Congo the Boerboel Is Our Family’s Big, Good Boy

A South African mastiff, the Boerboel is a fierce, loyal companion and playmate for this family's four kids. He's also a very big boy.

by Seth Simons
Boerboel, a loyal family dog lying on the floor together with a young boy

There are big dogs and then there’s Congo. Congo is a Boerboel, or South African mastiff, a breed known as one of the world’s fiercest guard dogs. With a history dating back to the earliest European settlements in South Africa, Boerboels, which weigh between 150 and 200 pounds, are thought to have been bred as hunters as well as protectors, keeping remote outposts safe from lions and other big game.

Congo doesn’t have lions to worry about. Born in South Africa, he lives in Canada with his owners Anthony and Marlene, and their four children. The family thinks of themselves as ambassadors for the unusual breed, which is fiercely protective but not aggressive, and record Congo’s growth and family adventures — including pony rides and lots of sleepovers — on Instagram. In fact, Anthony says, he’s even considering getting another Boerboel. Here, per Anthony, is how having such a big, good boy has shaped his family.

I have been fascinated by animals my whole life, especially dogs. However, growing up my parents didn’t have enough money to buy me a dog. When I was about 15 years old, I saved up $275 and decided I would buy my own dog. I searched through classified ads until I found an ad for a German shepherd, which was the breed I always wanted. I had a friend of mine drive to a small town outside of the city where I purchased my first dog, Lola.

I spend 12 wonderful years with Lola. She was with me for some of the greatest moments of my life and helped me get through some of the most difficult times, including the death of my mother.

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Since then I owned three more German shepherds, all of which have since passed — except one who lives with my family, who is now 11 years old, blind, and has numerous health issues due to age and autoimmune disease.

Being the dog fanatic I am, I constantly Googled and YouTubed dog facts, and it was about eight or nine years ago I Googled “the best guard dog.” At that time, I discovered the South African Boerboel. I could not believe the size, appearance, and temperament this breed was said to have.

After nine years of research, and after [marrying] my wife Marlene and having four children—Nicholas, 17; Tristan, eight, Lily, four; and two-year-old Emma—I decided it was time to find my dream dog.

I looked for a local breeder and discovered there are little to no Boerboel breeders in Canada, so I began searching breeders in the USA. After pretty much searching every breeder in North America my wife said to me, “Why don’t you just look for a breeder in South Africa?”

I finally found a breeder in South Africa who in my opinion had the most beautiful-looking Boerboels in the world. After speaking to Karlein at Afrika Kennels I agreed to purchase a big-boned, friendly 11-week old puppy. About two weeks later I picked up Congo from the Toronto Airport. After a 22-hour flight from South Africa with a stopover in Europe, Congo arrived in Canada on 29 June 2018.

Congo and my family immediately bonded. He was a chubby 20-pound puppy who was full of love and brought happiness and laughs to the whole family.

Congo and Tristan are best buddies and are pretty much attached at the hip. Tristan reads about the tales of Boerboles chasing away lions and hyenas in Africa and is more than happy to tell anyone about the history of Boerboels.

Congo is often the pretend pony or unicorn for Lily and Emma. He was definitely a hit on Halloween when the girls dressed him as a lion and took him out for candy.

Our family has started a Instagram page for Congo, documenting his growth with the family along with training and diet. We take pride in being ambassadors of the breed in Canada, where there are very few Boerboels, and attend pet expos where we are constantly approached with questions like, “What kind of dog is that?”, “Where did you get him?”, “How much does he eat?”

After 30 years of owning dogs, I can most certainly say the Boerboel is one of the most intelligent, loyal, loving, and protective dogs who is absolutely wonderful with children. But, kid you not, they are also one of the best guardians of property and are absolutely fearless and would not hesitate to protect their family members.