The history of the Komondor has been enshrouded in myth and legend for countless years. One popular story goes that the breed descended from a litter of wolves raised to guard sheep by Serbian shepherds sometime in the 10th century. Another tale is that the invading Magyars brought Russian Ovtcharka dogs to guard livestock on their conquest, and these became the ancestors of the modern Komondor.
Recently, however, archaeological evidence has put some of these tales to rest. Remains of dogs distinctly Komondor-like have been found in gravesites belonging to the ancient Cuman people. The Cumans have a foggy origin themselves, but are known to have spoken Turkish, to have begun raiding Hungary in the 11th century, and to have ended up settling Hungary in large numbers in the 13th century as refugees from the Mongol invasions further east. The Cumans and the Magyars did not mingle much in Hungary, so it is highly improbable that their dogs are related.
While these facts do not tell us the precise origin of the Komondor, whose name may mean “dog of the Cumans,” they do tell us that the breed is an ancient one, doubtless kept pure for at least a thousand years. For centuries, the Komondor was a formidable guardian of livestock. While it did defend cattle, it was in its element protecting sheep, as its long cords helped it to blend in with the flock, besides shielding it from the fierce cold of the Hungarian climate and the equally fierce teeth of its adversaries.
The Komondor became a popular show dog thanks to its unique appearance starting in the 1920s. This spread the breed across the world, and it arrived in the United States sometime in the 1930s. When the AKC recognized the Komondor in 1937, it adopted the Hungarian breed standard intact, albeit translated into English. This ensured that the Komondor would change little, even on our shores.
Shortly afterward, World War II broke out in Europe. This war decimated dog populations everywhere due to famine and bombshells. In Hungary, the Komondor was at particular risk, because the suspicious guard dogs proactively resisted the arrival of Nazi soldiers on their farms and were usually shot for their efforts.
By the end of the war, breeders estimated that there were only a few dozen Komondorok (plural of Komondor) left in Europe. Meanwhile, American breeders had been unable to import any dogs from Hungary during the conflict, allowing the breed to die out in the United States. Hungarians carefully revived the breed, and in 1962 the AKC and the Hungarian Kennel Club managed to arrange for more importations of the livestock guardian for the benefit of Americans.
Still, the Komondor has never been very popular in America, mostly because its corded coat requires an inordinate amount of attention. It is represented in small numbers both on the ranch and in the show ring. Most working Komondorok live in the West, where spacious ranges require their assistance.
The Komondor currently ranks 177 in AKC registration statistics.
The Komondor is first and foremost a guard dog. The instinct to protect is so deeply ingrained in this breed that there is no division between show and working types. Almost any Komondor from almost any bloodline can serve as a personal, property, or livestock guardian as long as he has been properly bonded and shown his boundaries from a young age.
A few Komondorok have been successfully trained for police work, but this use is not common. The Komondor usually serves as a companion, show dog, livestock guardian, or some combination of the three.
The Komondor is always read to spring to the defense of those he loves at a moment’s notice, so great care must be taken to introduce him to a variety of people at a young age. This early experience develops his ability to read humans correctly. If he is unaccustomed to the sight of friendly visitors, he may respond to every new arrival, whether that is the mailman or Grandma, with dangerous aggression. Fortunately, with a little experience, the Komondor can learn to accept strangers that meet with his owner’s approval, provided that he is formally introduced.
Likewise, be extremely cautious with visiting children. While the Komondor is very gentle with his own children, he may perceive rough play from the guests as being an attack on his charges. The Komondor will also protect the family pets and livestock diligently, but views other animals as enemies. He has little to no tolerance of other dogs, even those belonging to the family.
Note that the Komondor has a naturally dominant personality and is not easy to train. A firm, powerful owner is a must. However, the Komondor should always be treated fairly and kindly, as harsh discipline will only teach him to regard you as an enemy. He needs to learn respect and proper manners, but do not expect great things from him in the obedience and trick-training line. The Komondor ignores commands that he views as pointless.
Sturdy physical fencing is necessary to contain a Komondor, and it must be high enough that he cannot jump over it. While this breed does not suffer from wanderlust, expanding the territory comes with the job as far as he is concerned. A visible barrier helps him to accept the boundaries that the owner has set, and also forestalls accidents by preventing intruders from unwittingly entering the dog’s territory. An underground fence is no deterrent to a Komondor with a mission.
Future working puppies should be supervised around livestock for the first year or two, as they are quite playful and can easily pick up bad habits. During this time, they may be raised indoors. While it will make the bonding process slower, it will also reduce the risk of aggression toward people. After about three years of age, the Komondor will have matured enough to be a trustworthy guardian, provided that he is familiar with the boundaries. He will insist on working independently, resting during the day and patrolling during the night. While males are more physically impressive guardians, the females are usually the dominant dogs and make more determined guardians.
The Komondor is a healthy dog with few genetic defects. However, he has several unique characteristics that must be taken into consideration.
A thick, corded coat is not without drawbacks. It can easily trap debris, parasites, and moisture close to the skin, creating the potential for hot spots and coat loss. Here are a few tips:
- Do not be concerned if your puppy starts out with a short, soft, curly coat. It takes about two years for cords to form, and about five years for the cords to reach full length.
- Ask your dog’s breeder to show you how to properly care for the cords, as the process is rather elaborate.
- After bathing your dog, use a fan to speed up the drying time. It can take over two days for the cords to completely dry on their own, and this can cause the coat to mold.
- Note that Komondorok have hairy ears that require regular cleaning to prevent infection.
- Trim the hair between the paw pads periodically, as this hair can easily collect debris.
- Treat your dog for ticks and fleas regularly to prevent scratching. However, choose your shampoos and flea collars carefully. Some can stain the coat, while others can cause severe allergic reactions.
The only major problems in the breed are hip dysplasia, sensitivity to anesthetics, and bloat, which can be prevented by feeding several small meals daily instead of one large meal a day.
Note that females only have one heat cycle per year. This is normal in the Komondor.
- Moderate exercise needs.
- No shedding.
- Cold tolerance.
- Few health problems.
- Natural instinct to protect.
- Remarkable agility.
- Night barking.
- Need for an experienced, authoritative owner.
- Need for extensive socialization.
- Unsuitability for homes with other dogs.
- Need for a spacious home and yard.
- Extremely high grooming requirements.
- Tendency to mold.
- Heat intolerance.
- Low fertility of breeding animals.