Carpathian Shepherd Dog

The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is a breed of livestock guarding breed native to Romania.  This breed is thought to be very ancient and may be a direct descendant of the earliest livestock guarding breeds.  Long famous throughout Romania for its strong protective drive, immense courage, and gentle nature with its family, the breed has only recently earned international recognition.  Although this breed remains rare outside of Romania, it is very well known within its homeland.  The Carpathian Shepherd is also known as the Romanian Shepherd Dog, Romanian Shepherd, Romanian Sheepdog, Carpathian Shepherd, Carpathian Sheepdog, Caine Ciobanesc Carpatin, Romanian Carpatin Herder, and Romanian Carpathian.

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
X-Large 55-90 lb
XX-Large 90-120 lb+
LifeSpan: 
12 to 15 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
Medium Energy
Grooming: 
Brushing Once a Week or Less
Protective Ability: 
Very Protective
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
Needs Alot of Space
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
Generally Good With Other Pets If Raised Together
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
4-10 Puppies
Names: 
Romanian Shepherd Dog, Romanian Shepherd, Romanian Sheepdog, Carpathian Shepherd, Carpathian Sheepdog, Caine Ciobanesc Carpatin, Romanian Carpatin Herder, Romanian Carpathian.

Height/Weight

Males: 
70-100 lbs, 25½-29 inches
Females: 
55-85 lbs, 23-26½ inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

KC (The Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

Almost nothing is known with certainty about the origins of the Carpathian Shepherd Dog.  Not only was this breed developed centuries, and perhaps millennia, before written records were kept of dog breeding, but it was also primarily kept by poor farmers in one of Europe’s most remote regions, most of whom were illiterate until the 20th Century.  What is clear is that this breed has been present in its homeland since time immemorial, and that it has always served to protect sheep and other livestock.

 

There are at least three possible origins for the Carpathian Shepherd Dog.  The most widely held, and perhaps the most likely, holds that the breed is directly descended from the very first livestock guarding breeds.  Around 14,000 years ago, a small group of residents of the Middle East began to domesticate animals and plants and live in settled villages.  One of the first problems that they encountered was that their sedentary and gentle livestock made a very tempting target for predators and thieves.  They realized that the natural protective urges that dogs feel towards other members of their packs could be transformed into protective urges over their herds.  These early farmers bred very large, extremely protective dogs to serve this purpose.  Agriculture proved to be an extremely successful way of life, and the first farmers quickly spread.  These farmers brought their livestock and the dogs that guarded them wherever they traveled, and also introduced them to other peoples.  Agriculture first arrived in Romania between 6,000 and 7,000 years B.C., and it is quite possible that the first ancestors of the Carpathian Shepherd arrived at this time.

 

Although it is impossible to say with any certainty what the earliest livestock guarding breeds looked like, a new theory has developed.  Traditionally, all large livestock guarding breeds were considered to be of the Mastiff/Molosser type.  In recent years, there is a growing recognition that a number of European and Near Eastern breeds are probably much older than Mastiffs, and do not share most of their features.  These dogs are typified by large to massive size, a longer wolf-like snout, long hair, and being either solidly white or white with light grey and tan markings.  Most of these breeds are native to mountainous regions where it is thought that they were able to survive the introduction of the more popular Mastiffs.  These breeds are referred to as Lupomolossoids because they are more wolf-like than Mastiff-type dogs.  Breeds usually included in this group are the Great Pyrenees of France and Spain, the Maremma Sheepdog of Italy, the Kuvasz of Hungary, the Tatra Mountain Sheepdog of Poland, and the Akbash Dog of Turkey.  Other breeds which are often suggested to be Lupomolossoids are the Komondor and various breeds of Owtcharka.  If the Carpathian Shepherd Dog is in fact a descendant of the earliest livestock guardians, it is almost certainly also a member of this family.  This is actually very likely as this breed very closely resembles other Lupomolossoids although its coat is generally darker.

 

It is also quite possible that the Carpathian Shepherd Dog was introduced into the region much later. Most of what is now Romania was at one point occupied by the Roman Empire, and was contained within the province of Dacia.  The Romans were some of the ancient world’s most successful and skilled dog breeders and developed a number of different breeds or used breeds from the many people they conquered.  One such breed was the Molossus, which had originally been native to Illyria.  The Molossus was the primary war dog of both the Greek and Roman armies and was famous for its courage.  The breed was also known to be an excellent livestock guardian.  Although there is much dispute as to the true nature of the Molossus, some researchers, including this writer feel that the breed was very similar to the modern Sarplaninac of Serbia and Macedonia.  As the Sarplaninac is quite similar to the Carpathian Shepherd Dog, it is very possible that both breeds descend from the Molossus.

