The Cierny Sery is a breed of working dog developed in Slovakia during the 20th Century. The breed is most famous for its solid black coloration and use as a Czechoslovakian and Slovakian military dog. The Cierny Sery is currently not recognized by any major international kennel clubs, although its fanciers hope that this will change in the near future. Almost entirely unknown outside of its homeland, the Cierny Sery is considered a very rare breed. The Cierny Sery is also known as the Black Sherry, Slovak Shepherd, Slovak Shepherd Dog, Black Slovak Shepherd, and Black Slovak Shepherd Dog.
The Cierny Sery is a very recently developed breed that has only been truly distinguished from other similar breeds since the 1980’s. The Cierny Sery was developed largely by the Czechoslovakian and Slovakian militaries and police forces working with a small number of dedicated breeders. The history of this breed began at the end of World War I. Prior to 1918, the area that comprises the territory of modern day Slovakia had been part of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire for approximately 1000 years. When Austria-Hungary was defeated at the end of World War I, the Allied Powers demanded that the Empire’s many minority peoples be granted their independence. The closely related Czechs and Slovaks were granted independence together in the newly created nation of Czechoslovakia, although the nation was also home to large numbers of Germans, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), and Silesians. The newly independent nation needed to develop its own military and police forces. As was the case with all major European militaries and police forces of the 20th Century, Czechoslovakia employed a large number of dogs.
Dogs have been used in war since the very dawn of recorded history. Archaeological digs in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia conclusively show that those cultures were using dogs to attack enemy armies several thousand years before the birth of Christ. Throughout history, different cultures have preferred different types of military dogs. The Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and English preferred gargantuan Mastiff-type dogs, the Celts the Irish Wolfhound, the Greeks and Romans the fleet-footed Molossus, and the Huns the Aftscharka. Starting in the middle of the 19th Century, Continental European armies began using large continental herding breeds as military dogs. These breeds proved highly suitable military life. Centuries of guarding sheep from wolves and bears made them naturally protective and granted them extremely keen senses. Biting the heels of sheep and cattle to drive them provided them with strong jaws. Most importantly, these breeds were extremely intelligent and incredibly responsive to commands, making them very trainable. When modern police forces were developed in the second half of the 1800’s, policemen quickly discovered that the same traits that made continental herding breeds so desirable as military dogs also made them excellent police dogs and the same breeds were quickly adopted for crime fighting.
Each European country came to prefer different breeds for police and military work. Some countries adapted very old breeds to police and military work. France greatly preferred to use French breeds, especially the Briard, Beauceron, and Bouvier des Flandres. Belgium and the Netherlands primarily used the Belgian and Dutch Shepherds respectively. Hungary initially used the Puli. German breeders developed several new breeds specifically for police and military service, including the German Shepherd and Doberman Pinscher, although many German police forces chose to use older breeds instead, mainly the Rottweiler and Giant Schnauzer. Russia/The Soviet Union found that most Western European breeds could not survive the country’s frigid climate. A number of German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, Giant Schnauzers, and other breeds were crossed with native Russian dogs to develop the East Russian Owtcharka and the Black Russian Terrier, and massive and powerful livestock guarding dogs were collected from Central Asia and the Caucasus Mountains, becoming known as the Central Asian and Caucasian Owtcharkas. Because Czechoslovakia was not home to any breeds suitability for modern military use, the nation imported dogs from across Europe. German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds probably made up the majority of these imported dogs, but many other breeds were used as well especially those from the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia also began to experiment with wolf hybrids to improve the health of their dogs. These wolf-hybrids were regularly used by the Czechoslovakian military and became known as Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs.
The Czechoslovakian military and police forces regularly crossed different breeds of dog together. They were uninterested in pedigree, only in working ability. Because color has little to no impact on working ability, Czechoslovakian breeders did not attempt to eliminate colors which were disfavored elsewhere such as solid black. Initially, this meant that the dogs used differed dramatically in appearance. Over time, the dogs became more and more similar in appearance. By the early 1980’s, the majority very similar in appearance to the German Shepherd Dog and solid black in color. Two different coat varieties came to predominate, one was very similar to that of the German Shepherd and the other was very similar to that of the Giant Schnauzer. Although it is probably impossible to say with certainty exactly what breeds and in what proportions went into the ancestry of these black dogs, they are almost certainly primarily descended from the Belgian Shepherd, East European Owtcharka, Giant Schnauzer, German Shepherd, Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, Canadian Wolf, Carpathian Wolf, and Altdeutsche Hutehund, a very rare and nearly extinct ancestor of the modern German Shepherd Dog. As has been the case across the world, many Slovak soldiers became intensely attached to the dogs that they served with and wanted to keep them as pets after their military service ended. For many decades this was nearly impossible because the military kept all useful dogs for breeding. By the 1980’s attitudes had softened and a number of private breeders began working with ex-military dogs. In 1981, these dogs began being deliberately and regularly bred as a unique line. Among the most prominent of these breeders was Mrs. Zdena Seryova. Slovak breeders sought to heavily reduce the wolf bloodlines in their dogs with further outcrosses to other domestic breeds, resulting in a dog that was substantially different from the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.
