Happy Hungarian Herders: The Kuvasz Dog Breed

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happy kuvasz dog lying on grassFiercely loyal and majestically good-looking, it is no surprise that the Kuvasz has a history amongst royalty. Originating from Hungary, the Kuvasz is a large, white dog originally bred to guard livestock.

Dog lovers value the Kuvasz for its intelligence and ability to act independently while remaining loyal and protective of its family. Kuvasz can make for wonderful companion dogs, but they are not the ideal pet for first-time dog owners.

A Brief History of the Hungarian Kuvasz Dog Breed

Of the three ancient Hungarian dog breeds (the other two being the Komondor and the Puli), the Kuvasz (pronounced KOO-vahss) is most likely the oldest. It is believed that they arrived with the Magyar tribes who invaded the region, now known as Hungary, in the 9th century.

There are a few theories about the origin of the name Kuvasz. Some believe it to be a corruption of the Turkish word “kawasz”, which means bodyguard.

Another theory is that the name originates from the Arabic word for archer, “kawwasz”, signifying the excellent guarding instincts of the breed. Another theory suggests that the name comes from the Sumerian phrase, “ku assa”, meaning dog of the horsemen.

By the 15th century, the Kuvaszok (plural of Kuvasz) were highly prized as guard dogs. King Matthias I, crowned in 1464 at the tender age of 15, was particularly fond of this breed. In a time when a king couldn’t even trust his own family, his Kuvasz went everywhere with him. He even had two sleep in his bedchamber with him.

King Matthias built expansive kennels on his estate at Siebenbuergen. He housed hundreds of Kuvaszok. Those who weren’t used to guard the king protected the estate’s livestock. They were even used to hunt large game such as wolves and bears.

Kuvaszok puppies were often presented to honored guests and favored nobles as gifts. One such noble was Vlad Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia. The breed enjoyed much popularity amongst royalty.

For some time, ownership of the breed was restricted to nobles. After Matthias’ death, popularity amongst royals and nobility decreased. However, the breed was still used by herdsmen as flock guardians. This is the work for which they are known to this day.

cute kuvasz puppy standing on grass

What is the Difference Between the Kuvasz and Great Pyrenees Dog Breeds?

The Kuvasz is one of several giant, livestock guardian dogs with a beautiful white coat. The breed originates from Hungary, while the Great Pyrenees originates from Spain and France. The Turks have their Akbash dog and Anatolian Shepherd. The Slovaks have their Slovak Cuvac and the Italians their Maremma Sheepdog.

The Great Pyrenees is a more well-known dog breed and so enjoys a greater popularity. The Pyrenees dogs originate from the mountains from where they get their name.

They have a thicker coat and are very well-adapted for colder climates. Both breeds have marvelous protective instincts. Pyrenees have a milder temperament. They are more tolerant of children, senior citizens, and household pets.

The Appearance of These Majestic Doggos!

Kuvaszok are large, sturdily built dogs. They have long, muscular legs, deep chests, and fluffy tails. They have dark brown, almond-shaped eyes and V-shaped, drop ears on their elegantly proportioned head.

Their size belies the speed and agility with which they can move when called to task.

Average Size and Weight!

The Kuvasz is a giant breed. Adult males can weigh up to 115 pounds (52 kg) and stand to a height of 28 to 30 inches (70 to 75 cm) at the shoulder.

Adult females attain a shoulder height of 26 to 28 inches (65 to 70 cm) and weigh between 70 and 90 pounds (32 – 40 kg).

Kuvasz vs Great Pyrenees: Size Comparison!

The Great Pyrenees lives up to its name in being a substantial dog! It is both taller and heavier than a Kuvasz. Adult Pyrenees weigh between 85 and 160 pounds (39 to 73 kg) and measure 25 -32 inches (62.5 – 80 cm) at the shoulder.

The Coats and Colors!

The dense double coat of the Kuvasz dog comprises a fine undercoat covered by guard hair. The coat can be straight or wavy. Grooming once or twice a week should be sufficient to keep your Kuv looking it’s best.

During Autumn and Spring, when they have their bi-annual shed, you will need to up your grooming to 3 or 4 times per week. Their coat is water repellent and sheds dirt easily, so it is seldom necessary to bath your Kuvasz.

