About the Breed
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is one of the most majestic and noble animals in the service of man; still being used in the rural districts of Turkey as the shepherds’ indispensable companion and front line of defense of his livestock from predators. Without the aid of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, the Turkish shepherd would be less able to defend his property and flock from wild animals. Such dogs are found from the Turkish Anatolian Plateau right on through to Afghanistan.
In Turkey today, the breed is known as Çoban Kopegi (cho-bawn ko-pay) which translates to “Shepherd’s Dog”. He is a livestock guardian dog, living his life in constant association with his sheep or goats, and is accepted as a member of the flock (he is NOT a herding dog).
The extraordinary speed and agility of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog enables him to run down a predator with great efficiency. Turkish Shepherds equip some of their dogs with impressive iron-spiked collars as protection against attacking animals that grab for the throat.
A large part of Central Anatolian is a high plateau of wide plains and rollin hills, Summers are dry, while winters are marked with heavy snowfalls and temperatures plunging well below freezing. Here in this environment, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a functional tool of the Turkish Shepherd.
Historically, since Babylonian times, there is documented a breed of large strong dogs with a heavy head. Some spectacular depictions of the breed dating back to 2,000 B.C. can be seen on the well-preserved bas-reliefs in the Assyrian Rooms of the British Museum in London. With the advent of the first domestic sheep, the dogs went from “hunter” to “protector”. The book of Job, which dates back to at least 1,800 B.C. and is set in the region of Turkey, makes reference to the dogs with the flocks.
Although Anatolians were brought to America as early as the 1950’s, Anatolians were virtually unheard of in this country until the 1970’s. That’s when the Endangered Species Act triggered a search for a means of controlling predators without killing them. University and government agricultural researchers discovered primitive dogs like the Anatolian Shepherd Dog guarding flocks of sheep and goats in some of the world’s oldest pastoral societies. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the dogs’ mere presence was enough to keep carnivores away. Rarely is actual battle required, because even minor injuries can prove fatal for predators in the wild. That’s fine with the Anatolians, who’d rather not fight — it upsets their charges. An Anatolian’s first defensive measure is visual deterrence. They simply stand and let themselves be seen. If that doesn’t do the trick, intruders are greeted with a mild, throat-clearing sort of bark that will escalate, if necessary, to a bloodcurdling warning. That final warning is NOT an idle threat. With their legendary fearlessness, productions strength and cat-like agility they drive off the largest of predators. Ironically, while the dogs protect livestock, they protect predators too by minimizing conflict with humans (as in the Cheetah Conservation Project in Nambibia, Africa). Today, several thousands of these dogs are defending America’s pastures.
Most Anatolian Authorities agree that, while they can make superb deeply bonded companions with proper and consistent socialization, they are not “pets” in the conventional sense of the word. Bred for millennia to exercise independent judgment in response to perceived danger, whether from four or two legged predators, these ancient guardian dogs WILL protect. Anatolians require substantial fencing in all but open range settings, and should never be allowed off leash off their property, with the possible exception of completely fenced Sniff Spots where you and your dog can play privately. Some Anatolians make wonderful Therapy dogs because of their calm temperaments.
“Personal protection training” and/or “bite work training” is STRONGLY DISCOURAGED for this breed because of their independent nature.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog of today has remained relatively unchanged from its ancestors because of the nature of its isolated existence and the fact that it is a landrace that has evolved based on function and not just a pretty face or a particular color. The Turks have for centuries been dependent upon the land for their livelihood, relying on domesticated animals as an integral part of their existence. For this reason, perhaps, the characteristics of the Anatolian have been so exactly preserved, characteristics well adapted to: Turkey’s hot climate and terrain; the lifestyle of the shepherds that, until modern times, was nomadic; and the job of guarding the village flocks against fierce predators.
The first active breeding program in the United States was the result of the importation of a breeding pair of dogs by Lt. Robert C. Ballard, USN, who was stationed in Turkey from 1966 to 1968. Upon their return to the United States, the Ballards settled in El Cajon, California, where on August 16th, 1970, their imports Zorba and Peki produced the first recorded American-bred litter. The year 1970 also saw the founding of the National Breed Club, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America.