Maremma livestock guardian dogs


Personal bodyguard
Protecting the newborn

Apprentice guardian
Great Pyrenees

Anatolian Shepherd
Anatolian Shepherd

 The guardians
The Guardians

Great Pyrenees pup



    Livestock protection dogs

    Going to the dogs
    There are two types of dogs used on sheep farms: herding dogs and guardian dogs. Herding dogs are used to manage sheep. Guardian dogs are used to protect sheep from predators. Herding dogs need to show dominance, whereas the guardian dog needs to be more submissive in his behavior.

    Learn about herding dogs =>

    Livestock protection dog breeds were probably among the first dogs to be domesticated. They originate in Europe and Asia, where they have been used for centuries to protect livestock from predators.

    Some of the more common breeds used in the U.S. include Great Pyrenees (France), Akbash and Anatolian Shepherd (Turkey), Komondor and Kuvasz (Hungary), Maremma (Italy), Polish Tatra (Poland), and Tibetan Mastiff (Tibet). Many of the breeds are related.

    Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog)
    The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed and has been used for millennia by the shepherds which includes Basque people, who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain. They are descended from the Hungarian Kuvasz and Maremmano-Abruzzese and are considered an arisocratic relative of the St. Bernard and Newfoundland.

    Anatolian Shepherd
    The Anatolian Shepherd originates from Turkey and is probably more than 6,000 years old. They are a muscular breed,with thick necks, broad heads, and sturdy bodies. Many Turkish breeders believe that the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a cross of the Kangal dog and the Akbash dog.

    King of the Hungarian guarding dogs, the Komondor is a heavy-coated white dog descended from a Russian dog of the steppes called Aftscharka. It has a white corded coat that give a unique appearance.

    The Hungarian Kuvasz has the Turkish word for "protector" as its name and its country of origin is most likely Tibet. It is a large dog with a dense coat which is usually white in color and can range from wavy to straight in texture.

    Akbash comes from the Hungarian word for "white bread." The Akbash dog is found today in rural Turkey, and as far as can be determined, has been serving as a livestock protection dog in Turkey for millenia.

    The Maremma is directly descended from the first flock guardians that migrated for the Middle East, probably across the Adriatic from Greece. The Maremma has a solid, muscular build, thick white coat, large head, black nose, and typically weighs between 65 to 110 pounds.

    Polish Tatra
    The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a breed of dog introduced into the Tatra Mountain region of Southern Poland by Wallachian shepherds, probably in the 14th Century, and used to guard and herd sheep. The Tatras are large white dogs with heavy dense fur, similar in appearance to the Hungarian Kuvasz.

    Tibetan Mastiff
    The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed, descended from very early large Tibetan dogs from which most of today's Mastiff dogs descend. It is among the largest breeds and is found in a heavier mastiff type and a moderately sized mountain type. Its double coat is long and found in a wide variety of colors from solid black to tri-color with the rarest being white.

    New breeds
    The National Wildlife Research Center in Utah has imported several new breeds of livestock guardian dogs to see if they are more effective at deterring predation from "bigger" predators such as grizzly bears and wolves. The new breeds are larger and more aggressive, yet still people-friendly. One of these newer breeds is the Kangal from Turkey.

    Rearing guardian dog pups with sheep creates an attachment or bond between the dog and the sheep. As the dog matures, it spends much of its time near the sheep and repels other animals that enter its personal space. Its aggressiveness is limited by a decrease tendancy to chase, a product of generations of selection for dogs that do not chase. Even if the dog chases an intruding coyote away, it soons stops the chase and returns to the flock.

    Most livestock guardian dogs are large and imposing, weighing 75 to over 100 pounds. They are large enough to startle or intimidate predators.

    Livestock guardian dogs should be taught basic commands, such as come, sit, and stay, and should learn to walk on a leash. However, the should not be allowed the privileges of a pet. Their job is to bond with the sheep, not the shepherd.

    There is a theory that shepherds tried to match the color of their dogs to the color of the wool of their sheep. This would allow them to blend in, offer less of a scare or threat to the sheep, and make identification by predators more difficult.

    Growing pups will exhibit guardian instincts as early as four to five months of age, but they will not become reliable protectors until they mature sometime after a year of age. Guardian dog pups are often raised with lambs to encourage bonding. It is also beneficial for them to be "trained" by an older guardian dog.

    Read Raising and Training a Livestock-guarding dog =>


Last updated 19-Apr-2021
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