Anatolian Shepherd Dogs International, Inc.




When researching for the Dog Breeds of the World column, I routinely solicit input from owners and breeders as thy are the "real" experts on their own breed. Of the several people who answered my queries on the Anatolian Shepherd, Mary Ewald [McDaniel] did such a complete job providing information that it really was useless for me to write the article.

- Vicki Rand

As originally published in
Choban Chatter
Nov-Dec '1993
Alp on the BLOODLINES cover

Cover Story
Anatolian Shepherd, ARBA, ASDI, ASDCA, RBKC Ch. Shahbazin Alp Arslan C.D., P.C., C.G.C., V.C.C.X.exemplifies the intelligence and versatility of the breed. He is owned and handled by Jennifer A. Floyd of Jamul, California.
A ntive of Turkey, the Anatolian Shepherd was one of several new breeds recognized by United Kenneld Club in 1993, and they are already making inroads in Obedience and Conformation programs. An indepth coverage of this unique breed is featured in this issue.

Dog Breeds of the World

The Anatolian Shepherd
Guest Writer: Mary McDaniel

The actual origins of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog are unknown. He is probably descended from the Tibetan Mastiff by way of Roman war dogs brought to Turkey a few thousand years ago. As their use in war became less necessary , the dogs became pastoral guardians of flock and family, capable of repelling or killing the large wolves, jackals and even lions found throughout many parts of Turkey. A Mastiff-type dog very similar to the modern day Anatolian Shepherd may be seen at the British Museum in London, on Assyrian has reliefs dating back to 2000 B.C.

The very name, Anatolian Shepherd, is a bit misleading. Çoban kopek, or "shepherd dog". is the name given the breed in Turkey, indicating a dog that works with the shepherd, not one that herds a flock. It is a member of the mastiff family of livestock guarding does that includes the Tibetan Mastiff, Spanish Mastiff, Komondor, Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, Polish Tatra Sheepdog, and many others.

Other names that the Anatolian has been known under include Turkish Sheepdog, Anadolu kopek, Sivas-Kangal dog, Akbash (white variety), and Karabash (fawn with black mask variety).

ASDI CH. Maranda's Baskin exhibits the classic "Akbash" look. He was bred by Mary and Randy Ewald and is owned by Betty Hayward.
ASDI CH. Maranda's Baskin exhibits the classic "Akbash" look. He was bred by Mary and Randy Ewald and is owned by Betty Hayward.

In addition to the "Roman war dog" theory , some people believe that the breed is partially or wholly an evolutionary product of the large Asiatic wolves that still populate the Anatolian Plateau covering most of Turkey, and into Russia, Syria. Iraq and Iran. (I personally believe that both of these were progenitors, with some influx of the sighthounds still in Turkey. This would help explain their distinct tuck up at the loin, their sensitivity to anesthesia. and incredible speed.)

White Anatolian with sheep
Although the Anatolian Shepherd is exhibited at cog shows and obedience trials, its primary objective is as a livestock guardian dog, and he must keep his centuries-old instincts if he is to survive as a real breed, and not just as a "show machine". Shown here in the midst of his flock is Destan's Rexa, owned by Kathy Desjardins [Conn] and John Conn of Clarksville, Tennessee.

Aslan of Murted - Turkish import
Aslan of Murted was imported from Turkey and is owned by Paul and Nancy Lane. Note the cropped ears; this is a common practice in their native land.

Great variation in size and body type can be found in Turkey. This makes sense, since many areas of Turkey have been isolated from other parts due to lack of transportation, communication lines. and cultural differences. Yet, even with the diversity. there is a basic structure and temperament that set the Anatolian Shepherd Dog apart. Those dogs found in the mountain regions tend to be large. long-coated, and of most coat colors. The dogs around central Anatolia are not usually as heavy of body since they must have great speed to run down the wolves. Colors tend to be regional, which also can be explained by an inbred gene pool and personal color preference.

It is illegal to take Anatolian Shepherd Dogs (Sivas-Kangal) out of Turkey, but this law is sporadically enforced since there is no concrete description of the Sivas-Kangal Dog. (The Sivas-Kangal is said to be found only in the area of Kangal, a village in the Sivas region of Turkey. and it is supposed to be some shade of fawn, long or smooth-coated, with or without white markings, depending on who is describing the dog. In fact. the dog that is most commonly used to illustrate the dog is found on a 1963 Turkish postage stamp labeled as the "Çoban kopek". it is a medium-coated fawn with black mask, very little angulation, and no apparent white. The so-called Kangal promoted in the states is overly-angulated through the hocks, and is allowed to have white on the chest.)

