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Polish Tatra Sheepdog

The Tatra Mountain Dog is an ancient breed, regardless of what it's often classified as. Believed by some to be just a white variant of the Sarplaninac taken to Poland by Wallachian traders from the Balkans, this is a much larger and heavier breed than the white dogs usually found in Yugoslavia, Hungary and the Czech/Slovakian regions, suggesting some Central Asian heritage as well. Originating in the Podhale area of southern Poland, the Tatra Dog is undoubtedly related to the Hutsul Dog, as well as to the Molossers of Greece and Turkey. It has traditionally been employed as a personal protector and livestock guardian, but also as a draft dog and family pet, resulting in a sufficiently sharp working dog, who is also an intuitive and even-tempered companion. While defending the large herds of goats and sheep, the Tatra Mountain Dog would stay close to the flock, choosing not to go after the predators and leave the livestock without protection, showing great restraint and intelligence, which earned the Tatra the reputation of a thinking dog among the herdsmen.

The Tatra Sheepdogs are usually used in a group of two or more dogs, which puts them at an advantage when confronting a pack of wolves. Instead of attacking the wolves too far away from the herd, the Tatra Mountain Dog will engage in a confrontation only when the predators move in and the conflict cannot be avoided. By not leaving the flock and breaking up their pack, the Tatra Sheepdogs have a better chance of protecting their herd, as well as of killing a wolf.

A valued guardian and companion of sheep herders in the Tatra mountains for centuries, this rugged Molosser managed to survive the 2nd World War, but then almost became extinct during the Communist rule, when the number of rural herdsmen, their flocks and their dogs declined drastically. By the 1960's, the fanciers of the Owczarek Podhalanski decided to start a revival programme, reportedly based on the careful selection of the best surviving specimens, but the modern Tatra Mountain Dog is more likely to be a result of planned matings with the Kuvasz, as is the case with its lighter cousin, the Slovakian Chuvach. During the mid-1970's, the breed was slowly becoming more common outside of its homeland and by the 1980's, Tatra Sheepdogs could be found in many Euroepan countries, as well as the United States. The breed was recognized by the U.K.C. in 1995 and although its population is modest in numbers, the Tatra Dog has a loyal, albeit small following in America and around the world.

Although not as large as in the past, the Polish Tatra Shepherd Dog is a giant breed, heavily muscled and a well-boned herding and guarding dog. It also makes a good companion, as well as an outstanding police and military dog, thanks to its great intelligence and trainability. However, the breed requires responsible and experienced handling, because it can be confrontational around strange dogs and people. This is a territorial and serious watchdog, needing early socialization and training. The head is broad and large, with a powerful muzzle and strong jaws. The neck is muscled and the chest is wide. The ears and tail are left unaltered.

The long rich coat, which can be both straight and wavy, but never curly, is uniform white in colour. The nose, eyerims and lips must be black, although poorly pigmented specimens can sometimes be seen in the West. The height can vary from 24 to 34 inches at the withers, but most modern dogs are around 29 inches tall.

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