In 1989, Czechoslovakia freed itself from Communist control peacefully in the so-called Velvet Revolution. Although attempts were initially made to keep the country, together by 1993 the Czechs and Slovaks mutually decided to separate peacefully into two countries, The Czech Republic and Slovakia. After independence, the Czech Republic largely abandoned the black military dogs in favor of German Shepherds and other Western European breeds. However, Slovakia continued to use the Czechoslovakian lines. Slovakian breeders continued to work with the black dogs, until they became considered a unique breed. The breed became known as the Cierny Sery, which means Black Sherry in Slovak. Because the development of the Cierny Sery into a unique breed has been completed almost entirely in Slovakia since independence, it is now considered a uniquely Slovakian breed.
Breeders and fanciers of the Cierny Sery are currently working to further standardize the breed and to increase its awareness and popularity within Slovakia. The breed has yet to achieve formal recognition with any major kennel clubs, but fanciers are apparently working towards full recognition. The breed is granted full recognition with United Kennel Club International (UCI), a German organization which is not affiliated with the American United Kennel Club (UKC). The first step will probably be recognition with the Slovak National Kennel Club, followed by provisional acceptance with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), although it does not appear that either will occur in the immediate future. In the meantime, Cierny Sery fanciers are continuing to promote their breed as a pet and service animal. Currently the vast majority of the Cierny Sery population resides in Slovakia, although a few dogs have also been exported to the Czech Republic and Germany. It is unclear if any Cierny Sery have been exported to the United States, but if any have it is a very small number of isolated individuals. Unlike most modern breeds, the Cierny Sery remains primarily a working dog. Most breed members are either active working or recently retired from active duty, usually as military, police, personal protection, and herding dogs. However, the breed is becoming increasingly popular as a companion animal, and many fanciers are actively promoting it as such. Although breed numbers are increasing in Slovakia, the breed remains essentially unknown elsewhere and is considered very rare.
The Cierny Sery is very similar in appearance to the German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd, especially the smooth-coated form, but is distinguishable from those breeds due to its solid black coloration and slightly different features. The Cierny Sery is a medium to medium-large breed. Males usually stand between 22¼ and 26½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females usually stand between 22 and 24½ inches. Females typically weigh between 44 and 55 pounds, and males typically weigh between 55 and 66 pounds. This breed is usually longer from chest to rump than it is tall from floor to shoulder, although generally not to the extent of the German Shepherd. The Cierny Sery is a sturdily constructed breed, but it was designed to be of much lighter build than the German Shepherd. The Cierny Sery is very lithe and fit looking, and should always appear capable of intense work. Although its coat obscures most of its body, the Cierny Sery is very muscular and athletic. As a working dog, the Cierny Sery should possess no exaggerated feature which would impair its ability to do its job. It is very important for this breed to have a straight back and normally functioning legs. The tail of the Cierny Sery is long and usually held with a pronounced curve.
The head and face of the Cierny Sery are generally proportional to the size of the dog’s body, although they do tend to be rather broad. This breed is generally very wolf-like in terms of facial features, especially those of the Carpathian Wolf. The forehead of this breed is slightly arched. The muzzle and head are distinct from each other, but blend in very smoothly with a minimal stop. The muzzle is ideally straight but may be slightly arched on some dogs. The lips of the Cierny Sery are tight-fitting, but not extremely so, and should always be black in color. The nose of the Cierny Sery is well-developed and solid black. The eyes are moderately large, 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 ....-shaped, and set obliquely. The eyes range in shade from light brown to nearly black. The ears of this breed are triangular in shape, quite long, and stand straight erect. These ears are extremely mobile, and can turn very far in order for the dog to locate the source of a sound from any direction. Their large size and mobility make the ears appear very similar to those of bats. The overall expression of most Cierny Sery is lively, intelligent, and friendly.
The coat of the Cierny Sery is the breed’s defining feature and what most distinguishes the dog from similar breeds. The Cierny Sery is found in three distinct coat varieties, all of which are equally acceptable in the show ring. All varieties are double-coated, with an undercoat that is shorter, softer, and denser than the outer coat. The undercoat of this breed may be slightly wooly. The Short-haired or smooth-coated variety has a short, smooth coat that should be harsh to the touch. This variety usually has a straight coat. The long-haired or long-coated variety has a coat which is usually about 6-8 inches in length, and should always be harsh to the touch. This variety has either a straight or a slightly wavy coat, either of which is equally acceptable. On both the short and long coated varieties, the hair is shortest on the face, head, ears, and fronts of the legs and longest on the tail. The wire-coated or rough-coated variety has a wiry coat very similar to that found on a Schnauzer. The coat is short to medium in length and quite harsh to the touch. The hair on the face of the wire-coated variety is usually equal –in-length or slightly longer than the hair found on the rest of the body. This results in the formation of pronounced eyebrows, mustaches, and beards; although they should never be so long that they impede the dog’s vision.
