Kangal Dog

Bred to Guard Livestock Against Fierce Predators, This Large Rare Dog Has a Surprisingly Gentle Demeanor

The Kangal Dog is a large, self-sufficient and powerful dog that has historically been used to guard livestock. Originating in central Turkey, in the Sivas province, the Kangal Dog is ancient and may be related to the Assyrian Empire's Mastiff-like dogs that existed about 600 BC. The Kangal Dog was first a dog of nobility, but now has its greatest popularity in the "working class" because of its ability to stay on task and work without supervision. It is the national breed of Turkey, and there is a government- sponsored breeding program established to preserve the breed in its original form.

It is currently illegal to export the Kangal Dog to other parts of the world so that this breed is extremely rare. Some, however, were exported to United States before the law went into effect, with the first happening in 1985. Thus, there is a Kangal population in the United States.

Many consider the Kangal to be the same as the Anatolian Shepherd, but in the West these two are considered separate breeds.


This ancient flock-guarding dog is apparently related to other Mastiff-like dogs as depicted in Assyrian art. Named for the Kangal District of the Sivas Province in Central Turkey from which the Kangal Dog may have originated, its exact lineage has not yet been explicitly established.

It has associations with nobility, such as the family of the Aga of Kangal, who were large landholders and chieftains. However, it is truly a "working man's" dog. In fact, most were – and are – bred by villagers who value its excellent ability to guard flocks of goats and sheep from fierce predators like bear, wolf and jackal.

The Sivas-Kangal region is still relatively isolated, which means that the Kangal Dog has escaped crossbreeding. This means that the natural breed is still much the same as it appeared centuries ago. Today, it is the national dog breed of Turkey, with the government now sponsoring its breeding program to maintain breed purity. There is even a Turkish postage stamp bearing a Kangal Dog likeness.

Although the Kangal Dog is no longer exported from Turkey, it was briefly exported beginning in 1985 before this practice became illegal. Dogs can still be imported from the UK, according to the website of the Kangal Dog Club of America, one of the many organizations within which it is currently registered. Others include the Continental Kennel Club; the United Kennel Club; the American Pet Registry, Inc.; the National Kennel Club; the Dog Registry of America, Inc.; and the American Canine Registry.

Some who study canine history still declare that all Shepherd dogs originate from Turkey, such as the Anatolian Shepherd, but others describe Kangal Dogs as separate from so-called "generic" Turkish Shepherd dogs.


This massive Mastiff-like dog weighs between 90 and 145 pounds and in adulthood stands 20 to 32 inches at the shoulder. With slightly loose skin which is protected by a short, dense double coat that shields the breed from harsh elements, this dog appears heavyset and powerful. The coat color is always light tan to gray, and the muzzle is always black, with black mask and ears to match. If formally shown, scars and other markings of "battle" are not penalized as faults.

Somewhat amusingly, this powerhouse of a dog has a large, wide head to match its massive body, but tiny folded ears and a dainty, curled tail.


Also contrary to its ferocious, powerful appearance is its serene personality. Gentle, kind, and almost Zen-like, this dog is calm even in the face of extreme danger. And, it is this unique trait which can set potential enemies running. While maintaining an aloof manner, this dog can suddenly spring into action in a split second without the slightest warning. Exceedingly protective of its "flock," whether livestock or human, this breed is always on high alert ready to defend with its life – although you may not realize it at the time.

Because this dog is so gentle, it prefers to intimidate rather than actually attack. While it will be suspicious of other animals, especially strange dogs, it generally will not be belligerent or intimidating toward people. Although reserved with strangers, you can expect that your Kangal Dog will be loyal and affectionate to you, and will be exceptionally good with your children. In fact, the Kangal Dog is one of the most "people-oriented" of the traditional guard or livestock dogs. Obedience training is recommended as soon as you bring your puppy home from a reputable breeder so that preferred etiquette is established early on.

Because this breed is a livestock- and human-guard dog by nature, it expects you to be in charge. If you're not, you could find yourself with a confused and unhappy dog. Kangal Dogs behave best when they know who is in charge.

Proper Environment

The Kangal Dog cannot tolerate an apartment or other confined space. This is a working dog by nature and must have ample freedom to move around, so at least provide a large yard, preferably actual acreage. If you live in a situation where your pet is going to be working with livestock, perfect. If not, make sure that your Kangal Dog is not kept indoors for long periods of time; if so, your pet could become very depressed indeed. If you do not live in a situation where your Kangal Dog is going to be working and physically active just as a matter of course, make sure you take it for long daily walks and provide plenty of mental stimulation, as well.


The Kangal Dog is exceedingly healthy. In fact, there are no known typical health problems for this breed with the exception of the development of dermatologic musculoskeletal lipomas, which are benign fatty tumors. Typical lifespan is 15 years and even longer. This is an exceptionally long life span for such a large dog breed. Regular veterinary visits are of course still necessary.


Kangal Dogs don't need much grooming except when they shed heavily, which occurs twice a year. Then, brush frequently to remove excess hair.


Kangal Dog.

Retrieved January 28, 2015.

Kangal Dog.

Retrieved January 28, 2015.

Kangal Dog: Official UKC Breed Standard.

Retrieved January 28, 2015.

Kangal Dog Club of America: Breed History and Standard.

Retrieved January 28, 2015.

Kangal Dog (Karabash) (Turkish Kangal Dog).

Retrieved January 28, 2015.>

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