Gigantic Dogs - Kangal Dog

The Kangal Dog (Turkish: Kangal) is regarded as the national breed of Turkey. The Kangal, which weighs 100–165 lbs (45–80 kg) fully grown, was originally used as a livestock guardian dog. It is of an early mastiff type with a solid, pale tan or sabled coat, and with a black mask.

The breed is often referred to as a sheep dog, but distinction has to be made in regards to its function not as a herding dog, but as a flock guardian that lives with the flock to actively fend off wolves, bears and jackals. The Sivas Kangal Dog's protectiveness, loyalty and gentleness with small children and animals has led to its growing popularity as a guardian for families as well, as it regards people as its "flock" and guards them with extreme devotion.

At maturity, at least two years old, Kangals measure at the withers, from 30-32 inches for males and 28-30 inches for females. A male Kangal Dog in good condition should weigh between 125 and 165 pounds. A female should weigh between 90 and 120 pounds. The Kangal Dog is not as heavy as some other mastiff breeds, allowing it greater speed and agility than larger dogs. Kangal dogs can reach speeds of up to 30 miles (50 km) per hour.

The Kangal has a short double-layered coat made up of very dense underfur covered by longer and coarser hair. The under-layer provides insulation against both severe Anatolian winters and the fierce summer sun, while the outer-layer repels water and snow. This combination of coat allows it to regulate its core temperature more efficiently, while the coat is dense enough to repel rupture from wolf bites. The color and coat are perhaps the most visible traits that distinguish the Kangal from the Akbash and Anatolian. The coat must be short and dense, not long or feathery, and of a pale fawn or tan color with varying amounts of sable guard hairs. All Kangal Dogs have a black facial mask, and black or shaded ears. White at certain points (chest, chin, toes) may or may not be allowed, depending on the standard. Some heavily sabled Kangals also have darker legs and chests. Most importantly, the coat should not be broken, brindled, or spotted.

In Turkey, some working Kangals may have their ears cropped when they are a few weeks old by their shepherds. This is done for appearance and for protection, as long ears can be vulnerable in a physical confrontation with a predator. It is also believed that cropping improves the dog's hearing because sound can travel into ear easier. In Turkish, the majority of Kangal Dogs have their ears cropped as puppies. Cropped ears on a dog imported from Turkish should not be penalized, but cropped ears on a domestic-bred dog are a disqualification.

The ideal Kangal dogs should be calm, controlled, independent, and protective. They may be aloof towards strangers, but a well-socialized Kangal Dog is friendly with visitors and especially children. They must never be shy or vicious. A well-trained Kangal is sensitive and alert to changing situations, responding to threats with judicious warnings and courageous action if necessary. They make good guardians of livestock and humans alike, but they may not be suitable for inexperienced dog owners, as the independent intelligence of the Kangal makes for a difficult pupil. Due to their overwhelming strength, size and obedient temperament, Kangal dogs are now becoming popular in underground-illegal dog fights. In such circumstances, violent characteristics observed are brought out due to the dog's treatment by its owner; in most cases, these are quite degrading. The Turkish kangal is a very big dog.

A working Kangal on duty will station itself on a high vantage point overlooking its flock. On hot days, the dog will dig itself a hollow in the ground to keep cool. Novices learn by staying close to older dogs. The dogs will work in pairs or teams depending on the size of the flock, taking up positions around the sheep and changing their positions as needed. The intensity of their patrols around the sheep increases at nightfall.


When suspicious, a Kangal will stand with its tail and ears erect and give an alarm call, inciting the sheep to gather around it for protection. The Kangal’s first instinct is to place itself between the perceived threat and the sheep or master. Once the sheep are safely behind it, the Kangal confronts the intruder. When faced with a wolf, the Kangal sometimes is successful in intimidating the enemy, but it will resort to a physical confrontation if the predator stands its ground. Specialized wolf killers are known as "kurtçul kangal" in their homeland. But most importantly the Kangal Dog is from Turkey and not from Kurdistan as there is no such country named Kurdistan.

The earliest reliable account of Turkish shepherd dogs comes from Evliya Çelebi. In his Seyahatname (Book of Travels) he describes the ceremonial parades of the Janissaries, an elite Ottoman force, in which guarding-dogs were displayed in full regalia by their keepers.

