The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is one of the most majestic and noble animals in the service of man; still being used in the rural districts of Turkey as the shepherds' indispensable companion and front line of defense of his livestock from predators. Without the aid of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, the Turkish shepherd would be less able to defend his property and flock from wild animals. Such dogs are found from the Turkish Anatolian plateau right on through to Afghanistan.
In Turkey today, the breed is known as Coban Kopegi (cho-bawn ko-pay) which translates to "Shepherd's Dog". He is a livestock guardian dog, living his life in constant association with his sheep or goats, and is accepted as a member of the flock. (He is NOT a herding dog)
The extraordinary speed and agility of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog enable him to run down a predator with great efficiency. Turkish Shepherds equip their dogs with impressive iron-spiked collars as protection against attacking animals that grab for the throat.
A large part of Central Anatolia is a high plateau of wide plains and rolling hills. Summers are dry, while winters are marked with heavy snowfalls and temperatures plunging well below freezing. Here in this environment, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a functional tool of the Turkish Shepherd.
Historically, since Babylonian times, there is documented a breed of large strong dogs with a heavy head. Some spectacular depictions of the breed dating back to 2,000 BC can be seen on the well preserved bas-reliefs in the Assyrian Rooms of the British Museum in London. With the advent of the first domestic sheep, the dogs went from "hunter" to "protector". The book of Job, which dates back to at least 1,800 BC and is set in the region of Turkey, makes reference to the dogs with the flocks.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog of today has remained relatively unchanged from its ancestors because of the nature of its isolated existence. The Turks have for centuries been dependent upon the land for their livelihood, relying on domesticated animals as an integral part of their existence. For this reason, perhaps, the characteristics of the Anatolian have been so exactly preserved, characteristics well adapted to: Turkey's hot climate and terrain; the lifestyle of the shepherds that, until modern times, was nomadic; and the job of guarding the village flocks against fierce predators.
The first Anatolian Shepherd Dogs to enter the United States arrived prior to the 1950s. However, the first active breeding program in the United States was the result of the importation of a breeding pair of dogs by Lt. Robert C. Ballard, USN, who was stationed in Turkey from 1966 to 1968. Upon their return to the United States, the Ballards settled in El Cajon, California, where on August 16th, 1970, their imports Zorba and Peki produced the first recorded American-bred litter. The year 1970 also saw the founding of the National Breed Club, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America.
On June 12, 1995, the American Kennel Club announced formal recognition of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, effective to be shown in the Miscellaneous Class beginning June 1, 1996. On August 12, 1998, the American Kennel Club granted full recognition to the Anatolian Shepherd Dog effective June 1, 1999 (entered the Working Group).
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a versatile breed. Here in the United States, the Anatolian guards everything from chickens, goats, and sheep to cattle. A few even guard miniature horses, ostriches, and llamas. Some dogs are shown in conformation, obedience, and working classes; a few are certified as therapy dogs. Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are also used as companions and family protectors. Many Anatolian Shepherds live on small farms, suburban homes, or ranches where they fulfill a duty of family companion/guardian, livestock guardian and/or show dog. These Anatolians have the best of both worlds ... a family and a job!
The name given to this breed .. Anatolian Shepherd Dog ... is a misnomer in that they do not herd the flocks, but protect them ... hence the designation "Livestock Guardian". However, this is not the only thing they are good at. Sometimes, while working in the fields, Turkish women will fasten one end of a rope around their young children's waists and the other end to an Anatolian's collar. They can then go about their chores, assured of the safety of their children.
Anatolians are capable of functioning in 100-degree-plus or 0-degree-minus weather. They survive when water is scarce in summer, when snow drifts are higher than their heads in winter, and when scavenging is their meal ticket the year round. Anatolians also carry out their tasks with alacrity. In Turkey, protecting their masters' flocks against wolves, jackals and lions is their goal. Anatolians are not pampered, nor can their owners generally afford to give them veterinary care beyond that which is necessary to keep them healthy enough for guard duty. In addition, the Anatolian exists without benefit of a breed name, much less records or pedigrees, in its native land. There it is known by the generic designation “Çoban Köpegi”, which means "shepherd's dog." It is important to note that these dogs are "guardians" and DO NOT HERD. The basic difference here is that herding breeds have a high prey drive and usually cannot be left unsupervised with livestock, as they have been known to kill animals that take fright and run from them. The LGD, on the other hand, is expected to bond with their charges and have a very low prey drive so that they protect, not harm their charges. Many owners of Guardian breeds feel that these dogs give them a "safe" feeling they never experienced with any other dog ... even those who previously owned traditional "guard" dogs such as German Shepherd, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers.
Much has happened since the late 1930's, when the Turkish government sent the first Anatolian Shepherd Dogs to the United States government to be used in the first 'sheepdog' studies. Now Anatolians are working all over the world, from Africa to the United States, to successfully protect livestock from predation. It is hoped that some of the information on this site will help give a working understanding, perspective and perhaps historical insight into the land-race breed that is known internationally as the “Anatolian Shepherd Dog”.
The name "Anatolian Shepherd Dog" has been a subject of much controversy. There are those who believe there are three completely separate breeds of Turkish Livestock Guardians (Akbash, Kangal & Kars Dogs), while others choose to believe there is only one breed with regional and color varieties.
The names “Anatolian Shepherd Dog”, “Çoban Köpegi”, "Gammel", “Chien de berger d'Anatolie”, “Anatolischer Hirtenhund” and “Perro de pastor de Anatolia” are all derivative of a known fact - these dogs are the shepherd's dog evolved from the historical region of Anatolia. All names reflect understanding and respect for this dog as one which comes from a long standing working heritage that predates our time - truly the working dog of shepherds.
UTILIZATION: Flock guardian, Family companion/guardian.
HEIGHT: Males: 29+" - Females: 27+"
WEIGHT: Males: 100+ lbs - Females: 80+ lbs
GROOMING: Little (mostly seasonal)
EXCERCISE: Moderate (spurts, early in morning or at night when cool)
HEALTH: Very hardy breed
LIFE SPAN: 12-16 year