The Difference Between a Perro de Presa Canario & a Boerboel

by Joanna Ehlers
Molossers such as this Tibetan mastiff played an important role in the development of the perro de presa and boerboel.

Molossers such as this Tibetan mastiff played an important role in the development of the perro de presa and boerboel.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

The South African boerboel and the perro de presa Canario are powerful and imposing. Throughout history, the two breeds have served mankind in similar roles as the guardians of property and farms, driving off undesirable pests and wild dogs. Neither breed is suitable for inexperienced dog owners, but in the right hands, they can be devoted and athletic companions.

Countries of Origin

As its name suggests, the perro de presa Canario hails from the Canary Islands. They are descended from the Iberian presa, a kind of mastiff who traveled to the islands with their conquistador masters, and a variety of bulldogs called alanos. According to the website VetStreet, a fierce sheepdog called the bardino majorero was later bred to the existing dogs, creating the modern-day presa. The South African boerboel has roots stretching into antiquity, arriving in Africa with Assyrian ruler Assurbanipal when he conquered Egypt. According to the South African Boerboel Breeder's Association, the dogs traveled north to Europe with Alexander the Great and developed into two distinct strains. When Dutch colonial administrator Jan van Riebeeck arrived in South Africa in 1652, he brought his mastiff-type dog, called a "bullenbitjer," for companionship and protection. The modern-day boerboel is descended from dogs owned by South African colonists and mongrels kept by native African tribes.

Coat Colors and Textures

The presa may have a coat color of brindle, black or fawn. His coat is short, flat and rough. He sheds infrequently, except in the summer and fall, when he will require frequent brushing to remove dead hair. A boerboel's coat is shiny and short, according to the American Kennel Club. Boerboels may be any shade of brown, red or fawn; white patches are permitted on the dog's legs and fore chest. Brindle is also allowed, but white exceeding 33 percent of the dog's body is considered a disqualification, and a predominant body color of black is not allowed, although a black mask covering the face is highly desirable.

Sizes, Ears and Tails

While both breeds are descended from mastiffs and may therefore share some characteristics, the boerboel is the taller dog, standing up to 27 inches at the withers. Presa dogs are usually no taller than 25 inches and weigh no more than 100 pounds. Boerboels are longer than tall with a rectangular build. A boerboel's owner may choose to dock his tail, but such a measure is not necessary for showing purposes; natural tails are not penalized by the AKC. Docking a presa's tail will result in a disqualification, according to the United Kennel Club. The UKC indicates that the presa's ears may be cropped, but natural ears are not penalized. The AKC prefers the boerboel's ears in their natural state.

Differences in Disposition

The calm, confident boerboel is devoted to his family, especially children. The presa is more aloof, and must be supervised when children are present. Neither is a breed well-suited to living with cats or other small pets unless introduced early in life. The presa may be wary of strangers, while the laid-back boerboel will tolerate them with reserve. The boerboel is known for discerning threats and may respond to other dogs with belligerence, according to the American Kennel Club. Both breeds require consistent socialization and training both to occupy their intelligent minds and keep them from being a danger to their humans and themselves.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images