The Cierny Sery is known primarily as a solid black dog, but the breed actually is found in two different colorations. The vast majority of breed members are solid black in color, although many have regions that are slightly shaded with brown, especially on the face and chest. A smaller number of breed members are black with brown markings. These black and brown dogs are perfectly acceptable in the show ring provided that black is predominant. Black and brown dogs are also allowed to exhibit grey coats, which are especially common in the wire-coated variety. Both colorations may exhibit white markings on the chest and feet, although they should not be overly prominent. Occasionally, a Cierny Sery will be born in alternate colorations such as solid brown, primarily brown with black markings, or with large white patches. Such dogs are ineligible in the show ring and should probably not be bred, but otherwise make just as capable companions or working dogs as any other breed members.
The Cierny Sery has a temperament very similar to that of the better known German and Belgian Shepherds, although this breed tends to be considerably softer tempered than those breeds. The Cierny Sery is a breed that forms incredibly close attachments to its family, to whom it is intensely devoted and loyal. The Cierny Sery wants to be in the constant company of its family, and can develop separation anxiety issues if left alone for long periods on a regular basis. This breed is somewhat variable in its affection level with some dogs being extremely openly affectionate and others being considerably more reserved. The Cierny Sery is considered an excellent family dog, and when properly trained and socialized most breed members do very well with children. This breed is known to be exceptionally affectionate with children, especially those that give it treats. Although adult Cierny Sery are usually very gentle and tolerant, Cierny Sery puppies may be somewhat too rambunctious for toddlers as they may accidentally bowl them over.
Although the breed has an extensive military background, most breed members are not aggressive. The Cierny Sery was bred to be a dependable and stable working dog even in the military, and more recent breeders have focused on eliminating any remaining aggression. When properly trained and socialized, most breed members will be very polite with and tolerant of strangers, although they vary considerably in their interaction with them. Some of these dogs are openly engaging and friendly, while others are more reserved. This breed is naturally quite protective, but to a lesser extent than most similar breeds. A Cierny Sery is quite alert and makes an excellent watchdog. This breed can be trained to become an excellent guard dog and personal protection animal, but most individuals lack the aggression desired by most professional protection dog trainers.
This breed generally gets along well with other animals. As is the case with all breeds, Cierny Sery that have not been socialized with non-canine creatures will usually show aggression towards them, but once such socialization is complete this breed will generally not bother them. Once properly socialized, most breed members do quite well with other dogs and would probably prefer to share their lives with at least one canine companion. Dog aggression issues can occur in this breed, however, so it is best to always exercise caution when introducing strange dogs, especially unneutered males.
The Cierny Sery is a highly trainable breed. These dogs are extremely intelligent and very responsive. This breed is more than capable of learning advanced military, police, and herding commands, and can probably learn anything that any breed is capable of. Once trained, this breed is usually highly obedient. Although not commonly entered into such competitions, if given the chance the Cierny Sery would almost certainly excel at competitive obedience, agility, fly ball, and similar activities. This breed tends to be somewhat less dominant and easier to work with than many lines of German and Belgian Shepherd, but there are many exceptions. As is the case with all breeds, owners who do not maintain a consistent position of dominance over their dogs are likely to experience training difficulties.
This breed is capable of working at a rigorous pace for hours on end and then waking up the next day and doing it all over again. As one would expect, this breed has very substantial exercise requirements. A Cierny Sery should receive a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise every day, although more would probably be better. Breed members who are not provided sufficient exercise are very likely to develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, excessive barking, hyper activity, and over excitability. That being said, this breed is not as high energy as many herding breeds such as the Border Collie and does not require constant activity. This dog adapts very well to life as a companion dog with active families. Once properly exercised, this breed tends to be very relaxed in the home, and will calmly lie on the sofa for hours. This dog greatly prefers an opportunity to exercise its mind as well as its body and does best when provided opportunities to do so such as engaging in advanced obedience training or agility. This breed’s high activity levels make it a desirable choice for many families as this dog is an excellent jogging and bicycling companion, loves to go on long hikes, and is always ready for any adventure no matter how extreme. Although this breed does best when provided a yard, Cierny Sery adapt reasonably well to apartment life if provided sufficient exercise.
The Cierny Sery is a low maintenance breed. The short and long-haired varieties should never require professional grooming, only a thorough regular brushing. The wire-coated variety may require an occasional trimming around the mouth, face, and toes. This can easily be done at home or by a professional groomer. There do not appear to be any reports on this breed’s shedding, but based on what is known about closely related breeds, the Cierny Sery is almost certainly a shedder and a very heavy one at that. This breed will almost certainly shed heavily all year long, covering carpets, furniture, and clothing with hair. This shedding reaches epic proportions once or twice a year when the seasons change, causing the breed to leave a trail of hair wherever it goes.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Cierny Sery, which makes it nearly impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health. Fanciers claim that this breed is in considerably better health than most similar breeds, but it is impossible to prove the accuracy of those claims. They are quite possible considering that this breed has been bred primarily as a working dog. However, most of the dogs which this breed descends have very serious health problems, especially with hip dysplasia so caution is advised.
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.
Although health studies have not been conducted for the Cierny Sery, a number have been on similar and closely related breeds. Some of the problems of greatest concern hound in those breeds include: