Sharplaninec – Macedonian shepherd dog

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The Sarplaninec is a close relative of all Balkan dogs, from Slovenia to Greece, as well as the Caucasian, Turkish and Central Asian sheepdogs. It is the Balkans where Molossers come from, having spread on all sides of the world thousands of years ago, influencing the establishment of most modern mastiff and shepherd dog breeds, leading some to conclude that the Sarplaninec is the oldest dog of this type. This breed is most associated with the Sharplanina region of Macedonia, which is how it got its name.

Sharplaninec in his natural habitat.

Sharplaninec in his natural habitat.

The Sharplaninec dogs are beautiful without being conceited, strong without being rough, and dignified without being arrogant. They have all of our virtues and none of our vices. Their unbreakable loyalty teach us to be better human beings.


Sharplaninec The Noble Knight (In Macedonian)

Many believe that this had been the famous palace dog of Alexander the Great, while the Skilos tou Alexandrou was one of his war dogs, but chances are that it was a specific mild-mannered type of the Sarplaninac known as Zlatan that served as the great conqueror’s pet, seeing how all but one variety of the breed have traditionally been very dominant and ferocious workers.

The breed was officially recognized in 1939 and falsely registered as the Illyrian Sheepdog, a name it had to share with its smaller north-Istrian cousin, the Krasevac. In 1954, these two varieties were separated and the Sarplaninec officially became the Yugoslav Shepherd Dog. The Sarplaninec was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1995 and is becoming a valued livestock guardian breed in the United States and Canada, where it is used for predator control and protecting large estates.

Sharplaninec puppies.

Sharplaninec puppies.

An excellent flock guardian, wolf killer and fighting dog, the Sarplaninec also makes a great service dog, as well as a superb property protector. Certainly one of the most standardized early breeds, the Sarplaninec has been bred true to type for centuries, comprising of a few variants separated by color, size and temperament. In recent years, many types are being ignored in favor of the sable, or wolf/iron gray colored show-dog type, the so-called “urban” variant. This is quite unfortunate, because it might lead to the extinction of the true mountain type dogs, as well as the colors other than the popular iron-gray Murdz variant. Some of these types are the pearl-white Merdzan, the ivory-white Merdzak, the fawn colored black-masked Karabash, the golden-yellow/orange-red Zlatan, the dark bear-brown Medovan, the ghost-gray Zelendushan and the very rare brindle Tigar, also known as the “Shari” type. Crosses between these types are quite common, especially today.

Sharplaninec, two months old.

Sharplaninec, two months old.

Very strong, armed with extremely powerful teeth, this shepherd dog has unusual courage, and is fearless opponent of wolves. Sharplaninec does not like strangers and  he does not allow them to cross over to his territory, but attacks only at the command of his owner. Sarplaninec is a reserved and intuitive breed, naturally stubborn and undemonstrative, but once properly trained and handled with authority, it excels at any task. Dog-aggression and wariness of strangers are common traits of the Sarplaninec, which is why early socialization is of utmost importance.

But this is also a breed of truly remarkable intelligence and immense loyalty to its owner, as well as genuine love of children, making it an agreeable companion dog.

Sharplaninec is a very balanced and quiet dog. At the same time, it is very peaceful and very aggressive, but only when it is needed. He is very courageous, ready to fight with a much stronger opponent to defend his owner even at the cost of his life. One of its features is that it never barks for no reason. He is extremely loyal to his owner, and is wary of strangers. And when  guests do arrive, he will be alert to their every move. Sharplaninec is a stubborn and dominant dog, and it is not a type of dog that will play fetch.

One of the interesting physical characteristics of the Sarplaninec are his unusually large teeth that set it apart from most dogs, further proving its old age of origin. Heavily-boned and muscular, the Sarplaninec has a very rich full top-coat, with an abundant dense undercoat, making it fully weatherproof and suited for an outside life. Most working breed representatives found in rural mountainous regions tend to be slightly smaller in size, with leaner bodies and shorter coats than their urban counterparts. All Sarplaninec types are always solid in color, there are no bicolors and no uniformly black-coated dogs among purebreds, but oddly-colored specimens do exist. The darkest allowed coloring for the Sarplaninec is very dark brown or dark gray at best, but never black, although black-coated dogs do exist in the region, but they are currently classified as a separate breed in Macedonia under the Karaman Shepherd name. Good skin pigmentation is very important when judging this breed.

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