Anatolians were first brought to the United States by military personnel. The first recorded Anatolian arrived in the 1960's, and by the 1970's a club had been formed, It was during the late 1970's and early 1980's that the breed started to find its way in great numbers to ranches and farms across the United States and Canada as a means to prevent predation of flocks by coyotes, wolves. bear and other carnivores.Although the breed is exhibited at dog shows and obedience trials, its primary objective is as a livestock guardian dog, and he must keep his centuries-old instincts if he is to survive as a real breed, and not just a "show machine".

Young boy and working Anatolian in Turkey
This photo, taken in Turkey in 1988, illustrates the tolerance of the breed. Note the black Anatolian in the background.

The temperament of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is key to its ability to work. It is generally a serious dog that is devoted to its human companions. "Laid back" is a description I most often hear of my dogs He doesn't waste his energy on needless aggression or over-enthusiasm, yet he is capable of running, up to 40 miles per hour when called to do so. He is strong-willed, independent and very territorial.

When used as a flock guardian, the Anatolian will find the highest viewing point and park himself there so that he can easily see the flock and anything going on around it. He is most alert at night, when most predators would strike, and will create a perimeter around his territory that he patrols and marks each day at dawn and dusk. Stray animals (or people) that intrude on his territory are given warning with his deep bark, giving them ample time to leave. If they do not do so, the dog will give chase. Surprisingly, even after the Anatolian catches an intruder, he will often force him into submission and allow him to leave, if he will. This is not a breed that goes looking for a fight..

Duke at a dog show.

Although most Anatolian owners stress the preservation of the working instincts of the breed, they do enjoy exhibiting in Conformation events as well. Shown are Sheri Floyd and "Duke".

The temperament of an Anatolian on its own territory is very different from one away from home (like at a show). At home, he is very protective and will seriously bark at anyone (it anything out of the ordinary. If your mail person comes at 2 p.m. daily, the dog will recognize this as normal, but if they come at 11 a.m. one morning, the dog will alert you to the schedule change. Strangers are warned off of your property at any time of day by a dog that will bark. stare, and go up on its toes, with hackles raised. 'This is enough to make most people think twice about entering your property. 

(continued below)

Country of origin: Turkey.
Type of dog: Herd/flock guardian.
U.K.C. Group: Guardian Dogs.
Size and Weight:
The following apply to mature animals. The height range for males is from 27 to 34 inches: for females is from 27.5 to 31 inches. The weight range for males is from 110 to 143 pounds (50 to 65 kg.), for females is from 88 to 120 pounds (40 to 55 kg.). The Anatolian is a slow-maturing breed, achieving full height and weight at about four years of age.
Type of coat: Double-coated.
Color: All colors are acceptable.
Generally all right with the other dogs in the household, although it is best if the other dogs are of the opposite sex or spayed or neutered. Protective, territorial, selectively aggressive. Strong-willed. Dominant. Very lovable, generally likes to please owner, although not overly quick about doing so. Happiest when on their own home turf. Aloof, calm, patient, not your quintessential show dog.
Special considerations:
The Anatolian is a long-lived breed, and can be expected to live well into their teens. Although laid back, they are very athletic and are capable of great speed. They require a fenced enclosure as they are prone to roaming if not given a defined territory. Digger.
Disqualifying Faults:
Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid, Extreme viciousness or shyness. A too short muzzle; one-third or less of the total length of the head. A very short, smooth coat. A coat totally devoid of undercoat. Overshot bite. Undershot bite. A dog incapable of guarding livestock,
Registered with:
American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, FBI, The Kennel Club (Great Britain), Canadian Kennel Club and Australian National Kennel Club.

That very same dog (assuming socialization has taken place) will exhibit none of these behaviors when away from home turf. In fact my most protective male is my best Therapy dog, being the first Anatolian Shepherd dog to win a Canine Good Citizenship certificate. I have used him to visit nursing homes. where patients have rolled wheelchairs over his toes, put iron-lock grips on his ears, and taken all types of liberties with him. Not once did he react other than to give me a long-suffering look. With his great size and beautiful looks, he is always the center of attention at shows or on walks. He patiently allows children and adults to stroke and admire him

This is the temperament that all Anatolians should have -- willing and capable of guarding their flocks, families and property when at home but approachable and calm (if not aloof) when away. Judges should always be able to handle the dog to check bite, muscle tone, etc. Anything else is not acceptable.

