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Tatra Shepherd Dog – Tatra Sheepdog

Tatra Shepherd Dog – Tatra Sheepdog (Owczarek podhalański)

An “old” friend of the mountain people, a faithful companion of man and a wise protector of sheep. The Tatra Shepherd Dog, like a typical representative of shepherd dogs, has a very harmonized and interesting character. In the mountains, it feels more confident than the Highlanders themselves, so they trust it in many situations. Let’s try to get to know and understand the Tatra Shepherd Dog better.

FCI classification

  • Group 1 Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Mountain-and Cattledogs)
  • Section 1 Sheepdogs
  • Without working trial
  • Other names: Polski Owczarek Podhalański, Owczarek Tatrzański, Owczarek Podhalański, Polski Owczarek, Polish Tatra Sheepdog, Polnischer Berghund
  • Origin: Poland
Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

The origin of the breed

The name of the breed is related to the place where it was created – Podhale. It has been living in the Polish mountains for hundreds of years, although we do not know the exact date of its introduction. Nobody is sure what kind of blood the Tatra Shepherd Dogs carry, but some breeders believe that they come from mastiffs.

They were, and still are, most popular among Highlanders with flocks of sheep. The great trust of mountain people for this breed comes from their high intelligence, which manifested itself when spotting a predator. When the dog spots a wolf, it gathers all the sheep into a group and stands by them, not initiating an attack that would encourage the other members of the pack. Its uniformly white coat, which effectively distinguishes it from bears or wolves, has also proved very helpful. However, shepherding is not the only “job” of Podhale Sheepdogs, they are often used as guards of companies or private property.

After the world wars, the breed was on the brink of extinction, but the FCI did not let this happen, starting breeding in the 1960s.

Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

Characteristics

Appearance

The average height at the withers of males is 65-70 cm, and for females 60-66 cm, the weight is in the range of 36-59 kg. They are characterized by snow-white color, while the coat itself is dense and short, especially on the head, muzzle and front side of the limbs. The neck and body are covered with long, straight (or slightly wavy) and dense hair, hard to the touch, with a profuse undercoat. The tail is also very hairy and fluffy.

The head is in proportion to the body, terminated with a muzzle of medium length, decorated with a black nose. Eyes are expressive, situated slightly obliquely, of medium size, with a brown iris. Ears set at the level of the outer corner of the eye or a little higher, relatively thick, triangular, and very hairy.

The silhouette ends with a rather low-set tail. The dog carries it below the topline, but when active, lifts the tail above it, but does not curl it. When resting, the tail reaches the hock and is often slightly curved at the end.

Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

Temperament

Many modern behaviors and features of the Tatra Shepherd Dog still allow it to act as a shepherd. It is territorial, but it is also very loyal and protective towards the owner, therefore it is also a good guardian. Since it is barking very loudly and reacts this way to anything that seems suspicious to it, it is difficult to break into the area it is guarding.

It is important, however, that the Tatra Shepherd Dogs were trained to be cautious and not attacking dogs until it becomes necessary, when a predator appears near the sheep. Therefore, a dog of this breed will not bite a foreign human or animal, unless provoked. It can be a family dog, and at the same time calm and independent.

Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

Dog care

After several centuries of chasing sheep, the descendants of the original Tatra Sheepdogs can boast a large reserve of energy, so they need a large fenced yard to run out. The breed is absolutely not suitable for a cramped apartment in a block of flats, as it needs space, although at home it is not very active; this changes when it goes outside.

The Tatra Sheepdog loves long and frequent walks, so it is not a dog for lazy people. In late spring it sheds most of its hair but stays clean for the rest of the year as the coat cleans itself and the dog does not have saliva excess like many other large dogs.

Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

Detailed data and dimensions

Tatra Shepherd Dog

  • Height at the withers:
    • males 65 – 70 cm (25.6 – 27.6 in)
    • females 60 – 66 cm (23.6 – 26 in)
  • Weight: 36 – 59 kg (79 – 130 lb)
  • Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

Tatra Shepherd Dog – interesting facts

  • Owners of the Tatra Shepherd Dogs sometimes shave them and use their hair to produce wool.
  • Highlanders often stick to their dogs’ tails as they lead them through difficult mountain terrain.
  • Many years ago, the popularity of the breed in terms of shepherd quickly spread throughout Europe, and in the 1980s one of the foreign service officials (an American officer) sent three dogs of this breed to the US. Since 1981, the Tatra Shepherd Dog has also been found in Canada.
  • The Polish Tatra Shepherd Dog is a healthy dog, not burdened with genetic diseases. Still, like other large breeds, she sometimes suffers from hip dysplasia.
  • As for the breed of large dogs, the Tatra Shepherd Dog is in a sense a long-lived dog. Many breeds of large dogs live much shorter than it.
Tatra Shepherd Dog, Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalański

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