The Akbash Dog is Bred To Defend Against Wolves and Bears
Courtesy of Teddy Llovet"Old time Sheepherders wished to have white dogs in order to avoid confusing them with wild animals, since, when the wolf attacks in the twilight, it is important that there be a color difference between the dog and the wolf."
Originating in Turkey as a guardian for livestock, the Akbash Dog resembles similar dogs used in the northern Mediterranean basin, offering an efficient combination of the unique qualities of the muscular, molosser shepherd dog breeds and the equally talented, sighthound hunting dog breeds which rely on sight and speed as opposed to scent and endurance.
The Akbash name is derived from the Turkish word "akbas" which means "white head," representing the dog's beautiful white coat which is resistant to the challenges of extreme weather, matting and odor. An athletic breed boasting grace and intelligence, the Akbash is credited for being a discerning, independent thinker, capable of making wise decisions yielding prudent results rather than rash behavior to exacerbate a crisis. Choosing to bark and growl to ward off a predator, this breed is as capable of gently protecting newborn lambs and goat kids as it is in intimidating intruders.
Properly described as working dogs rather than herding dogs, they live and spend long hours with their flocks or herds of primarily goats or sheep. Much of their time is spent sleeping. Yet, they remain vigilant at all times, poised to react to any danger, which they detect with their acute sense of hearing and smell. Reserving their strength and energy for emergencies, they can be conservative eaters compared with other large dogs. They commonly work in pairs as extremely powerful and resilient adversaries, successfully deterring such fierce predators as wolves and bears from attack.
A large dog, the Akbash male weighs between 75 and 140 pounds (34 to 64 kg), while the female averages about 90 pounds. Both range from approximately 27 to 34 inches (69 to 86 cm) in height. Considered tall, these dogs have strong frames and are quite agile for their size. Their unique feature of loose skin around their necks protects them from injury during predatory attack.
With a smooth, medium-length white coat (often with a touch of beige near the ears), the Akbash stands on long legs. A curly tail sometimes has a feathered appearance. Although the rims of its eyes, its nose and its lips should be completely black or brownish-black to qualify to show, these features frequently include some pink. The coat should be brushed often to control excessive shedding.
One trait of a purebred Akbash may be the presence of double dewclaws, which are typically fifth or sixth toes, some of which are mobile and controlled rather than vestigial and without express purpose. If present, double dewclaws are not indicative of inferior or mixed breeding practices.
Akbash have been confused with Turkey's national dog breed, the Kangal, on occasion, but only in cases where both have white coats which is somewhat rare. Turkey's laws prohibit exportation of Kangals from the country but Akbash have no such restrictions.
Rarely used as human companions in history, the Akbash more recently has been trained to cohabitate well with humans and other domestic animals. As a dog with a mind of its own, this breed does not respond well to obedience training nor does it take pleasure or entertainment from chasing sticks or balls as retrievers typically do. If confined to a small area or penned in to deter exploration, the Akbash may become problematic by attempting escape or property destruction. If it must be confined, a tall, secure fence is essential. The Akbash dog is not appropriate for everyone as it is best behaved when kept busy with the tasks for which it has been so strongly bred, like protection and an active work schedule. Anyone interested in adopting such a breed would be well advised to respect this dog's strong traits, keeping it mentally challenged and serving a clear purpose. Extremely intelligent, brave, independent and loyal, this is a breed of honorable distinction.
As with many similarly large breeds, the Akbash can live an average of 10-12 years while some live to be much older. They establish a strong bond with their owners and other pets with whom they share a home and are unique among breeds in their propensity for sensitivity and emotion. Yet, they are most inclined to be guard dogs and will bark incessantly in response to every suspicious sound especially if left out at night. Anything or anyone strange will arouse the dog's protective instincts. Calm, experienced owners are well suited to owning these dogs who respond best to kind but firm guidance delivered with consistency and confidence. A long daily walk as well as a place for the dog to run abundantly will encourage the dog's optimal comportment.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) does not recognize the Akbash breed but the United Kennel Club (UKC) does. Owners who wish to show their Akbash dogs may do so in shows by the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) or those of the International All Breed Canine Association (IABCA).