Bold, courageous and fearless, the Kuvasz is an unparalleled livestock guard, able to act at just the right moment without instruction and cover rough terrain for long periods of time. One of the larger working breeds, he is well-muscled and agile. His double coat features a coarse guard hair that protects a soft, fine undercoat. The hair ranges from straight to quite wavy, but must always be white.
The kuvasz is a large dog, slightly longer than tall, and medium-boned. It is not bulky, but instead light-footed, with a free, easy gait. The breed’s combination of power and agility stems from its versatile roots as a guardian, hunter and herder. Its double coat is medium-coarse, ranging from wavy to straight.
Despite its sweet looks, the kuvasz is a tough protector, fearlessly defending its family or home. It is gentle with and protective of children in its own family, but it may misinterpret a child’s rough-and-tumble games with other children as attacks on its child. It is reserved with strangers and may be aggressive toward strange dogs; however, it tends to be very gentle with other pets and livestock. It is devoted and loyal but not very demonstrative. Some can be domineering.
- Kuvaszok require a confident, experienced owner, one who gains their respect and understands their independent nature.
- Kuvaszok shed profusely, especially in the spring and fall. Brushing them at least once a week, and preferably every two to three days, is recommended.
- Like many large dogs, the Kuvasz may develop joint problems if exercised too much while he’s still growing. Don’t push your Kuvasz to over-exercise, jump excessively, or go up and down stairs too often until he’s passed his second birthday.
- Kuvaszok are suspicious of strangers and can be overly protective. Obedience training is imperative when you own a large guarding dog such as a Kuvasz.
- Although he’s pretty self-sufficient, a Kuvasz doesn’t like to be kept apart from his family. Like all dogs, he does best spending at least part of his time with you in the house rather than being left alone in the backyard. There really is no such thing as a “good backyard dog.”
- Your Kuvasz can become aggressive and frustrated if kenneled, tethered, or chained. This is a breed that needs to run. He needs a large, fenced yard as well as a long daily walk or run once he’s physically mature.
- Kuvaszok are intelligent and like many guarding dogs, they think for themselves. Training can be difficult and requires a lot of patience, time, and consistency.
- Although they’re very gentle with children if they were raised with them, Kuvaszok puppies can be rambunctious and may accidentally knock over a small child.
- Your Kuvasz may consider any children other than the kids in your family to be threats. Opt to be safe rather than sorry, and when other kids come over to play, watch your Kuvasz carefully or put him in a secure area.
- Never allow anyone to reprimand your Kuvasz. If he feels that the person who’s reprimanding him isn’t “worthy” to do so, he will resent it.
- The muscular and agile Kuvasz is large and sturdy with a white double coat, dark-brown almond-shaped eyes, drop ears that fall into a V-shape, and a long, furry tail.
Around 2000 BC, the Magyar tribes moved along the recently established trade routes of the steppes, gradually leading them to the Carpathian Basin in Hungary which they conquered in 896 A.D. With them came Kuvasz-type dogs, which primarily served as livestock guardians. In 1978, the fossilized skeleton of a 9th Century Kuvasz-type dog was discovered in Fenékpuszta near Keszthely, a discovery which was remarkable in that the morphology of the skeleton was almost identical to a modern Kuvasz. If accurate, such a discovery would mark the Kuvasz as among the oldest identifiable dog breeds as only a few breeds can be dated beyond the 9th Century.
After the Magyar settlement of the Carpathian Basin, the tribes converted to a more agrarian lifestyle and began to devote more resources towards animal husbandry. Whereas the Komondor was used in the lower elevations with drier climates, the Kuvasz was used in the wet pastures of the higher mountains and both were an integral part of the economy. Later, during the 15th Century, the Kuvasz became a highly prized animal and could be found in the royal court of King Matthias Corvinus. Kuvasz puppies were given to visiting dignitaries as a royal gift, and the King was said to have trusted his dogs more than his own councilors. After the king’s death, the popularity of the breed among the nobles waned but it was still frequently found in its traditional role of protecting livestock.
By the end of World War II, nearly all the Kuvasz dogs in Hungary had been killed. The dogs had such a reputation for protecting their families that they were actively sought and killed by German and Soviet soldiers, while at the same time some German officers used to take Kuvasz dogs home with them. After the Soviet invasion and the end of the war, the breed was nearly extinct in Hungary. After the war, it was revealed that fewer than thirty Kuvasz were left in Hungary and some sources indicate the number may have been as few as twelve. Since then, due to many dedicated breeders, Kuvasz breed have repopulated Hungary. However, as a result of this near extinction, the genetic pool available to breeders was severely restricted and there is conjecture that some may have used other breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, to continue their programs. The issue is further clouded by the need to use an open stud book system at the time to rebuild the breed.
Possible origins of the breed name
The word most likely comes from the Turkic word kavas meaning guard or soldier or kuwasz meaning protector. A related theory posits that the word may have originated from the ancient farmers of Russia, the Chuvash, who nurtured the breed for generations and contributed many words to the Hungarian language.
