Livestock Protection Dogs in Association with Large Carnivores

The topic of the proper temperament for a working Boerboel is often a hotly debated subject.  The Boerboel is a South African breed, originally used by the Boers to protect their homestead and livestock.  The word "Boerboel" derives from "Boer", The Afrikaans/Dutch word for "farmer", and therefore translates as either "farmer's dog" or "Boer's dog".  In addition to being used as a guardian, it is popularly acknowledged that the farmers also used the dogs for herding, droving, hunting and livestock protection.

The reason I am bring up this topic is to introduce this recent research paper entitled "A Review:  The Use of Livestock Protection Dogs in Association with Large Carnivores in the Rocky Mountains".  The authors of this article are C. Urbigkit and J. Urbigkit, who are western Wyoming sheep producers, and it was published on the American Sheep Industry Association website.


Livestock protection dogs (LPDs) in the United States have helped to protect livestock herds from certain predators, but expanding large-carnivore populations pose new challenges, and the number of LPDs killed by large predators is increasing. We conducted a literature review to identify LPD breeds that may be more suited for use around large carnivores, such as gray wolves. The use of spiked collars to increase the survivability for LPDs in areas of coexistence with large carnivore populations is also discussed. This paper advances the adoption of techniques and LPD breeds used outside of the United States in areas where large carnivores exist with livestock production.  Read more...

I found this article of interest because of its relevance to proper temperament for a working Boerboel.  If one is to believe that the Boerboel was originally developed by South African farmers as a utilitarian farm dog, then this idea supports the theory that Boerboels were used for livestock protection in addition to guarding.  The farmers could not afford to keep multiple breeds on their farmstead, but instead selected a dog that "could do it all"; i.e., fulfill the requirements of every day life on a working farm. 

The challenges of urban living in the 21st century bring a host of new issues to the breed, most of all its position in modern society as a result of its sudden popularity.  The conundrum is whether the temperament of the Boerboel should remain true to its original heritage as the ultimate utilitarian farm dog, or whether the temperament should be modified to adapt to living in the suburbs.

I strongly believe that the Boerboel is one of the true remaining farm dogs, whose temperament should not be modified from its original heritage.  The traits required of a working farm dog are diametrically opposite of the traits required of a police dog, service dog, or inner city protection dog.  These traits cannot be measured "off the farm", away from families, livestock and territorial boundaries.  This situation has caused a conflict between breeders who are breeding to maintain the original heritage of the working farm dog, and breeders who are trying to re-create a new police dog adaptable to living among strangers, buildings, streets and busy thoroughfares.  Often breeders and working dog trainers confuse the differences between traits required for "working sports"; i.e, Schutzhund, Mondio Ring, competitive obedience, protection sports, etc., and the traits required of a dog that is an asset to the farmer in the protection of his family and livestock.

Whereas human contact is important for a K9 officer as they are required to maneuver through busy thoroughfares and public buildings, this may not be a required attribute to a dog who "lives on the farm" with little occasion to meet strangers outside of their own family.  This is just one example of the differences in traits required of a working farm dog, as opposed to a working K9 officer or working service dog.

While the Boerboel is a working farm dog which may require livestock protection, their utilitarian value is that they are an "all around" dog capable of many tasks, but perhaps not the best choice for each individual task.  My understanding is that the Boerboel is a "jack of all trades; master of none" type dog on the farm.  If one needs an absolute livestock protection dog, then the Great Pyrenees, Akbash or Komondor are the popular choice here in the United States. 

The article referenced above outlines the need for LGD (livestock guardian dogs) in farms and ranches in the Rocky Mountains for their effective use in protection of livestock from large carnivores.  Fortunately, unlike the Boerboel which is experiencing a sudden popularity growth, the LGD's are not at risk for adaptation to use as police K9's or protection sports.  It's interesting to note that the authors contend that there is no need for improvement of the LGD as they already have a "high degree of perfection that cannot be improved any further but only preserved”.  Most breeders of Boerboels are working against this principle, with preservation of the historical breed traits of the Boerboel potentially getting lost. 


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