Carpathian Shepherd

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Carpathian Shepherd
Ionete / Wikipedia.org

A Romanian working dog developed many hundreds of years ago deep in the secluded Carpathian Mountains, this breed has retained many, if not all, of its original features. Large and wolf-like, this dog makes a fantastic herder, as well as a diligent watch dog. They are renowned for their bravery, tackling any predator that tries to invade their territory, often fighting them off in packs. While still used primarily as a working dog today, they are becoming increasingly common as a family pet within Romania.

This is an independent and high-energy dog, though one that can bond closely with family members if given the time. Firm leadership and consistent exercise are both needed to ensure a well-balanced dog within the home, as failure to provide a suitable and stable environment will almost certainly result in a difficult to control animal with behavioural issues.

About & History

An ancient dog that has been in existence for many years, the Carpathian Shepherd has been traditionally used by Romanian farmers to herd and guard their livestock on the Carpathian Mountains. There are conflicting theories as to its true origin – the most likely of which being that this is an ancestor of the Lupomulossoids (wolf-like mastiffs). Bred for their ability and not their physical appearance, farmers sought a strong and commanding breed, capable of intimidating large predators, such as wolves and bears.

Accustomed to hunting in packs, the Carpathian Shepherd is perhaps more social with other dogs then similar breeds. Incredibly, a pack of Carpathian Shepherds has been known to successfully fend off an adult bear. Their courage is legendary, and they will not hesitate to defend their flock in any situation. While many modern countries have eradicated their populations of mountainous predators, they still remain numerous in Romania today, ensuring these dogs continue to play a vital role in society.

There is, in fact, a local legend, that the Carpathian Shepherd makes such a ferocious guard dog because it is part wolf. Many believe that due to its wolf-like appearance, this dog’s ancestors bred naturally with wolves in the wild, ensuring an incredibly powerful and fearsome dog breed was produced. While unproven, wolf-dog hybrids are known to exist, and it is a plausible theory.

While the first breed standard was published by the National Institute for Animal Breeding in 1934, they were not recognised by the United Kennel Club until just over 10 years ago in 2006. Incredibly popular in its native Romania, this breed is not well-known internationally, and while commonly kept as both a working dog and companion in its homeland, an international sighting is very rare indeed.

Appearance

Carpathian Shepherd Large Photo

Similar in appearance to the other Romanian dogs: the Bucovina Shepherd and the Romanian Mioritic Shepherd, the Carpathian Shepherd dog is a strong, wolf-like dog. A large breed, the female stands at 59-67cm, while the male stands taller at 65-73cm, weighing in at around 32-45kg.

Their head is short and their muzzle roughly the same length as their skull. Their eyes should be dark brown and almond shaped. Their triangular ears flop down close to their cheeks. They have a long back, which should be longer than they are tall, giving them a rectangular body. Their bushy tail is slightly curved and should never lie over their body when standing.

Their double-coat is comprised of a soft, dense inner coat and a coarse outer coat consisting of wolf-like colours: grey or fawn. White markings are acceptable, though not encouraged in the show-ring.

Character & Temperament

Independent, and often-times too dominant, the Carpathian Shepherd can be a loving dog once you have gained its trust, which may take time and perseverance. Serious and intelligent, they are hard-workers. They are an instinctive and alert guard dog, always willing to patrol their property and warn their owners of any intruder.

This is not an overly social dog, and they will be wary towards strangers, potentially to the point of aggression. They have the ability to get on well with children that they have been brought up with. While they may accept other animals as part of their family if introduced at an early age, they will not be keen to make friends with new, unknown animals.

Trainability

Photo of Carpathian Shepherd puppy
Pic Basement / Flickr.com

Eager to please, this is a particularly intelligent breed that responds well to consistent positive reinforcement training. A firm leadership is advised, as this dog can be territorial, and has the potential to become demanding and dominant in the wrong hands. Early and thorough socialisation is crucial to ensure a well-adjusted dog that is accepting of other people.

This is a breed that enjoys being given a task to complete. While it will naturally be inclined to herd, if this is not possible, it will gladly participate in a variety of tasks, such as obedience and agility. The Carpathian Shepherd is happiest when working and should be given the opportunity do so.

Health

There is very limited data available on the health of the Carpathian Shepherd, as the relevant studies have not yet been performed. They tend to be a healthy dog with a lifespan of 12-14 years. While we may not know the prevalence of disease in the breed, it would be prudent to be vigilant for disorders commonly suffered by similar sized dogs. Conditions to watch out for would include:

  • Hip Dysplasia – A debilitating condition affecting the hip joints that leads to chronic pain and mobility issues. Affected dogs may have poor muscling, a stiff gait and may struggle to rise. Lifestyle alterations, such as tailored exercise programs and weight loss, can help manage the symptoms, while pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications are often used as an adjunct. In severe cases, total hip replacement surgery may be necessary.
  • Bloat – Also known as Gastric dilatation volvulus, Bloat is a condition in which the stomach will fill with air and rotate. The exact reason why this condition happens in some dogs and not others is unknown. In many cases, it has been known to happen after a dog has eaten a large meal and then exercised immediately, thus this should be avoided. Symptoms include abdominal distention, panting, and drooling. The earlier veterinary treatment is sought, the greater the chance of survival.
  • Exercise and Activity Levels

    This large dog needs consistent and adequate exercise and, at the very least, one hour a day. They would benefit from a large, fenced garden, which they can patrol. While they have the ability to wander over long distances, they will usually instinctively stay near their home and family. Known for being potential escape artists, it is best to ensure their garden is secure.

    It is common for undesirable behaviours to develop when a dog is not suitably exercised, and you may find your furniture destroyed or your lawn dug up if your Carpathian Shepherd has been ignored for too long. Due to the size of this dog and its natural propensity to walk and wander, it should not be confined to a small apartment or house. This is a dog with an affinity for the outdoors that would not be happy sitting on a sofa all day.

    Grooming

    Their thick double-coat is surprisingly low-maintenance and only needs brushing one to two times a week to prevent matting. They are seasonal shedders, and do not lose a great deal of fur in between sheds.

    It is important to introduce tooth-brushing, claw clipping and ear cleaning to all breeds of dog from a young age to ensure they will accept these activities as part of normal life. This is particularly true in a large and potentially powerful breed, that could become aggressive if fearful of these routine tasks.

    When a dog’s ears flop forwards, they are more prone to developing ear infections through-out their lifetime, and so care should be taken to thoroughly dry the ears of the Carpathian Shepherd after swimming or bathing.

    Famous Carpathian Shepherds

    This rare breed has yet to find its place in Hollywood, and there are no famous examples just yet.

    Cross-Breeds

    There are no well-established Carpathian Shepherd cross-breeds.

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