Black Boerboels. "The Dark Side of the Moon"
Written by Alla Fridman.
Someone may find it a bit too personal, but it’s my life, and my side of the story, that I’d like to share with you, my boerboel friends.
With all my respect to boerboel owners, and to people I personally know or met, I couldn’t help just passing by, and not to add some pieces to the black boerboels’ puzzle, which now sounds more like a wonderful illusion, that suddenly broke and fell apart in thousands of pieces that’s hard to collect and put back. I’ve been an official HBSA representative during 2003-2007, and since it ceased to be, I became a member of EBBASA and was appointed as it's representative for Russia/CIS.
I am not a SA farmer, and to my deepest regret I was not growing up with boerboels either, as many of the south-aftican breeders do or might proclaim today, though sometimes it’s not.
I got involved with this amazing breed in 1998, when I got my first boerboel. Today it may sound awkward, but no information about boerboels could be found on the internet then, and I made every effort possible to learn more about this breed, and a year later I got acquainted with one of the breed’s 5 founders still alive at that time, Lucas van der Merwe (can’t be more thankful to John Penders, USA), and we spent uncounted hours on the phone talking boerboels since. We became very good and close friends. Lucas visited Russia 4 times, 3 of them as an Appraiser, and 1 as our special guest. In 2006 he advised me to invite Jakkie Erasmus as a Senior Judge for the HBSA Appraisal, and despite his lack of experience in judging, that started in 2001 according to official HBSA register, he did really well and it was rather strict and justified evaluation, as it always was with HBSA system, what made it differ from other Associations appraising.
Our special guest of the event then was Claudia Maurits of Grootgeluk Boerboele (Netherlands), and one can imagine how hot discussions and argueings we had (5 of us!) over that time!! We talked a lot and shared our opinions on different features, traits, and other peculiarities of the boerboels of the past and existing, and Jakkie mentioned that he had a black male back at his farm that he got recently, not registered, but he was hoping to use him for breeding out black dogs at a later stage.
Lucas being a polite and gentle man, remarked that it should be a cross though, as there was never a solid black boerboel known, but only “ultras” (i.e. ultra-brindle) boerboels that would rarely appear in the litters, and some of the breeders (such as Jannie Roodt and Peter Milstein) would even thourough select them in order to get them born. And those of “black dogs” that he ever saw were mutts and didn’t look like boerboels, and carried obvious signs of unknown breeds.
In 2007, I came to South Africa and stayed with the Erasmus family for some time, and I’m still very thankful for their hospitality and nice time spent at their place. There I was presented the 3 black pups out of the 1st litter sired by Jack, the black male that was also shown to me later, as he had been kept remotedly from the house, at some other place, quite on a distance from the main farm, and it was dark by the time we got there. Unfortunately I could not see him properly through the fence, although I did make a couple of pics in darkness. I shall admit that I was totally charmed by the pups, and by the whole idea of black boerboel’s revival, it stirred my mind as a kitchen blender. And I can fully understand all the feelings of today owners of these black dogs.
After visiting Eastern Cape, I travelled to Free State, and stayed at Mizpah Farm with Lucas, and we discussed black boerboels as well. As I had been very excited by them, the old man soothed me down, by saying that he regretted to allow them to be registered with HBSA, as “there was never black solid color boerboels that he knew of, and the only black dogs, that he ever saw and raised with at his grandfather’s farm, were those of an ultra-brindle color, very dark in appearance, with hardly noticeable stripes in them”. He also felt very pity, that boerboel started to loose its original looks and traits, and was getting more and more commercial interest from breeders, and that it was not that him and other founders wanted for the breed. As a matter of fact, he took me to his good friend and neighbour, Walter Holder (Slamat Boerboele), that’s about 5 km away from Mizpah, where Walter showed me an adult black male, (Great Dane x Boerboel cross), that they kept just for guarding (I have a picture of him too). I think that at that time if there was a need in reviving the black boerboel – it was a good chance for both of them to do it (e.g. Donkerhoek Kaapult’s background is no secter). But that idea could not even hit old men minds, as they knew the truth about the non-existence of the black boerboels, and they strived for pure-bred boerboels over the past 30+ years… When I asked him, why not to use him, Lucas just laughed and said that they can’t do that, it’s not right.
During my stay at Mizpah, it turned out that Jenny Wells (Quovadis Boerboels) also visited Lucas, and we continued discussing with him everything back and forth, again and again, over and over, and those of you, who know Jenny, it’s hard to believe that she would miss the point, or wouldn’t get the chance to get to the very essense of the issue, dropping some important threads of the story somewhere down the road.
Many interesting boerboel facts and stories were revealed to us, and many of our questions have been answered. That was back then…
In 2009 Jakkie in his letter to me admitted, that on the short “black BB search” tour that he, his wife Elma and Jan le Doux (Egoli Boerboels) undertook, they visited many farms, and that the black dogs that they saw “was really a lot of sh**…” And the black ones that they had at that time out of Jack and his offsprings, were of the best quality ever known, and therefore I was offered to take part in a big commercial project involving black boerboel development throughout the world, that started to roll on with big success. I still was anxious and thrilled by the “magically survived” color, and again, I called Lucas van der Merwe, as I wanted to hear his opinion one more time regarding this color, hoping that I would hear something different, but nope, he made it straight, saying that he, with J. de Jager and later with P. Milstein arranged several trips years ago in the search of the black boerboels, and they could not find any on them, even in the remote areas near Lesotho, except of some obvious crosses, that didn’t even reminded them of boerboels. After that conversation, I got a firm decision to leave it once and for all there where it was. Where’s a whill, there’s a way. Lucas didn’t believe in its existence, and did not believe in “any black dog that barks being a boerboel”. I greatly respect the knowledge and experience of the man, who devoted his whole life to boerboels, and there was no one who could know this breed any better, and how and where it started.
I am not here to make any judgements, or accuse anyone, people choose their own ways to go, it’s just my little story, but I remember very well what Oom Lucas had been saying to me many times, as well as all my conversations years ago with Anneke, his ex-wife, (who was on the Great Boerboel Tour with him), and especially over our last conversation with Lucas, 3 days prior his death, when he already had breathing difficulties, but was in absolutely clear mind- just for the sake of the breed, there’s no need to bring something new to it, as it is AS beautiful AS it is, even if multiplying the black color is profitable and attractive to many people around the world. There are other good dog-breeds that have black color in their standards and genes. There is also no need to overthrow the saying: “The leopard cannot change his spots”. Why should boerboels do?
With all my good and loving memory of Lucas van der Merwe, the true Boerboel Man of South Africa.
P.S. When I hear the story that there’re dogs of unknown origin in Muller Lady and Poppie’s certs due to the fact that J. Muller never registered his dogs and wasn’t involved with any of the Associations, it contracdicts the HBSA Registry of dogs. According to it, he’s been a member of HBSA since 2001, and registered his other dogs with it without any problem. So what was the true need to a sudden registering of these 2 dogs in 2003 then (in fact there were 3 dogs registered on the same day, but I presume one of them just vanished), and the parents were not? Did this happen just because of the interest coming from some breeders that started their kennels as early as in 2001-2003?