History of the Kuvasz Breed
Theories abound concerning the origin of the kuvasz breed and the meaning of its name. Experts agree that the kuvasz [KOO-vahz] is a dog of ancient lineage which reached a peak of nobility in the late 15th century, faced near-extinction in the early 20th century, and made a remarkable comeback in recent years. Ancient Tibet is the likely place of this breed's origin. Crossing into Turkey, the kuvasz (the plural form is kuvaszok) took with it the blood of the giant dogs of Tibet. Large enough to hunt wolf, bear and wild boar, the kuvasz flourished as a hunting dog, a guard dog and a livestock dog. The breed's name is said to stem from the Turkish kuwasz, meaning "protector." (It's also said to be Sumerian for "horse dog" and Hungarian for "mongrel.") Making its way to Hungary, possibly with refugees from the Mongol invasions circa 1200 CE, the kuvasz at last entered its officially recognized place of origin. There, it found royal favor. King Matyas I (1458-1490) adored the animal and was said to trust his kuvasz more than his councilors. Soon, every noteworthy Hungarian estate had to have its kuvasz. The king's death triggered the downfall of the dog, which returned to life on the farm. Hungarian herders often sold their livestock in foreign lands, taking them on foot with the help of their kuvasz. These traveling dogs may have contributed genetically to several similar-looking breeds in the region: the Polish tatra sheepdog, Marema sheepdog, Great Pyranees and Anatolian shepherd. Many kuvasz didn't return home but were sold along with the herds. The dog's influence spread. The breed's astonishing decline in the early 20th century is attributed to the two devastating world wars. By the end of the second, there were roughly thirty dogs left. Dedicated and determined breeders worked to save this beautiful dog with the noble bearing. The AKC recognized the breed in 1935. Today, the kuvasz flourishes, once more a popular companion, guard and herder.
Size and Appearance of the Kuvasz Breed
The kuvasz is a large, handsome, well-proportioned animal longer than it is tall. Medium-boned and well-muscled without being bulky, it displays a marvelous blend of strength and agility. It has a free and easy gait with legs angled farther inward the faster it goes – at top velocity, it virtually single-tracks. Head and tail are carried low except when the dog is excited. The muzzle tapers slightly without being pointed. Ears are folded and close to the head. Skin is slate-grey to black, the darker the better. In contrast, the outer of its double coat is always white with no markings. Medium-coarse, the coat varies from straight to wavy, becoming lush and resplendent in cold seasons. The neck mane covers the chest. The kuvasz may drool and slobber.
The Kuvasz is not for everyone. An unsurpassed guard dog with intense loyalty, it has been bred to work on its own initiative. Making its own decisions, it can fiercely drive off a wolf, then gently assist in lambing. The kuvasz is courageous and unflagging, displaying intelligent curiosity. Very sensitive to criticism, it responds poorly to harsh training. For all but experienced trainers, the early period can be challenging and stressful. Early introduction to the family, other pets and livestock is essential. The puppy should be adapted to handling by strangers. Raising it with an experienced older kuvasz is a strong benefit. Very good with children in its own family, the kuvasz is sometimes untrustworthy with others. Visiting children who roughhouse with family children may be victims of the dog's protective instinct. The kuvasz tends to think of worst of strangers and to act accordingly. It appreciates attention but is itself undemonstrative. Unless aroused to defensive action, it is a quiet, undemanding animal. Sociability varies from dog to dog. Aggression between males is common. Some kuvasz may have a go at dominating the family.
Kuvasz Recommended Maintenance
The kuvasz's coat requires brushing at least twice a week. The coat contains dirt-repelling oils that are removed by washing, so do not bathe the dog unless it is really necessary. Some recommend rubbing powder into the coat and brushing it out as an effective cleaning method. The fur behind the ears tends to mat. The breed sheds more in warmer weather with only seasonal shedding in cold climates. The kuvasz is a very active dog which must be granted sufficient exercise. Long daily walks or a large, fenced play area are essential. The kuvasz enjoys cold weather and can live outdoors even in cool climates, although it does best with access to both the house and yard. It is best suited to a country home but can adapt to urban life if its exercise needs are met.
• Life span: 9 – 12 years
• Major concerns: CHD, OCD
• Minor concerns: none
• Occasionally seen: panosteitis, HOD
• Suggested tests: hip