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Breed Information
    The Sarplaninac (Shar-pla-nee-natz) dog is a sheep guarding breed that originated in the remote mountain regions of Serbia. Made to protect livestock and personal property throughout the centuries, they were selected mainly for their working abilities and their temperamental soundness.

    The history of the Sarplaninac dog is very long and not very clear. Unlike the modern breed of dogs, the Sarplaninac breed has been preserved unchanged throughout the centuries.

    There are many theories in existence of how and when the Sarplaninac dogs came to inhabit the mountain region of South Serbia.  
One of the theories is that the Sarplaninac dog originated form the ancient MOLOSSER sheep dogs of ancient Epirus. These are ancient Illyrian Tribes that lived in the Balkan Peninsula. It is believed that the Molosser dogs developed from the so called "Untamable Tribetan Hounds" whose ancestors are known to be the Tibetan wolves.

    Sarplaninac dogs today display the uniqueness of their physical and temperamental characteristics thanks to the shepherds with whom they live. Through the centuries, shepherds from the Sara, Korab, Bistra and Kopaonik Mountain ranges, selected only those dogs that were capable of efficiently protecting livestock. With their harsh living conditions, which are worsened by the presence of large predators such as wolves and bears, which Srbia is known to have in large numbers. The shepherds needed dogs that could be left alone with the flocks in the mountains for several days; and be trusted to make the right decisions.  

    The breed had received their full public and international recognition as a unique breed back in 1939 when they were registered with FCI (Federation Cynoloqugue Internationale). At that time, they were registered as Illyrian sheep dogs, under #41. In 1957, at the instigation of the Yugoslav Cynological Association, their name was changed to Yugoslav Sheep-dog SARPLANINAC (pronounced Sha-pla-nee-natz).
How big do they get?

    Sarplaninac dogs are strong and hearty animals; and upon seeing them, that is exactly the impression they leave. They are above average in size and most of the males are anywhere from 27" to 30" at the shoulder, and females 24' to 27.. Males weigh anywhere from 120 to 140lbs., and females from 90 to 120lbs., depending on their shoulder height.

What colors are allowed when it comes to the breed?

    All the colors from almost white to almost black are allowed. Although no spotting is permitted, at the same time, small white patches are tolerated on the feet and chest. Sarplaninac dogs are one colored dogs, and on one dog only the shades of the predominate colors are allowed.

What is their temperament like?

    Sarplaninac dogs selected for breeding must have a calm and even temperament. They are naturally protective, highly territorial, and have a moderate prey instinct. They are generally devoted to one person; and should be loyal to all members of the family. Naturally wariness of strangers and incorruptibility is one of their most important characteristic traits. Knowing the characteristics of Sarplaninac dogs, it is very important to start socialization at an early age. They should become experienced in recognizing different situations for what they are.

Are they good with the children?

    Yes, Sarplaninac dogs are very gentle with the kids that they grow up with, or the kids that grew up with them. You have to keep in mind that Sarplaninac are naturally protective; and from an early age should be exposed to different ways that kids are playing amongst themselves. In this way, you will avoid having the dog misread certain play activities, and come to the apparent aid of your child. However all that is easily avoided if the puppy grows up as a member of the family, and takes part in all family affairs.

Are they good with other dogs?

    Sarplaninac dogs will rarely have any problems with the dogs they grow up with. The  occasional disputes are bound to occur, but are nothing to be either worried or concerned about. Being very territorial, they will be naturally aggressive to strange dogs that invade their territory. Outside their territory, if properly socialized from puppy-hood, they should not present any threat to non-aggressive dogs.

Are they good house dogs?

 They are very good house dogs, providing that you are a good owner, by exercising them regularly. You must keep in mind that originally they would cover great distances following the flock in a course of a day, and that might not sound as a high impact exercise to you, but still you have to have enough time to allow Sarplaninac dogs to relieve their excess energy. "A bored dog is a bad dog" is a general rule to follow.

What about shedding?

    They do shed. Once a year they generally blow their coats, still keeping enough of the undercoat . However, for those people who are not ready to maintain a long-coated dog, we suggest they choose another breed.

How does the Sarplaninac do in weather extremes?

    As mentioned earlier, they keep their double coats all year long, which actually keeps them warm in winter and cool in the summer. Although the fact is they do better in colder climates.

Do they eat much?

    Depending on their level of exercise, but according to their overall size, they eat amazingly small amounts of food. for example, a 130lbs. male with moderate daily activity will be satisfied with only four cups of food. Of course a growing puppy and lactating female will have a greater need to intake more food. Furthermore, special attention has to be paid that Sarplaninac dogs are fed only with quality, well-balanced food that provides them with necessary nutrition. If you are interested in the breed you should check with the breeders and see what they recommend. Supplementing dry dog food with cooked meat, goat milk, and eggs in their natural state, should be a good way of making sure that necessary nutrients are added to their diet.

Should I get male or female?

    Difference between males and females is very obvious, phenotypic as well as in temperament. As previously explained, males are larger and heavier in bones. While females are noticeably lighter, the sexual dimorphism could be accredited to their roll as flock guardians. Lighter females are constantly on the move, checking their territory for any possible danger, while males seem to be preserving their energy for the actual confrontation with predators of any kind. Since most of the predators are nocturnal, females being alarm barkers, could be a nuisance if left out side. Even in urban surroundings they will preserve their natural instincts, in other words they will bark to alarm you of anything approaching their territory. Both sexes are equally devoted to the family, and territorial. Two males can live together, with the exception that they should be separated if any of the females are in heat.


Should I get a puppy or an older dog?

    Definitely a puppy, if your goal is to have a family dog. A puppy will adjust to your family and learn over time how to fit in all of your activities. Older dogs might have their ways already set. Although, "older dogs can be taught new tricks" that might be a task that you may not want to assume.


Do they get Hip Dysplasia?

    Hip-Dysplasia is not a common problem for this breed. Due to the selection of the breeding stock, putting emphasis on working ability and conformation of dogs, HD has been avoided so far.

What is their energy level?

    Being a sheep-guarding breed, Sarplaninac dogs were selected throughout the centuries to be calm, so that they may move swiftly among the sheep without causing any unnecessary commotion. They might appear as though they are not engaged in high level activities, as some sheep herding dogs are, but unless you have enough time to provide them with long walks, and allow them to relieve their excess energy, they could be very difficult and hard to live with.

What about obedience training?

    This breed is highly intelligent and very independent. They are fast learners, and they never forget what they have been taught. Because of their intelligence and independence, obedience training will not be an easy task. this is not to say that by applying the right principles, you would not be able to achieve very satisfactory results. These dogs have been, and are still being used by the Yugoslav Army for a wide variety of duties. It is very important to note that only positive reinforcement methods will get you results.


Where can I show my dog? 

    The Sarplaninac Breed has been recognized by FCI since 1939. In the United Stated, ARBA has been first to provide showing opportunities. Since January 1996, UKC has recognized Sarplaninac, and is willing to provide the opportunity to show them. Just recently SKC has put the breed in their line-up. so you will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy dog showing sport with your dog.


Why would you not recommend a Sarplaninac dog?

    We have tried to give you basic information on what Sarplaninac dogs are, and what you can expect from them. Buying a dog is a great responsibility. Matters have to be weighed and discussed many times before reaching the decision. Therefore, take this as only a beginning of your research on Sarplaninac dogs; and if such facts as, the need for attention, exercise, daily grooming, nocturnal barking, independent thinking, and size do not conflict with your life style, the only thing that we can do is welcome you to the growing family of Sarplaninac fanciers.
Frequently Asked Questions