboel a couple of years back and it has been a love story; gleaning info and reading about the breed wherever I can. Still a young chap (comparatively) but I intend to do some good work with the breed at some point…and people have had some nice things to say about you as well. Godspeed to you and all yours!

    11/01/2013 at 10:25 pm

  3. ru

    Hello Mr. Lukas,

    Wow, I am impressed and pleased! You are the only breeder I have read about that has taken the time to explain about boerboel breeding and what you base your experiences on. I really do appreciate your knowledge. I am still browsing through your site, but it brings me comfort that someone in the world does sincerely care about functionality and preservation of not just the Boerboel as a breed, but as a dog, and one of God’s creatures. I have learned much today :o) thanks again. I can see why you have been higly praised over the years. Please don’t ever let $ become the main reason for your motivation in life. The world in general is a crappy place because of people’s love for money. You can see the efffects it leaves in its wake. I hope to be able to take a trip to South Africa in the near future. I was told by a co-worker that it is a beautiful country and the people are kind.

    13/01/2013 at 7:59 am

  4. DJ

    Very interesting insight. I look forward to the challenge of breeding to improve the Boerboel. Your insight will be very useful in knowing what to research and pay attention to when the time comes. I hope to develop dogs you yourself maybe interested in incorporating into your program in the future.

    17/03/2013 at 1:04 pm

  5. I am thoroughly impressed and very thankful that you’ve put so much thought and consideration into what I consider the very vital parts of any breeding program. Your explanation leaves no question that preserving the most important traits is what really matters. Reading the breeding policies of others leaves much to be desired. Again, thank you!

    14/09/2014 at 5:14 pm

    • Thank you for your kind words. It is good to know that it meant something to somebody.

      17/09/2014 at 7:45 pm

  6. Anne

    Lukas you have demonstrated great depth in your breeding policy. I have learned alot about the boerboel through your website.

    18/09/2014 at 10:05 am

  7. Adeniyi

    Having read through all your explanation , I believed this will be very resourceful for me .

    I too have really learnt alot about Boerboel from your site …

    18/09/2014 at 11:38 am

  8. Sérgio Alves

    Good text! I read it all and is good to learn new things about the breed, litters and breeders. It is fantastic to see your dedication and sincerity to this breed. Thank you so much. The boerboel will be my next dog very soon I hope.
    Greetings from Lisbon, Portugal.

    21/11/2014 at 7:40 pm

  9. Moyo

    Obrigado pelo esclarecimento de muitas questões que eram mito, quase nunca achamos quem explique claramente os criterios de seleção e melhoria da raça boerboel, espero puder ver os resultados do seu trabalho brevemente.

    06/01/2015 at 11:54 am

  10. Caylen Wilde

    Although I love Boerboel’s, your website has taught me a great deal of valuable information on the breed.
    My wife and I have been researching breeders across SA and North America for quite some time now, and I can honestly say without a doubt in my mind that we’ve made the right choice to go on the waitlist for one of Ramkat’s progeny. Your knowledge, honesty, and thoroughness are a rare trait amongst breeders we’ve spoke to. This seems to have been passed on to your daughter as well as she has been more than helpful with our many questions.
    Looking forward to the day we bring one of your pups home!

    Thanks for everything,
    Caylen

    23/03/2015 at 3:10 pm

    • Caylen, I appreciate your remarks, especially about Betsie. She impresses me more every day.Both she and Carel, her husband, has the eye for breeding and judging, but they are both those straight forward honest people that do business easily. I hope you get a good one soon.

      16/04/2015 at 1:00 pm

  11. Lyukang

    Hi Lukas,
    It’s been longtime I was looking for a good Boerboels breeder and your website give me so much information, love and passion for that breed.
    After I read the breeding policy, I hope the Boerboel will be my next dogs.
    I’m planing to get one or maybe a pair for next year. How can I do?
    I’ve sent you a request by email and wait for your answer. Do you need more additional informations?

    Thanks and best regards,
    Lyukang

    14/08/2015 at 10:24 pm

  12. Most informative website available! Pay attention breeders and enthusiastic Boerboel owners!

    28/03/2016 at 7:23 pm

  13. Ruari Obeirne

    Simply put – the most authoritative web site in existence today. Thank you for your dedication – we are all beneficiaries of your hard work knowledge and love.

    29/04/2016 at 1:01 pm

  14. Yes I echo the sentiments of all the previous posters. I believe I am a good judge of character and am very confident that I can expect nothing but the best quality of Boerboel from your program. I hope to hear back from you when you have any available pups. Thanks
    Eric

    15/08/2016 at 2:24 am

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