Serbian Hound

Peter Richards
Peter Richards (BVSc, MRCVS, University of Bristol)
 
Photo of adult Serbian Hound

Serbian Hounds, previously called the Balkan Hound, are the traditional scent hounds of Serbia and Montenegro. There is very little recorded history for this breed, nor have they been featured in historic artworks, however, oral tradition suggests that this breed has been present in the Balkans for around 1,000 years. Originally, they were used as hunting dogs, either operating as a single dog or part of a pack. This hunting heritage has produced a dedicated and hard-working hound with high activity requirements.

As well as a love for running about, the Serbian Hound retains its social skills from living in packs. They are friendly dogs with a cheerful and relaxed disposition. So long as they are getting enough exercise, they can make wonderful family pets that revel in attention and play well with children. In terms of training, Serbian Hounds can be difficult. They are intelligent animals with an independent streak, which can make them prone to stubbornness. As a result, some previous dog handling experience is recommended for prospective owners.

Although the breed is very popular in Serbia, they have not spread much outside of the Balkan region. Waiting lists for Serbian Hound puppies can be long or non-existent in many countries.

About & History

The Serbian Hound, also known as the Balkan Hound until 1996, is another ancient European breed. There are no written accounts that record their origins but it’s likely they are the descendants of dogs brought to the Balkans by Phoenician traders. These early hounds would have bred with other groups from the surrounding regions of Montenegro and Anatolia to produce what we know as the Serbian Hound. Many English language sites claim that the earliest written account allegedly referencing the Serbian Hound dates back to the 11th century, however, there are no other sources of information about the breed’s history. Indeed, the reference from the 11th century is often attributed to a man called Frank Laska. This is likely due to a widely copied mistranslation or inaccuracy as Serbian language sources state that Frank Laska was an Australian officer based in the Balkans who published a book about hunting traditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1905. Frank measured over 1,000 dogs in the area and categorised the breeds. His account is the first written description of the Serbian Hound, be it from the 11th century or the 20th.

Despite the patchy nature of their history, oral tradition asserts that the Serbian Hound has been a popular breed in the Balkans for many centuries. They were primarily kept as hunting dogs and have gained a reputation as excellent hounds. Their keen sense of smell helped them to seek out their quarry, which may be anything from deer to foxes. This scenting ability and their dedication to work has maintained their popularity amongst the hunting community. In terms of official recognition, the Serbian Hound’s breed standard was set out between 1924 and 1939 with official recognition from the Federation Cynologique Internationale coming in 1940. Serbian Hounds are still popular pets in Serbia, Montenegro and other Balkan countries, however, they remain a rare breed outside of their geographical home.

Appearance

Serbian Hound Large Photo

The Serbian Hound is a medium sized dog with males standing at 46-56cm tall and weighing 15-23kg. Females tend to be slightly smaller with a height range of 44-54cm and weighing roughly the same as males.

Serbian Hounds have an athletic appearance and tend to be well muscled animals. In profile, their foreheads have a rounded appearance, while the muzzle is long and tapers towards the end. Their nose is always black. The ears are oval shaped and hang down to the jawline. Their limbs are well-muscled, giving them a stocky appearance in comparison to some other European hounds.

One of the defining features of a Serbian Hound is its coat and coloration. All Serbian hounds have a black saddle, which extends up their neck and to the sides of the head. Some Serbian Hounds have a slight white mark on the chest with the tail, forelimbs, hindlimbs and face being varying tones of Yellow, Russet, and Red.

Character & Temperament

In common with other scent hounds, the Serbian Hound is known to be dedicated to their work. They are determined dogs that will put all their energy into whatever task is at hand. They love to be in the field or to be active in some way. If this natural tendency to activity is fulfilled, then in the home, they are known for their relaxed nature. In the right hands, a Serbian Hound can be an active outdoor companion, as well as a well-mannered and sociable family pet.

Serbian Hounds are often described as gentle and affectionate with their owners. They form strong bonds with their owners and will develop an unbreakable loyalty to them. Since they enjoy attention so much, well-behaved children are often not a problem. Since Serbian Hounds were previously kept as pack animals, they are sociable and get on well with other dogs. There is some conflicting advice as to their ability to share a home with other household pets. In general, if they are brought up with other animals, they can adapt to their presence. But, it should be noted that any hunting dogs retain a strong prey drive, so whilst they may be able to co-habit with cats, other domestic animals, such as rabbits, may prove too much of a temptation.

Trainability

Serbian Hounds are intelligent dogs and with this comes a degree of independent thinking. Consistency with the rules and steady guidance are required to make sure that they don’t develop problematic behaviours. They can be more difficult to train than other breeds, as they also have a reputation for stubbornness. Training sessions should be as diverse and interesting as possible to try and overcome this. Another way to overcome training difficulties is to make sessions as interactive as possible. Serbian Hounds thrive off one-to-one attention from their owner, so rewards should include lavishing them with praise and attention.

As with any dog breed, socialisation is an important part of any training regime. If you expect a Serbian Hound to co-habit with other animals, they should be introduced to them as early as possible and taught the correct way to interact with them. Equally, a well socialised dog is more likely to be friendly with other dogs and strangers.

Health

Serbian Hounds have an average life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years. They are generally healthy dogs and there are no reports of inherited diseases within the population. Their long ears which hang over the ear canal can predispose them to ear infections.

Ear Infections

It’s generally thought that dogs with pendulous ears are predisposed to ear infections, particularly with yeasts, since air circulation is reduced within the ear canal. As such, it’s worth checking Serbian Hound’s ears regularly for any signs of infection. These signs might include: a build up of wax (usually a dark brown colour) inside the ear canal, an unpleasant smell, reddening of the skin and discomfort. Discomfort may manifest as pawing at the ears or other similar behaviours. Treatment for acute ear infections is relatively simple and there are plenty of products available from your veterinary surgeon for this issue.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Serbian Hounds are lively and energetic. They require up to 2 hours of exercise a day with 45-minutes as a bare minimum. Ideally, this physical exercise should also include mental stimulation, allowing them to explore and play. This need for exercise excludes them from apartment living. When kept in a built-up area they should have access to a garden with regular excursions to the park. A rural setting with plenty of space would be ideal for this breed.

Grooming

In terms of grooming, Serbian Hounds are low maintenance. They shed moderately throughout the year. Their shedding is seasonal and tends to increase in the spring and autumn.

Famous Serbian Hounds

Despite being very popular in the Balkans, the Serbian Hound has yet to find much fame in other parts of the world.

Cross-Breeds

No recognised cross-breeds use the Serbian Hound in their lineage.

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