Komondor Dogs: Shepherds Extraordinaire

If you're a livestock owner with predator problems, Komondor dogs could be the answer.

  • 069 komondor dogs - main view
    Komondor dogs have a shaggy coat of cords that armor them from predators.
  • 069 komondor dogs - leading flock
    A Komondor guarding its flock.
  • 069 komondor dogs - within flock
    A Komondor walking with its flock.

  • 069 komondor dogs - main view
  • 069 komondor dogs - leading flock
  • 069 komondor dogs - within flock

We've all heard the phrase "a wolf in sheep's clothing," but not long ago I encountered a dog in sheep's clothing! The first time I saw a Komondor, I could scarcely believe my eyes: The canine—which was covered with long, white, matted hair—did look remarkably like an overgrown ewe. In fact, as I watched it, the animal even acted like a sheep: it moved along quietly with the flock, keeping its head down in what appeared to be a grazing position.

However, Komondors don't for a moment imagine that they're sheep. Instead, as a result of centuries of breeding and in-born instinct, the dogs guard "their" flocks against predators. Since the breed's introduction to North America from its native Hungary just a few years back, Komondor dogs have helped sheep ranchers in both Canada and the United States to reduce—dramatically—losses to marauding carnivores.

An "Old World" Solution

Predators probably pose the greatest single threat to a sheep raiser's livelihood. Wolves, coyotes, coydogs, roaming domestic canines, and—in remoter areas—even bears have been known to take a devastating toll in the course of just one night's attack on a flock. Furthermore, if such slaughter continues unchecked, predation can actually put a small-scale sheep operation right out of business!

The traditional methods of dealing with the problem—shooting, trapping, "denning" (killing newborn coyote pups in the den), and using poisons or electric fences—seem to be only marginally effective and in many cases have deservedly  received a lot of criticism. Shooting and trapping are, at best, only temporary measures because of the sheer impossibility of eliminating the bulk of the predatory animals in a given area. Environmentalists for their part are concerned about the danger of poisons to other forms of wildlife, and disapprove of the inhumane practice of denning. Fencing can offer some protection against predators, of course, but it's doubtful whether there exists a barrier strong enough and high enough to repel a really determined invader.

In the face of such a dilemma, many sheep raisers have rediscovered the traditional Old World method of protecting flocks: guard dogs. Unlike the more common sheep-herding breeds, guard canines don't try to move their charges. They simply live with the flock 24 hours a day and drive off any attackers that may approach. Middle European shepherds have relied on the vigilant animals for centuries. Now some of the best breeds from Hungary, Yugoslavia, Russia, Italy, and Turkey are now being imported for "trial assignments" in this hemisphere. So far, one of the most highly rated of the "immigrant" dogs is the shaggy-coated Komondor.

A Case History

Canadians Tom and Joan Redpath are representative of the modern shepherds who have happily "employed" Komondors as protection for their flocks. The couple's 300-acre farm, located at the edge of the bush country about 50 miles northwest of Ottawa, has been a full-time sheep-raising concern for over three years. From their very first week of operation, the Redpaths were faced with the problem of stock being killed by packs of wild dogs and wolves.

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