Wednesday, May 17, 2017
A Brief History of the South African Mastiff - The 'Farmer's Bulldog'
Jane Marie Egle, 59-years old, was found dead in her Asheville home on May 1.
Time for Honest Dialogue
Asheville, NC - On May 5, it was a reported that a 59-year old woman was found dead in her home with an aggressive South African boerboel. Deputies had discovered her body four days earlier -- red flag. We looked into the case and quickly learned that Jane Egle was a breeder and seller of South African mastiffs. She had a dedicated website, "Beloved Boerboels," that notes she previously worked with rottweilers and bullmastiffs, along with Facebook and Instagram pages.
In addition to the delayed release of her death information, the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office quickly resorted to, "visible cuts on her body that are consistent with an animal attack, but her exact cause of death" is undetermined. It remains unknown today, 15 days later, if her death is an actual dog bite fatality -- red flag number two. In our ten years of tracking dog mauling deaths, when law enforcement limits the release of injury information, there may be other factors at play.
In the past, other factors have included trying to dampen public interest or media attention to the mauling case, which we have seen backfire too.When deputies arrived at the scene, the gladiator dog -- one of the fiercest guarding breeds -- predictably would not allow first responders into the home. Deputies were forced to dispatch the massive dog to reach the woman. Seven other boerboels were also seized from Egle's yard along with a great pyrenees. Asheville Humane Society, which operates the Buncombe County animal shelter, stated right away the adult boerboels were dangerous and slated them for euthanasia.
Memory Lane: In 2015, the Asheville Humane Society (AHS) adopted out a pit bull that passed a temperament test. Three weeks later, the dog brutally killed a 6-year old boy. No temperament test can measure unpredictable aggression. These tests can measure obvious aggression, as can observation, which is the case with the boerboels that Egle liked to dress up with bling. Recall that AHS also had a habit of anthropomorphizing pit bulls with bling to make them more palatable.
The Dog Behavior Consultant
On May 8, WLOS interviewed Kim Brophey, a certified dog behavior consultant that evaluated the South African boerboels, six adults and one 4-month old. As one would imagine, she was terrified of the dogs. "I was terrified, and I've done this a long time," Brophey said. "It was a difficult thing to do. Both myself and the other evaluator were appropriately cautious given the expressed threatening behavior of the dogs, it was warranted. We had a job to do, and we did it," she said.
Yet, Brophey's logic goes south with the young boerboel, which also should have been put down, effectively wiping out Egle's entire breeding operation.1 Pertaining to the adult boerboels she states, "Given their propensity to harm others, it would have been negligent to do anything other than what was done." Speaking about the breed as a whole, she states: "If we have no tolerance for the specific behaviors that dogs were bred for, maybe we shouldn't be breeding them."
"They were so highly threatening that one could not even interact with them in order to assess them -- all of them." - Kim Brophey, dog behavioristBy May 15, as we began writing this post, Brophey spoke to the Citizen-Times and admitted the adult boerboels were so dangerous they could not even be assessed by personnel, outside of observation. In a stunningly forthright video, Brophey states, "Our message really is ... we should take the opportunity to open a very honest dialogue ... about the big picture of our dog's behavior. We like to act as if dogs are all simply just pets, and that it's all how we raise them," she said.
"The truth is there are many other factors that are facilitating their behavior. If we are not prepared for those behaviors, if we don't look into their history, understand the biology and the genetics, the interplay of their environment, their socialization" and more, Brophey said, "then we are going to continue to find ourselves surprised and in some cases, tragically so ... These incidents are doomed to continue to happen if we don't get honest and practical in our discussion," she said.
History of the South African Boerboel
The South African boerboel is one of several "reinvented" ancient gladiator breeds used for the purposes of guarding and fighting (combat dogs). There is no trustworthy source of information online, in English, about the breed's history -- most are written by boerboel breeders who glorify the dogs. As visually apparent, the bullmastiff was a heavy influencer in resurrecting the breed as they share common ancestors. Calling these dogs a "farm dog" or a "farmer's dog" is deceptive.
The boerboel name is more appropriately translated into the "farmer's bulldog" or "farmer's mastiff," according to academic researchers.No one has done more to "resurrect" the ancient gladiator breeds than Dr. Carl Semencic, who was once billed as a "world-renowned authority on fighting dogs" and continues to get his aging books reprinted: The World of Fighting Dogs (1984), Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs (1991) and Gladiator Dogs (1998). The Gladiator Dogs book "brings to life 13 breeds originally used as fighting dogs." All of the usual suspects are on the list, including the South African boerboel.
Semencic's book purports to explain the history of these gladiator breeds and their different "combat techniques." The fact that Semencic dedicates an entire chapter to the boerboel is telling, right along side the better known baiting, fighting and war dog types, such as pit bulls and presa canarios. South African boerboels are rare in the United States but certainly are not in South Africa. We reached out to animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova who provides more details.
Alexandra Semyonova - Gladiator Breeds
The story of the "boerboel" (which means "the farmer's bulldog" in Afrikaner Dutch) is basically the same as that of the Cuban Bloodhound (second profile).
