AKBASH

COUNTRY: Turkey
WEIGHT: 80-140 pounds
HEIGHT: 28-34 inches
COAT: Smooth or long, both double coat; thick, with fringing on tail and back of legs, and often a slight wave
COLOR: Solid white (a bit of light biscuit
around ears is not to be penalized); complete black pigment of eye rims, nose and lips preferred, but dark brown acceptable.
GROUP: Flock Guard

The Akbash dog is one of the oldest breeds of the flock-guarding group, the Akbash dog still carries the same physical and mental traits that characterized these dogs thousands of years ago. They were probably brought to the yaylas (mountain pastures) of Turkey with migrations of peoples from the East. Since sighthounds, mastiffs and flock-guard dogs accompanied these Oriental migrations, all could have contributed to the gene pool. Turkey (Asia Minor) was on the migratory routes between West and East, and stories have been told and records kept of these guardians from very early times.

Lucien G.M. Columella, a first-century AD Roman author, wrote: “Sheepherders wish to have white dogs in order to avoid confusing them with wild animals, since, when the wolf attacks in the twilight, it is important that there be a color difference between the dog and the wolf; otherwise the sheepherder might strike his dog, thinking he was killing a wolf,”

A Phrygian civilization (Asia Minor, 750-300 BC) graffito shows a large guarding dog wearing a spiked iron collar. Turkish flock-guarding dogs still wear huge iron-spiked collars as added protection for the vulnerable neck area against predators.

The Akbash dog is a fleet-moving dog, with acute hearing and eyesight. Natural and owner culling has developed strong, sturdy animals. These dogs are bred to be animal oriented, rather than toward people. Their independence is sometimes misunderstood by the uninformed as stubbornness or stupidity. They are bred to think, rather than obey with robot precision. A strong tendency to natural suspicion fosters development of the proper guarding attitude.

Proper bonding with sheep requires calm, quiet, steady temperament. Livestock guardian candidates are never brought inside the home or made into pets. They need to be introduced to their future animal at a tender age.

If pups want to play with sheep, trainers cure this by adding an “old cantankerous ewe or feisty ram to discipline the overly exuberant puppy,” so they learn not to injure the young lambs in rough play. In modern society, the Akbash dog usually accepts other farm animals (i.e., dogs, cats, horses and other domestics), if reared with them from puppyhood, and is sometimes protective of them. When raised with children, the dogs are good with them. Pets should be confined to an area, rather than being chained which intensifies aggression.

Matings are not readily accomplished. Akbash dogs are so attached to the flock that they are not easily sidetracked, even for affairs of the heart. One bitch owner had to rent an entire flock and the shepherd to convince its guard dog to cooperate.