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Karavlach Herder

Very rare, unrecognized and ignored as an actual breed for many years, the Karavlaski Ovcar from the Balkans can still be seen on occasion in some parts of southern Serbia, western Bulgaria and Rumania, northern Macedonia and Greece, eastern Montenegro and certain areas of Bosnia, Istria and Dalmatia, where it has been herding and protecting livestock and guarding various Vlach settlements, in particular those of the Karavlasi tribe. Its name has taken a double meaning over time, on one hand being simply indicative of its association with the Karavlach merchants and herdsmen and on the other being descriptive of the dog's appearance, with "Kara" meaning "black" and "Vlas" a common word for "hair", although this latter theory requires more research. The actual breed is somewhat of a mystery and its origin is oftentimes debated in different Balkan regions. It is unclear whether the breed has been brought to the area by the Karavlach nomads or it was established in the Balkans through matings between local breeds, but a few theories exist, the most common one suggesting that a Karavlaski Ovcar is a result of crossing a Serbian Sylvan with a local Vlach sheepdog, be it the Aromun Banzov, the Morlach Kozar or any other strains linked to the Vlach tribes. According to this story, the black-coated puppies would be given the name Karavlaski Ovcar and would then mate with either the Sylvans, Karakachans, Karamans or among themselves. Others believe that the Karavlach Herder is directly descended from wolves and is either the main ancestor or even the same breed as the Macedonian Karaman, while a number of researchers find its roots in Bulgaria as a larger subtype of the original Karakachan Dog. Even the rare Bukovinac type of the Homolian Sheepdog is linked to the Karavlach Dog population from Rumania. The old population of Karavlach Sheepdogs has also occasionally served as a source of fresh blood for the Serbian fanciers of the Sumadinac in the Middle Ages, who used appropriate examples acquired from Vlach traders as outcrosses for their own dogs in order to expand the Sylvan gene pool. It should be noted that some also think that the breed was named after the town in Bosnia called Karavlasi, where a specific strain of Sylvans could be found before WW2, but this theory needs more research. Many Karavlach Wolfdogs are mistaken for a Karakachan, a Sylvan or a Karaman, often by their own masters, who are simply not familiar enough with their dogs' true lineage. Presently, only a small number of these dogs can be encountered, but there are no dedicated breeding programmes or preservation efforts whatsoever in any of the regions where Karavlaski Ovcari existed in the past.

In the old days, two main types were common, one being what is considered the "real" Karavlach breed, which is a large mountain dog similar to the Sarplaninac in physical build and the other variety numbering all the common working crosses throughout the region, coming in many sizes and coat types. Some dogs with semi-erect or fully pricked ears can be seen, thought by some to show their wolf heritage, while others suspect the influence of other breeds. An interesting claim made by some Vlach herdsmen suggests that the original incarnation of the breed was naturally erect-eared, giving credence to the reports of a few researchers which have noticed a number of dogs of this type in the region many years ago, possibly confirming the Balkan ancestry of the German Shepherd Dog, a notion even mentioned by the creator of the breed himself in his writings. However, any and all theories about the Karavlach Herder are based on speculation at best, with very little concrete evidence to support any claim at this time.

These dogs are not overly aggressive, but they do make excellent watchdogs, livestock guardians and were reportedly even used as hunters in the past. Suspicious of strangers, loyal to only one master and unfriendly towards other dogs, this breed is best suited for rural environments.

The appearance of the Karavlasko Kuce can vary in terms of size and coat length, but the colouring is always either uniform black or black with small white markings. The head is substantial, although fairly narrow, with a somewhat long muzzle and high-set ears, which are never cropped. The chest is deep, the back is straight and the legs are moderately long, with large feet and broad shoulders. The tail is sometimes docked. Dogs measuring 25 inches at the withers are the most common, but some representatives are said to reach over 30 inches in height.

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