They were created by crossing the bull / bear / horse baiting bulldog of Elizabethan England and the war dogs European colonists used to subdue, terrorize and sometimes help eradicate native populations. These bulldog-war dog mixes were introduced in South Africa by the Dutch in and after 1652, together with the introduction of slavery there. The "boerboel" was used to guard colonizers' farmlands from the natives the lands were stolen from, to guard and terrorize slaves, and in battles with the indigenous populations. To this day, the "boerboel" is still one of the most vicious and destructive guard dogs that exist in South Africa.
In 2010, a South African surgeon warned that the "boerboel" was presenting an alarming new danger to children:
"Speaking from his rooms at Somerset Aesthetic Surgery in Somerset West, Toogood said: 'Dog bite cases outnumber the cases I see involving motor vehicle accidents, incidents involving pedestrians, and domestic violence.
'And of the dog bite cases, approximately 80 percent of the cases I see involve boerboels.
'The remaining 20 percent (are made up) of all the other breeds of dogs combined.
'I'm simply telling you what's coming through my doors and they are children bitten by boerboels.
'This is not just an affable farm dog with big slobbery chops," said Toogood.
'They are inherently dangerous, with a strong streak of unpredictability, but breeders are not saying so and hence they are being kept as house pets.'" - Murray Williams, "Boerboel attacks on kids on rise," IOL News, February 24, 2010 (www.iol.co.za)
Cape of Good Hope SPCA CEO Allan Perrins, admits in the article, "I know that the pit bull has the 'killer dog' reputation. But I'm afraid it's being fast superseded by the boerboel," writes Semyonova.
According to South African government sources, the export of "boerboels" suddenly greatly increased in 2011. In the United States, South African breeders were getting up to $9,600 for a single animal. It's not surprising then, as this surgeon remarked, that "boerboel" breeders are not honest about what they're selling: "[Boerboels] are inherently dangerous, with a strong streak of unpredictability, but breeders are not saying so and hence they are being kept as house pets," writes Semyonova.
Who Worships, Breeds or Owns Boerboels?
It would be dishonest not to discuss the types of people who own and breed these dogs, including Egle, who graduated up to South African boerboels after raising rottweilers and bullmastiffs. There comes a point where people can't claim ignorance anymore about a dog breed's heritage, nor deny that the real motive is often pathological narcissism -- including the narcissist's insistence on living in a self-aggrandizing fantasy world. Neither of these photos are cute; they are disturbing.
A week before her death, Egle posted to Instagram: "Aslan and Mojo ... before they figured out how to break through that gate and take their boerboel five pack out to meet our suburban neighbors and their many adorable kiddos. Whew! Fortunately, they were only out a few minutes and were friendly and sweet. The neighbors were so charmed by them (all five dogs instantly came when I called them, YES!!), that I now have a new posse offering to take them on walks."
We are deeply thankful that no one else in the community was harmed by Egle's pack of gladiator dogs. They were certainly on track to do so.Semyonova also points out that a neighbor interviewed by WLOS, Jennifer Odom, described Egle as very sweet, friendly and kind. "How sweet, friendly and kind is it to infest one's neighborhood with a type of dog that endangers the lives of every living thing within miles?" Asked Semyonova. "Ones that, as the surgeon pointed out in the 2010 article, are even deadlier than the smaller pit bull types?" Odom also plays the fantasy game by calling the dogs "very sweet, gentle giants."
This is in stark contrast to the heritage of the "Farmer's bulldog" -- selected for willingness to commit sustained, unprovoked attacks and with a physique that makes defense impossible -- that author Semencic worships and promotes in his book. As well as the honest assessment by Brophey, who said these South African boerboels "were beyond threatening and aggressive, as ferocious of an animal as I have ever met in a 20-year career specializing in aggression."
The South African boerboel is still uncommon in the United States. Their high purchase price and annual care costs make it unlikely for this gladiator breed to ever achieve remotely modest population numbers in this country. The American bully, a pit bull "designer" breed frequently infused with bullmastiffs and other mastiffs to create extreme exaggerations in the weight, size and features of a traditional pit bull, appears to be the larger and more troubling trend in the U.S.
Local media outlets are interested in this story and obtaining the cause of death. The Medical Examiner's Office told WLOS it could take 2-3 months to receive the official report -- this is fairly standard and can take much longer when contributing factors are involved. What is not standard in this case is the lack of receiving any preliminary autopsy report or reasons why. We are only left to speculate as to why, which might include trying to dampen public interest or media attention.
Lastly, as recognized by animal behaviorists Alexandra Semyonova and Kim Brophey and columnist John Boyle of the Citizen-Times, this case demands an honest discussion about dog breeds. Some dog breeds are vastly more dangerous than others, which is the focal point of our nonprofit's website. The consequences of believing the myth, "It's all you raise 'em," and ignoring the genetic heritage of a dog's breed results in life-altering injuries and deaths every year.
08/06/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Recently Adopted Out Pit Bull Kills 6-Year Old Boy...
11/19/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: 7-Year Old Boy Killed by Trained Protection Dog in Dodge...
