Protective and very loyal to its family whom it considers to be its ‘flock’, the Kangal Shepherd Dog is well known for its gentleness even with small kids. This makes it an excellent family guardian and one that will protect you with its unparalleled devotion. But if this is your first time owning a dog, you’re better off with another breed. As intelligent as the Kangal is, it can be a testy pupil in the hands of a novice dog owner. So, join us as we find out more about this ancient purebred from the central regions of Turkey.
History of the New Kangal
Not much is written about the origins of the Kangal Shepherd Dog. This is quite the opposite of another Turkish Shepherd Dog, the Anatolian, which is largely regarded as having descended from powerful Mesopotamian mountain hunting dogs. We’ve unearthed quite a few fascinating stories about the possible origins of the Kangal, however, and we’re going to share them with you.
You don’t have to take these stories seriously, though, as most come from myths and legends high up in the Turkish mountains.
One story speaks of the Kangal as being part lion and part tiger that existed during the Babylonian and Assyrian period. Villagers domesticated this beast and turned it into a protector for their families, village, and their livestock. These dogs were believed to have been used also in wars.
Another story tells of the Kangal as being a dog that was given as a gift to either Murad IV or Yavuz Sultan Selim, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The dog was given by an Indian Maharajah. In one incident, the dog faced off with a palace lion, easily subduing the king of the jungle. This earned for the dog the respect of the Sultan and made it as the sultanate’s royal guard dog. When the Sultan and his army invaded Deliktas, a small village in the Kangal district of Turkey’s Sivas province, the dog got lost. This dog became the foundation of all the Kangal Shepherd Dogs known to have been bred specifically from this Turkish region.
As far-fetched as these stories may seem, the Ottoman explorer, Mehmed Zilli, fondly called Evliya Celibi, seem to corroborate these stories. Evliya described the dog as having the strength of a lion in one of his writings in the 17th century – the Seyahatname or The Book of Travels. Unfortunately, it is not known if Evliya was referring to the Kangal or the Anatolian Shepherd Dog since Anatolia is the general name of the central region in Turkey where Kangal District and Sivas Province are also located.
Loyal followers of the breed say that the Kangal were domesticated flock-guarding dogs by the families of Ottoman chieftains and landholders. However, it is believed that each family in the village had their own Kangal dog as guardians of their flocks of goat and sheep against jackals, wolves, and bears that traditionally prey on local livestock.
What is notable about the Kangal district is that it is an isolated region. This allowed the Kangal Shepherd Dog to flourish without any outside interference from other breeds. As such, the breed is considered to be pure and has retained its appearance, behavior, and disposition through the ages. The Turks embraced the Kangal Shepherd Dog as their national canine. Organizations and institutions throughout Turkey bred Kangals to preserve the purity of its breed.
We discovered some literature saying that the very first Kangal litter that was produced outside of Turkey was the result of mating Gazi and Sahabat of Bakirtollo and Hayiroglu koyu, respectively. This was in 1967 in the UK. The literature also says that the litter provided the foundation for the Seacop stock. Unfortunately, after a more thorough investigation, we found that the Seacop stock is that of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog and not the Kangal Shepherd Dog.
Other sources pointed to David and Judith Nelson as being the couple who first introduced the Kangal Dog to the rest of the world. The Nelsons were also believed to have brought the very first Kangal purebred to the US in 1985.
It is very important to distinguish the Kangal from the Anatolian since both are strikingly similar. As we also mentioned, both are found in the Anatolia region of Turkey because Sivas is technically also located within Anatolia. It is very possible that the Kangal Dogs that are being bred elsewhere are not true Kangals, but rather Anatolian Shepherd Dogs. In order for the dog to be considered a true Kangal Shepherd Dog, it must come from the district or town of Kangal in the Turkish province of Sivas. Any other dog that resembles the Kangal, but doesn’t come from Kangal, Sivas can never be considered as a Kangal Shepherd Dog.
We hope we made ourselves clear on that.
