The Kuvasz, sometimes called the Hungarian Kuvasz and originally known as the Ku Assa, descends from exotic giant dogs of ancient Tibet. Its name is a corrupted spelling of Arabian and Turkish words that reflect the unparalleled guarding instincts of this large breed. The Turkish term kawasz means "armed guard of the nobility. The Arabian word kawwasz means "archer," which reflects the high esteem in which the dog was held. The Kuvasz was bred to protect flocks of sheep belonging to nomadic Hungarian shepherds. The breed is known for its keen intelligence, fearlessness and loyalty. It is an intimidating and independent guard dog, known to act on its own initiative when it deems it appropriate. The Kuvasz is related to and closely resembles the Slovakian Shepherd Dog and the Tatra Mountain Sheepdog from Poland. The Kuvasz was accepted for entry into the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1931 and was given eligibility for full registration in 1974, as a member of the Working Group.
Mature male Kuvaszok should stand 28 to 30 inches at the withers and weigh approximately 100 to 115 pounds. Females should stand 26 to 28 inches measured at the same place and weigh about 70 to 90 pounds. Dogs under 26 inches, and bitches under 24 inches, are disqualified under the American breed standard. The pure white or ivory Kuvasz has a thick double coat that ranges from wavy to straight, with neither being preferred over the other. They shed their coat during hot weather.
History & Health
Today's Kuvasz, smaller than its giant ancestors, was largely developed in Hungary. The Kuvasz was a constant in the European kingdoms and empires that flourished five to eight hundred years ago, although the breed is thousands of years old and probably was brought to Hungary by nomadic Magyar tribes who traveled between Asia and Europe. The Kuvasz is related to the Komondor, according to von Stephanitz, a renowned German authority on Central European breeds. He speculates that the Kavasz or Kawwasz was crossed with native Hungarian country dogs to produce the Kuvasz of today. In the 14th and 15th centuries, only royalty and those favored in royal circles were allowed go own a Kuvasz. In the latter half of the 15th century, the Kuvasz was revered far and wide, often trained for hunting big game and protecting the huge estates of that time. King Matthias Corvinus I, who reigned in Hungary from 1458 to 1490, reportedly had at least a brace (two) of Kuvasz with him at all times, even during travel, with many more roaming his palace and surrounding grounds. Those were tumultuous times in Hungary, and he is said to have trusted and relied on his Kuvaszok (plural) more than any of his family or household guards. Matthias developed a large hunting pack of Kuvasz, and his kennels were among the finest in all of Europe. The gift of a Kuvasz from the King was a high honor. Legend has it that King Matthias honored Count Dracula with a puppy from the Royal Kennels upon his release from prison and marriage to the King's daughter.
Eventually, long after the time of Matthias I, commoners and peasants acquired these dogs and found them highly adept at guarding their flocks, cattle and farms. The breed name became corrupted to "Kuvasz" during this time, which unfortunately means "mongrel." The first dog show at which Kuvaszok were entered was in Vienna in 1883. The first Hungarian breed standard was written in 1885, and the first Hungarian breed registry was founded in 1905. The chaos of World War II almost destroyed the breed, but a few specimens survived. Interest in the breed resurfaced after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. A revised breed standard was written in 1960, and the breed was accepted by the FCI in 1963.
The Kuvasz came to America in the 1920s and became particularly popular with western ranchers, where he is still prized as a patrol dog and livestock guardian. The first Kuvasz was entered in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1931. The Kuvasz Club of America, founded in 1966, was granted status as the breed's official parent club in 1993. The American Kennel Club afforded the Kuvasz full registration in the Working Group 1974.
The Kuvasz is a tough breed – bold, wary, protective, suspicious of strangers and very discriminating in its friends. This is not a dog for everyone.
The average life span of the Kuvasz is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include congenital deafness, entropion, cataracts, cruciate ligament injuries (CCL or ACL), hip dysplasia, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, hypothyroidism, osteochondritis dissecans and progressive retinal atrophy.
Temperament & Personality
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.
Kuvasz are a giant breed, and should not be kept in an apartment, condominium or city home without a yard. These are pure country dogs who need a lot of room to move, both indoors and out. To maintain health and even temperament, Kuvasz only require a couple of daily walks and weekly chances to run, but when they run the need wide open spaces. This breed should not be over exercised in summer months, as they are prone to overheating.
If a Kuvasz is expected to guard livestock, special training will be required. They are good at what they do, but they need to be taught how to do it. In some breeds, this is a natural tendency, but the Kuvasz needs to bond with the animals he will be expected to protect.
Kuvasz should never live in a kennel or be tethered outdoors for long periods of time, as this can lead to serious aggression. Kuvasz are independent and sometimes aloof, but they deeply love their families and even if they spend their days with livestock, should be allowed to eat and sleep in the house.
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.
Kuvasz are prone to bark excessively, and their bark is loud and booming. As guard dogs, they take their duties seriously, and will alert you (and the entire neighborhood) that they have seen or heard something approaching. This can get out of hand at night time, when they are most vigilant. Teaching your Kuvasz to obey commands to stop barking will save everyone's sanity, and keep your relationship with neighbors harmonious.
Animal aggression can often be a problem with Kuvasz. In the field, it is their job to chase animals away, and to kill if necessary. At home, they won't take kindly to neighborhood animals strolling onto their property. While they can coexist peacefully in homes with multiple pets, it is best that the Kuvasz be raised along side the other pets, and that no other animals be introduced after puppyhood. It is also important to always have your Kuvasz on a leash when he is not in a fenced-in yard.
Kuvasz will get along well with children in his own family, but outside children may not be accepted. If a Kuvasz sees a strange child playing rough with one of "his" children, his protective instinct will take over.