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog
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| 5/18/2017 9:12 PM |
You can see from her online posts that this lady was living in the same fantasy world that most of the people that own tigers and other dangerous exotics do. They imagine that they have a "special" connection with the spirits of these dangerous animals, when in reality they haven't got a clue. If only there was an island somewhere where they could go live their ego-building fantasies and leave the rest of us alone.
| 5/19/2017 10:13 AM |
"Looking like the giant puppy he is" -Sorry, that beast doesn't say 'giant puppy' to me, more like oversized killing machine. Another day, another imbecile coddling dangerous breeds and dressing them up as if lipstick on a pig made it a teddy bear. Next.
| 5/19/2017 2:43 PM |
Such sick thinking about dogs some people have. I've mentioned this before. I really think there's a mental illness connected to these lion tamer mentalities and the obsession with dangerous dogs. I see a lot of online comments reflecting this, as well as a negativity toward small dogs that includes an attitude that smaller or less-dangerous dogs are worthless. Yet at the same time they insist that these giant killer dogs are big teddy bears. It's so messed-up. I'll bet this lady would have said her dogs would lick you to death. I wonder how true that Instagram post was about them charming the neighborhood. Hmm.
| 5/20/2017 4:38 AM |
These breeds are bred for only one reason- to be aggressive and violent. Breeders will never admit they know they are breeding violent dogs. Never.
They will make up fantasy stories about packs of fighting breeds loving up the neighbors, but they don't want to admit they are fueling a market for violent dogs.
Unfortunately they have some political shielding because of the link up of the breeding industry to the agriculture industry. And other breeders will always circle the wagons to hide the truth about one of their own, unfortunately. So the public will often never get to hear the truth.
| 5/20/2017 4:40 AM |
And never make a mistake about it- it is all about the money. They will make up any palatable fantasy story about anything they think they can use to distract people away from that fact, and the danger. Some of these people are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (often outside the radar of the tax man, too) by peddling violent dogs.
| 5/20/2017 4:56 AM |
I thought you might want to see the outright dishonest propaganda being spread by breeders of these violent dogs trying to clean up after this mess. The breeders are nervous about public attention to their questionable activities, and they have worries about losing their "cash cows."
You'll have a hard time finding one word of the truth in this.
| 5/20/2017 10:36 AM |
EyesOpened: It's like 'bad boy syndrome', only for dogs not humans. Pick the most reprehensible person/dog you can find, and if you just looooooove them enough you can 'save' them, and 'reform' them, and make them into they 'good guy/dog'. Only it seldom works that way in REAL life, and even less with dogs who do not have the mental capacity to overcome their genetics.
| 5/21/2017 12:25 PM |
Where do you even start with this one? This breed has the most disgusting, reprehensible, sickening history. Would you be proud to breed or own a dog that was created to keep slaves in line? How do you even spin that? "Farmer's dog" is BS.
The other terrifying aspect of this story is the complete and utter lack of confidence she has in the disposition of her beasts. The relief she expresses in her post about the dogs getting loose is disturbing. The word "fortunately" is not really appropriate when your dogs get loose and don't hurt or kill a neighbor. I personally would not be "charmed" by 700lbs of genetic mutation overrunning my neighborhood.
Her website is full of contradictions. She talks about them being big puppies and silly, then she talks about them being intimidating and "120lbs of fearsome." They were sweet and gentle with neighborhood kids, yet there are goats "begging to be chased". WTF? It sounds like she was trying to convince herself, as much as anyone else, that these dogs are gentle giants.
Lastly, this whole story blows the "it's all in how you raise them" theory out of the water. Half a dozen dogs of one breed are so aggressive and violent they have to be euthanized, and yet the one Pyrenees is totally fine. Did she beat and starve the Boerboels, but love and coddle the Pyr? I highly doubt that.
This whole situation is sad and disturbing. These types of dogs need to be highly regulated, if not outright banned. They are weaponized animals and they have no business being pumped into our neighborhoods. I certainly hope she kept meticulous records (doubt it) so anyone who bought a puppy from her can be tracked down.
| 5/23/2017 3:04 AM |
When there are incidents like this involving breeders, other breeders are often very quick to collect records and any incriminating evidence precisely to hamper investigations. If they don't do it directly, then they impose on a family member.
Some of them have smuggled dogs out of state too.
If you remember the breeders who killed a home aide with their rottweilers in CT, other breeders fabricated stories about "co owning" the dogs so they could get their hands on them, and perpetuate breeding them. These dogs represent a lot of money to them.
| 5/23/2017 8:36 AM |
The tone of her instagram post makes me think she was pleasantly surprised that they returned when she called them (not expecting obedience) and that she was unsure what kind of reaction they would have to kids (or perhaps worried they might be aggressive to kids).
It doesn't come off as the post of someone who was 100% sure their dogs would never hurt anyone or cause a nuisance if they escaped. She even added a "whew!" of relief that they were friendly while out.
And yet I bet she was touting the line these were "gentle giants" and that they "wouldn't harm a fly" to her prospective clients.