Turkish Dog Breeds

by Catherine Marien-de Luca, Dogbreedsoftheworld.org
There are two types of Turkish dog breeds: livestock guard dogs and hunting dogs. Most of native Turkish breeds are livestock guard dogs, except for the Turkmen Tazi and Catalburun, a sight hunting and pointing breed, respectively. The Catalburun and Tazi are the only native hunting breeds of Turkey.
Unlike the "shepherd" breeds of the West, the Turkish shepherd dogs do not usually herd sheep or move them from one area to another by biting, chasing, or barking at them. Instead, they are usually left alone with the sheep and almost always act independently of a handler (the shepherd). They are discouraged from biting, chasing, and barking at sheep. They must be able to act  independently and react instinctively while protecting the flock against predators, while being attentive to sheep and not harm them. Most of these breeds are very intelligent, alert, and confident. See also: livestock guardian dogs.

Similarly to the herding dogs described by ancient Roman writers, most of these dogs are white in color. The white coat color made that de dog was more easily accepted by the sheep and could not be mistaken for a darker colored predator by the shepherd. Darker colored dogs were more usefull at night as property guards, because they were hard to see and could surprise human intruders. For the same reason darker colored dogs were also predominantly used by the military.

Broadly speaking there are two types of coat types in the herd guards: "Kirik" and "kaba. Kirik, which literally means 'broken' is a short coat, but in the sense of "something that has not grown enough". Kaba stands for 'long coat', something 'wooly' and with substance, not necessarily a really long coat. All kaba dogs have thick, bushy tails, but some kaba dogs have longer hair on their body coat as well.

There has been a great deal of confusion concerning the Turkish guard dog breeds. They are often "lumped" together as Anatolian Shepherds, not taking into account conformation and behavorial differences. Studies have shown that guarding ability varies from one breed to another (Green and Woodruff, 1993) and different breeds can be matched to specific guarding situations (pastures or open range).  The Turkish guard dog breeds often evolved in relatively remote regions where they were selectively bred to adapt to the local conditions and guarding situations. Each region developed their own livestock guard dog with their specific characteristics.

Akbash Dog (Akbas)
Akbash dog with typical spike collar
Source: The Akbash dog
A white-colored lifestock guard dog from Western Turkey, which bears some similarities with (and maybe related to) some other white flock guarders, such as the Komondor, Tatra Mountain Sheepdog, Kuvasz and the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. As compared to the Kangal dog, the Akbash dog has a more "tucked-up" appearance, showing signs of greyhound or gazehound influence.
Both breeds are often seen in their native land wearing an iron, spiked collar, often with a piece of cloth underneath it to protect their necks and sporting  "cropped" ears as are seen here on this mature male Akbash Dog in the Sivrihisar region.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a muscular, broad-headed flock guardian dog breed native to Anatolia (Turkey). The Anatolian shepherd comes in various colors which keep close to the original wolf grey. The main or base color of the breed is wolf grey and includes white, yellow and black. The perfect blend of these colors includes white, black and yellow in the right proportion is known as agouti. However, all tan or all white specimens also appear in some regions of Anatolia.


The only native pointing breed of Turkey is known as 'çatalburun' in its home country. The term refers to the breeds most distinctive feature, its split nose. The term "çatal" means fork and "burun" means nose. See also: unusual dog breeds.
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Catalburun with split nose
Source: Catalburun.com
Kangal Dog

A typical molosser breed, heavily built with a relatively short neck and muzzle, but without the exaggerated traits seen in many modern molossers. The Turkish Kangal dog is named after the town of Kangal in Sivas province, which has been the "epicenter" of the Kangal Dog to this day. The breed shows an amazing uniformity of type in its home country, where it is used in great numbers to guard flocks and villages. The breed is considered a national treasure in Turkey and export has become increasingly difficult. Many Kangal dogs have also served as military dogs.

As compared to the other Turkish flock guards, the Kangal is heavier in body structure, with a blunt muzzle, though not nearly as exaggerated in proportion as many modern day mastiff breeds.
The Kangal's more rounded skull, powerfull chest, broad skull and semi-square muzzle, as well as the typical kangal pendant ears are reminiscent of the early molossers. Kangal Dogs have a body color ranging from pale fawn to gray dun with as distinctive traits the black muzzle and ears. This coloration is often called "boz" (dun) or "karabash," which means "black head" in Turkish. They may have white feet and a chest blaze, but are never pinto, white, or brindle. The coat is short and dense with a soft grey undercoat that protects them in the harsh winters and blistering summers of their native region.

Thanks to its protective instincts, deep voice and sense of territoriality the Kangal dog makes an excellent guard dog who will present a challenge to any would-be intruder with malicious intents.


Some sources consider the Karabash a separate line of dogs that are relatively aggressive. However, the name of Anatolian in Turkey is Karabash, so it may just be another name for the Anatolian shepherd dog.

Kars dog

Kars dogs is a Turkish Caucasian dog found in the northeast part of Turkey, more precisely in the Kars region. This region of Turkey neighbors other Caucasian countries. This multi-colored, heavy-coated livestock guard first described in the study Classification of the Native Dogs of Turkey, authored and presented by David Nelson at the 1996 International Symposium on Turkish Shepherd Dogs in Konya, Turkey.

Kars dogs are characteristically similar to the Caucasian Ovcharka, which is bred in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran.  Coat color is dark or light agouti gray, and it is lighter (light gray or yellowish) towards the tail and legs. The head is large and typical of molosser dogs, often with a dark facial mask. Coat length can be long, medium or short.


Konya dogs are softer in temperament and can be kept as pets. Of all Turkish breeds they are the most successful wrestlers. These dogs can attack man as well if they are raised in a certain way and they can be devastating. They are primarily old war dogs, not shepherds.


The Malak dog is a Turkish molosser-type of dog that is very similar to the Kangal. However, its coat color can be of any color, while white is not a color usually seen in Kangals. The name 'Malak' means  "like a buffalo" and was given to the dogs because of their hanging lips and cheeks. The temperament of these dogs is similar to that of a Buffalo, too.   In Arabic, Malak also means the messenger of God or Angel or independent, but obviously the same word has a very different meaning in Turkey.

The forehead is not as developed in Malaks. From the front the Malak's head is pretty rectangle, while the Anatolian shepherd's dog has a triangle shape when viewed from the front. The body becomes more barrel like and when observed from the profile, the body looks rectangle instead of square. Malak is less hairy and has a less curly tail. However, curl-tailed Malaks can occur occasionally. Most Malaks are sweet tempered. Their weight easily achieves 150 pounds and can be as heavy as 200 pounds.

The only native sight hunting dog breed which still exists in Turkey today. With its silky coat, it resembles the Arabian salug, whose Western name is the Saluki. A spotted coat is typical of the Turkish Tazi. See also: Russian dog breeds.

Yoruk Shepherd dog

Square-bodied dog with a pointed muzzle. They are swifter as compared to Kangals. One of the distinctions of yoruk dogs is their body structure, not the thickness of the bones. The bones can be thick or thin based on the size of the dog.
Catalburun, a Turkish dog breed with split nose
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Anatolian perspectives
KIRMIZIBAYRAK, Turgut (Department of Animal Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kafkas University, 36100 Kars - TURKEY), Some morphological characteristics of Kars dogs, Turk J Vet Anim Sci, 28 (2004) 351-353
The Ancient Origins of the Akbash Dog
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GREEN, J. S., and R. A. WOODRUFF. 1993. Livestock guarding dogs: protecting sheep from predators. U.S. Dept. Agric, Agric. Info. Bull. No. 588.
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