Information about the Tornjak

The Tornjak is a mountain sheep dog native to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. FCI #355 as bosnian-croatian sheep dog Tornjak.

Tornjaks are large and powerful dogs, with well proportioned, almost square bodied features and agile movements. The dog’s bones are not light, but nevertheless not heavy nor coarse. They have long and thick double coat which a thick undercoat. The bodies of these dogs are strong and well built, with harmonious and dignified movements. The dogs have long and thick hair and this adequately protects the animals against poor weather conditions. The dogs typically possess shaggy tails, kept high like a flag. Tornjaks have a clear, self-confident, serious and calm disposition. In general the Tornjak is a long coated dog with short hair over the face and legs. The topcoat is long, thick, coarse and straight. It is specially long on the upper part of the croup, over the shoulders and the back it can be slightly wavy. On the muzzle and the forehead, up to the imaginary line connecting the ears, over the ears and on the front parts of legs and feet it is short. It is especially abundant around the neck (mane), dense and long over the upper thighs (breeches). It forms feathers along the forearms. With well coated dogs it is also especially abundant on the rear of hind pasterns.

Tornjaks can be either solid colored or parti-colored, usually the color white predominates. The color of Tornjaks is unrestricted, all colors are accepted. It ranges from nearly completely white to almost black, with yellow, red, brown and not-quite-desired gray in between. There are two main types: piebald and Irish spotting. Originally, it was made a goal to breed varying colors and patterns so shepherds could distinguish their dogs easily from a distance. Breeders also strive towards distinction compared to other breeds.

Head – Lupine, wedge-shaped and elongated. Due to the heavy coat it could look too small sometimes. Powerful and long jaws, teeth complete, scissor bite. The back of the muzzle is straight. The zygomatic arches above the eyes may be slightly noticeable. Back of skull elongated but not narrow, straight from zygomatic arches to occiput. Top of the muzzle straight, proportional, never pointed or excessively fleshy, lips fitted tightly to the jaws. Almond shaped eyes, eyelids close to the skull. Large ears, that are single turn down, set high up, nearer to the vertex than in other sheepdogs breeds.

Neck – Long, carried low, set at 45 degree when alert. Neck muscles firm and taut. Skin quite thick especially at the nape of the neck and adheres to the inner tissue not only on the upper but also on the lower side of the neck. Covered with a rich crop of long hair (ruff).

Back – Relatively short, firm, moderately wide and level.

Tail – Long, can be saber-shaped, annular or hooked (slight upward turn at the tip), set medium high. Highly mobile, at rest hanging downwards. When in motion – trotting – or when alert or excited, always carried above the back.

Chest – Very broad, conically deep, wide and rounded, but ribs not heavy. The breast is well-proportioned and forms a firmly connected unit between shoulder joint and chest. As a rule, the sternum (breast bone) tip is a little below the shoulder joint.

Belly – Firm muscles, continuous lower line, moderately tucked-up from the back end of sternum to the inside of loins.

Coat – The coat is shorter in the Summer.

As a rule, long coated with short hair on face and front part of legs. Top coat is long, hard textured (similar to goats) and straight. On the front part of shoulders and backside of rump it can be slightly wavy. Particularly well developed on the neck also below the tail very rich and long, forming trousers. Feathering on the forearm and very rich feathering on the tail. Upper hair is especially long on the upper rump just before tail set. Firmly closed and not able to be opened in parting.

Tornjak has a calm temperament. A typical adult Tornjak is very calm, peaceful, on first sight an indifferent animal, but when the situation demands it, it is a vigilant, a very alert watchdog. The character of Tornjak is equal to the temperament, they are not nervous and not aggressive in general, they are very tough, not demanding, and sturdy dogs. With their human family they are very emotional. When the Tornjak live in a pack they are highly social animals, and there is not any fighting between pack members. Toward strangers or other animals, as a rule, Tornjak is not emphasized aggressive. But when the situation calls upon it, Tornjak acts very determined and it can without consideration attack much stronger rivals. Shepherds used to say that a Tornjak who guards the flock is a fair match to two wolves, and a couple will encounter and chase away a bear without any undue respect. In these situations Tornjaks are very persistent.

Tornjaks belong to the rare livestock protection breeds, and share many characteristics with other Mountain dogs. The Tornjak is one of the very old breeds from ancient times, and it was mentioned in handwritten papers for the first time in the 9th century, in a Catholic Church’s document. The breed was later mentioned in the 11th and 14th century. Tornjaks from these documents is the very same as they are today, except for the name of the breed, which was Bosanski Ovc(ar, meaning Bosnian Shepherd Dog. It was also called the Hrvatski pas planinac, meaning Croatian mountain dog. The dogs in these documents was described entirely equal (function and exterior) as they are today: a protective guarding dog which keep and watch all what their humans ask from them, but highly intelligent and selected without sufficient aggression, and they are pleasant against strangers that they meet outside of their own property. It is considered that dogs of the Tornjak’s type have existed in Dinaridi (region of Dinaric Alps), as central area of the region, from the Roman times . The Romans used their dogs as war and guardian dogs, as well as for fighting in the arena. Although the Tornjak is a very old breed, with the vanishing of nomadic sheep-breeding also the Tornjak vanished gradually. In the early 70’s, a group of cinologs began to collect the remained dogs which best corresponded to the old writings about their race.

The first written tracks about the existence of Tornjaks date back to the 9th century. Description given to the Tornjak were found in the writings of Peter Horvat bishop of ?akovo, Croatia, which date back to the year 1374, those descriptions were also found in the writings of Peter Lukic’ canon of the ?akovo diocese, which were written in 1752. The term Tornjak evolves from the Bosnian/Croatian word “tor”, which means an enclosed area where sheep live in. Still today, these dogs are called Torashi in the surroundings of the city of Sinj and on the Kamesnica mountain, whereas the shepherds of the Dinara-mountains call them Dinarci.

It is theorized (although not proven) that the Tornjak, as with other Livestock Guardian Dog breeds, are descendant from dogs that were developed somewhere around 9000 years ago in Mesopotamia following the domestication of sheep and goats in the same area.