A working dog of larger size, sturdily built, well balanced, neither lanky nor cobby. White in color with no markings. Medium boned, well muscled, without the slightest hint of bulkiness or lethargy. Impresses the eye with strength and activity combined with light-footedness, moves freely on strong legs. The following description is that of the ideal Kuvasz. Any deviation must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Height measured at the withers: Dogs, 28 to 30 inches; bitches, 26 to 28 inches. Disqualifications: Dogs smaller than 26 inches. Bitches smaller than 24 inches. Weight: Dogs approximately 100 to 115 pounds, bitches approximately 70 to 90 pounds. Trunk and limbs form a horizontal rectangle slightly deviated from the square. Bone in proportion to size of body. Medium, hard. Never heavy or coarse. Any tendency to weakness or lack of substance is a decided fault.
Proportions are of great importance as the head is considered to be the most beautiful part of the Kuvasz. Length of head measured from tip of nose to occiput is slightly less than half the height of the dog at the withers. Width is half the length of the head. Eyes almond-shaped, set well apart, somewhat slanted. In profile, the eyes are set slightly below the plane of the muzzle. Lids tight, haws should not show. Dark brown, the darker the better. Ears V-shaped, tip is slightly rounded. Rather thick, they are well set back between the level of the eye and the top of the head. When pulled forward the tip of the ear should cover the eye. Looking at the dog face to face, the widest part of the ear is about level to the eye. The inner edge of the ear lies close to the cheek, the outer edge slightly away from the head forming a V. In the relaxed position, the ears should hold their set and not cast backward. The ears should not protrude above the head. The skull is elongated but not pointed. The stop is defined, never abrupt, raising the forehead gently above the plane of the muzzle. The longitudinal midline of the forehead is pronounced, widening as it slopes to the muzzle. Cheeks flat, bony arches above the eyes. The skin is dry. Muzzle: length in proportion to the length of the head, top straight, not pointed, underjaw well developed. Inside of the mouth preferably black. Nose large, black nostrils well opened. Lips black, closely covering the teeth. The upper lip covers tightly the upper jaw only; no excess flews. Lower lip tight and not pendulous. Bite: dentition full, scissors bite preferred. Level bite acceptable. Disqualifications: overshot bite; undershot bite.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck muscular, without dewlap, medium length, arched at the crest. Back is of medium length, straight, firm and quite broad. The loin is short, muscular and tight. The croup well muscled, slightly sloping. Forechest is well developed. When viewed from the side, the forechest protrudes slightly in front of the shoulders. Chest deep with long, well-sprung ribs reaching almost to the elbows. The brisket is deep, well developed and runs parallel to the ground. The stomach is well tucked up. Tail carried low, natural length reaching at least to the hocks. In repose it hangs down resting on the body, the end but slightly lifted. In state of excitement, the tail may be elevated to the level of the loin, the tip slightly curved up. Ideally there should not be much difference in the carriage of the tail in state of excitement or in repose.
Shoulders muscular and long. Topline--withers are higher than the back. The scapula and humerus form a right angle, are long and of equal length. Elbows neither in nor out. Legs are medium boned, straight and well muscled. The joints are dry, hard. Dewclaws on the forelegs should not be removed. Feet well padded. Pads resilient, black. Feet are closed tight, forming round "cat feet." Some hair between the toes, the less the better. Dark nails are preferred.
The portion behind the hip joint is moderately long, producing wide, long and strong muscles of the upper thigh. The femur is long, creating well-bent stifles. Lower thigh is long, dry, well muscled. Metatarsus is short, broad and of great strength. Dewclaws, if any, are removed. Feet as in front, except the rear paws somewhat longer.
The Kuvasz has a double coat, formed by guard hair and fine undercoat. The texture of the coat is medium coarse. The coat ranges from quite wavy to straight. Distribution follows a definite pattern over the body regardless of coat type. The head, muzzle, ears and paws are covered with short, smooth hair. The neck has a mane that extends to and covers the chest. Coat on the front of the forelegs up to the elbows and the hind legs below the thighs is short and smooth. The backs of the forelegs are feathered to the pastern with hair 2 to 3 inches long. The body and sides of the thighs are covered with a medium length coat. The back of the thighs and the entire tail are covered with hair 4 to 6 inches long. It is natural for the Kuvasz to lose most of the long coat during hot weather. Full luxuriant coat comes in seasonally, depending on climate. Summer coat should not be penalized.
White. The skin is heavily pigmented. The more slate gray or black pigmentation the better.
Easy, free and elastic. Feet travel close to the ground. Hind legs reach far under, meeting or even passing the imprints of the front legs. Moving toward an observer, the front legs do not travel parallel to each other, but rather close together at the ground. When viewed from the rear, the hind legs (from the hip joint down) also move close to the ground. As speed increases, the legs gradually angle more inward until the pads are almost single-tracking. Unless excited, the head is carried rather low at the level of the shoulders. Desired movement cannot be maintained without sufficient angulation and firm slimness of body.
A spirited dog of keen intelligence, determination, courage and curiosity. Very sensitive to praise and blame. Primarily a one-family dog. Devoted, gentle and patient without being overly demonstrative. Always ready to protect loved ones even to the point of self-sacrifice. Extremely strong instinct to protect children. Polite to accepted strangers, but rather suspicious and very discriminating in making new friends. Unexcelled guard, possessing ability to act on his own initiative at just the right moment without instruction. Bold, courageous and fearless. Untiring ability to work and cover rough terrain for long periods of time. Has good scent and has been used to hunt game.
Overshot bite. Undershot bite.
Dogs smaller than 26 inches. Bitches smaller than 24 inches.
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Sources: American Kennel Club