Believed to be a direct descendant of the original Illyrian Mountain Dog, this rugged and powerful Moloss has been bred for centuries by the mountain tribes of Southern Serbia, known as Gorani (Goranci). Some propose that the Goranians are of Albanian origin, but this is incorrect, as are the claims of supposed Bulgarian ancestry. During the Ottoman occupation, the Serbian Gorans became islamicized, but remained true to the ancient ways and breeding practices of their dogs well into the 20th century. Being one of the oldest indigenous Molossers of the area, the breed has influenced many other working dogs, although some trace the Goran Shepherd's origin to the ancient Yoruk Kopegi, while others believe that its main progenitor was the legendary Alaunt. Known for its fierce temperament and fighting ability, the Goranac has influenced a great number of Balkan breeds, namely the modern Sarplaninac. The Illyrian Shepherd Dog has traditionally been employed as a livestock guardian, property protector and fighting dog, prized by all sides within the Sarplaninec community. These bloodlines are some of the oldest and purest strains of mountain Molossers of the region, but as is the case with many old breeds of the Balkans, the Goranian Mountain Dog has been assimilated into the popular Sarplaninac and is now considered to be just a type of that breed, valued for its excellent working traits and resilience. Apart from influencing the Serbian and Macedonian lines, the Goranac blood has also played a role in the development of the Albanian Sharplanina Dog, also known as Deltari Ilir, a modern fighting breed associated with the Shquipetar population of southern Serbia, parts of Macedonia and northern areas of their native Albania. In the aftermath of the Kosovo war, the Goranians found themselves with the choice of fleeing their ancestral land or accepting Albanian domination, which has also greatly affected the Goran Shepherd Dog population, since the villages such as Restelica and others famous for their superb pure dogs have been reduced to being breeding grounds for the fighting Deltari Ilir crosses.
Loyal and protective, this is a one-person dog, aloof and suspicious of strangers, but never unreasonably vicious or overly aggressive. The Serbian Goran is an intelligent and independent Molosser, quite stubborn at times, but trainable if handled with authority and patience. It requires responsible owners and close supervision around other dogs. This is a fairly lean, but very muscular and well-boned mastiff, having a large head, powerful neck and a wide chest. The back is straight, with broad shoulders and sturdy legs. In the past, ear-cropping and docking of tails was common for fighting dogs, but most modern examples are left unaltered.
The coat is thick and hard, coming in a variety of lengths, always densely undercoated and fully weatherproof. Seen in all colours in the past, including piebald and multicoloured specimens, the modern Goran Shepherd Dog is found in the popular Sarplaninac colourings, such as solid white, fawn, yellow, brown, brindle, grey and even black shades. Average height is around 27 inches.