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Sharplaninec
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Sharplaninec

The Sharplaninec is an autochthonous dog breed of Macedonia. These rustic sheep dogs are really phenomenal and unique in that they are genetically predestined to assume a life as dependable guards without any specific protection training of some sort. Their loyalty to their master is simply unparalleled in the canine world. Furthermore, their physical strength and mental determination are truly awesome.

This breed is what cynologists today consider “self-evolved”, almost circumstantial as a tribute to the rough Balkan terrain and the hard life as a livestock guardian over many generations. In the beginning, it was merely natural selection, which favored big dogs that were powerful enough to stand their ground when confronted by predators such as wolves or bears. At the same time, these dogs were required to cover huge areas of mountainous pastures as they accompanied their sheep flocks in the transhumance of a predominantly semi-nomadic lifestyle. In the old times, shepherds would keep only those dogs that could sustain such harsh conditions. Negligence of those responsibilities or the abandonment of their assigned flock at any time would be an unforgivable recklessness. Only strong and reliable dogs were allowed to live and procreate. While their job demanded extraordinary physical and mental strength, food for these dogs was usually very scarce as the socio-economic situation of their human owners was usually rather impoverished. This combination of tremendous selective pressures yielded extraordinarily healthy dogs of exceptional loyalty to their family, incredibly powerful and yet very modest and rustic in nature.

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Phenotype

Sharplaninci come in a considerable variety concerning size, color and to a limited degree even shape. Colors can vary drastically from completely white to entirely black, with all shades of gray or fawn. This is mostly due to the fact that shepherds in the past exclusively looked for performance. The dog's color was of very little significance as long as the dog did what it was supposed to. Even though certain colors, such as completely black or brindle, are disqualified from dog show competitions, it doesn't mean that these dogs don't exist. Sharplaninec dogs of today are for the most part iron-gray (called murdz type). This is mainly rooted in the fact that from 1939 on, when the breed was officially registered, the favored color for the breed officials was iron-gray. In the Macedonian mountains however, the predominant phenotype has been uniformly fawn with a black muzzle or head (called karabash type). In the south-western region of Macedonia, many pure white specimens could be observed as well.       

Even though these magnificent livestock guardian dogs are found in all parts of the region, they can be differentiated into local subtypes. These regional strains initially resulted from long standing isolation of small rural villages, which in turn led to separated selection and breeding of their existing working dogs. Early on, these subtypes were recognizable by clear differences in phenotype and perhaps even some slight personality distinctions. However, with the formation of the official breed and subsequent standardization, these regional subtypes were eventually merged into one. The modern Sharplaninec breed consequently represents an amalgamation of those primary pockets of isolated genepools - nonetheless, the Sharplaninec is true in its physique and soul.

 

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