Sarplaninac (pronunciation Shar-Pla-Nee-Natz or Shar-Pla-Nee-Nac) is known by many names: Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Macedonian-Yugoslavian Shepherd, Sharplanina, Sharplaninatz, or simply as the Shar. This hardy, outdoorsy working dog is well known for its courage and toughness against predators, making it an excellent farm dog for guarding livestock.
Let us study the temperament, fun facts, physical characteristics, and other things you need to know about the Shar.
Fun facts about the Sarplaninac
- The breed originated in the Sarplanina Mountains of Macedonia and Serbia. It is estimated to be nearly 2000 years old and may have been developed from the Tibetan Shepherd. Some experts suggest that the Sarplaninac derives from the old sheepdogs of ancient Epireans from Molosa, which were named after an Illyrian tribe.
- Sheep breeders on Mt. Sarplanina considered the Sarplaninac to be worth the price of four sheep and often even paid for them in gold.
- Today, the Shar is finding an important role in guarding livestock on Canadian and American ranches.
- The breed’s close relative is the Istrian Shepherd known as the Krasevec or the Karst Shepherd.
- Yugoslavia was created after WWI and after the war, it came under communist rule. The government then controlled the breeding of the Sarplaninac and they were strictly used only as military or police dogs. Most Shars were kept in traditional lines in kennels, but some were also bred with German Shepherds, Caucasian Ovcharka, and other breeds.
- In Macedonia, this dog is viewed upon as pride of the nation and even depicted on the currency.
- This impressive dog measures about 23 inches in height and weighs about 30-45 kg or 99 lb.
- The head is broad, slightly rounded, and comes with a dark muzzle. Their eyes are beautiful brown, orange or black and they have drop ears.
- Sarplaninac dogs have a gorgeous double coat which forms a thick ruff around the neck. The outer coat is long, dense and dark brown or black in color. Many other solid colors are also available like white (which is a rare color), beige, tan, gray or sable. There may be small white markings on the chest and toes. Their undercoat is soft and protects against harsh winters. The heavily feathered tail is bushy and the hindquarters also have long feathering.
- Although heavy-boned, Sar dogs are smaller than many other livestock guardian dogs.
- Sarplaninac dogs bred in America are larger than the ones found in their homeland.
Sarplaninac vs. Caucasian Ovcharka
Caucasian Ovcharkas are slightly larger than the Shar. They are also more aggressive and their temperament is generally fierce. Sarplaninac dogs, on the other hand, are smaller. Temperament wise, they are similar to their Caucasian cousins; both breeds are wary of strangers. Also, both breeds are independent-minded and can be dominant. However, people who have raised both breeds also believe that the Shar is a lot milder in temperament compared to other livestock guarding dogs.
Sarplaninacs vs. wolves
This is an extremely tough breed. Many a Sar has fought a tough battle with as many as four wolves at a time. That is the main reason why the Sarplaninac is a breed that shepherds depend upon; they know they can count on these wonderful dogs for keeping their flocks safe from wolves. In most dog and wolf fights, both animals want to prove their prowess to one another. Both usually do not want to actually get hurt. The dense coat of the Sar also provides protection to them from cuts and scratches that result from such fights.
Where to find a Sarplaninac
Your search for a healthy Shar puppy starts with finding a good breeder who is genuinely concerned about the breed’s welfare. There isn’t a club of the Yugoslavian Shepherd or the Sarplaninac in America but there is a list of breeders available on the UKC Sarplaninac site. Please note that the UKC does not endorse these breeders.
When you visit breeders, always look around the facility. It should appear clean and well-kempt. The breeders should not keep more than two dog breeds. Expect a long wait time for your puppy since most good breeders have long waiting lists as they raise just one or two litters of dogs each year. Ask to meet the dam (mother) of the puppy. She should display good temperament.
Good breeders will also want to know if you are a reliable dog owner. Therefore, expect to answer several questions about your household and the reasons why you want to keep a Shar. The right owner for a Sarplaninac is preferably someone who has experience with large working dogs, lives on a farm, and is seriously committed to giving love and attention to this beautiful dog. Expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $1500 for a purebred Sarplaninac puppy with superior pedigree.
Compared to most other Eastern livestock guardian breeds, the Shar is known for its calm demeanor and measured nature. They are also a lot less ferocious compared to other similar breeds. The Sarplaninac is an active dog and he is happiest when he is given a job to do. He also needs plenty of room to roam. A large farm or property with a fenced yard is best for these dogs. Being dominant and independent thinking, your Sar puppy will need consistent, early training and clear handling.
Your Sarplaninac is bound to be active and he needs a job to keep him mentally stimulated. While his activity requirement levels are moderate, he needs to be outdoors in the open where he can run and keep an eye on the livestock.
These hardy dogs do not need too much grooming. Assuming they would be outdoors, shedding should not be too much of a problem. But if you plan on keeping your pet indoors, then regular brushing with a natural boar bristle brush is essential. This will get rid of loose hairs and also stimulate the oils in the skin. Pay special attention to ticks and fleas while brushing. Check your pet’s ears from time to time to prevent ear infections. Brushing of teeth is recommended every few days to prevent dental issues.
Not too many health issues are known about the Macedonian-Yugoslavian shepherd or the Sarplaninac dog breed. Bloat or gastric torsion, skin issues, and musculoskeletal problems are documented. The life span of the breed is 11-13 years. They are not suited for hot and humid climates.