The Kangal Shepherd Dog is officially recognized by the national kennel clubs of New Zealand and South Africa as well as the United Kennel Club in the US. Other countries have also started breeding Kangal Shepherd Dogs, although it is doubtful if they are purebred.
Of notable importance is the role of the Kangal Shepherd Dogs in cheetah conservation efforts in Namibia. Cheetahs were being hunted down by villagers and farmers because of the losses in livestock that these predators caused. The Cheetah Conservation Fund imported 300 Kangals from Turkey in 1994. These Kangals were used to protect local livestock by chasing away cheetahs and other predators in Namibia.
The program was so successful that livestock losses were reduced to more than 80% while also reducing the number of cheetahs being killed by farmers and villagers from 19 to just 2.4 per farmer per year. Recognizing the importance of the Kangal breed in livestock protection and in predator conservation efforts, the breed was also imported by the Kenyan government in an effort to produce the same results as what occurred in Namibia.
It is quite difficult to establish the standards of the Kangal Shepherd Dog breed since different kennel clubs often provide their own standards. Nevertheless, here are some of the important things we know so far about this livestock and family guardian dog.
- The Cynology Federation of Turkey, the official kennel club of the Republic of Turkey, puts the standard height of a Kangal at 26 to 31 inches, plus or minus 1 inch.
- The Kennel Club of UK, a Kangal Shepherd Dog should be 29 to 32 inches for males and 28 to 31 inches for females.
- The New Zealand Kennel Club specifies that the male Kangal Shepherd Dog should be 29.9 to 32.1 inches tall while the female should be 28 to 30.9 inches while weighing 110-139 pounds and 90 to 130 pounds, respectively.
- The United Kennel Club, on the other hand, recognizes a Kangal Shepherd Dog if the male has a height of 30 to 32 inches while the female stands at 28 to 30 inches. The weight of the male KSD should be 110-145 pounds while females should weigh 90-120 pounds.
- Despite its size, the Kangal Shepherd Dog can run up to speeds of 30 miles per hour. This is a lot faster than Usain Bolt’s 27.44 MPH top speed.
- The KSD has a thick inner coat that gives it protection and warmth against the fierce summers and harsh winters of the Anatolian region (remember that the province of Sivas is in the Anatolia region). Its outer coat is both water-repellent and snow-proof.
- The KSD’s coat is super-dense that even if it were bitten by a wolf, the wolf’s teeth won’t pierce through the KSD’s skin.
- The KSD can have a coat that comes in brindle, although it may also show a black and tan pattern which is considered a recessive trait.
- Kennel clubs outside Turkey look at the KSD’s color of coat as a distinguishing characteristic of the dog to differentiate it from the Anatolian Shepherd Dog. As such, the coat should be dense and short and must be of either tan or pale fawn color. There should be no spotting, breakage, or even brindles on the dog’s coat.
- Kangal Shepherd Dogs have the characteristic black facial mask as well as shaded or black ears.
- They are a sturdy breed, often reaching up to 15 fruitful years.
Things You Should Know
Protective, independent, calm, and controlled are just some of the many things that people have to say about the Kangal Shepherd Dog. And while this dog can easily win the hearts of men, it doesn’t automatically mean that you should already get it for your family. Understanding some of the fundamental things about this purebred is crucial to deciding whether to bring one home or not.
The KSD is an Alpha. It never reached its status as a guardian and protector of both humans and livestock if it were a sissy. As such, it will only listen to someone who has all the qualities of an Alpha as well. If not, the KSD will never hesitate to be the leader of your own pack. Training the Kangal is imperative if you want it to retain its reputation as a family guardian dog. And when it comes to training, it always takes sessions seriously. No goofing around. No gallivanting. For the KSD, time is precious. And if you cannot appreciate its worth, it will definitely look for another who can give it the training that it needs.
Obviously, your best chance of training the Kangal is while it is still a puppy. This is a highly intelligent dog, driven to succeed in what it was bred for. Positive reinforcement works best as it has grown accustomed to the care and attention given by its Kangal human companions. Punish it and it might as well show its stubbornness.
