Through the centuries, peoples have relied on canines to protect their livestock. Since the domestication of sheep and dogs, the 2 have worked together. The dogs were selected and bred for their power, their intelligence and their ability to act and react promptly. Their build was also a factor.
Size and strength were necessary to ward off predators. Color, too, played a role. Many of the keepers of the flock were and are white. This allowed them to blend in with their flock while differentiating them from the predators. The color white made them stand out in the dark but brought comfort to the sheep.
There are many different types of dogs that have acted as sheep keepers. It is estimated there are between 40 and 50 different types of sheep guardians. The numbers are variable.
They do not include crosses. Many of the breeds are not accepted or recognized by any kennel club. A few find themselves in the ranks of AKC, CKC or European clubs. Below you will find a brief description of a few of the more common breeds of sheep keepers
The Akbash is from Turkey. This is a large and powerful white canine. An independent thinker, the Akash is intelligent and protective of his or her charges. Long-legged, the Akash was first developed to protect sheep from large predators such as wolves.
Central Asian Shepherd Dog
This breed dates back several thousand years. The original role was to protect sheep from wolves, bear and other predators. A large and very powerful canine, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog may be white, grey, black or other colors. Like most guardian dogs, this is an intelligent and protective animal.
Estrela Mountain Dog
This breed is believed to be ancient. Hailing from Portugal, this livestock guardian is compact and powerful in build. The Estrela Mountain Dog is stubborn but affectionate. The breed almost became extinct during the 1970s.
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog from France, exists out of a need to protect the flocks from predators. Relatives probably include the Maremma Sheepdog and the Akbash. This large, powerful canine is territorial. The breed usually sports a white coat.
In spite of its frivolous appearance, the Komondor is a guardian dog. This breed was created to fight off the predators on Hungarian flocks. A white dog, the Komondor is muscular, large and alert.
The Maremma is inevitably white. Like other sheepdogs, this Italian canine was bred to fight off predators. This courageous, independent and large dog, still works guarding livestock today. Rarely, do you find the dog exclusively as a companion animal.
The origins of this breed dates back centuries in Slovakia. This white dog, like many sheep guardians, is large, powerful, loyal and courageous.
South Russian Ovcharka
This Russian dog is usually white in color. A later comer, the breed was not developed until into the 19th century. Extinction seemed inevitable following the Russian Revolution and after WWII. The breed is rare and faces ongoing problems of extinction. A large powerful canine, the South Russian Ovcharka is willful, dominant and very independent. The dog is not recommended as a companion animal.
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is thick and white. Developed as a sheep guardian and general purpose canine, the Tatra came close to extinction following World War II. Although a breeding program revived the breed, the Tatra still remains rare. A large, powerful dog, the Tatra is generally calm, intelligent and somber.
There are many different breeds of sheep guardians. Some are very rare. Some still perform the tasks they were created centuries ago to undertake. While some are wonderful family dogs, others are not. All require exercise of a moderate to vigorous type. Most prefer to have an activity to perform or work to do. Training is a must as is grooming on a regular basis. Before you decide a Guardian dog is right for you, be sure you thoroughly research all there is to know about the breed.