The Kuvasz is an ancient flock guardian breed hailing from Hungary. Experts have long debated how this dog originated. One common theory in past was that the Kuvasz was a close relative of the Komondor, which in turn was thought to have been introduced by the Magyars. But two pieces of archaeological evidence refute this opinion:
- Ancient remains of the Komondor connects it with the Cuman people.
- A canine skeleton found in the 1970s proved to be almost identical to the modern Kuvasz and proved that the latter breed was present in Hungary sometimes before the arrival of the Cumans.
Thus, we can conclude that the Kuvasz probably did arrive with the Magyars, who invaded Hungary in the year 896. However, Magyars and Cumans rarely associated with each other, the Kuvasz and the Komondor are likely unrelated.
Once firmly established in Hungary, the dog of the conquerors became the dog of the shepherds. For several centuries, the Kuvasz was kept primarily to guard flocks from the wolves and other predators of Hungary.
The Kuvasz enjoyed royal favor for a time in the 1400s. Matthias I of Hungary lived in an extremely unstable political and social climate, and had good cause to mistrust all those around him. He adopted the Kuvasz as a personal bodyguard and ended up appreciating the breed as a powerful hunter of large game, such as wild boars. Matthias established a pack of hunting Kuvaszok (plural of Kuvasz) for his own use. Only Hungarian aristocrats in good graces with the king were allowed to own the dogs during this era, so a puppy received as a gift from Matthias was a token of great favor.
But Matthias died in 1490. The Kuvasz once again became a working dog, and thus it remained for several more centuries. Over time, its flock-guarding abilities became legendary throughout Europe, so it was sometimes used to develop other guardian breeds.
The Kuvasz declined perilously in World War I. However, a few specimens were sent to America at the war’s end, and the Kuvasz was recognized by the AKC in 1935. The presence of the breed in America at this time proved to be extremely fortunate, as the breed was driven to the very brink of extinction.
However, the Kuvasz lives on today on farms and ranches across the United States, still carrying out its traditional tasks. It is the 165th most popular breed in America according to AKC registration statistics.
The Kuvasz is known primarily as a livestock guardian dog, protecting sheep from predators. However, he can also serve as a farm watchdog or personal protector.
But the Kuvasz has the makings of a great companion, as well. He is a devoted pet and a sensitive therapy dog. In cool weather, he enjoys hiking, and he will even gladly carry his own backpack.
The Kuvasz is an independent dog with a keen mind. Whether he becomes a sweet and devoted member of the family or a dangerously aggressive animal depends largely on how he is raised and treated. He must be trained by an innately confident, authoritative individual, as no amount of physical force can earn his respect. On the contrary, harsh or unfair discipline will ruin this sensitive dog and incite him to bite.
Likewise, the Kuvasz must be allowed to interact with his family on a regular basis. He absolutely cannot be kept tied up, and he is equally unsuited to being left alone in the backyard. Either practice will bring out his more aggressive side.
A properly raised Kuvasz has a rich personality, being a unique blend of love and independence, curiosity and reserve, placidity and spirit. His instinct to protect those he loves is strong—he will literally lay down his life for his master and anything belonging to his master, whether that is the children, the other pets, or the livestock. A Kuvasz will even guide interactions within his “flock,” gently herding troublemakers off to the sidelines.
The Kuvasz, when properly raised, should be able to distinguish between real and imaginary threats. He can readily pick up his master’s feelings toward visitors and will treat the good guys with polite reserve. He is less tolerant of trespassing animals, however, particularly strange dogs. Also supervise him if the neighbor’s children come to call—he may mistake rough play for an attack on his own children.
Working prospects should be bonded to their flock at a young age. Puppies can be rowdy at first, but once they mature they are very gentle with the livestock. Kuvaszok were bred to work independently and will rely on their own instinct to protect the flock.
Despite the inbreeding that was required to bring back the Kuvasz from near extinction, the breed is generally healthy and hearty. Most problems found within the breed can be avoided by proper care and selection of breeding stock.
Kuvasz puppies grow rapidly, which can cause bone problems. Reduce the risk of joint damage by avoiding too much roughhousing with your puppy and by keeping him from playing on hard surfaces. Also note that vitamin supplements can foster excessively fast growth. As long as your Kuvasz puppy receives a healthy, balanced diet, he should not need additional supplementation.
The Kuvasz has a naturally oily coat that helps keep him clean. Too many baths will strip out the oils and make his fur straight, brittle, and prone to collecting dirt. All the Kuvasz requires to look his best is regular brushing. And don’t be concerned if his summer shedding seems to be unusually heavy—this is normal for him.
Note that, as a big, deep-chested breed, the Kuvasz is prone to bloat. Avoid this dangerous condition by feeding him two or three small meals a day, instead of one large meal.
The most common inherited problems in the Kuvasz breed are:
- Eye disorders, such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Thyroid disease.
- Absence of body odor.
- Dirt-repelling coat.
- Suitability for cold climates.
- Few health problems.
- Work ethic.
- Night barking.
- Need for experienced training to prevent undue aggression.
- Exercise requirements.
- Grooming requirements.
- Profuse shedding.
- Hefty appetite.
- Low tolerance for heat and humidity.
- Short lifespan.