The Puli, also known as the Hungarian Puli, the Hungarian Water Dog, the Drover and, when plural, the Pulik, has been assisting Hungarian sheepherders for centuries. Its name is thought to be derived from "Puli Hou," which means "Hun Destroyer" – a reference to its link with the ancient Magyar people. The Puli's most distinctive feature is its unique, dense double coat, which can be corded or brushed. Due to the qualities of their coat, Pulik can live happily in any type of climate. These are highly intelligent dogs that retain their herding instinct. They are naturally wary of strangers and are deeply loyal to their people. The Puli was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936 and is a member of the Herding Group.
The Puli has been a Hungarian sheep-herding dog for over 1,000 years. However, its exact origin is unclear. Some authors think that the Puli migrated with the nomadic Magyar invaders from Siberia and India, while others believe that the breed developed in western China, near Tibet. There is a striking resemblance between Pulik and Tibetan Terriers, which may share a common ancestry. Pulik were used as drovers to move flocks of sheep and were highly valued by their Hungarian owners as guard and watch dogs, as well. The shepherds of Hungary used two breeds: a large white dog (either a Kuvasz or a Komondor) to guard their flocks at night from wild predators and thieves, and a smaller, faster dark dog (a Puli) to work the sheep by day.
During the 16th century, Turkish invaders almost wiped out the Puli breed. Eventually, herdsmen from western Europe repopulated the area, bringing with them French and German herding dogs. This led to various cross-breedings, and ultimately the Pumi and Mudi Hungarian herding breeds were developed. During the late 1800s, the names Pumi and Puli were used almost interchangeably, although they were different breeds. In the early 1900s, a professor at Hungary's veterinary college named Dr. Emil Raitsitz dedicated himself to classifying all of the native Hungarian breeds, and particularly to preserving the Puli. The first breed standard was written in 1915 and accepted by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1924. Initially, the standard included four distinct sizes of Pulik: the large police Puli (19 inches), the medium or working (16 to 19 inches), the small (12 to 16 inches) and the toy or dwarf (11 inches). The breed did not develop sufficient popularity to warrant these size distinctions, and ultimately the medium-sized Puli was retained.
The first Pulik came to America in 1935, where they were used for a project undertaken by the United States Department of Agriculture to evaluate sheepherding dogs. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1936. The Puli Club of America was formed in 1951 and is the parent club for the breed in this country. Today, the Puli is competitive in the show ring and excels as a family companion. He also participates in herding, agility, obedience and therapy dog disciplines, in addition to still being used in many countries for herding work. This keenly intelligent breed has also been used successfully for police work.
The average life span of the Puli is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include elbow and hip dysplasia, diabetes mellitus, cataracts, patellar luxation, progressive retinal atrophy and von Willebrand disease.
The Puli is best known for his corded coat, which looks a lot like he is sporting dreadlocks. These sheepdogs were designed to work hard in the field herding and guarding flocks both by day and by night. The modern Puli is an active dog with energy to spare who soaks up as much time and attention as his family is willing to give. They make excellent companions for active families who have the time and energy to commit to properly exercising and socializing their Puli.
Pulis are not lazy lap dogs – they require a lot of vigorous exercise in order to maintain health, happiness and an even temperament. They are best suited for country life, where they have lots of room to run, and possibly flocks of sheep to herd and guard. Suburban Pulis need to both walk and run on a daily basis. The best outlet for these animals (when not herding) is agility training. They are intelligent dogs who will bore of playing fetch or strolling through the neighborhood. Interesting and challenging activities are a must, because Pulis who are bored or under-exercised can become anxious and destructive.
Pulis were developed to make their own decisions in the field, and modern Pulis are still very independent and dominant by nature, making them a handful to train. You must begin early with your Puli, before bad habits have a chance to set in, and if leadership is not properly established, your Puli will assume he is in charge of the household. A calm-assertive presence coupled with generous praise and treats will yield the best results. Once leadership has been established and your Puli has mastered basic obedience, you should move on to agility or herding activities. These are intelligent dogs who need to work their minds as well as their bodies, and they excel in the competitive arena.
Socialization should also begin early in a Puli's life. They are natural watch dogs, which means they are suspicious of strangers. You must teach your Puli early on that guests are welcome into your home, so that he knows the difference between "good guys" and "bad guys."
