The 5 White LGD Breeds of Europe

There are over 40 distinct livestock guardian dog breeds in existence today and each of these breeds does a good job of guarding and protecting their flocks. All were bred for similar use in LGDBarkingvarious terrains and weather conditions. But as these breeds developed in various countries and regions (Slovakia, Italy, France, Hungary, Poland and other countries), they began to show distinct differences in type.

The Slovenský Čuvač is one of the five white flock guardian/sheepdogs found in Europe. There are other white and other colored LGD breeds found throughout the world that are not discussed here. Among these five breeds there are some striking similarities in appearance, function and temperament. But there are also some very distinct differences that have been set by regional breeders to establish "type" - the standards that these individual breeds must meet. Not all dogs meet these standards and it is often the flaws which make the breeds appear more similar.

The five white European flock guardian/sheepdogs are:

  • the Great Pyrenees [Chein de Pyrénées]
  • the Hungarian Kuvasz
  • the Maremma [Cane da pastore Maremmana-Abruzzese]
  • the Polski Owczarek Podhalanski
  • and the Slovenský Čuvač

Don't be upset if you can't readily tell a Slovenský Čuvač apart from the other white flock guardians. It is difficult for inexperienced dog lovers to see all the differences in these breeds. Remember, all dogs are descended from wolves and all the white flock guardians share some ancient canine ancestry. Their differences, which may seem minor to the average person, are likely due to centuries of geographical isolation which restricted breeding to a smaller gene pool. These smaller gene pools meant that certain traits were passed along through regional breeding and were repeated generation after generation. This manifested itself in geographical "breed standards" set by various breeders for their white flock guardian dogs found in their regions.

Over the years, breeders who wanted to preserve certain traits in their dogs started breeding to a standard or type - certain colors, sizes, heights, musculatures, coat types, pigments, etc. So the current breed standards for the five white ones create more notable differences in these types than could be found in these same breeds 200 years ago. Purebred show dogs strive to conform to the highest standard of their breed's type. The ones classified as "excellent" are recognizably different from the other different white flock guardians because of this fixing of "type" by the breeders. Medium quality dogs sold as companions and pets often have faults in height, weight, coats, size of the head or the way the ears are set, and so they appear to have more similarities to the other white flock guardian breeds.

The Great Pyrenees
Native to France, the Pyr is the largest, tallest and most well-known of the white ones. The Pyr coat is often white since about 1 in 4 Pyr puppies is born pure white. But other coloring is allowed - gray, badger, reddish brown or varying shades of tan on the ears, head, face, tail and body. The Slovenský Čuvač and the other white ones are only bred in white and coloring is considered a fault. The Pyr head is wedge shaped, with a rounded crown. The weight ranges from 85 to 140 lbs. or more. The Pyr stands 25 to 32 inches to the shoulder, which is considerably heavier and taller than a Slovenský Čuvač. Double dewclaws on both hind legs are required for a Pyr. But these dewclaws are considered a fault in the other four white breeds.
[Great Pry Breed Standard- AKC]
The Kuvasz
An ancient Hungarian herding breed, the Kuvasz is smaller and leaner than a Pyr and bred only in white with no color markings. It is generally considered more active than a Pyr, with a wavier coat and a more wedge shaped head. The coat is double, coarse and typically wavier than the other white ones. In the Hungarian breed standard the coat must have a notable curl. The Kuvasz is medium boned, well-muscled, weighing 100-115 lbs. The skull is oblong but not pointed, and the forehead is long and slightly domed. The ears are different than the other white ones, being V shaped and set back. The stomach is well tucked up. Notable is the Kuvasz' slate colored skin, the more pigment the better, and the low-set, slight bend upward of the tail which should not be carried over the top of the back. The Hungarian breed standard does not allow for straight coats or dome shaped heads.
[Kuvasz Breed Standard-AKC]
The Maremma
This large, strongly built dog, weighing about 77-99 lbs., is native to Italy and it differs in several ways from the other white ones. Some say the a Maremma appears more rustic. The head is large, flat and wide between the ears, reminiscent of a polar bear. The ears are small, set high, V-shaped and the tips are never rounded. The eye color of the other 4 breeds are dark brown, but in a Maremma it varies from ochre to auburn. The lips are only slightly developed and barely cover the teeth. The tail should never be held above the back, even when working. Working Maremmas were allowed to have their ears cut to protect them from wolf attacks. There is documented evidence of the Maremma in Italy dating back to the 13th century. A shorter coated Maremmano and the longer backed Abruzzese merged into one breed sometime in the 1860s.
[Maremma Breed Standard]
The Polski Owczarek Podhalanski
[Polish Tatra Sheepdog]
Native to southern Poland, from the Carpathian Mountains, the Polski is sometimes the most difficult white one to distinguish from the Slovenský Čuvač.  Overall it is bigger, more heavily boned and can weigh up to 140 lbs, but it is also shorter at 26 inches. Along with the Pyr, it is the only other white one that allows for pincer teeth and a clear, not heavy stop. The ears are set lower than a Čuvač. Lighter eyes are not considered a fault and they seem more oval, than almond shaped. The belly is only slightly tucked up. The coat is rather harsh, glossy and somewhat oily, and should not ever be soft, silky, distinctly wavy, single, curly or in any way like that of a Kuvasz.
[Polski Breed Standard] 
The Slovenský Čuvač is said to have a completely different heritage from the other white ones and its skeleton shows that the SC is related to the white polar dogs descended from arctic wolves. The SC is also the smallest of the five white ones and has a smaller build than the Pyr and Polski with a wide chest and arching ribs. SCs have broad foreheads with a shallow tapering away towards the rear. The lips are close fitting and the corner of the mouth should be closed. The ears are set high and have a rounded tip with fine hair on the edge. The coat is softer with no curl, and again, only white. The skin is loose. car12

These white ones are not really herders and drovers in the way most people picture sheepdogs rounding up the sheep to move them about and keeping the flock together. (Although SCs have traditionally helped with herding and can be taught to herd.) The white ones are protectors, guardians, usually raised with their flocks, from the time they are young pups. At night they were left outdoors, alone, trusted to do whatever was necessary to ward off wolves, bears and human raiders. They have developed independence from the shepherd. They think for themselves and have problem solving skills not found in other traditional sheep herding dogs. They were expected to work and protect alone, autonomously, and not necessarily under the shepherd's direction.

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