When the Boerboels showed up in Soweto

Motloung couldn’t buy his son one (as junior had specifically requested) but instead, one day came home with a puppy.

From Rokafela Boerboels and existing under Gauteng Boerboels Kennel Union, the owner of no less than 15 of the breed, was at his post as one of event co-ordinators at the very first Soweto Boerboels Show, incidentally held just a stone’s throw away from where the memory of his father once bringing joy into his then young self, came to pass, namely, Rockville – at the Soweto Equestrian Centre.

Motloung’s eyes darted from one point of the animal farm-esque venue to the other, whilst invariably looking out for members and other participants, and ensuring their readiness in preparing the numerous four-legged creatures for their busy turns at appraisal and show ring sessions.

Asked why it was that the umbrella organisation, the South African Boerboel Breeders’ Society (SABBS) was staging the Soweto Show & Appraisal for only the first time, Motloung offered, “We’ve been trying to do it but we’ve been failing, but this one is the first one that’s succeeded in Soweto.” 

He pointed out that upon the governing society satisfying itself with the suitability of the proposed venue (usually utilized by the GBKU) – the green light was granted to go ahead with the township’s maiden show. 

“The point of organizing this show, actually every month we’ve got shows in different provinces,” he went on, adding, “we always host a national show, which is like an Olympic tournament whereby all the shows around the continent meet and compete under one umbrella – which is SABBS.”

Motloung mentioned that they had some 50 Black Boerboel-owning members (with some located beyond the country’s borders in far-flung areas such as Zambia) under his group and affiliated to SABBS – “with one aim to teach each other about the dog, how to handle a Boerboel and all those things!”

To the question regarding his level of satisfaction with members’ degree of taking care of their pets, he expressed happiness on that front – saying, “I so wish most of our Black people will come and join this, to own dogs and know how to handle a dog.”

Motloung also proudly mentioned that every monthly show, Black members’ Boerboels always came back with prizes – pointing out, “plus five, six members will always come with a medal – there are trophies in their houses and medals to show!”

Expressing his confidence that the event wouldn’t be the last of its kind in Soweto, the middle-aged school bus driver then touched on the subject of his 15 pets, letting in on the monthly cost of food and medicine for his brood’s wellbeing, “it’s about R3500 a month!”

Motloung concluded the interview with him by expressing his satisfaction with the attendance of the show (which was staged gratis, but with participants having to pop out a registration fee for the appraisal and the show) by the locals, saying, “very much, very much – you know it’s like we’re attending a national show, it’s not like a normal show, lot of dogs, more than a hundred dogs that were registered for this show.”  

Looking out from the fringe of a tent reserved for spectators towards a rectangular show ring which was a hive of activity with contestants and handlers running the gamut of the space was long-bearded and bespectacled fellow show co-ordinator, Jens Gunther.

 A welcome expert and owner of the breed, he selflessly offered of his time for a ‘crash-course’ on what precisely transpires at a Boerboel show. Beginning by breaking down the difference between the appraisal and show segments of an event, Gunther explained that at an appraisal, dogs are measured against breed standard and appraised on their own merit – with aspects such as height coming under scrutiny.  Whereas show sessions entail dogs being compared against each other in 9 separate classes for males and females – with groups determined by age.

At a show, six to eight dogs are allowed inside a show ring and therein, a show judge would lookout for characteristics such as construction (big and strong), attitude (whether the dog is calm and doesn’t lunge at people), discipline, temperament, fluidity of motion in running, a straight back and movement of legs parallel to each other.

A dog trainer also, asked of his impressions of the Black handlers as well as that of the chosen venue, Gunther hinted that they were expert breeders who were eager to participate in the show and expressed his “pleasure to come to Soweto to share things of mutual interest.

Every bit the proverbial gentle giants among humans best friends, the very popular breed (particularly the African long-leg Boerboel) can stand, two-footed, to the level of a human’s height and also weigh as much as and to exceeding extents of the latter!

A 2018 journal exclusively dedicated to the breed, describes the Boerboel as, “manageable, reliable, obedient, trainable, very intelligent, steadfast and calm with a balanced and confident nature when approached.  Their unconditional love shown to their humans is what makes them stand out above the rest.”

All around the venue, with horses going about their business within the premises to make for scenes really out of an animal farm, the human interaction with the cute and adorable creatures was the stuff of commendation – with kennels being constantly minded by handlers, dog biscuits aplenty, a water hose at the ready and horses stables even freely made available for the waiting-to-compete four-legged fellows with the curious stares!

Restaurateur, Anthony Mandishona showed up with two of his. 

The youngest, a huge male by any account and which some years back starred as the face of Bobtail dog food, licked on the pants of a young boy who had come to watch the parade, whilst its owner was getting registration documents sorted out at the organizers’ table.

 Probably from merely being approached by such a humongous dog, the youngster let out a yell in a moment of panic.  The incident immediately drew the attention of the nearby organisers, with the compering SABBS chairman, Johann Kruger amongst them. 

Their body language disapproving of the momentary drama, they remonstrated with Mandishona regarding the incident – there and then ruling that his pet was no longer eligible to participate in the show.  Naturally displeased with their ruling, he ended up begrudgingly taking up their overture of only permitting his other dog to participate in the event.

In an area where ill-treatment of pets is fairly rampant, that dedicated Black owners such as Motloung and Mandishona rocked up to demonstrate way of co-habituation with our four-legged friends, ought to serve as an educational drive to carry forward by locals. And had the youngster who reacted adversely to being licked by essentially a friendly and playful pet been knowledgeable regarding the breed – his response to the brief encounter could had swayed differently.

 And to illustrate such a point, previous SABBS chairman, Koos van der Westhuizen advised in the journal, “A purebred Boerboel seldom attacks when not provoked.  It is vital that adults must educate their children on how to behave around dogs to prevent attacks.”

Van der Westhuizen also set out the difference regarding the breed’s distinction as opposed to others: “It is uneducated people who refer to any big brown dog as a Boerboel. 

A SABBS registered Boerboel is a dog that is supplied with a microchip and an accompanying DNA profile.  Any other dog that looks like a Boerboel, but from an untraceable origin should be regarded as a mixed breed dog.

“Crucially”, he warned, “one of the problems with crossing different breeds is that the temperaments of these dogs are also crossed, with unpredictable and often dangerous results.”

In Rockville, opposite the Elkah Cricket Club, way past lunchtime of a winter’s Saturday, prizes of medals and bags of pet food supplied by event sponsor, Nutribyte, continued being claimed as man and animal rounded off a mutual pursuit!  

And needless to mention, Motloung’s 14 month old beloved, named Lady D, romped away with the first prize in the junior female class!      

Image Jacob MAWELA (Minders and contesting Boerboels inside a show-ring at the Soweto Show & Appraisal, at the Soweto Equestrian Centre in Rockville).

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