Pulis have a strong instinct to chase, so unless your dog is working on a farm, he should be kept on a leash or in a fenced yard. Fences should be at least six feet high, as Pulis are quite agile and have been known to scale shorter fences from a dead standstill. Non-canine pets should not be introduced into a Puli's home, as chaos is guaranteed.
The Puli is first and foremost a sheepdog, and his purpose in life is to herd and guard his flock. If he doesn't have sheep to work with, he will herd people. Playtime with children should be supervised, because Pulis nip at heels when they herd, and can inadvertently hurt someone. Pulis may also be rather unfriendly to neighborhood children, especially if they play rough with "his" kids.
Pulis are not recommended for homes with small children. They are fairly easy-going but they don't have the patience for being climbed on, poked at, or teased. Toddlers may also be inclined to tug on the Puli's unusual corded coat.
Neat freaks will not find Pulis to be ideal housemates. Their rough coats tend to trap and hold everything from water, to food, to dust from the floor, to feces.
The Puli is a compact, square appearing, well balanced dog of medium size. He is vigorous, alert and active. Striking and highly characteristic is the shaggy coat which, combined with his light-footed, distinctive movement, has fitted him for the strenuous work of herding flocks on the plains of Hungary. Agility, combined with soundness of mind and body, is of prime importance for the proper fulfillment of this centuries-old task.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Ideally, males are 17 inches measured from the withers to the ground;bitches, 16 inches. An inch over or under these measurements is acceptable. The tightly knit body approximates a square measured from withers to ground and point of shoulder to point of buttock. Medium boned.
The head is of medium size in proportion to the body. The almond shaped eyes are deep set, rather large, and dark brown with black or slate gray eye rims. The ears, set on somewhat higher than the level of the eyes, are hanging, of medium size, V-shape, and about half the head length. The skull slightly domed and medium broad. The stop is defined, but not abrupt. The muzzle is strong and straight, a third of the head length, and ends in a nose of good size. The nose is always black. Flews and gums are black or slate gray. Flews are tight. A full complement of teeth, comparatively large, meet in a scissors bite.
Neck, Topline, Body
The neck is strong, muscular, of medium length and free of throatiness. The back is level and strong, of medium length, with croup sloping slightly. The chestis moderately broad and deep--the ribs well sprung. The loin is short, strong and moderately tucked up. The tail is carried over, and blends into the backline.
The shoulders are well laid back. Upper arm and scapula are approximately equal in length and form an angle of 90 degrees. The forelegs are straight, strong and medium boned with strong and flexible pasterns. Dewclaws, if any, may be removed. The round, compact feet--have well arched toes and thick cushioned pads. The Puli stands well up on his pads. The pads and nails are black or slate gray.
The hindquarters are well developed and muscular with well bent stifles, the rear assembly balancing that of the front. The hocks are perpendicular to the ground and well let down. Dewclaws, if any, may be removed. Feet as in front.
The dense, weather resistant coat is profuse on all parts of the body. The outer coat is wavy or curly, but never silky. The undercoat is soft, wooly and dense. The coat clumps together easily, and if allowed to develop naturally, will form cords in the adult. The cords are wooly, varying in shape and thickness, either flat or round, depending on the texture of the coat and the balance of undercoat to outer coat. The Puli may be shown either corded or brushed. It is essential that the proper double coat with correct texture always be apparent. With age the coat can become quite long, even reaching to the ground; however, only enough length to properly evaluate quality and texture is considered necessary so as not to penalize the younger or working specimens.
Only the solid colors of rusty black, black, all shades of gray, and white are acceptable; however, on the chest a white spot of not more than 2 inches is permissible. In the black and the gray dogs an intermixture of some gray, black or white hairs is acceptable as long as the overall appearance of a solid color is maintained. The fully pigmented skin has a bluish or gray cast whatever the coat color.
The Puli is typically a lively, acrobatic dog; light, quick, agile and able to change directions instantly. At a collected, or contained trot the gait is distinctive: quick-stepping and animated, not far reaching, yet in no way mincing or stilted. When at a full trot, the Puli covers ground smoothly and efficiently with good reach and drive, the feet naturally tending to converge toward a median line of travel as speed increases. His distinctive movement is essential to the Puli's herding style.
By nature an affectionate, intelligent and home-loving companion, the Puli is sensibly suspicious and therefore an excellent watchdog. Extreme timidity or shyness are serious faults.
Any deviation from the foregoing should be considered a fault, the seriousness of the fault depending upon the extent of the deviation.
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Sources: American Kennel Club