When the Anatolian is kept as a pet, heavy socialization is required. The dog is naturally distrustful of strangers, so it is important to expose him to as much stimuli as possible. A group obedience class is the ideal place to expose the dog to other dogs, strange people, and to teach him manners.

Handsome Champion Alp
Ch. Shahbazin Alp Arslan C.D., P.C., C.G.C., V.C.C.X.

Few Anatolians have been shown in obedience. but this is not because of lack of intelligence. Instead, it is because most owners themselves lack the knowledge to train any dog in obedience. The Anatolian requires an enthusiastic owner, who will make obedience training fun, and will not bore his active mind with constant repetition.

Alp happily training his human student
The Anatolian requires an enthusiastic owner who will make obedience training fun, and will not bore his active mind with constant repetition. ARBA, ASDI, ASDCA, RBKC Ch. Shahbazin Alp Arslan C.D., P.C., C.G.C., V.C.C.X. is owned by Jennifer Floyd of Jamal, California.
Duke with a friend
The well-bred and properly socialized Anatolian is wonderful with children. Here is Sheri Floyd's Duke with her one and a half year-old niece.

The well-bred and properly socialized Anatolian is wonderful with children. In twelve years of breeding, I have not heard of a single pup of mine growing into a dog that showed any aggression towards a child. In fact, the most common statement by owners with families is that the dog has endless patience and often tries to stop sibling fights by using a very quiet and deliberate body block. Even the children of friends, or strange children, are recognized as non-threatening strangers and ignored.

Because of the great size and dominant nature of the dogs. it is advised that families prevent "sibling" play between the dog and family children. In other words, the dog must recognize the child as it master and not its littermate. Tug of war games, food stealing, and other such behaviors should be stopped.

There are few health problems in the breed. This breed has evolved naturally from a population that is heavily culled. For example, in Turkey, if a bitch whelps ten puppies, only one or two are needed as replacements. The others are killed or allowed to starve. This is not very humane by American standard, but it must be recognized that the average annual income in Turkey is around $100, making the feeding of extra dogs impossible. Any dog showing a physical or mental weakness is eliminated. Unfortunately, hip dysplasia may not cause problems until the dog has already produced a litter, so it has not been eliminated from the gene pool. It is up to breeders outside of Turkey to take advantage of x-ray machines and our knowledge of genetics to eliminate these problems.

Alp showing us how easy it looks
The Anatolian Shepherd's athletic ability is well-suited to obedience work.

Over 300 Anatolians have been OFA evaluated with an Excellent rating of 12.1% and a dysplastic rating of 16.6%. The number of Excellent ratings has increased one percent point and the dysplastic ratings have decreased on percent in the past year [1992-1993], sending us in the right direction. but we still have a way to go. It should be noted that one breeder has consistently been producing over 39% Excellents, skewing the figures somewhat. That breeder is 20-year veteran Ruth Webb of Masallah Anatolians in Loon Lake, Washington.

Hypothyroidism and entropianism also appear in a few lines of Anatolians. As with any breed. we have a few unethical breeders who have bred dogs with these problems, expanding the gene pool for these hereditary diseases.

Ethical breeders will give a full, written, money-back or replacement guarantee for Hip Dysplasia, entropianism or hypothyroidism. Buyers are urged by Anatolian Shepherd Dogs International, Inc., to demand these guarantees from breeders in order to protect our breed. Copies of the OFA certificates for parents and grandparents of puppies should also be available to the buyer.

I have made two trips to Turkey, bringing back a total of 21 dogs. Of those, two have turned out to be dysplastic, and three others did not grow up to meet our standards for breeding. These five have been neutered. Still, I am looking forward to returning, to Turkey and its remote regions to search for new bloodlines. The Turkish people are friendly, generous and extremely hospitable to strangers. They do not really view their dogs as something special in most areas, and view foreigners looking for dogs as a bit odd. Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs around Kangal have been "puppy-milling" the world-famous Sivas-Kangal dog for foreign visitors, resulting in dogs with bad bites, bad hips, and a myriad of other health problems. Few of these dogs have made their way to the States, but their influence is being felt in parts of Europe. it is hoped that anyone importing Anatolians from Turkey will avoid these unscrupulous sellers and seek dogs from working shepherds.   

Other reading on Anatolian Shepherd Dog Breed History


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