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Boer Horse, Boerppherd - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Boer
Article and Photo copyrighted - See credits below.

The Boer Horse called Boerperd, Kaapse, or Cape Boerperd in its homeland, is a breed created in South Africa, and a good amount of the original Cape or Boer horse survives today in current Boerpherd breed.


Dutch immigrants started to settle at the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century, after a Portuguese sailor had found the sea passage around the cape and on to South Asia. The first horses there were from the southeastern Asian island of Java, which had no indigenous horses, but had Mongolian ponies brought there by the Chinese.

The Dutch remained a strong power in southern Africa through all its varied and eventful history, marked also by English, German, French and other influences. The Dutch were probably the strongest influence in creating the Boer Horse, but they did not do what one may have expected, that is bring their native Dutch horses to South Africa. The Boer is a relative of the Basuto horse, a breed developed by Lesothos native people, the Basuto.

The Dutch Boers realized early on that this hot and rugged country, and their work there in herding cattle and covering lots of miles, called for a different kind of horse. Interestingly, they almost from the word go bred a gaited horse, something they were not familiar with in their old homeland - and something that they had most probably found in the ponies that had been brought there by a vessel from Java, prior to the first Dutch settlement. The Boer Horse probably owes its “tripple”, its lateral gait, to those ponies from Java, as Mongolian ponies are usually gaited, although there have been later imports which were likely to have had a natural tendency to be gaited, too.

The horses and breeds that the horse of South Africa, the horse of the Cape, was built on were mostly from Persia, Arabia, Iberia and Northwest Africa (Barbs), France, and England. The land and the climate and the kind of work this horse had to do, and the extreme demands made on it, eventually managed to shape it into a distinct type.

The Boer Horse was molded into a breed that had the potential to be sought-after the world over, but its location “at the end of the world” left it largely unnoticed. It was extremely hardy, sure-footed, frugal, durable, with endless stamina, and a conformation and movements that offered a most comfortable ride, especially for the lateral gait. It was a dream of a horse for hunting, herding, traveling, and for war. In 1810, their reputation was such that a considerable number were under British rule exported to Australia.


Something most authors don’t recognize is the influence American horses had on the South African Boer Horse. This influence came through three different channels: The first one was when thousands of horses were shipped to South Africa from America, to mount soldiers in the Boer Wars. English-born nobleman William Anson, a Quarter Horse breeder in Texas, is reported to have sold more than 20,000 horses directly to the English Government, which were shipped out of Galveston directly to Capetown. Even though most will not have been pure Quarter Horses, it is fair to say that the breed has received a good shot of Quarter Horse blood. Another influence came by way of American Saddlebred stallions to the Boer Horse breed, which had been imported by Boerperd breeders. And a third is represented by some American Standardbred stallions that were selected by breeders.


The old-time, famous, highly appreciated breed fell apart when in the late 19th century the farmers had become prosperous and felt like spending some money on their horses, which up to then had been working horses, tough, almost indestructible laborers, a means of transportation that had always known only demands, and no consideration. To “improve” on what they had, they got fancy and imported horses - mediocre horses at that - which actually couldn’t hold a candle to their Boer Horse stock.


In 1942, a studbook for South Africa’s horse was founded. In 1957, breeders agreed on the name “Boerperd”. According to some sources, a Cape Boerperd Breeders’ Society was formed in 1948, with the purpose to preserve what was left of this original, and only, South African horse breed. Just to what degree the qualities of the breed were preserved, who is to tell? Who is still alive and able to compare the abilities and virtues the breed has possessed in the 1800s and early 1900s with what is left today? A good amount of the traits of the original Boer Horse is still represented in the breed, that much can be assumed. Only if it is put to the test like his tireless ancestors can this horse come close to living up to its heritage.


Size wise, the Boerperd is a minimum of 142 cm, and a maximum of 158 cm. The head has a straight profile. In conformation, it is a well-muscled, light, fairly leggy, well-balanced riding type, with an impressive, slanted shoulder and a set of withers that reach far into the back.

The hooves are so tough and hard that shoeing is not necessary, even in rocky terrain. The Boer Horse also comes in all basic colors.

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Article © HorseShowCentral.co. Submitted by Hardy Oelke and Photo © Mike Bissict.

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