Neither the Boerboel or the Tosa Inu are particularly common in the United States. Both of these strong, self-confident canines, who resemble each other physically, require handlers who are experienced with large, protective breeds. The Tosa Inu and the Boerboel are definitely not dogs for the novice -- or for the local dog park. Neither the Boerboel nor the Tosa Inu mixes easily with other canines.
In South Africa, Boerboel means "farm dog" in Afrikaans, a South Africa language. The Boerboel results from the breeding of European mastiffs with indigenous African canines. Besides performing work on the farm, Boerboels hunted large game and guarded premises. Devoted to their people, including kids, Boerboels might be shy with strangers. Much depends on how well they are socialized in puppyhood. The American Boerboel Club states that, because of the farm dog history, this breed interacts well with livestock and even cats. However, other dogs are another story. Boerbels are dominant and "do not respond positively to dominant behavior from other large dogs," according to the ABC.
Boerboels mature between 22 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder, with males larger than females. Males have heavier bone structure and larger overall frame than females. The Boerboel head is broad and blocky, with a straight, broad muzzle. The face might or might not have a darker mask than the body color. Acceptable colors include fawn, brown, brindle or red, with a small amount of white allowed on the chest and legs. While piebald Boerboels -- those with large amounts of white and a solid color -- are permitted, the white areas can't exceed one-third of the coloration.
Also known as the Tosa Ken or the Japanese fighting dog, the Tosa Inu is one tough customer. While the Boerboel was developed for protection purposes, the Tosa Inu was developed for dog fighting. In Japan, the breed is still used for this purpose, although they do not fight to the death. Their type of fighting is comparable to human sumo wrestling, whereby one participant strives to hold down another. While the Tosa Inu can behave relatively well with people, he's generally aggressive with other canines. He's not a good choice if kids are in the household, because too much roughhousing on the part of children can trigger his urge to attack. He does make a good guard animal.
Tosa Inu Appearance
The modern Tosa Inu has Great Dane, mastiff, Saint Bernard, bull terrier and bulldog blood in his veins, along with that of native Japanese breeds. The Tosa Inu is slightly smaller than the Boerboel, maturing between 22 and 24 inches at the shoulder. This massive dog's large head features the facial wrinkles common in some of his ancestral breeds. While red or reddish brown is the preferred color, any shade is acceptable for the Tosa Inu.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.