Information about the Sarplaninac

The Sarplaninac or Sarplaninec (literal translation: Dog of the Sar Mountains or Sar Mountain Dog, also known as Sharplaninac/Sharplaninec or Yugoslav Shepherd Dog-Sarplanina) is a dog breed of the livestock guardian type originally from Serbia and Macedonia.

The Sarplaninac is a large, strongly built dog. The body is slightly longer than the height at the withers, and the front legs account for approximately 55% of the height. The head is large but proportional to the body, with dark eyes.

The Sarplaninac is a robust, well proportioned dog with plenty of bone, of a size that is well above the average and with a thick, long, rather coarse coat that emphasizes the short coupled appearance. They are about 38-55 kg and 70 to 82 cm. Although much larger dogs do exist which can reach up to 80 kg – most of these “giants” are probably of mixed breed origins and probably not pure.

The coat is dense, about 4 inches (10 cm) in length, and can be rough or smooth.

All Sarplaninac are solid in colour: fawn, iron grey, white or almost black; usually sable or gray with darker “overalls” on the head and back, the undercoat being paler. The colour need not be completely uniform, and most Sarplaninac have several different shades of the same colour fading into one another. There are no bicolours and no uniformly black-coated dogs among purebreds, but odd-coloured specimens do exist. The dogs must not have large white patches in their coat.

The temperament of the breed is described as independent, reliable, protective but not snappy, incorruptible and devoted to its master. The breed is aloof with outsiders, and calm until a threat to the flock presents itself. The breed has a extremely protective nature. In the absence of a flock of sheep, the Sarplaninac will often treat its humans as sheep – herding them away from danger or undesirable areas. They are serene and majestic, gentle with children and smaller dogs. They are also highly intelligent and bred to work without human supervision while guarding the flocks in the high pastures. Young pups can kill small animals until trained not to hunt.

Like many of its cousin Mountain dogs, the Sarplaninac is a very serious and dedicated guard dog. Due to this, they are naturally suspicious of strangers and will need good socializing at a young age to lessen this innate personality trait. They are calm and gentle with their family but when faced with danger they become a formidable foe, not a suitable breed for all. Consistent and firm training is essential to ensure compliance.

The Sarplaninac (Yugoslav Shepherd) is a reserved and intuitive breed, stubborn and undemonstrative, but properly trained and handled with authority, it excels at a variety of tasks. Dog-aggression and wariness of strangers are common traits of the Sarplaninac, which is why early socialization is of utmost importance. Heavily-boned and muscular, the dog has a full top-coat, with an abundant dense undercoat, making it weatherproof and suited for an outside life.

The Sarplaninac has been known to fight or chase off a wolf, lynx and even Balkan bears. The breed can also work cattle and serve as a guard dog. They were first used as military dogs in 1928 by the army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and later under Josip Broz Tito in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Today it’s used by Military of Serbia as guard dog in mountain regions. Since 1975, successful exports have been carried out to the United States and Canada to control coyotes, and is now gaining recognition as a hard-working, able flock guard in those countries.

Its origin is not clear; it is believed that their ancestors were the ancient Molosser dogs of Greece and the livestock guarding dogs of Turkey. The breed was initially recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1939 as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog, after the Ancient name of the region. In 1957, at the request of the Yugoslav Canine Federation (JKS), the FCI changed the name to Yugoslav Shepherd Dog-Sarplaninac, after the Sar Mountains (Sar Planina in South Slavic languages) where the breed is most common.