Macedonian Karaman Shepherd
Although a rare dark-coated sub-type of the Sarplaninac breed known as the Karaman could be encountered since ancient times in Macedonia and southern parts of Serbia, the modern Karaman Sheepdog is a fairly recent creation, developed by Macedonian fanciers as a separate breed. Originally a result of crossing the Karakachan Dog, Karavlach Herder, Greek Molossos tis Epirou and Serbian Sylvan with the Sarplaninec, the Karaman has been a moderately popular working dog for many years, valued by its fanciers for its great courage and guarding abilities, but excluded from the official Sarplaninac breed Standard, which didn't approve of black-coated dogs. Some believe that the original Karamans weren't even related to the Sarplaninec breed, finding its roots in Turkey and Iran, but this theory is yet to be proven. On the other hand, a number of researchers see it as simply being an isolated population of shepherd dogs descended from ancient Greek Molossers or as a Macedonian variety of the Sylvan which became assimilated into the Sarplaninac breed. Whatever its true ancestry may have been, the original Karaman has existed in Macedonia for many centuries.
This variety has always been rare, but it was after WW2 that a drastic decline in numbers was noticed. With the unfortunate, but common practice of crossbreeding in the 2nd part of the 20th century conducted by Sarplaninac breeders in Yugoslavia, the imported Newfoundland has found its way into some Sarplaninac bloodlines, resulting in an appearance of black dogs. From these strains, as well as by collecting the indigenous surviving specimens of black and dark-brown Karaman population, the Macedonian shepherds and breeders have established the modern breed known as the Karaman Shepherd. Various reasons for its development have been suggested, from the Macedonian Sarplaninec fanciers giving up on the Sarplaninac breed, which they believe was "stolen and bastardized" by the Serbian and Albanian breeders, to it simply being an effort to salvage an unfairly dismissed working variety of indigenous dogs. The breed Standard is in the process of being developed, but due to a small number of Karaman representatives currently existing, official international recognition isn't likely, at least not in the near future.
The Macedonian Karaman Shepherd is a typical mountain dog, posessing many physical and temperament traits of the Sarplaninac and other breeds of the Balkans. However, some variety within the breed exists, partly due to the difference between the "old type" representatives and those enriched with the Newfoundland blood, both in physical appearance and personality, with the older dogs being leaner and more agile, as well as having much sharper temperaments. Apart from these differences, the majority of Karaman dogs are well-boned and powerful Molossers, with muscular bodies, strong legs and substantial heads, but with narrower and slightly longer muzzles than associated with the Sarplaninec, courtesy of the old Sylvan influence. Most dogs are left in their natural state, although in some regions, working specimens with cropped ears can still be seen on occasion.
The medium-length coat is rich, thick and densely undercoated, always black in colour, ranging from the darkest shades of brown and grey to the pure black examples, some of which can have grey, brown and even brindle undercoats, as well as small white markings on the chest. Average height is around 28 inches, but smaller, as well as much taller dogs exist.