The Šarplaninac or Šarplaninec, also known as Sharplaninac/Sharplaninec, Yugoslav Shepherd or Illyrian Shepherd Dog, is an ancient livestock guarding dog breed from the Šar Mountains region in the Balkans. The Šarplaninac was first registered by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1939 as the Illyrian Shepherd dog in part because of a Slovenian, Croatian, and Serb movement that sought to distance itself from Austria and Germany.

In the eighteen years from 1939 to 1957 the breed was recognized as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, however at the request of the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology in 1957 the breed name was changed to Yugoslav Shepherd Dog-Šarplanina after the Šar Mountains where the breed is most common. This name has remained as the official FCI designation in the fifty three years since.

Sarplaninac Appearance

The Šarplaninac is a large, muscular, strongly-built dog. The body is slightly longer than the height at the withers, and the front legs account for approximately 55% of the height. The head is large but proportional to the body, with dark eyes.

Sarplaninac Size

The Šarplaninac is a robust, well proportioned dog with plenty of bone, of a size that is well above the average and with a thick, long, rather coarse coat that emphasizes the short coupled appearance. They are about 102–170 pounds (46–82 kg) and 75 to 90 cm. Although much larger dogs do exist which can reach up to 100 kg (220 lbs)- most of these "giants" are probably of mixed breed origins and probably not pure.

Sarplaninac Coat

The coat is dense and medium in length, it can be rough or smooth. The coat is also about four inches (10 cm) long. The coat will benefit from occasional brushing. All Šarplaninac types are solid in colour: fawn, iron grey, white or almost black. The colour need not be completely uniform, and most Šarplaninac have several different shades of the same colour fading into one another. There are no bicolours and no uniformly black-coated dogs among purebreds, but odd-coloured specimens do exist.

Sarplaninac Colour

Usually sable or gray with darker "overalls" on the head and back, the undercoat being paler. Almost all other colours are accepted, but the dogs must not have large white patches in their coat.

Sarplaninac Temperament

The temperament of the breed is described as independent, reliable, protective but not snappy, incorruptible and devoted to its master. The breed is aloof with outsiders, and calm until a threat to the flock presents itself. The breed has a extremely protective nature. In the absence of a flock of sheep, the Šarplaninac will often treat its humans as sheep - herding them away from danger or undesirable areas. They are serene and majestic, gentle with children and smaller dogs. They are also highly intelligent and bred to work without human supervision while guarding the flocks in the high pastures. Young pups can kill small animals until trained not to hunt.

Like many of its cousin Mountain dogs, the Šarplaninac is a very serious and dedicated guard dog. Due to this, they are naturally suspicious of strangers and will need good socializing at a young age to lessen this innate personality trait. They are calm and gentle with their family but when faced with danger they become a formidable foe, not a suitable breed for all. Consistent and firm training is essential to ensure compliance.

Sarplaninac Working life

The Šarplaninac (Yugoslav Shepherd) is a reserved and intuitive breed, stubborn and undemonstrative, but properly trained and handled with authority, it excels at a variety of tasks. Dog-aggression and wariness of strangers are common traits of the Šarplaninac, which is why early socialization is of utmost importance. Heavily-boned and muscular, the dog has a full top-coat, with an abundant dense undercoat, making it weatherproof and suited for an outside life.

The Šarplaninac has been known to fight or chase off a wolf, lynx and even Balkan bears.

The dog breed can also work cattle and serve as a guard dog.

They were first used as military dogs in 1928 by the army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and later under Josip Broz Tito in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Today it's used by Military of Serbia as guard dog in mountain regions.

The Šarplaninac is spreading through North American ranches as a sheep herding dog and a livestock guardian. Since 1975, successful exports have been carried out to the United States and Canada to control coyotes, and this is where its future security rests. It is now gaining recognition as a hard-working, able flock guard in those countries.

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