 

A final potential ancestry for the Carpathian Shepherd Dog holds that the breed is descended from any number of dogs introduced to the region by nomadic invaders from the East.  Romania sits on the edge of the Steppes.  Throughout history, Steppe-dwelling nomads repeatedly invaded and conquered the rich settled lands of Europe.  Because of location, almost all of these invaders went through Romania.  The Scythians, Goths, Slavs, Huns, Gepids, Avars, Pechenegs, Magyars, Cumans, Uzes, Mongols, and Tatars are just a few of the best known invaders.  Many of these people possessed large war and livestock guarding dogs which they may have introduced to the region.  Due to the long and complex history of the region, it is very possible that all three theories are accurate and that the modern Carpathian Shepherd Dog is the result of crosses between the regions earliest herding dogs, Roman breeds, and the dogs of Steppe nomads.

 

However the Carpathian Shepherd Dog was first developed, it became a highly prized part of Romanian life.  With the exceptions of Russia and northern Scandinavia, the Carpathian Mountains that the breed calls home have remained the wildest and least developed part of Europe, and the region is home to the largest amount of undeveloped forest in the European Union.  The Carpathians are the last true stronghold of Europe’s great predators: the brown bear, wolf, lynx, red fox, golden jackal, golden eagle, and eastern imperial eagle.  Romania remains one of the only places where these creatures pose a true threat to livestock.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog was tasked at defending its charges against these beasts, greatly reducing the losses to predators in the process.  In an era where farmers literally survived from the meat, milk, and wool of their livestock, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog prevented starvation and destitute poverty.

 

Unlike most livestock guarding breeds which work alone, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog was traditionally kept in groups of several dogs.  This provided a number of benefits.  One of the greatest was simply a larger number of eyes, ears, and noses.  Each individual dog was always on the watch, allowing them to defend a larger area than a single dog would be able to.  It also provides strength in numbers.  When one dog perceived a threat it would loudly bark drawing all the other dogs and human shepherds to its aid.  The dogs and armed farmers would then surround the marauding beast.  When confronted by a pack of angry Carpathian Shepherd Dogs and their owners, most creatures would flee back into the forest.  Those that decided to stay and fight would be bitten by sharp teeth, beaten with clubs and sticks, burned with torches, and stabbed with knives and shovels.  This breed is famed for its courage, and there are numerous stories of these dogs single-handedly confronting bears, although a pack usually has greater success.  It was not just wild predators that this breed defended against.  Throughout history, hundreds, and possibly thousands of armies have marched through the Carpathians.  The region has long been contested by dozens of powers, and has also been home to countless bandits, thieves, and other criminals.  The Carpathian Shepherd would retire from a day guarding flocks in the field to protect its family at night.  The unique uses of the Carpathian Shepherd Dog meant that it developed differently from other livestock guarding breeds.  This breed developed into a gentle and loving family companion, and also works well with other canines.

 

A number of stories and tales have developed about the courage and loyalty of the Carpathian Shepherd Dog.  In addition to numerous tales about their defense of livestock, there is one famous one about their defense of a body.  The story goes that a Romanian shepherd died while in the wilderness.  His two loyal dogs remained by his side driving away any scavengers such as ravens and jackals that attempted to come near the body.  The dogs waited faithfully without food and water for four days until a search party discovered the body.  While it is impossible to say for sure whether this story is true, it does show how highly the Romanian shepherds felt about their dogs.

 

There are many who believe that the Carpathian Shepherd Dog has regularly been crossed with the region’s wolves.  Although this theory would probably be very difficult to prove, it seems likely for a number of reasons.  One is the breed’s appearance which is very wolf-like.  Another reason is the breed’s ability to work in packs, which is very typical of a wolf.

 

Across most of Europe, predators had been driven to extinction by the 1800’s.  This meant that the dogs which had been kept to defend against them either went extinct or were transformed into companion animals.  The Carpathians remained full of predators until the present day, meaning that livestock guarding dogs were still necessary.  The Carpathian Shepherd therefore maintained its traditional appearance, usage, and abilities for much longer than most other modern breeds.  For many centuries, Romania was dominated by the Ottoman Empire, upon independence in 1866, a wave of nationalism spread across the country.  There was a strong desire to standardize and popularize native Romanian dog breeds.  In 1934, the first written breed standard was published by the National Institute for Animal Breeding, also known as the National Zootechnical Institute.  The Romanian Kennel Club (ACR) subsequently made changes to the standard in 1982, 1999, and 2001.

