The Sarplaninac You Should Know

It can be difficult to know what to believe on the Internet. So often, information about purebred dogs is written either by people who don’t like them, don’t know them, or writers who need “filler” material and aren’t particularly careful about where they get their information.  When at all possible, National Purebred Dog Day prefers to get its information from the people who know a breed best – its owners and heritage breeders.

Such is the case with regards to the Sarplaninac (pronounced shar-pla-nee-natz) or Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog. When the Sarplaninac was featured on our Facebook page as a Purebred of Interest back in the summer of 2015, we learned a number of things about this breed from their owners, and below were a few take-away things we learned during those fabulous two days:

If the breed’s named is “googled,” results can include images of viscous dogs lunging and attacking, however the dogs in those photographs were provoked into such reactions. Sars are very protective, but viciousness is not what the breed is about, and, in fact, is a serious mischaracterization.  When carefully bred, and properly raised and guided, Sarplaninacs are true guardians, not guard dogs, and they need protection from cretins who breed and promote fighting dogs. These magnificent canines just want to work their livestock, and be with their families.

Most owners agreed that the Sars isn’t a good breed for the average dog owner, let alone a first time dog owner. This is truly a working breed and does best with a flock to protect, and land on which to roam. This is a large, opinionated dog who can needs a confident owner in charge. Socialization is a must!

The breed’s gentle face and fluffy coat can mislead strangers into thinking they can hug the dog, but this is a mistake to make with any dog;

Sarplaninacs are good with the children in their family, but having kids means having other kids come over to play, and kid play can mean rough housing, a bit of a challenge for a Sarplaninac’s protection instincts. Potential owners need to be aware of this. The breed is incorruptible, independent, reliable, and protective, but not snappy. They are devoted to their master but aloof with outsiders, and are generally calm until there’s a threat to its flock or family,  and then, as they say, it’s “Katie, bar the door;”

A bored Sarplaninac can quickly become a destructive Sarplaninac, and they can chew! Some Sars are epic diggers, as well, and often like to create a cool place in which to lay outside. Be prepared to be fill holes;

Owners must be prepared to have solid fencing to keep their dogs in;

Many Shar owners feed raw. One owner wrote, “Mostly raw here too, deer, moose, elk, chicken, goose, eggs, supplemental kibble for working and companion, depending on the time of year & availablility. Mine aren’t hearty eaters and seem to prefer a varied diet. They will eat probably the equivalent of 3.5-4 cups of kibble a day if on straight kibble and some days they will eat nothing;”

A Sar’s feathered and full tail is normally carried down behind the rear legs when standing at rest or just “hanging out.”  When the tails go up, there is either a threat, or the dogs are play fighting with each other;

Sarplaninacs are used in “predator friendly” ranching. Predator/Wildlife Friendly is an international certification of Ranchers who employ non lethal and wildlife friendly practices on their ranchers. No shooting or trapping of wolves or coyotes ensures that habitat is available for wildlife and implementing measures to reduce conflict between ranchers and wildlife.

As part of the Purebred of Interest feature, we included a bit of history which appears below:

This breed is also known as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Macedonian Shepherd Dog, Шарпланинец and llyrian Sheepdog. The name “Sharplaninec” is a Macedonian word meaning “Shara Mountain Dog.”

This LGD was bred for centuries in the former Yugoslavia in the Sharplanina region of Serbia and Macedonia, but the dogs are also found in other areas such as Korab, Bistra, Mavrovo and Pelister. It’s still used in its country of origin to protect flocks against predators, but Sarplaninac breeding was controlled by the State until the 1970s when it wasn’t legal to export the dogs from Yugoslavia. We hope to be corrected on this if we’re wrong, but we’ve read that the first Sarplaninac to arrive in the U.S. was actually carried off a mountain by mule.

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a good deal of interest in the Sarplaninac from parts of the world where there is interest in Predator Friendly Ranching. Under Yugoslavian president Tito, however (who owned a Sarplaninac, himself), the Sarplaninac was used as a military dog to guard installations, munitions and barracks, and as a patrol dog.

From 1930, the Sarplaninac was registered with the F.C.I. under the name, Illyrian Shepherd Dog, but in 1957, the F.C.I. accepted a motion proposed by the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology to change the breed’s name to “Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina.” At present, the breed is recognized by the UKC, but not the Canadian Kennel Club or American Kennel Club (AKC).

Image of a working Sarplaninac in Canada by Louise Liebenberg‎


10 thoughts on “The Sarplaninac You Should Know”

  1. what beautifull ,our Sarpla ,Boaz has passed away 4 months ago ,11 years old ,from Macedonie as a puppy ,not asked for him ,but miss him like hell

    • We’re so sorry for your loss. What a magnificent dog Boaz was.

  2. Very nicely written article about sarplaninac dogs! This could be an ideal guide for new owners who want to meet the breed without too much emphasis on a FCI standard N 41 / 03.10.1980/ GB.

    • Why thank you, Alen! Your kind words are much appreciated, and we hope potential Sarplaninac owners will indeed read it first!

      • You’re welcome. Otherwise, I know these dogs very well, because my father is a long-time (sarplaninac) breeder.

  3. I have an adopted dog that looks very much like a Sarplaninic but because he is only around 55-60 pounds he might be a Kartz Shepherd as the weight fits. I know these two breeds used to be considered one. I’ve had him for 5 1/2 years and have been content not knowing what he is, but my curiosity is always there. Are there reliable DNA tests for these breeds? He’s a great dog no matter what, but the more I read about them the more curious I become.

    • Susan, our sentiments about the accuracy of dog DNA breed tests tilt towards the negative. We know a couple of purebred dogs whose results came back indicating a “mixed breed,” while the results of at least one mixed breed we know of indicated a breed in the dog’s DNA that was so rare as to be laughable. Our suggestion would be to take some really good pictures of your dog indicated size, color and scale, and sharing them with people who really know the breed. There is a Sarplaninic Facebook page that might be a good place to start:

  4. I am the person who ended up with the young sar bitch that was carried down Bistra mountain from Macedonia by donkey in the 1970s. She first was exported and owned by Vasa Cubalevic of Glendale California. She later came into my ownership. I’ve written you recently about hers and my story.

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