The Kuvasz is one of the oldest Hungarian dog breeds, with roots tracing back to the 15th century, where they were a favorite guard dog for the noble classes. The modern Kuvasz takes his watchdog role seriously, quietly sizing up newcomers before making a decision about whether they are friend or foe. They are fiercely protective of their property, family, and even other household pets. They have a high tolerance for pain, which means Kuvasz are patient with children who want to climb on them and romp around.
Although generally a healthy and robust breed which can be expected to live approximately 12–14 years, the Kuvasz are prone to developmental bone problems. Accordingly, owners should take care to provide proper nutrition to their Kuvasz puppy and avoid subjecting the puppy to rough play. As with many large breeds, hip dysplasia, a painful and potentially debilitating condition, is not uncommon. Good genetics and proper nutrition as a puppy are key to avoiding these complications.
The belief that a large breed puppies including Kuvasz puppy should not be fed a diet high in calories or protein has largely been dispelled by studies. Bone and joint disorders are thought to be genetic. However, weight can be an influencing factor. Puppies should be fed a balanced diet. The Kuvasz has a very efficient metabolism and is predisposed to rapid growth—vitamin supplements are not necessary and, in fact, should be avoided. Cooked bones should never be given to a Kuvasz or any other dog because the cooking process renders the bone brittle and prone to splintering, which can cause serious injury to the dog’s mouth and digestive tract.
Coat care consists of weekly brushing; however, daily brushing is required when the dog undergoes its seasonal shedding. The dog needs daily exercise in the form of a good run in an enclosed area and a long walk.
It is fond of cold weather and can survive outside in cool and temperate climates. Despite this, Kuvasz experts recommend allowing the dog to spend time both in the yard and indoors.
The Kuvasz is not recommended for apartment life. It is fairly active indoors and does best with at least a large yard. Do not leave this dog alone in the backyard for long stretches of time, as he may become destructive. Vigorous exercise should help with this. The Kuvasz should never be left outside all tied up, for this could lead to viciousness. It will do best in a large enclosed yard. It especially enjoys cold weather and can live outdoors in temperate to cold climates as long as it has a doghouse and fresh water, but will do best if allowed access to both the house and yard. The Kuvasz’s thick coat makes him very uncomfortable in warm weather or humid conditions; it should always have plenty of shade and fresh water.
Training a Kuvasz can be a challenge. This is a dominant breed with a huge physical presence, and they like to be in charge at all times. They were developed to make independent decisions in the field, and that independent air has not left the modern Kuvasz. You must teach him early who the true leaders are in the house, or he will naturally assume the role.
Consistency is the key to raising an obedient Kuvasz. They are vigilant, and will be on the lookout for the first sign you have bent the rules, and promptly take over. Training should be firm, but never harsh as this can lead to avoidance behaviors. Positive reinforcement, lots of treats and always meaning what you say are the best recipe for success.
Protectiveness is in the Kuvasz DNA, so socialization should be conducted early and often. These dogs need to understand how welcome guests behave, so that their wariness of strangers does not get out of hand.
The Kuvasz needs vigorous daily exercise. If it is not actively working as a flock guardian it needs to be taken on a daily, long brisk walk or jog. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog’s mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. Exercising should help with chewing or digging problems—in hopes that it will tire the dog out.
The Kuvasz has a beautiful white double coat that sheds dirt but also sheds hair. Brush him weekly with a pin brush to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Trim the fur between his toes to keep his feet in good condition. His coat repels water and sheds dirt easily with brushing, so a bath is rarely necessary.
When summer comes along, don’t think that your Kuvasz has suddenly developed a disease that causes hair loss. It’s normal for the Kuvasz to lose most of his long coat during hot weather.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Children And Other Pets
Kuvaszok are fond of children, and can be gentle and protective with them. If your kids are playing with friends, though, it’s essential to supervise if a Kuvasz is nearby. He may mistake other children’s play for aggression and will move to protect “his” kids. Kuvaszok puppies can be too rambunctious for young children.
As with any dog, always teach children how to safely approach and touch your Kuvasz, and supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent biting or tail-pulling from either party.
Is the Kuvasz the Right Dog for You?
Kuvaszok are protective dogs who need socialization and training. They are great with children and other pets, but they should not be left alone with children they do not know. They are wary of strangers and will be picky when choosing whom to trust. They should not be left alone for very long.
Daily exercise is a must. These dogs also need regular grooming and can shed heavily a couple of times per year.
Keeping regular veterinary visits and feeding a quality dog food will give your Kuvasz the best chance at a healthy life. The double coat makes them ideal for colder climates, but they can live in warmer climates and will shed the outer coat.
If you are looking for a protective family dog and can commit to socializing and training a dog, consider the Kuvasz for your next pet.
Did You Know?
The name Kuvasz is thought to derive either from a corruption of the Turkish word Kawasz, meaning “armed guard of the nobility,” or the Arabic word kawwasz, meaning “archer.”