The Anatolian Shepherd is an ancient breed of working dog that was developed to protect the livestock and shepherds of the Anatolian plains – a region that’s today part of modern Turkey.
Traditionally bred as a guardian dog to protect sheep, cattle, and farmers from predators and intruders, the Anatolian Shepherd continues in this role today and is also well known for protecting endangered species of animals in the US, too!
This enormous dog isn’t for first-timers, but if you get past their fierce outlook and train them well, they'll guard you and your family without fail.
In this article, we explain everything you didn’t know about the Anatolian Shepherd!
Anatolian Shepherd: Breed Facts and Characteristics
The Anatolian Shepherd is one of the heaviest dog breeds, which is why this shepherd dog isn’t well suited to first-time owners!
As far as huge dog breeds go, the Anatolian Shepherd is up there with the Mastiffs, the Irish Wolfhounds, and the Newfoundlands in terms of weight and height. Although not necessarily as well known as these large dog breeds, the Anatolian Shepherd is just as big.
Here are the average height, weight, and life expectancy figures for a fully grown Anatolian Shepherd.
Male Anatolian Shepherd
Average height: 29 inches
Average weight: 130 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 years
Female Anatolian Shepherd
Average height: 27 inches
Average weight: 100 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 years
These are big, powerful, strong dogs that are used to living outdoors. The Anatolian Shepherd dog needs lots of exercise and lots of space to be happy.
And what about their personalities and temperaments? Like many other big dog breeds that have evolved primarily as a shepherd’s dog or as a guard dog, the Anatolian Shepherd is incredibly intelligent, fiercely loyal, and very territorial.
The Anatolian Shepherd dog is strong-minded but patient under the right guidance. They take some training, but the rewards for owners are endless. Raise Anatolian Shepherd puppies well, and they’ll look after you and your family with undying loyalty.
Equally, once you get to know them – and once you’ve trained and reared them – then the Anatolian Shepherd dog breed is calm and collected and surprisingly affectionate. They’ll try to cuddle up (despite their size!) and will be happy using a bed ramp for dogs to try and get on the sofa with you!
The History of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog
So, where is Anatolia, and what’s the history behind the Anatolian Shepherd dog? As well as being known for their size, Anatolian Shepherd dogs are highly regarded for their heritage. In fact, as far as shepherd dog breeds go, this is one of the oldest in the world.
The Anatolian Shepherd takes its name from the Anatolian region. This ancient part of the world is today found in modern Turkey but has seen countless civilizations, from the Greeks and Romans to the Armenians and Ottomans, pass through.
The wide-open plains made this the perfect land for rearing livestock, and archeological findings suggest that the shepherds here first domesticated dogs to work as guardians as far back as 2000 BCE – perhaps longer!
Anatolian Shepherd dogs have since lived alongside the shepherds of Anatolia, and they have changed little in centuries. Today, they are increasingly popular around the world, too. Their fierce loyalty and size have made them popular guard dogs, while their ability to protect livestock has seen them adopted by wildlife protection programs where they are tasked with hunting predators!
How to Take Care of an Anatolian Shepherd
We’ve said it already, but we’ll say it again: the Anatolian Shepherd is not a breed for inexperienced dog owners.
Yes, the Anatolian Shepherd is dedicated, loyal, and fiercely protective, but owners need to know how to handle this breed to get the best out of them. It all starts with the training, and puppies need to be reared appropriately for either their working environment (as a livestock guardian) or for more domesticated, urban life.
Anatolian shepherds need lots of exercise and lots of space, however, so they aren’t suitable pets for small households. You’ll need a large garden or land for them to run on (they are working dogs, after all), and you will need to be confident handling a large dog in public if you take them to the local park.
Exercise aside, though, Anatolian Shepherds don’t need much grooming at all (again, they are tough, working dogs), and they aren’t fussy eaters. Once you’ve earned their respect, they are remarkably easygoing!
Interesting Facts About Anatolian Shepherds
This is a fascinating breed of dog, so let’s take a look at a few curious facts about the Anatolian Shepherd.
#1. One of the oldest breeds in the world
Anatolia is filled with ancient history, and the Anatolian Shepherd has been a part of that ancient history since the beginning. This breed is as old as the Pharaoh breeds of Egypt or the ancient hounds of Afghanistan.
#2. Bred to be guardians
The Anatolian Shepherd was specifically bred to guard flocks of sheep and herds of livestock. They were bred to be fierce, to attack predators (there are bears and wolves in Anatolia), and to blend in with the flocks they guarded. They are super-strong, full of stamina, and ready to tackle anything that gets in the way of them and their flocks.
#3. Bred to be survivors
As well as being bred to protect livestock, these dogs were bred to survive all on their own. They’ve retained their ancient, predatorial, and survival instincts and will be quite happy out in the wild. Given the cold winters and high altitude of Anatolia, they are rugged animals that can weather even the worst conditions.
#4. The Anatolian Shepherd only recently left Anatolia
They might have been bred thousands of years ago, but it’s only recently that the Anatolian Shepherd dogs have left their homeland. For centuries, the breed was relatively unknown, and the Anatolian sheepherders were happy to keep it that way.
In the 1900s, the breed became more well known, and there were efforts to export them for use on farms around the world. The US got in on the game, too, and even created a secret government program that aimed to start breeding them on home soil.
#5. Anatolian Shepherds protect endangered species
Protecting endangered species was one of the primary reasons the US government was interested in breeding these powerful dogs. They were specifically brought over from Turkey to be trained to protect endangered animals from predators, a role for which they were well suited.
This dog breed’s exceptional skills have been put to use all around the world, too, and they are now commonly found protecting both livestock and endangered animals in the remotest parts of the world.
Of particular note is the protection they offer to endangered cheetahs in Namibia. The dogs are used to protect livestock, and more often than not, even cheetahs will be scared off by their presence. This saves the farmer from shooting the cheetah to save the flock!
The Anatolian Shepherd: The Last Say
The Anatolian Shepherd isn’t the largest dog breed in the world, but it’s up there with the biggest!
These dogs can be a challenge to train and look after, but for experienced dog handlers, the rewards are the loyalty, dedication, and protection of one of the best working dogs out there.
If you’re interested in raising an Anatolian Shepherd, then why not bookmark our guide for later?