Bucovina Shepherd Dog

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Bucovina Shepherd Dog

The Bucovina Shepherd is an extremely rare breed of dog that is not well known outside of Romania. Thought to have been developed around the time of the ancient Roman Empire, this breed was mainly used as a guard dog and a ferocious protector of livestock. With its impressive size and deep, powerful bark, the Bucovina Shepherd easily scared away the hungry wolves and bears that roamed the Romanian mountains.

Its thick coat and long muzzle set it apart from other Mastiff type breeds, and the Bucovina Shepherd also tends to be lighter than its closest relations. Bred to be constantly on patrol, this dog has fantastic endurance, and would not be suited to apartment life. Forming strong bonds with its family members, the loyal Bucovina Shepherd can be gentle and affectionate with the children it has been brought up with, but due to its suspicion of strangers, must not be trusted with people it does not know.

About & History

The word Bucovina refers to a mountainous region in North-Eastern Romania, where this breed of dog almost certainly originated. While many believe it to be a Mastiff type breed developed by the ancient Romans, evidence exists that it may in fact be a ‘Lupo Molossoid’ rather than an entirely Molosser breed, owing to its more wolf-like features and lack of brachycephalic face.

Its date of origin is widely debated, but it is quite possible that this breed of dog actually pre-dates the period of the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago. Due to their seclusion in the isolated mountainous region, it is thought that they have changed little over time. For centuries, they diligently guarded livestock on the Carpathian Mountains of Bucovina. The numerous flocks of goats and sheep were at high risk from the local predators, such as wolves, bears and lynx, and the farmers hugely benefited from having a fearless, strong guard dog like the Bucovina Shepherd on their side.

While this large and powerful breed thrived in the rural outdoors, it has recently made a surprisingly smooth transition into modern-day urban life in Romania. Owing to its instinctive guard dog abilities, and perhaps most importantly, its capacity to be placid with its family, many Romanians keep the Bucovina Shepherd dog as a pet. It is seen as a big advantage that this breed will commonly also serve as a watchdog within the home.

The first breed standard was written as recently as 1982, and the Bucovina Shepherd is currently only recognised by the Romanian Kennel Club. Outside of its homeland, it is an incredibly rare breed.


Bucovina Shepherd Dog Large Photo

The Bucovina Shepherd is large and imposing, though with a more slender frame than most similar breeds of dog. Their head should be large and impressive with a muzzle that is not shorter than their skull. Compared to the size of their head, their eyes are relatively small. They are typically almond-shaped and dark in colour, surrounded by dark eyelids. Their ears are ‘v-shaped’ and flop downwards. Their body is rectangular and incredibly well-muscled. Their curved tail may be carried high or low.

This dog has a thick double-coat, which would have been a necessity when patrolling the mountains during long, winter nights. The coat is thicker at the mane, granting extra protection from attacks to the delicate neck region. Their tail is particularly long and shaggy. Most dogs are predominantly white with patches of pigmented fur that may be brown, black, sand or grey coloured.

To the withers, the male of the breed will typically stand at 68-78 cm, while the female stands at 64-72cm. Depending on their height, they will weigh between 32 and 45kg.

Character & Temperament

Not surprisingly giving its history, the Bucovina Shepherd makes an impressively good guard dog. They are always alert and will warn off any intruder with their guttural bark. Vigilant, they are often to be found patrolling their territory. Incredibly brave, they will not hesitate to stand up to even the most intimidating of oppositions. While wary and potentially aggressive with strangers, Bucovina Shepherds are renowned for their nature as ‘gentle giants’ with their families, particularly with the children. Once socialised from a young age, these dogs make a loving and dedicated family pet.

Great caution is advised with other animals, particularly if they are introduced on the territory of the Bucovina Shepherd; which would be ill-advised. The Bucovina Shepherd does have a reputation for being aggressive with other dogs, and so, in a multi-dog household, introducing the animals at a young age when they are more likely to accept each other is a must. Smaller animals, however, may be seen as prey and attacked.


Photo of Bucovina Shepherd Dog puppy
P.Marlow / Wikipedia.org

The Bucovina Shepherd is a stubborn breed and not suitable for a novice trainer. Their intelligence can often work against you, as they are not particularly eager to please. Having survived for so long with little intervention on the mountainous ranges of Romania, they are incredibly independent and want to be their own boss. It takes tremendous consistency from a trainer to be able to bring a Bucovina Shepherd under control.

Given their raw power and potential aggression towards strangers, it soon becomes clear that this breed needs an experienced owner who will not allow them to become a danger to society. These dogs are by no means a lost cause, and over time, can become well-trained in the right hands.


Not unexpectedly given its scarcity, there have been no health studies performed with the Bucovina Shepherd. However, given its history working in harsh conditions in the outdoors, it can be assumed that these are a generally hardy breed. Having said this, given their large stature, it would be prudent to assume that they suffer from the health condition typically seen in large to giant breeds, such as:

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)

A condition most commonly suffered by large, deep-chested dogs that can be quickly fatal. The stomach will rotate on its axis, leading to gas and food building up, causing a visible ‘bloat’. Immediate veterinary intervention is required.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a degenerative condition of improperly formed hip joints that results in mobility issues and pain throughout a dog’s life. Keeping a dog slim, ensuring they are not over-exercised and providing them with nutraceuticals and medication, can improve the quality of their life.

Elbow Dysplasia

An abnormal development of the elbow joint will inevitably result in impaired mobility and discomfort throughout the dog’s lifetime. While the osteoarthritis that will ensue can be managed with medications and lifestyle modifications, this is a disease which, through screening and breeding programs, we should be actively trying to prevent.

Other skeletal abnormalities are possible and given the negative impact these conditions have on a dog’s quality of life, affected dogs should not be bred from.

Exercise and Activity Levels

This is certainly a dog that feels at home when outdoors. Providing the Bucovina Shepherd with a large, open garden to patrol would be an advantage, enabling it to display its natural, territorial behaviour of guarding. A long walk of around an hour is needed each day to meet the exercise requirements of this dog who has been bred through the years for its stamina and ability to be constantly on the move.

Failing to provide the Bucovina Shepherd with an outlet for its energy will certainly lead to a destructive and unhappy dog and is to be avoided for everyone's benefit.


Daily brushing is essential, and some owners will clip the coat in the summer time. This breed is a heavy shedder, and so would not be suited to a homeowner who wishes to keep their interior pristine! Any dog whose ears flop forward are more prone to developing ear infections, and both ears should be regularly checked, and cleaned if necessary. Thorough drying after swimming and bathing is essential.

As with any powerful breed of dog, introducing them to such necessary tasks as claw clipping and tooth-brushing from a young age is a must to avoid potential conflict.

Famous Bucovina Shepherd Dogs

Little known outside of Romania, there are no famous Bucovina Shepherds just yet.


Only recently recognised by the Romanian Kennel Club, and rare outside Romania, there are no recognised cross-breeds of the Bucovina Shepherd yet.

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