AKC Working Group
There are many theories about the origin of the name Kuvasz; however, several sources believe the name comes from the Turkish word “kavas,” which means “protector” in English. In the late fifteenth century, Kuvaszok (plural version of the name) were extremely popular among the Hungarian nobility. The breed was favored by medieval King Matthias I (1458 to 1490), who claimed he trusted his dogs more than the people around him. Many of these dogs were trained to hunt big game, such as bear and wild boar. Kuvaszok were often given as royal gifts. The first written reference to the Kuvasz comes in the sixteenth century. Later the Kuvasz became popular as a village flock guardian. The breed may have contributed to the development of several similar-looking sheep guard dogs, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog, the Maremma Sheepdog, the Great Pyrenees, and the Anatolian Shepherd. Hungarian herdsmen took their cattle, along with their guard dogs, to sell in several foreign lands. Along the way, their dogs may have bred with local dogs. Some animals may have been left behind when their jobs were finished. By the end of World War II, only about 30 Kuvaszok remained in the world. The dedication of several breeders resulted in the resurrection of this noble breed. Today this beautiful dog serves primarily as a companion and home guardian.
A majestic, well-proportioned white or ivory sheepdog with a very handsome head. The skull is elongated. The stop is well-defined, but not abrupt. The muzzle tapers slightly to a black nose, but is not pointed. The lips and inside of the mouth are black. Scissors bite is preferred. The V-shaped ears are pendant, and the eyes are very dark and almond-shaped. The medium-boned body is slightly longer than it is tall. The dog is muscular, but not bulky. He is light-footed and agile for his size. The lower abdomen is tucked up. The feet are cat-like, closed, and tight. Though the double coat is white or ivory, the skin is generally dark. The more dark pigment in the skin, the better. The coat is medium length, either straight or quite wavy, with a thick undercoat. An abundant mane extends from the neck, and covers the chest. The coat is much fuller in winter. Hair on the head and feet is short. The backs of the legs are feathered.
- Height: 28 to 30 in. (male); 26 to 28 in. (female)
- Size: Large
- Weight: 100 to 115 lbs. (male); 70 to 90 lbs. (female)
- Availability: Difficult to find
- Talents: Watchdog and guarding
The Kuvasz is not a breed for everyone. His large size and strong protective instincts demand extra owner care and responsibility. Don’t leave this dog alone in the backyard for long stretches of time, as he can become destructive. Thorough exercising will help to leave little leftover energy for chewing and digging. Never tie a Kuvasz out, as this can lead to aggressiveness. This dog does best in a large enclosed yard. Good outside in cold weather as long as a doghouse and fresh water are provided. The dog’s thick coat makes him very uncomfortable in warm or humid conditions; always provide plenty of shade and fresh water. In cold climates, the Kuvasz will only shed seasonally, but in warmer climates, he will probably shed year-round. Do not bathe this breed frequently, as the coat naturally sheds dirt and bathing will remove the oils that give the coat this property. The more the dog is bathed, the more he will need bathing! Instead, brush or comb his coat often. Some people rub cornstarch or talcum powder into the coat and then brush it out again as a cleaning strategy. Check behind the ears for matting. Easy to housebreak. If you wish your Kuvasz to be a livestock guardian, special training is necessary. Consult an expert to learn how to train your dog. From the age of 6 or 7 weeks, the puppy should spend most of his time with the animals he will later be called upon to guard, so he can form a strong bond with them. The best dogs for guarding stock have mellow personalities so they don’t frighten or chase the animals. Prone to bloat and hip dysplasia. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance. Try to check both parents and grandparents for hip clearances. Also prone to osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), a disease causing lameness from inflammation of the shoulder joint. Overfeeding can make large dogs more susceptible both to hip dysplasia and OCD. May have skin problems and allergic reactions.
Intelligent and curious. Bold, determined, brave, and fearless. Very territorial with strong protective instincts, the Kuvasz is an excellent guard dog. He will defend his territory and people fiercely. Devoted to his family, though not very demonstrative, the Kuvasz is a very independent breed and may even be standoffish with his owners, though he forms a strong bond with them. If the dog is to be raised with children, it is best to select a Kuvasz pup from parents who love children. The Kuvasz is usually gentle and patient with his own family’s children, but may not be trustworthy with others. To prevent accidental injury, do not leave this dog unsupervised with small children and their friends. Individuals vary in sociability, but for the most part, the Kuvasz is quite reserved with and even suspicious of strangers. This breed must be extensively socialized early in life to combat his extremely protective personality. He should be trained firmly by an experienced, dominant person and should be taught to accept the family’s welcome guests. The Kuvasz is not an easy breed to obedience train, as he was bred to work independently of people. He is willful, but also quite sensitive to criticism. Do not treat this dog harshly. Young dogs may test authority frequently. All family members should be taught how to handle the dog. It is highly advisable to accustom the puppy to handling by strangers, both for your veterinarian’s sake and if you wish to show the dog. Choose a puppy carefully, after seeing both parents if possible. Some lines of Kuvasz are much more easygoing than others. Be aware: Some breeders breed for “sharpness” (aggressiveness). Though puppies can easily accept other animals, adult Kuvaszok are quite combative and may resent intrusion of a new canine or other animal into the household. Be sure to supervise and teach your Kuvasz that the newcomer is part of the family. Do not leave the new dog alone with the adult Kuvasz until you are absolutely sure they will not fight. Male to male aggression is common.
- Children: Best with older, considerate children
- Friendliness: Very wary of strangers; highly protective
- Trainability: Somewhat difficult to train
- Independence: Very independent
- Dominance: High
- Other Pets: Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
- Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
- Noise: Average barker
- Indoors: Fairly active indoors
- Owner: Not recommended for novice owners
- Grooming: Regular grooming needed
- Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
- Coat: Medium coat
- Shedding: Average shedder
- Exercise: Moderate daily exercise needed
- Jogging: A fair jogging companion
- Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
- Outdoor Space: Best with a large yard
- Climate: Prefers cool climates
- Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years)