This is a large dog with high energy levels that will require substantially greater amounts of food. A fully grown KSD may require anywhere between 2,000 and 2,500 calories every single day. This should be divided into two to three meals to help minimize the risk of bloat and gastric dilatation volvulus.
This dog also requires a diet that is rich in animal proteins. It’s a very muscular dog that requires high quality proteins to both build and strengthen its muscles. An important component of its diet is glucosamine and chondroitin to help strengthen the joints as this breed is also quite vulnerable to hip dysplasia.
The Kangal Shepherd Dog requires both mental stimulation and plenty of exercise on a daily basis. While it is true that the KSD is not a hunting dog that has great stamina, it is nevertheless a patroller that walks along the entire length of the perimeter of its master’s property. It does this to make sure that no predator will be able to slip in and snatch one of its flock. This is one of the most fundamental reasons why daily walks are important for the Kangal Shepherd Dog as it gives it the meaning of its existence. Moreover, exercise will keep its muscles well-toned.
Equally important are mental exercises. The KSD is a smart dog that requires a lot of mental stimulation to retain its cognitive functioning. Interactive games may be provided, although puzzle games should be fine with this kind of dog.
It may have a very fearsome reputation against predators and other threats to its flock, but the Kangal is never aggressive or show any undesirable behavior towards its human family, especially children. As large as the Kangal may be, it has a rather gentle nature and a soft spot for young kids. It’s patient and very tolerant of any roughhousing that some kids may employ.
Other pets in the home are considered by the Kangal as friends, too. Why? Well, it considers them as part of its ‘flock’ so it is especially affectionate and will also protect them against possible threats. The same cannot be said of other pets or animals that may wander or stray into your home. It is a guardian, after all. If you’ve got a stranger or anything that it can consider as not part of its flock, it can put to good use its fearsome reputation. Like all dogs, the good thing about the Kangal is that it can be trained to be more social even with pets, animals, and other people who are not part of its ‘flock’. Again, this should start from puppyhood.
The coat of the Kangal is exceptionally dense. This is necessary to help protect it against weather extremes in the central Turkish region. It’s also what protects it from potential bites by predators should it be faced with one. As such, grooming can be quite difficult since it requires daily brushing. If not, it will develop tangles and mats. It sheds a lot, too. The other aspects of grooming like cleaning the ears, clipping the nails, and brushing the teeth are considered mandatory for this breed and should be performed regularly.
Hip dysplasia is a common complaint among Kangals owing to their large size and exceptionally heavy weight. Some may also develop entropion and benign tumors. Otherwise, the Kangal is a generally healthy and sturdy breed.
The Kangal Shepherd Dog is best for people who…
- Know how to train and socialize the KSD using more positive and constructive approaches
- Have exceptionally large open spaces in their homes
- Have kids who are not younger than 5 years of age
- Can walk the KSD every day for at least 60 minutes
- Need a reliable family guardian dog
- Have the personality of a pack leader
This breed is not good for those who…
- Are diagnosed with pet dander allergies
- Live in apartments as well as houses with very limited open space
- Hate walking or exercising dogs
- Cannot promise to brush the KSD’s coat every day
The Kangal Shepherd Dog typifies a livestock guardian dog – defensive, alert, and highly territorial. It is bred specifically to defend and protect its ‘flock’, both humans and other animals that are considered as part of its ‘family’ against predators and other threats. It has both the speed to intercept and the courage to face such threats. The KSD never attacks other animals. It uses its size to intimidate would-be predators. But in case it has to fight, it will never back down even if it faces a bear or a pack of wolves. They are extremely affectionate, loving, loyal, and dedicated to their human families, but are usually reserved with other folks especially strangers. It is intelligent, but can be pretty stubborn particularly if the one handling it is not considered by the KSD as its pack leader.
The Kangal Shepherd Dog may not have the charm of a Maltese or the antics of a Poodle, but when it comes to protecting you, your family, and your other pets, the Kangal is simply one of the best. Do keep in mind, however, that you’d have to be its pack leader if you want your relationship with this dog to be a resounding success.