Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
 
Photo of adult Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

You would be forgiven for mistaking the shaggy looks of the Mioritic Romanian Shepherd Dog for those of an Old English Sheepdog. Indeed, the Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog (also known as the Mioritic) shares a similarity of looks and of purpose with the better-known Old English. The Mioritic, little known outside his native Romania, has a reputation for being gentle yet fierce, loving yet suspicious of strangers, and sociable yet protective.

The Mioritic has a long and venerable history, with roots going back to the ancient Romans. A large lumbering dog, the Mioritic has surprising agility when he needs to, for example, if a predator approaches him. By nature he is a guard dog and will act with great fierceness to protect those he knows and loves. Conversely, he is reserved with strangers and apt to regard them with suspicion. For this reason, the Mioritic should be well-socialised as a puppy and obedience trained, so that his ability to bring down a bear or lynx doesn’t get misdirected toward a human stranger.

About & History

In centuries gone by, farmers kept the Mioritic as a working dog and no written records were kept about the development of the breed. However, we do know the breed is an ancient one, perhaps even dating back to ancient Roman times.

Intriguing hints to these ancient origins exist in the form of carvings that depict battle scenes between the Romans and the Daci (originating from near the Carpathian Mountains.) The murals show large, muscular bearded dogs resembling the Mioritic engaged in battle. Indeed, medieval kings were said to use these dogs are part of their army.

Little is then known about the breed, other than for centuries a large shaggy dog that was fierce when called upon, was kept by illiterate Romanian peasants to protect their livestock and land. Used for hunting, herding, and guarding, this dog survived into the modern day as what we now know as the Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog.

In the 20th century, interest grew in the breed’s history and preserving its purity. In 1981, the first official breed standard was recorded, and the breed was registered with the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 2005.

Appearance

Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog Large Photo

The Mioritic is an imposing dog, both in size and character. Adult dogs tip the scales at an impressive 50 to 60 kg – almost the same as a same as an adult woman – and stand to the shoulder about two-thirds of a metre high.

Hidden beneath that shaggy coat these dogs are a workman-like shape with a long rectangular body and straight but true legs. Although no light-weight, with a moderately heavy bone structure, they are able to call on a burst of speed when required. Primarily, they are built for power and have the strong wide skulls and broad shoulders to show for it. Those jaws are capable of taking on a lynx, wolf, or bear and coming off for the better. Mioritic are born with a long tail that curls up at the end, however, where the practice is not illegal, some owners opt to get the tail docked.

Their coat is adapted to an outdoor life, and consists of a double layer. The undercoat is thick and soft, whilst the cloaking outer hairs are course and can grow up to six inches long. The most common coat colours are cream, white, or light grey, or a mixture of all three.

Character & Temperament

With a dog whose origin is to guard and protect against fearsome predators, it is perhaps surprising the Mioritic has a reputation for being calm and well-mannered around children. It seems when a Mioritic accepts his human-family as part of his pack, then he’ll stop at nothing to protect them and, in addition is loyal, loving, and gentle.

The key to the mystery of this two opposing characteristics seems to be the Mioritic’s naturally protective nature. Once he views you as friend, rather than foe, he’ll move heaven and earth to keep you safe. However, if you’re a stranger, then he’s apt to regard you with suspicion and it’s best not to push the dog or the consequences could be dire.

As with any dog breed, proper socialisation as a pup is essential. This is especially true for the Mioritic, given his combination of strength, potential for aggression, and suspicion of strangers. A poorly socialised and wary Mioritic is not a dog a stranger would want to meet on a dark night.

Trainability

Photo of Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog puppy
Mihai Bojin / Flickr.com

The Mioritic is an intelligent breed that is naturally quite obedient. However, they are not suitable for first time owners, given their strength and protective instinct. Instead, the ideal Mioritic owner should be experienced with dogs and know how to motivate a dog that can be stubborn at times.

Early socialisation is vital, with the pup being exposed in a positive way to a wide variety of sights, sounds, and experiences. This helps him accept these things as normal and counteracts his natural inclination to be suspicious of strangers.

A powerful dog, the Mioritic must be obedience-trained. Reward-based training methods are highly effective, as they humanely teach the dog to listen to the owner. In addition, they will learn more readily once they trust their owner, making bullish, domineering training tactics inappropriate. Of course this doesn’t mean the owner shouldn’t be firm but fair – indeed, this is essential so that a Mioritic understands who is in charge and his place within the family.

Health

The Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog is a breed that has evolved over time so that only the hardiest dogs survived. Think back to their role as protectors living outdoors in harsh weather, when they were likely to face wolves and lynx, and you understand how weaker dogs would never survive long enough to pass on their genes.

With a reputation for being tough and hardy, the Mioritic is that rare thing – a dog breed with relatively few inheritable health problems. However, when seeking a Mioritic puppy, the prospective owner should carefully check the lineage of the parent dogs to ensure they are not closely related. With a close family heritage comes an increased risk of genetically linked health problems.

Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Dysplasia refers to the abnormal growth of the hip or elbow joints. The smooth movement of these joints depends on them fitting perfectly together, and dysplasia disrupts this fit. Like a door that won’t close in the frame, eventually it gets damaged. When the damage is to a joint, this leads to inflammation and pain. But, further to that, the body attempts to repair the damage by laying down new bone, which further gets in the way of smooth movement.

In the early stages, a dog with hip or elbow dysplasia is likely to limp. Over time, the discomfort becomes increasingly worse and can affect the quality of life. As bone remodelling continues, the joint becomes thickened and less moveable, which has a significant impact on the dog’s ability to exercise.

Dysplasia is an inheritable condition and can be avoided by only breeding parent dogs that are screened as free from dysplasia. Never be bashful about quizzing the breeder about what screening their breeding stock has had and what the results were. In an ideal world, only consider buying a puppy from two parents with low dysplasia scores.

Exercise and Activity Levels

As a herding and guarding breed the Mioritic has a deep-seated need for mental occupation and physical exertion. Whilst they are not a breed used to running all day like some of the shepherding breeds, they do need a steady level of activity throughout the day. They must be given at least two long walks daily, along with some off leash time when they can run free and play.

In addition, give thought to mental stimulation for the Mioritic. They need to feel they have a job to do, so in the absence of a flock to guard, be sure to engage in daily obedience training or agility, so that the dog has a chance to show off his prowess at following commands.

Grooming

That rugged double coat requires the minimum of care. A weekly brushing is all that’s needed, along with a quick daily check over to remove debris before it forms knots. As with any dog, daily tooth brushing is strongly advisable in order to keep the teeth plaque free and prevent gum recession and wobbly teeth.

Famous Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dogs

Popular in his native Romania the Mioritic has yet to take off worldwide. For a taste of this shaggy dog’s story visit #mioriticshepherd on Instagram.

Cross-Breeds

With increased awareness of this ancient breed, the interest of owners and breeders is to keeping the breed pure rather than creating crosses. Therefore, at the present time, the Mioritic is not linked to widespread deliberate hybrid crosses.

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