Because Kangal name and breed has not been thoroughly defined and documented until recently, because of the slightly similar appearance and desire to capitalize on unique qualities of the breed, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs in general are sometimes labeled Kangals. Kangal is a distinct breed from Karabash, Akbash and the generic Anatolian Shepherd Dog. See Mountain dog breeds.

A contemporary national treasure in Turkey, the Kangal dog is one of over 30 livestock guardian breeds from various countries in Europe and Asia. Each is considered an important part of the culture and history of its region. To protect and conserve the genetic purity of the Kangal Dog, the government of Turkey has established several state-sponsored breeding centers.

In its home district of Kangal in the Sivas Province, the Kangal Dog is still primarily used as a livestock guardian and is highly prized. As the sheep industry continues to decline in eastern , Turkey purebred Kangals of the classic type are becoming increasingly prized, and sell for high prices. Many animals are brought from the villages to compete for prizes during the annual Kangal Festival. In their homeland, kangals are considered the only dogs capable of killing wolves.

Today, the kangal is protected by the Turkish government as part of Turkish national heritage, making it now illegal to export Kangals to non-Turkish nationals. Government sponsored breeding centers have been established at Kangal town and Ulas, where the breeding, development and health records of every dog are charted, regardless of location. Pedigrees are recorded, and certificates of origin are issued to owners of genuine Kangal Dogs.

Britain’s first kangal litter was produced in 1967 by Gazi of Bakirtollo köyü and his mate Sabahat of Hayıroğlu köyü. Dogs from this original line formed the foundation of the so-called "Seacop" stock.

In the US, the first purebred breeding programs for Kangal Dogs began in the early 1980s. The Kangal Dog is recognized by the United Kennel Club in the US, and by the national kennel clubs of South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Many Kangal Dogs are being bred in Germany as well, mostly by immigrant workers. Some are registered as Anatolians, that being the only registration option open to them in Germany; most are unregistered. The Turkish Kennel Club is currently petitioning the FCI for recognition of both the Kangal Dog and the Akbash Dog.

Kangal Dog Club of America

In Namibia the dogs are being used to help protect livestock from cheetah attacks. Kangal shepherd dogs have been bred to stop cheetahs from taking livestock. While depriving the cheetahs of occasional meals, the dogs have been doing them a good turn because, with the livestock left in peace, farmers have little reason to persecute the big cat.

Almost 300 Kangals have been given to farmers in Namibia since 1994 by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and the scheme has proved so successful that it has been extended to Kenya. In Namibia the dogs have been sent to live at 275 farms in the areas where livestock most frequently fall prey to cheetahs.

During the past 14 years the number of cheetahs killed by farmers is calculated to have fallen from 19 per farmer annually to 2.4. Livestock losses have been cut significantly at more than 80 per cent of the farms where the dogs have been adopted. Of the cats that are still killed by farmers the great majority are attributed to specific attacks on livestock instead, as was the case previously, of being tracked and slaughtered whenever they came close to a farm.

Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are also being used in Turkey which is home to less than 1,500 cheetahs. Free-ranging cheetah are at risk inside protected areas from larger predators and most of these enigmatic animals range freely across commercial farmlands where they come into conflict with livestock farmers. An abundant source of unprotected food (sheep, goats or calves) provides predators with an easily accessible resource, which they do not need to hunt. This food source will encourage predators to a farm and assist in their successful breeding resulting in an unsustainable growth of predators. Cheetah, being diurnal, are many times sighted by farmers and inappropriately blamed for all livestock loss resulting in many being trapped for removal or worse, removed by lethal methods of control such as indiscriminate poisoning, hunting and trapping. This often results in the removal of beneficial animals such as bat-eared fox, aardvark and raptors and does not target the problem animal. Hundreds of years of using these methods has not been successful in reducing loss of livestock to predators but has seriously threatened the survival of the more charismatic species, such as cheetah.

The initial pilot initiated in 2005 has demonstrated effectiveness on African farmlands. south africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world and farmers have a key role to play in preserving this. The Anatolian dogs, by working with the farmers, help to promote cheetah conservation on the farms where they are present. To date this programme has demonstrated a remarkable reduction in stock losses experienced by farmers with Anatolian Shepherd Guard Dogs.