The Sarplaninac dog is a livestock guardian of epic proportions. This majestic animal is a big, strong, powerful shepherd that has protected sheep in the mountains in Southeast Europe for centuries. Their imposing figure and fearlessness allow them to ward off dangerous predators looking for a meal. They can fend off bears, wolves or bandits when the time comes.
They have a calm nature, lots of wisdom and a fierce loyalty to the nomads of the land. The breed is extremely devoted and positive to its flock. Let’s learn some more about this furry defender with some fun and intriguing facts!
1. It Is Named After The Sar Mountains
The name “Sarplaninac,” pronounced (shar-pla-nee-natz), comes from the Sar Mountains where the breed originated thousands of years ago. The mountain range is located in the Balkans in Southeast Europe.
Sarplaninac is a Macedonian word that translates to “Shara Mountain Dog.” It is also called the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog (Sharplanina) according to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.
Initially the breed was split into two different types of the Illyrian Shepherd Dog in 1939. Type A was the Karst Shepherd from Slovenia and Type B was the Sarplaninac from the Sharr Mountains. Eventually in 1968 the Federation recognized both as individual dog breeds.
Note: While the name does indicate their relation to the Sar Mountains, the breed also inhabited other mountains in Macedonia such as Bistra, Korab, Mavrovo and Pelister.
2. The Breed Is A National Symbol In Macedonia
The Sarplaninac is considered a National Symbol of pride in the country of Macedonia. So much so that the canine is even featured on the official 1-Denar coin of their currency.
In addition, the dog is also displayed on the emblem for the “Town of Dragas,” a very small town situated in the Prizen District of Kosovo. It was named after Constantine Dragas, a medieval Serbian lord.
The breed is infused into the culture and history of Macedonia and stories are passed down to the children of each generation. The dog is often described using the nickname “Sharko.”
If you ever take a trip to the region, you will be hard pressed to miss seeing one of these amazing creatures. They are very common in the area and somewhere around twenty kennels officially sell the mountainous breed.
Their puppies are adorable with beautiful black and grey fluffy coats. They are very similar in appearance to the Caucasian Shepherd.
3. They Were Used As Military Guard Dogs
Beginning in 1928, the breed was used by the military in Yugoslavia. To protect their assets, the army would place them in critical locations to guard ammunition, camps and radar installations.
They would also patrol the area looking for any fugitives on the run or escaped prisoners. Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslav communist revolutionary, owned a Sarplaninac himself. Reportedly, his dog saved his life, finding and removing a bomb close to his owner.
During their time in the military, they were crossed with other breeds like the Caucasian Ovcharka and German Shepherd in an attempt to enhance their performance.
To this day, they are used in the mountains as guard dogs by the Serbian Military.
4. They Are Gentle Despite Their Imposing Presence
It is fair to say that you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a fight with this impressive canine. Their strong, muscular bodies and powerful teeth give them the edge over predators and strangers alike.
That being said, these livestock guardians have a heart of gold similar to the Shiloh Shepherd. Though independent by nature, they are extremely intelligent, super loyal and devoted to their family.
They are intuitive to human emotion, calm and reserved when not chasing down threats, and very good with children. These gentle giants occupy both ends of the spectrum when it comes to their temperament.
Note: Unfortunately, some Sarplaninac dogs are bred to fight. This is a growing trend in recent years with East European livestock guardian dog breeds. The Central Asian Shepherd is another example.
5. The Sarplaninac Is Banned In Denmark
Beginning in 2010 and amended in 2014, the Danish Government banned 13 different dog breeds from the country. None of these canines are allowed to be bred or owned according to the Danish Act.
The Sarplaninac is on that list along with 12 other breeds deemed too dangerous.
- American Bulldog
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka)
- Central Asian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka)
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
- Pitbull Terrier
- South Russian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka)
- Tosa Inu
Private citizens nor tourists coming for a short stay are allowed to have the Shepherd.
6. They Can Fend Off Bears
Don’t let their size fool you. Even though they are only considered a medium-large sized dog, they are fierce defenders of their territory. Similar in height and weight to a German Shepherd, they average around 24″ tall and weigh up to 100 pounds.
However, they are built tough and are used to a lifestyle of protecting sheep in the mountainous terrain. Their thick dense 4-inch coat adds to the striking appearance keeping predators at a distance.
The Sarplaninac won’t hesitate to take on any potential threats in the area including foxes, lynx or wolves. They are even known to ward off bears which massively outweigh the canine.
7. Sarplaninac History Is Shrouded In Mystery
Similar to other ancient breeds, the exact lineage of the breed is hard to trace. The most plausible explanation is that they developed during Balkan migrations of tribes during the early middle ages.
Various breeds most likely accompanied the Asiatic people during their exodus or through the different trade routes.
Some of the contributors:
- Assyrian war dogs
- Local dogs
- Tibetan Hounds
Over time and through breeding and selection, the Sarplaninac most likely evolved into the dog we know and love today.
During Ottoman times, these dogs did a lot of traveling. They would spend the summer working in the Sar Mountains. Then they would make their way to Thessaly in Greece for the winter when needed to protect the flocks of sheep. These hard workers are built for the mountains and won’t back down from a fight.
They are beautiful animals with a wide range of solid-colored coats. They love their families, but strangers beware. This fluffy love bug isn’t afraid to chase you down!
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Have you ever had the privilege of witnessing one of these amazing creatures? Let us know! We would love to hear about your personal story!