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Kangal Dog

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Kangal Dog
A Kangal Dog show champion.
A Kangal Dog show champion.
Alternative names
Kangal Köpeği
Sivas Kangal Köpeği
Country of origin
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
ANKC: Group 6 (Utility)  
UKC: Guardian Dogs  
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct
Still primarily found in Turkey, with some enthusiasts in Europe and North America.

The Kangal Dog is the national dog breed of Turkey. This large dog (which can often grow as large as 140 pounds (64 kg)) was originally used as a Livestock guardian dog, but has been increasing in popularity as a guard dog. It is of an early mastiff type with a solid tan or grey coat, and should always have a black mask on its face; indeed, another name for the breed is Karabash or black head.

The breed is often referred to as a sheep dog, but it does not herd its charges. Instead, it is designed to live with the flock and act as a livestock guardian dog. This trait has given it growing popularity as a guardian for families as well, as it watches members of its flock with extreme devotion.

The Kangal was combined with the Akbash to create the Anatolian Shepherd Dog.


The Kangal Dog is a large, heavily boned dog with long legs and a mastiff-like appearance. The head is large and moderately wide, with drop ears that may or may not be cropped, set on a strong, slightly arched neck. The body should be muscular, not fat, with strong forelegs, a deep chest, and a sickle or curled tail carried high. The overall appearance should be of proportions slightly longer in body than in legs.

Because the working characteristics of the breed are paramount, the UKC standard also notes that field scars from working, such as may be gained from briars or predators, are not to be penalized.

Males should weigh 110-145 lbs, with a height of 30-32 inches at the withers, while females should weigh 90-120 lbs, with a height of 28-30 inches.

Colour and Coat

The colour and coat are perhaps the most obviously distictive aspects that separate the Kangal from the similar Akbash and Anatolian. The coat must be short and dense, not long or feathery, and of a fawn, dun, or grey appearance with a black facial mask and ears. White at certain points (chest, chin, toes) may or may not be allowed, depending on the standard. Some dark Kangal also have black paws and a dark chest. Most importantly, the coat should not be broken or spotted.

Split-Lump Controversy

The Kangal dog's validity as a separate breed is a matter of controversy, especially between Anatolian Shepherd Dog breeders and Kangal dog breeders. Kangal dog breeders feel that the standard they have laid out for the breed most truly reflects the working dogs of the Kangal region, and that the Anatolian is merely a Çoban Köpegi or generic sheepdog of uncertain breeding. They also point to the large increase of fawn Karabash dogs as a tacit admission by Anatolian breeders of the correctness of the Kangal position of being the original type.

Anatolian breeders state that the variation in colours in the Anatolian reflect the true diversity of the Turkish sheepdog, and that Kangal breeders ignore examples of spotted or brindle Kangals in the field, claiming they're not actually Kangals. Some Anatolian breeders accuse Kangal breeders of actively culling unsuitable coloured dogs that come from purebred Kangals.

Generally, the arguments are whether Turkish dogs really are so breed specific, and if the splits placed on them by groups are arbitrary, or if the breeds are distinct and bred to be distinct in Turkey, therefore any mixing of bloodlines would be muddying the genetic waters. It is unlikely that the arguments will be settled soon, even with the increased use of genetic fingerprinting in the tracing of breeds. Suffice to say, both groups consider their dogs true Turkish livestock guardian dogs.


The ideal Kangal dog should be calm, controlled, independant, and protective. Aloof towards strangers, but never shy or vicious. A well-trained Kangal is sensitive and alert to changing situations, handling them with intelligence. They make good guardians of livestock and children, but they may not be suited for all homes, as the stubborn intelligence of the Kangal makes for a difficult pupil.

Temperament controversy

Unfortunately, some people assume that guardian dog or watch dog means attack dog, and will train this large and hard-to-control dog to be aggressive towards humans. Very rarely, some people also use Kangals in dog fights. Kangal dogs and Kangal crosses are occasionally owned by persons hoping to get a macho animal.

This has led to the restriction and banning of Kangals in most parts of Germany. Kangal owners feel unfairly singled out, and point out that aggression towards predators, especially with such an intelligent dog as the Kangal, does not equal aggression towards humans. It is notable that some famous German guard dog breeds, such as the German Shepherd, are not restricted.


The Kangal in Turkey

One of the national treasures of Turkey, the Kangal dog is part of a group of special sheep dog breeds specific to the country. Each is considered an important example of the cultural character of its region. To protect and conserve the genetic purity of the Kangal Dog, the government of Turkey has established several state-sponsored breeding centers.

In its home region of Kangal, in the Sivas region of Anatolia, the Kangal Dog is still primarily used as a livestock guardian, and prize animals compete annually in the Kangal Sheep Dog and Sheep festival.

In its duties as a national symbol, Kangal dogs often have jobs as guardians of state buildings, or as gifts in international friendship to other heads of state. There was also a brief fad of owning Kangals by more well-off city dwellers in Istanbul, but it has quickly died down as the 140 lb (64 kg) dogs are not well-suited for city living.

The Kangal internationally

Originally, the Kangal, along with the Akbash, was imported into Europe and the United States primarily as the foundation for the Anatolian Shepherd Dog. Curious enthusiasts of that and other Turkish dog breeds discovered that the general look of the Anatolian didn't always reflect the look of the dogs from various regions of Turkey. Several, such as David and Judy Nelson in the United States, decided to breed to the regional types of Çoban Köpegi rather than for Anatolian.

For 30 years, there has been a small but growing interest in the Kangal dog, and as such, the United States and Australia have kennel clubs that recognise the breed. In the UK, Canada, and Germany, there are also enthusiast groups, though Kangal ownership has been restricted severely in Germany, where they are considered a dangerous breed.

External links

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