Kangal - the origin of the ultimate flock guardian
Thie Kangal is a Turkish dog breed that is a part of the early Mastiff family of dog breeds. It possesses an impressive physique with its large muscular body, a curled tail, and a black mask. This dog breed served Turkish shepherds for thousands of years and up to this day, the Kangal is regarded as one of the best guardians in the dog world.
These dogs are closely related to the Anatolian Shepherd and throughout history were treated as two separate dog breeds. Eventually, the Anatolian Shepherd was renamed and their name from then was the Kangal. Today there is only one breed by the FCI Standard.
Most people are not familiar with Turkish dog breeds even though the Turkish Kangal history is rich and colorful. First, we need to say a bit more about the Kangal name.
Origin of the Kangal name
These dogs originated in the Sivas province, in the region of Anatolia in Turkey. The original name of this breed was the Anatolian Shepherd who was named after the region of their origin. Some dogs were regarded as Kangals and the Turkish Cynology Association didn’t do much to clarify this confusing distinction between the breeds.
The Kangal dog’s full name is Kangal Çoban Köpeği in their native language of the region they originated from. These dogs were given the “Kangal” part of the name after the city of Kangal in the center of the Anatolian region. The team of scholars that are credited for unofficially naming the Kangal dogs is Dr. Charmian (Biernoff) Stelle, Messrs J. Lloyd, D. Lyth, and Dr. Withof- Keus. They were mostly archaeologists that were researching that area and found much historic evidence of these dogs.
In 2018 the Turkish Cynology Association issued a decree that all Anatolian Shepherds will be named Kangals and that the Kangal will take the Anatolian Shepherds place in the official FCI registry.
Early Kangal history
This impressive dog breed is regarded as one of the world’s best shepherd dogs. Though they are not shepherds in the traditional sense that they herd livestock, but rather guardians of the human shepherds and livestock. Since they were huge and powerful, they were used to defend livestock against predators such as wolves, bears and later in Africa against lions and cheetahs.
It is believed that the ancestors of this breed came to Anatolia when Persians tried to occupy the region we know today as Turkey. they were accompanied by three species of animals - horses for carrying heavy loads, sheep for their wool and meat, and dogs that were used for protection of both humans and sheep.
Those dogs were from the Molosser family of dog breeds and were big, strong and fearless. There are many tribes and civilizations that originated in the Anatolian region that has a great historical value and certainly, the Kangals were not the first dogs from that area.
No evidence of these types of dogs was found in that area before the Persian invasion around 1400 years ago.
Two interesting legends are surrounding the Kangal dogs and the first one says that a dog was given to the Ottoman sultan called Murat the IV by an Indian Maharajah. When the dog arrived at the sultan’s palace, they made the dog fight a lion and the dog won. After the attack on their city, the dog got lost and it is believed that the Kangals are descendants of that dog.
The second legend simply says that these dogs derived from lions and tigers that were petted during the Assyrian time and were later used to keep livestock safe, just like the modern Kangal does.
These dogs are known for being fearless and tireless workers and protectors. They have been kept by Turkish farmers and shepherds for centuries and their main job was to keep sheep safe from mostly wolves.
They have been carefully bred through these times to eliminate all aggression displayed towards either humans or the flock of sheep they were trusted to guard. This way, a reliable and predictable character in these dogs was achieved and shepherds have been extremely satisfied with the work these dogs did.
The Turkish shepherds also managed to create a dog breed that is always alert, extremely confident and fearless yet loyal and gentle towards their family, especially children.
In more recent times, Kangals have been trusted to guard bigger cattle. They have been mainly employed to guard cows and their main predators have also changed. They were trusted to guard them against bears, wolves, and jackals.
They have developed a 3-step strategy when facing a threat. When they sense a predator they will first try to scare them off by barking. If the predator doesn’t flee on the sight of the Kangal and still they decide to approach, these dogs will start growling. If that doesn’t work, they will launch their attack.
When attacking they use their main weapons - speed and strength. They can reach speed up to 50km/h and have a bite force of 700 PSI (trice as strong as Pitbulls). The Kangals have the same attack strategy throughout history. They will run-up to the predator and try and knock them down by hitting them with their shoulder. After that, they try to attack the weakest points - the throat and the hind legs.
The UK Kennel Club recognized this breed in 2013. They have also said that all dogs that were previously registered as Anatolian Shepherds will be registered as the Turkish Kangals when the time for that occurs.
The FCI officially recognized and changed all the Anatolian Shepherds as Kangals in 2018 when the Turkish Cynology Association (KIF) issued a document which says that all Anatolian Shepherds will officially become Turkish Kangals and the two have then become a single dog breed.
This dog breed is somewhat rare so if you are interested in getting one, make sure you know how to handle these dogs and be prepared to wait and spend a bit more money on one.
World Dog Finder team