 

From World War II until the 1980’s, Romania was dominated by the Soviet Union and the Communist Party.  With the fall of the brutal dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, the nation transitioned to a democratic free market system.  Romania increasingly sought closer ties to Western Europe, eventually joining the European Union.  The ACR also sought closer ties with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).  One of the ACR’s primary goals was to achieve full FCI recognition for Romania’s four native breeds, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog, Bucovina Shepherd Dog, Raven Shepherd Dog, and Mioritic Shepherd Dog.  In 2003, a major conference was held in the Romanian city of Bistrita to discuss standard revisions for the Romanian breeds to make them more acceptable to the FCI.  In 2005, a new breed standard was published, and the Carpathian Shepherd Dog was granted full recognition with the FCI as a member of the Sheepdog and Cattle Dog Group.  In 2006, the United Kennel Club (UKC) became the first major English language canine organization to grant the breed full recognition as a member of the Herding Dog Group.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is unofficially considered the National Dog of Romania, although sometimes in a group with the country’s four other breeds.

 

Because of Romania’s relative isolation and the lack of full FCI recognition, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog has long remained limited to its homeland.  In recent years, a few breed members have been exported to other countries, although the breed remains extremely rare outside of its homeland.  It is unclear if any breed members have arrived in the United States, but if any have it is a very small number of individual dogs.  Although rare around the world, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog is very well-known in Romania, where it is one of the most popular and best beloved breeds.  Unlike most modern breeds, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog remains primarily a working breed.  The majority of breed members are either working or retired livestock guardians in the Carpathian Mountains.  In recent years, a growing number of Romanians are keeping the breed as a companion or a property guarding dog with great success.  The breed’s future may lie as a joint guard/family companion, but that will be many years away.  This breed’s future is likely quite secure in Romania as it has a very dedicated and passionate following.

 

Appearance: 

 

The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is very similar in appearance to Romania’s other native breeds, especially the Bucovina Shepherd Dog and the Raven Shepherd Dog.  This dog is famous for its wolf-like appearance, and many breed members do appear as though they have some recent wolf ancestry.  This is a definitely a large breed, but certainly not a giant one.  Most males stand between 25½ and 29 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.  The significantly smaller females usually stand between 23 and 26½ inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 85 pounds.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is a very powerfully built animal, but it is far from bulky.  When compared to most Mastiff-type dogs, this breed is significantly lither.  This breed is noticeably longer from chest to rump than it is tall, giving it a rectangular appearance.  The tail of the Carpathian Shepherd Dog is quite long.  When at rest, the tail is held low with a saber like curve.  When the dog is moving the tail is often carried upright, but never over the back.

 

The head and face of the Carpathian Shepherd Dog are very wolf-like.  They are obviously very powerful without appearing heavy.  The skull is wide, slightly domed, and narrows towards the eyes.  The muzzle and skull are semi-distinct, but blend in very smoothly.  The muzzle itself is approximately the same length as the skull, but never longer.  The muzzle is oval and wolf-like with thick, tight, and dark lips.  This breed has a complete and powerful set of teeth that meet in a scissors bite.  The nose of this breed is large, wide, and always black in color.  The ears of this breed are triangular in shape, possess slightly rounded tips, and drop down close to the cheeks.  The eyes of this breed are small-in-size, almondAmong experts, the use of Almonds, or Almond derived products in pet food appears to have been met with mixed reviews. While some feel that there is no issue and that the ....-in-shape, and dark brown in color.  The overall expression of most breed members is calm, wise, and gentle.

 

The coat of the Carpathian Shepherd Dog is double.  This means that the breed has a softer and denser undercoat and a longer and harsher outer coat.  The outer coat is quite harsh, very dense, and straight.  This coat provides the dog with substantial protection from the region’s elements.  The hair on the head and the fronts of the legs is short and smooth.  The hair on the rest of the body is of medium length and quite abundant.  The hair is often longest and thickest on the neck, tail, and backs of the legs.  This breed is known for being colored similarly to a wolf.  The Carpathian Mountain Dog should be either grey in color or pale fawn with a grey overlay.  The shade of grey ranges from very light to nearly black.  White markings are acceptable but they should not be prominent.  Occasionally a Carpathian Shepherd Dog is born in an alternative color such as solid white or solid black.  Such dogs are penalized in the show ring and should not be bred but otherwise make just as excellent pets and working dogs as any other breed members.

 

Temperament: 

 

The Carpathian Shepherd Dog has been bred as both a livestock guardian and a family companion and has temperament traits common to both groups of dogs.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is a truly treasured by its fanciers, who are usually very passionate about the breed.  This breed is known to form incredibly close attachments to its family.  This breed is famous for its devotion and loyalty, and one of these dogs would follow its master anywhere without question.  This is a dog that craves the constant company of its family and can develop severe separation anxiety in their absence.  While most breed members are fairly reserved about their affection, others are quite openly affectionate.  When properly trained and socialized, this breed tends to get along very well with children.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is known to be extraordinarily gentle and affectionate with its family’s children.  Although not nearly as dominant as many other guardian breeds, the Carpathian Shepherd still does best with an experienced dog owner.