The thick coat of the Kuvasz is white in color with no markings. The white coat is so that the shepherds can discern their flock guardians from wolves. It also helps the Kuvs to blend in with the flock that they are guarding.

man walking white kuvasz dogs

Temperament and Personality: What to Expect!

The Kuvasz is an intelligent and determined breed. While they are loyal and devoted to their families, they are not the ideal companion dogs for the first-time pet-owner.

As with most livestock guardians, Kuvs are independent problem-solvers. They are not the most patient when it comes to obedience training and get bored easily. Keep training sessions short, varied and exciting.

These protectors of kings are not automatically good with children. However, they will be highly protective of children that they are brought up with. They are gentle and patient dogs but expect to be treated with the same courtesy.

With a big and strong-willed dog breed like the Kuvasz, it is important to start obedience training and socialization from an early age.

What is Their Lifespan?

Your Kuv pup can be expected to live for 10-12 years if it is cared for correctly and fed a well-balanced diet of high-quality dog food. Be sure to take your pet for annual veterinary check-ups and vaccinations. Also, make sure to stick to a good pest prevention regime. And, never forget the fresh water!

This is a working dog breed, which, as always, means that they have high exercise requirements. Historically, Kuvs would be out working all day. Ensure that you give your Kuvasz dog plenty of age-appropriate exercise. Your Kuv will enjoy long walks, hikes or backpacking.

Potential Health Issues to Be Aware Of!

Overall, this is a healthy breed of dogs. It is, however, good to know which diseases or conditions are more likely to occur so that you can spot symptoms and react timeously. Some of the maladies that can be found within this breed are typical of most large breed and giant breed dogs:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia. This condition is typified by an abnormality in the shape and fit of the hip or elbow bones. It can cause your dog great discomfort, especially in later years. Arthritis can develop in older dogs. Even if your puppy comes from a breeder who shows certification of good hips and elbows for their breeding stock, it is advisable to have your pet screened.
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus, torsion, or bloat. This is a condition that mostly occurs in larger dogs, with deep chests. It can occur if your dog eats one large meal a day, drinks great volumes of water, or eats too rapidly. Symptoms of bloat include a distended abdomen, excessive salivation, retching without throwing up, restlessness, depression, lethargy, and weakness.
  • Von Willebrand’s disease. This is a genetic blood disorder resulting in reduced blood clotting. The most notable sign will be excessive bleeding after an injury or surgery. Other symptoms of this condition may include nose bleeding, bleeding gums and/or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). This is a disease of the cartilage between joints. It can occur in almost any joint in the body. In a dog with OCD, the cartilage grows abnormally or is damaged. This causes pain and discomfort when moving that joint.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This inherited condition results in night blindness initially, and eventually in complete blindness. The blindness is caused by the rod cells in the retina gradually dying off.

Kuvasz Puppies for Sale!

Have you done your due diligence and decided that this is the perfect breed for you? Hooray! Now, it is time to find the perfect companion pup!

adorable hungarian kuvasz puppies eating

A great place to start your search is on the American Kennel Club (AKC) site or the Kuvasz Club of America site. You could also ask your local vet or pet store whether they know of any Kuvasz breeders in the area.

Be Sure to Get Your Kuvasz Puppy from a Reputable Breeder!

If you decide to get a puppy from a breeder, be sure to do your homework before the time. A responsible breeder will welcome all questions about the bloodlines and the health of their dogs.

Be sure to request health certificates for breed-specific conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, PRA and OCD. Responsible breeders do not breed with animals that are under two years of age.

They also do not allow their breeding females to have more than one litter of puppies a year. You will want to visit the facility to be sure that your puppy is being raised in a clean and nurturing environment.

Adopt! Don’t Shop! Ask a Local Animal Shelter About Kuvasz Rescues!

Some people buy dogs without understanding what their needs are or what their personalities are like. Rescue groups are a great place to start looking for an older dog if you are keen to skip the destructive puppy phase!

Kuvs take a while to mature, sometimes up to 3 years! Contact your local animal shelter or breed club to find out about adult Kuvaszok that might be looking for a new, loving home.

Common Questions about Kuvasz Dogs

How Big Does a Kuvasz Get?

Do Kuvaszok Make Good Family Pets?

Is a Kuvasz a Good Watch Dog?

Where Can You Get a Kuvasz?

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