Livestock guarding dogs

About 20.000 years ago the dog became partner of the Siberian hunters. In the Middle East (Palestinian burial place; Iraqi cave) the bones of dogs, dated from 12.000 years B.C., were found. In Scotland, in Denmark and in Spain bones from 10.000 years were found in the peatery and the caves. The dog was the first animal to be domesticated. It is nowadays generally accepted that the domestication of the dogs was done during the period of hunting and gathering in human history, i.e. 12 000 years. According to Mason, the sheep was first domesticated on the mountains, located at the present territories of Turkey, Iraq and Syria. One can believe that the livestock guarding dogs start their evolution on this location as well, and this about 6.000 years ago. Man from that period has selected, among the domesticated dogs, dogs of equal height to sheep and which had a weak hunter’s instinct. Just like the modern Navajo Indians, they put their puppies to grow up among the sheep. The puppies grew up considering the flock as their pack and they preferred to stay with it.
Like in the USA there are no breeds of livestock guarding dogs, they make use of “the old World Dogs for the New World”. Among the breeds, which are the most used in the USA for guarding the stock are quoted the Great Pyrenees, the Komondor, the Akbash, the Anatolian, the Maremma, the Sarplaninac and the Kuvasz.
Let’s see now which breeds of dogs from this group exist on the other continents.
In Europe   In Asian  
Bulgaria Karakatchansko kuche Afghanistan
Sage Koochi
Bosnia et Croatia Tornjak Armenia Gampyr
Spain Mastin Espagnol Iran Sage Mazandarani
  Mastin de los Pyrineos Kirghistan Kirghizskaya ovcharka
France Chien des Montagnes des Pyrénées Mongolia Buryato
Greece Hellenicos Poimenicos Nepal Bhotia
Hungary Komondor Uzbekistan Torkuz
  Kuvasz   Sarkangik
Italy Cane di Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese Tajikistan Dahmarda
Macedonia Sarplaninac Tibet Do Khyi
Poland Polski Ovczarek Podhalanski Turkmenistan Alabay Koyunchi
Portugal Cao da Serra da Estrela Turkey
  Cao de Castro Laboreiro   Chien de berger d’Anatolie
  Rafeiro do Alentejo   Kangal Kopegi
Romania Ciobanesc romanesc Carpatin Only the Dog of Tibet and the Anatolian shepherd are breeds of dogs acknowledged by the FCI.
In all the Republics of the ex-USSR, which are in the Caucasian region, there are existing breeds, similar to the Middle Asiatic Shepherd.
Russia Chien de berger du Caucase In Africa  
  Chien de berger d’ Asie Centrale


  Berger de Russie Méridionale All the breeds which are not acknowledged by the FCI are indicated in italic.
Serbia Sarplaninac    
  Srpski pastirski pas    
Slovakia Slovensky Cuvac    
Slovenia Kraski ovcar    

Recently I had the opportunity to receive via Mr. Jean-Jacques Allard some pictures from those countries, made by a big traveller and dog lover, Mr. Philippe Deltreuil. Most of those pictures come from Armenia.

The FCI classification leads to confusion, because certain dogs “protector” of the flock are classified in group I, group of the shepherds and others in group II, in the section of Molossoïdes mountain type. The common characteristic is that all those dogs are mountain dogs with two exceptions: the Komondor and the Kuvasz.
All those breeds have the instinct of protection in their genetic patrimony. The work of protecting from an adult dog will be the result of its heritance and from its integration into the flock life assimilated to the “pack”.
To be a good protecting dog, the dog has first of all to act independently, he has to be able to take decisions when needed, he should not at all have the instinct of hunting in his heritance; he should not be too rough, and not too playful towards the sheep. On the other hand the sheep should be a breed which stays together, in a flock, not too much dispersed, otherwise the dog will not get the feeling of living in the pack and will not enough get attached to them.
The preparation of the puppy to its future task of guarding the flock starts at the age of 7 to 8 weeks. The puppy will be separated from all other dogs that made up its pack, as well from the shepherds family. It will see the least possible humans. It will be put in a pen of about 15 m² with 3 to 6 lamb or ewe-lamb when lack of lamb and will have a little corner for him, where he can eat and rest. It is necessary to change the cohabitants, so that the dog can get used to other sheep of the flock, which he will have to guard. In the first period, when a sheep is showing itself too aggressive towards the puppy, it has to be replaced by another, friendlier one. The purpose is that the dog is getting attached to the flock, much more then to its master and his family, that he is not escaping and going back to the house. Playing with the lambs will reinforce its bond with them, but the game should not become too violent. The dog should not follow other wandering dogs or those from the farm. On the other side, it should correctly act in presence of the dogs who are conducting the flock, who are not independent and work on the commands of the shepherd. The difference between those two groups of dogs is that the herding dogs of the flock consider the livestock as their prey but with an instinct of inhibited predation while the protecting dogs consider the livestock as equal species to themselves.
The puppy becomes operational between 6 to 8 months or later, depending from the breed. It is not necessarily to demand from it to be aggressive; its behaviour can be dissuasive or can consist in distracting the attention of the predator. Those dogs reach only full maturity between 2 and 3 years.
The number of dogs necessary to protect the flock will depend on the configuration of the land, the size of the flock and the density of the predators. Often when they are two dogs you can notice that one stays incorporated in the flock and the other one is mounting guard.
It concerns rather remarkable dogs and having a weight of about 50 kg. Their colour is very often, but not always, the one of the sheep they guard.

One of the very efficient livestock guarding dogs and who since ages is still nowadays doing this job is certainly the Sarplaninac.

The proofs that he has the sheep “under his skin” are numerous and lately I got the occasion to discover that by different examples.
Let’s go back to the anecdote about Pasa reported by my friend Jelena.
Here is what his owner told about him:
“It is very interesting that although he was not going after the sheep (and even we did not let him approach them, because we were afraid that he was going to attack them) he knew the sheep. Once when we sold the sheep to another village 20 km away, he simply disappeared for several days. When he came back, we heard that he had found back the sheep, which were sold and that he stayed with them for a couple of days. He accompanied them when they were grazing and he slept next to the sheep pen. The people who bought the sheep understood what all is about and they fed him. At a certain moment he judged that the flock was not belonging to him anymore and he came back.”