Large and imposing, the Sarplaninac is still often used for its original purpose of being a livestock guardian. This landrace breed has a rich history and is considered to be an ancient type of dog.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
About this Breed
Sarplaninacs are a large livestock guardian breed that hails from the Sar Mountains, which are found on the border between Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo. They originated in what was then called Yugoslavia, and have been guarding sheep in the region for thousands of years.
Sarplaninacs are likely the descendants of Tibetan Shepherd Dogs that were brought over to the Balkans from Asia. Since then, Sarplaninacs have enjoyed a reputation as fearless and loyal guard dogs. They are known for protecting their flock at all costs, and have been known to chase off animals as large and frightening as wolves and bears. They are also occasionally used to guard cattle. They were imported to Canada and the United States in the 1970s as “coyote” dogs, and were used to guard homes and sheep against curious coyotes.
Sarplaninacs are not recommended for novice owners. Because of their serious and formidable character, they would be “too much dog” for an inexperienced master. They require a great deal of socialization, much more than a less protective bred, and must be taught from a young age how to differentiate between friend and foe. If not properly socialized, Sarplaninacs may become overly territorial and protective, which can lead to an unbalanced and aggressive dog. They are intelligent enough that, once formally trained and socialized, they will react only when provoked and only when real danger is present.
Because of their size and temperament, Sarplaninacs are only really suited to rural homes. They are not apartment dogs, nor are well suited to suburban life. They need a lot of space, and the ideal home for a Sarplaninac is one where they can guard livestock or sheep. If no sheep need guarding, Sarplaninacs can make lovely household protectors and can be kept simply as a pet. They need a good deal of exercise and thrive when allowed to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Sarplaninacs are very good with children, particularly children in their family. If raised alongside kids, they will protect the children just as they would any other member of the family. The same thing can be said about other animals: if a Sarplaninac is raised with other dogs, they will get along with them. If they are raised with cats and small mammals, they will guard them, too. Sarplaninacs who are unaccustomed to other pets, including members of their own species, may not accept them.
Sarplaninacs on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Sarplaninac ancestry.