As the name implies, Anatolian Shepherds come from Anatolia, a large peninsula making up a significant portion of Turkey. These dogs, also simply called Anatolians, are large, dignified dogs bred to protect their families and livestock from danger.
- Large, loyal dogs bred to defend livestock
- Breed can be traced as far back as 6,000 BCE
- Very intelligent and devoted
- Bred in climates that ranged from swelteringly hot in the summer to reaching sub-zero temperatures in the winter
This breed can be traced back all the way to early civilization. They originated from Anatolia, a large peninsula which now makes up a large part of Turkey. Anatolians likely came from an ancient breed called Coban Kopegi, which means “shepherd’s dog.” These were an early forerunner of the Anatolian Shepherd, and can be traced back to around 6000 BCE.
Anatolians were bred to protect shepherds’ livestock in the harsh and varying weather conditions of Anatolia. Ancient Assyrian carvings from 2000 BCE show images of dogs that were likely direct ancestors of the modern Anatolian. There are also references in very early books of the Bible that refer to dogs that were most likely a variation of the breed we know today.
Anatolians came to America shortly before the Second World War. A program dedicated to learning which breeds would be best for working on American sheep pastures imported a breeding pair of livestock guardian dogs from Turkey. The project was quickly disbanded at the outbreak of war. Luckily, Anatolians were able to see an increase in interest in the 1950s, and solidified their place in American history in the 1970s with further import from Turkey. Some of imported dogs were of Akbash breed, but mostly Kangals, so Anatolians are very close to the latter. Today, many Anatolians are still working farm dogs, dedicated to protecting livestock.
Appearance and Vital Stats
The Anatolian Shepherd is a large, at first imposing dog. Anatolians are muscular, tall, with a broad head. They tend to be rugged-looking, and are dogs that are exactly as strong as they look.
Dog Breed Group
It should come as no surprise that Anatolians are part of the Working dog breed group. Dogs in the Working Group were bred to work and assist humans in a variety of tasks. Anatolian Shepherds, of course, belong in this breed group because they were bred specifically to protect livestock on Anatolian farms. Today, many farmers do still use Anatolians as farm dogs.
Anatolians are large dogs. Male Anatolians will stand at about 29 inches, while females measure around 27 inches.
In terms of weight, Anatolians can weigh between a whopping 110 to 150 pounds. This is one big breed!
Despite their large size, Anatolians tend to live fairly long lives when compared to other large breeds. Your healthy, well-cared for Anatolian can be expected to have a life span of about 11 to 13 years.
Coat and Colors
All coloring variations are seen as acceptable by the AKC when it comes to the Anatolian’s coloration. You will commonly find Anatolians with a fawn-colored coat accompanied by a black mask. White, pinto, and brindle are all also colors common to the Anatolian.
The Anatolian’s coat is short and thick, getting longer and thicker around the neck and mane. They will also have a thick, dense undercoat. You will likely see some feathering of the fur around the tail, legs, and ears.
Although the Anatolian Shepherd tends to have a shorter coat, they do shed a good deal. You can expect to need to sweep or vacuum up fur a couple of times a week. This will be especially true during your Anatolian’s shedding season in spring and summer, where he will shed his undercoat. You’ll likely find an excessive amount of fur being shed around this time.
An Anatolian’s tail is long, reaching its hocks, with a slight upwards curl when down. When an Anatolian is carrying his tail upright, it will create a “wheel” effect.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog’s ears are V-shaped, and will flop over rather than standing upright. Upright ears are considered unacceptable for the AKC’s breed standard.
Since they were bred to be working dogs spending a lot of time alone outside with the flock, Anatolians tend to be very independent dogs. They are deeply loyal animals, and will be very protective of the livestock they guard, or the families they live with.
These are also incredibly intelligent dogs, though their independence does lead them to have a somewhat stubborn nature. As they were bred to be able to make decisions on their own, they might consider some of your requests for them unnecessary.
It’s important to start with obedience training early in your Anatolian Shepherd’s life, so that they learn that while they are intelligent dogs, you are the master, and what you say goes.
It should also be noted here that while Anatolians make excellent protective dogs, attack training is not recommended for these dogs. The Anatolian will instinctively protects his home, and attack training might exacerbate aggression problems in your dog.
Anatolians do tend to be very calm and reserved. They will be wary of strangers, but fiercely loyal to their owners and families. They are also fairly quiet, and won’t bark much. Don’t expect an especially playful dog when you adopt an Anatolian Shepherd. Their dignified and reserved nature won’t leave much room for playtime. Do expect a loving, devoted animal ready to protect you and your family.
The Anatolian won’t make a great dog for a first-time owner. But if you’re looking for a loyal, protective dog and you’re willing to put in the work it takes to properly train these stubborn animals, then the Anatolian might be perfect for you.
Despite their calmness and reserved attitudes, Anatolians don’t tend to do very well in apartment. These are large working dogs who are used to being able to roam the field with their flocks, and so they won’t fare well in small spaces.