 

This breed has served as a guard dog for many centuries, and has a tendency to be quite suspicious of strangers.  Socialization is very important for Carpathian Shepherd Dogs to allow them to properly distinguish between real and imagined threats.  Although this breed can develop aggression issues, it is less likely to do so than many other guardian breeds.  Once properly trained and socialized, most breed members will be polite and tolerant of strangers, although they are typically aloof and disinterested in them.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is not only very protective but extremely alert, making the breed an excellent watchdog that’s loud and intimidating barks and growls will quickly deter most intruders.  This breed also makes an excellent guard dog.  This breed has a very strong tendency to do everything possible to deter an intruder with threats, but it will attack if it deems necessary.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog also excels as a personal protection and livestock guardian.  This breed is fearless in defense of its family and charges and will unhesitatingly sacrifice its life in their defense.

 

Unlike most guardian breeds, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog usually is very accepting and tolerant of other dogs.  This breed was bred to work in packs to defend its charges and most breed members greatly prefer the company of other dogs.  Dog aggression is far from unheard of in this breed, however, and many breed members are initially very suspicious and challenging towards strange dogs.  Proper training and socialization will greatly reduce these issues.  This breed was bred to live in close quarters with its flock, and most examples are non-aggressive towards large animals with which they are familiar.  However, this dog was tasked with defending against strange creatures and most are highly aggressive towards non-canine animals with which they are not familiar.  This is a dog that will attack and kill predators such as coyotes and wolves, and may possibly do the same with wild animals that do not actually pose a threat such as raccoons and stray cats.

 

The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is a highly intelligent and trainable breed.  This breed is said to be a natural guardian that requires very little training to make an excellent shepherd.  Although this breed has not been extensively used in canine sports such as agility and competitive obedience, it is thought that it could succeed at those tasks as well.  Most fanciers claim that the breed is also very obedient and willing to please.  However, most fanciers are experienced shepherds and dog trainers who know how to properly raise these dogs.  It is probably fair to say that this breed is considerably more trainable than most guardian breeds, but that it requires an experienced owner who is capable of maintaining constant position of dominance.

 

This breed was developed to wander through the treacherous mountain terrain of the Carpathians, following its masters and flocks for days on end.  As a result, the breed has a very high exercise requirement.  This breed requires at least an hour of exercise every day, although it would prefer to get significantly more.  The Carpathian Shepherd Dog will gladly go for a jog or a bicycle ride, but probably prefers to get most of its exercise at a walking pace.  What this breed truly craves is an opportunity to wander freely in a safely enclosed area, preferably for several hours a day.  Breed members who are not provided a sufficient outlet for their energy will almost certainly develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyper activity, over excitability, excessive barking, aggression, and nervousness.  All that being said, this is not an exceptionally rambunctious breed and is nowhere near as demanding as a dog such as a Border Collie or Australian Cattle Dog.  Because of the breed size and exercise requirements, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog adjusts very poorly to apartment life and requires a large yard, preferably one with acreage.

 

This breed has a strong tendency to stay alongside its family and will usually not stray too far from their presence.  If left alone, however, this breed will wander great distances.  This intelligent, athletic, and powerful breed is more than capable of escaping most enclosures, and will go far away if it does so.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

The Carpathian Shepherd Dog is a low maintenance breed.  This dog should never require professional grooming, only an occasional brushing.  Other than that, only those routine maintenance procedures that all breeds require such as teeth brushing and ear cleaning are necessary.  There do not seem to be any reports on the Carpathian Shepherd Dog’s shedding, but this breed is almost certainly a very heavy shedder.

 

Health Issues: 

 

It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Carpathian Shepherd Dog which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health.  Most fanciers seem to believe that the breed is in excellent health.  This dog has been bred exclusively as a working dog, and breeders would have quickly eliminated any genetic defects which would have impaired its ability to work.  This breed was also subject to a very harsh environment with dangerous predators, and only the strongest and healthiest breed members would have survived.  This breed allegedly has a very long life for a breed of this size, about 12 – 14 years, but it is unclear what this estimate is based on.

 

Although skeletal and visual problems are not thought to occur at high rates in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).  The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up.  This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.

 

Even though health studies have not been conducted on the Carpathian Shepherd Dog, they have been for similar and closely related breeds.  Among the problems of greatest concern that have been discovered include:

 

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