The Kangal Shepherd dog breed is a livestock guardian specialist.
Kangal Shepherd dogs are originally from the Anatolia region of Turkey, and are also called Anatolian Karabash and Anatolian Shepherd dogs. They were bred to be livestock guardian dogs, protecting flocks of sheep and goats at night from wolves, jackals and bears.
There is an important distinction between dogs that help a shepherd to herd animals, ie. move a flock from place to place, and dogs that protect the animals. These are livestock guardians, and they have to be big, strong, and ready to take on an attacker – but at the same time they must be non-aggressive towards their flock.
The Kangal Shepherd dog is certainly big, standing at up to 30 inches tall at the shoulder (withers). Male dogs can weigh up to 150lbs, according to the AKC. They are named after the town of Kangal in Turkey.
Kangal Shepherd Dog – Temperament
This breed was developed to protect a flock of animals. This means that the dog must be able to recognize the animals it is protecting, and be gentle and calm around them. At the same time, the dog must be able to identify a threat, and be prepared to intimidate an intruder, followed by taking action of needed.
These requirements resulted in the Kangal Shepherd dog breed being calm, confident, and able to work on it’s own at a distance from the shepherd. They will be a little reserved at first with people they do not know, but once they get to know a person, they will be welcomed warmly. The Kangal Shepherd is especially good with children.
However, this breed is NOT recommended for inexperienced dog owners, because their independent nature can make them a little challenging. They can think for themselves, and will resist any training that doesn’t make sense to them.
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Originally, working Kangal Shepherd dogs worked in pairs or in a team. They would place themselves at vantage points around the flock, and the 2, 3 or 4 dogs watched the surroundings. If the weather was hot, they would dig into a hole where the earth was cooler to keep watch.
This breed is very perceptive of any changing conditions nearby. If a threat was perceived, it would stand and stare at the area, and then give a warning bark to the flock, which then closed into a small bunch.
The Kangal Shepherd would then move into position between the flock or shepherd and the perceived threat. It’s first line of defense was to intimidate the intruder. It would bark and bare its teeth, showing its size and strength. This breed much preferred to intimidate a potential threat, and would do its best to deter the enemy.
However if the intruder (particularly a wolf) moved closer, the Kangal Shepherd dog would finally launch an attack. Most succeeded in overcoming the intruder, especially if 2 dogs worked together. Those Kangal dogs that excelled in killing wolves were given a special name, and were preferred for breeding for livestock protection.
The modern-day domesticated Kangal Shepherd retains many of these traits, and they may attack and kill any small animals that invade their space if they are strangers. It is very important to socialize your Kangal puppy when young, to get it used to other pets and animals in your area.
Kangal Shepherd Dog – History
This breed originated in the Anatolia region of turkey, to protect flocks of sheep and goats. This is a relatively isolated area, and these dogs were bred from known and true parents. The result is a modern breed that is remarkably consistent in appearance and temperament. The Kangal is considered by many to be the national dog of Turkey.
Kangal Shepherds were introduced to the U.S. around 1970 by Robert Ballard, and were recognized by the AKC in 1996, and by the United Kennel Club in 1998. In the United Kingdom, the Kennel Club recognized the Kangal Shepherd in 2013.
According to the AKC, “This new breeding activity coincided with the passage of the Endangered Species Act. The new law required that ranchers control the population of predatory wolves without killing them. Anatolian Shepherds, who would rather intimidate predators than fight them, were perfectly suited for the job. Many Anatolian Shepherds are still working ranch dogs today, protecting everything from sheep and goats to ostriches and llamas.”
Since 1994 Kangal dogs have been used in Namibia and Kenya to deter Cheetahs from attacking livestock. There were 2 problems here; first, significant numbers of livestock were being lost to the Cheetahs. Second, farmers understandably regarded Cheetahs as enemies of their livelihood, and would shoot Cheetahs on sight.
After the introduction of Kangal Shepherd dogs, attacks on farm livestock fell dramatically, and as a result of the Cheetahs staying further away from farms, far fewer have been shot. This strategy has worked well in helping farmers to protect their animals, and has helped in the preservation of the Cheetah.
Kangal Shepherd Dogs – Ease of Training
This is not an easy dog to train into a domestic situation. They were bred to be suspicious of strangers and unfamiliar animals, and to work alone or at a distance from the shepherd. This makes them instinctively protective of their human “family” (including the family cat) and distrustful of everything else.
This breeds needs early socialization as a puppy to get them used to their surroundings, visitors, strangers, odd smells and noises and sounds. While not naturally nervous or skittish, they really need to be regularly exposed to the world around them when young.
Basic training should start as soon as possible, and continue regularly and consistently in the first year of the dog’s life. This training needs to be continued and reinforced over the next few years to make sure your Kangal is well-behaved, confident and not over-protective.
- 29 to 31 inches at the withers (Males)
- 28 to 30 inches at the withers (females)
- 110lbs to 150lbs (males)
- 90lbs to 120lbs (females).
Pale gold to steel grey, with black muzzle and ears.
The Kangal has a double coat which is short. In winter the undercoat becomes thicker, but in summer most of the undercoat is shed, leaving a short, flat topcoat. It’s important to brush your Kangal with a stiff brush or wire comb when summer weather arrives, to help remove the thick undercoat.
Kangal Shepherd Dog – Protection
This breed is a good watch dog, as they were bred to watch and alert the shepherd and the flock if a threat came into their area. In a domestic situation, the Kangal will watch visitors to the house, and see that their owner and “family” accept the newcomer. It may be a little aloof at first, but tends to accept friendly visitors more quickly than some other guardian breeds.
The Kangal also makes a great guard dog. In its watchdog role it will check anyone (or anything) coming near the family home. It will bark loudly if it feels a threat, to alert the “family”. If somebody tries to gain entry, they will quickly find the Kangal in their way. The dog will try to intimidate the would-be intruder at first – and most will be intimidated by the Kangal in full defense mode!
But if the intruder or attacker persists, the Kangal will probably attack with full force and power. Because of their strength and size, combined with breeding to take on wolves and bears, the dog will quickly overpower any unwanted guests.
The Kangal dog is basically a healthy breed, without many of the genetic problems of other breeds. There may be a few instances of hip and elbow dysplasia, but this is rare.
Famous Kangal Shepherd Dogs
Kangal Shepherd dogs (aka Anatolian Shepherd dogs) have appeared in films such as “Cats and Dogs”, “Friends with Benefits”, and “Kate and Leopold”. Please let us know if you are aware of any more Kangal dogs that are famous in some way, by using this Contact Me link.