Instead, you should make sure to have a fenced in yard for your Anatolian. Your fence should be at least 6 feet high, as the Anatolian’s protective nature might make him attempt to climb over the fence if he thinks someone on the other side is too close to his territory.
Children and Other Pets
Like all dogs, the rule of thumb is to socialize your Anatolian as early in his life as possible. This will ensure he’s used to kids and other animals. Anatolians do generally tend to do well with other animals, including cats.
Be wary of choosing an Anatolian if you have a family, as they may not recognize your young children as leaders of the pack. Because of the Anatolian’s size, it’s easy for them to knock small children over. They might also interpret rough playtime amongst kids as a danger, and will attempt to intervene which could potentially be harmful to your children. If you do have kids, you should never leave them and your dog alone unsupervised.
Anatolians do tend to do well with older kids, however. Make sure that your dog is well socialized, and that your children know to be respectful, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
As a large breed, you’ll need to feed your Anatolian Shepherd 3 to 4 cups of high-quality dry dog food per day. It’s best to split this up into two or three meals to keep your dog from eating too quickly, keep him feeling full throughout the day, and to prevent bloat.
As a breed that tends not to require much exercise, Anatolians do have a tendency to become obese. As long as you are not overfeeding him and getting him enough moderate exercise, he should maintain a healthy weight.
The Anatolian Shepherd requires very little in the way of grooming. Most of the year, you’ll only need to brush him about once or twice a week to get rid of regularly shedding fur.
During shedding season, however, the Anatolian will shed much more. The profuse shedding occurs as the Anatolian sheds his thick undercoat during warm seasons. You’ll probably need to brush him every few days during this period, to help get rid of all the dead fur with a short-bristle brush.
Make sure to trim your Anatolian’s nails, about once a week, and brush his teeth daily to maintain his oral health.
Anatolians only need a moderate amount of exercise, which means one or two long walks a day will suffice. You should also allow him time in the yard, so a fenced in yard is a must if you’re considering getting an Anatolian Shepherd.
Anatolians don’t tend to be very playful, so a game of fetch won’t interest him much if you’re trying to exercise him that way. Instead, he’ll prefer to lay out in the yard, guarding the home.
Anatolians are generally healthy dogs, who don’t tend to suffer from bloat or hip dysplasia, as other large breeds tend to do. As with all breeds, however, there are some health concerns that owners and potential owners of Anatolian Shepherds should be aware of.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Anatolian Shepherds. Osteosarcoma is a very common form of cancer in large dogs like Anatolians. It is an aggressive cancer of the bone, and early signs often include lameness in your dog. If your dog is limping, bring him to your vet to get him checked for any other signs of osteosarcoma.
Anatolians can be prone to hypothyroidism. The thyroid is a gland in charge of making certain essential hormones for your dog. If your dog has hypothyroidism, he might gain weight, have dry skin, or have behavioral problems like aggression or fearfulness.
If your Anatolian is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, he will be treated by being given replacement hormones, usually as a pill, as well as changes to the diet.
Entropion is a hereditary condition where a dog’s eyelid rolls inward. This can cause irritation and pain as the eyelashes rub against the dog’s cornea. Left untreated, entropion can eventually cause blindness in your dog. If your dog is diagnosed with entropion, a corrective surgery performed early enough will usually fix the problem.
Central Asian Shepherd Dog
Though the Central Asian Shepherd Dog is another large dog breed, they do tend to be generally smaller than those Anatolian cousins. Central Asian Shepherds tend to stand between 25.5 inches to 27.5 inches, and weight between 90 to 110 pounds. These dogs will require even less grooming than the Anatolian (except during shedding season, when both breeds shed about the same level). They tend to have longer lives than Anatolians, sometimes upwards of 17 years.
Central Asian Sheep Dogs have a tendency to be piebald. Their ears will be much shorter than an Anatolian’s, as well as their tails.
Caucasian Shepherd Dogs
These dogs see quite a variation in height, ranging from 23 to 30 inches. Though some might stand shorter than the Anatolian, you’re likely to find some that will be a couple of inches taller, too. The Caucasian Shepherd Dog can be heavier than the Anatolian, weighing in at about 99 to 170 pounds. You can expect a Caucasian Shepherd Dog to live about the same amount of time as an Anatolian, with a lifespan of about 10 to 12 years.
These woolly dogs were bred for the same purpose as the Anatolian—protecting livestock. The length of their fur can differ among the breed, but many of them have thick, long fur to keep them warm in the cold mountain range where they originally were bred.
These thick-coated dogs stand at about 27 to 32 inches for males and 25 to 29 inches for females. They can weigh upwards of 100 pounds, making them about the same size as the Anatolian.
The Great Pyrenees has a thick, rather long coat, which protects him from harsh, cold weather. Like the Anatolian, he’ll shed seasonally, and produce a lot of fur. He tends to be all white, though sometimes you’ll find Great Pyrenees dogs white with gray, tan, or reddish markings.