What is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog?

Like all recognized breeds, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog was bred for a specific purpose, which was guarding livestock.  The breed originated in Turkey over 6000 years ago and could be found from the Turkish Anatolian plateau right on though to Afghanistan. In Turkey today, the breed is known as Coban Kopegi (cho-bawn ko-pay) which translates "Shepherds Dog" and as they have done for centuries, they spend their lives with the shepherd’s sheep or goats as accepted members of the flock.  They are not herding dogs - they defend the Shepherd’s property and flock from predators.  They naturally bond with what they are raised with - whether sheep, horses goats or you - and learn to love and protect that stock or family.  You don’t train them to guard or be protective, that comes naturally.  They possess the intelligence to make their own judgment call about what is a threat and what is not.  They are beautiful, smart, loving and independent.

The Anatolian possesses extraordinary speed (up to 40 mph) and agility which allows them to run down a predator with great efficiency.  They are designed for surviving in a harsh environment and killing wolves and other large predators.  Much of Central Anatolia is a high plateau of wide plains and rolling hills. Summers are extremely hot and dry, while winters are harsh with heavy snowfalls and temperatures plunging well below freezing.

The first Anatolian Shepherd Dogs to enter the United States arrived prior to the 1950s. However, the first active breeding program in the United States was the result of the importation of a breeding pair by Lt. Robert C. Ballard, USN, who was stationed in Turkey from 1966 to 1968. Upon their return to the United States, the Ballards settled in El Cajon, California, where on August 16th, 1970, their imports Zorba and Peki produced the first recorded American-bred litter. The year 1970 also saw the founding of the national breed club, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America.

The Anatolian is a very versatile breed.  In the United States they are used for guarding livestock, therapy and service dogs, pets and family protectors, and show dogs competing in conformation and obedience classes.  As guardians, they watch over everything from chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, cattle, miniature horses, ostriches, llamas and smaller dogs.  Many Anatolians live on small farms, ranches or rural suburban homes, where they multi-task and fulfill the roles of pet, companion, farm guardian and show dog. 

I thoroughly enjoy my Anatolians.  They are kind, loving, funny, and intelligent.  They process information differently than your “regular dog” and if you learn to view the world through their eyes, you open a window of communication with them that is second to none.  They are fun to watch – with cat–like movement and precision.  You wouldn’t think that something that appears so large and calm can go from zero to thirty mph in seconds flat!  They also possess a good sense of humor and when you think they are lazy and not paying attention – you find out later that they didn't miss a thing.  They are highly adaptable, easily house–trained and as long as you are a diligent owner – taking dog ownership seriously by properly socializing your puppy and continuing to socialize your dog as an adult, teaching them manners and requiring respect towards you and other people/animals – you will be rewarded with a long life of devotion and canine companionship. 

The American Kennel Club Standard is below:

 Anatolian Shepherd Dog Breed Standard

General Appearance
Large, rugged, powerful and impressive, possessing great endurance and agility. Developed through a set of very demanding circumstances for a purely utilitarian purpose; he is a working guard dog without equal, with a unique ability to protect livestock. General impression - Appears bold, but calm, unless challenged. He possesses size, good bone, a well-muscled torso with a strong head. Reserve out of its territory is acceptable. Fluid movement and even temperament is desirable.

Size, Proportion, Substance

General balance is more important than absolute size. Dogs should be from 29 inches and weighing from 110 to 150 pounds proportionate to size and structure. Bitches should be from 27 inches, weighing from 80 to 120 pounds, proportionate to size and structure. Neither dog nor bitch appear fat. Both dog and bitch should be rectangular, in direct proportion to height. Measurements and weights apply at age 2 or older.

Expression should be intelligent. Eyes are medium size, set apart, almond shaped and dark brown to light amber in color. Blue eyes or eyes of two different colors are a disqualification. Eye rims will be black or brown and without sag or looseness of haw. Incomplete pigment is a serious fault. Ears should be set on no higher than the plane of the head. V-shaped, rounded apex, measuring about four inches at the base to six inches in length. The tip should be just long enough to reach the outside corner of the eyelid. Ears dropped to sides. Erect ears are a disqualification. Skull is large but in proportion to the body. There is a slight centerline furrow, fore and aft, from apparent stop to moderate occiput. Broader in dogs than in bitches. Muzzle is blockier and stronger for the dog, but neither dog nor bitch would have a snipey head or muzzle. Nose and flews must be solid black or brown. Seasonal fading is not to be penalized. Incomplete pigment is a serious fault. Flews are normally dry but pronounced enough to contribute to "squaring" the overall muzzle appearance. Teeth and gums strong and healthy. Scissors bite preferred, level bite acceptable. Broken teeth are not to be faulted. Overshot, undershot or wry bite are disqualifications.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck slightly arched, powerful, and muscular, moderate in length with more skin and fur than elsewhere on the body, forming a protective ruff. The dewlap should not be pendulous and excessive. Topline will appear level when gaiting. Back will be powerful, muscular, and level, with drop behind withers and gradual arch over loin, sloping slightly downward at the croup. Body well proportioned, functional, without exaggeration. Never fat or soft. Chest is deep (to the elbow) and well-sprung with a distinct tuck up at the loin. Tail should be long and reaching to the hocks. Set on rather high. When relaxed, it is carried low with the end curled upwards. When alert, the tail is carried high, making a "wheel." Both low and wheel carriage are acceptable, when gaiting. "Wheel" carriage preferred. The tail will not necessarily uncurl totally.

Shoulders should be muscular and well developed, blades long, broad and sloping. Elbows should be neither in nor out. Forelegs should be relatively long, well-boned and set straight with strong pasterns. The feet are strong and compact with well-arched toes, oval in shape. They should have stout nails with pads thick and tough. Dewclaws may be removed.

Strong, with broad thighs and heavily muscled. Angulation at the stifle and hock are in proportion to the forequarters. As seen from behind, the legs are parallel. The feet are strong and compact with well-arched toes, oval in shape. Double dewclaws may exist. Dewclaws may be removed.

Short (one inch minimum, not tight) to Rough (approximately 4 inches in length) with neck hair slightly longer. Somewhat longer and thicker at the neck and mane. A thick undercoat is common to all. Feathering may occur on the ear fringes, legs, breeching, and tail.

All color patterns and markings are equally acceptable.

At the trot, the gait is powerful yet fluid. When viewed from the front or rear, the legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. With increased speed, footfall converges toward the center line of gravity. When viewed from the side, the front legs should reach out smoothly with no obvious pounding. The withers and backline should stay nearly level with little rise or fall. The rear assembly should push out smoothly with hocks doing their share of the work and flexing well.

Alert and intelligent, calm and observant. Instinctively protective, he is courageous and highly adaptable. He is very loyal and responsive. Highly territorial, he is a natural guard. Reserve around strangers and off its territory is acceptable. Responsiveness with animation is not characteristic of the breed. Overhandling would be discouraged.

Blue eyes or eyes of two different colors.
Erect ears.
Overshot, undershot, or wry bite.

Approved: June 1995
Effective: June 1, 1996