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Sarplaninac Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Personality, & Facts

Hanh Duong

By Hanh Duong

Sarplaninac dog breed

The Sarplaninac is a breed of livestock guard dog with a rich history, originating from the rugged terrain of southeastern Yugoslavia, formerly known as Illyria during Roman times. Interestingly, when the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) first recognized the breed in 1939, they were known as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog. However, in 1957, the name was changed to Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina, after the Sar mountain range where they are most commonly found.

Although the breed’s origins remain somewhat of a mystery, they are believed to have descended from the livestock guarding dogs of Turkey and the ancient Molossian dogs of Greece. However, one thing is sure: the Sarplaninac remains a valuable asset in their homeland, where they are used extensively to protect flocks against predators. While they may not be as well-known in the United States, this loyal and protective pup certainly has a rich history worth exploring.

Height: 22–24 inches
Weight: 66–99 pounds
Lifespan: 11–13 years
Colors: White, blue, silver, red, brown, gray, black
Suitable for: Active singles, families with children, houses with large yards, farms/rural areas
Temperament: Loyal, calm, protective, independent, gentle, patient

Sarplaninacs are a breed of dog that goes way back in history. Although they were once used for protection, they are known for their calm and dignified nature. However, they have a strong protective instinct and a tendency to herd and protect.

It’s pretty amazing how these animals can do their own thing and make decisions without anyone telling them what to do. Thanks to their independent nature, they can stay with their herds for days without needing any direction. While they require extensive training, they still have a strong intuition that guides them. It’s impressive to witness their self-sufficiency in action. Overall, the Sarplaninac is a fascinating and unique breed that continues to capture the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.

Sarplaninac Breed Characteristics


Sarplaninac Puppies

Sarplaninacs are medium-sized canines. Their thick coats and heavy bones make them look even bigger than they actually are. They can come in almost any solid color, but that iron gray is just so beautiful. Their body is slightly longer than their height at the withers. And the head is perfectly proportioned to the size of the body. The ears are so cute, too—they’re drop and V-shaped. And let’s not forget about that tail!

They may be smaller than other livestock-guarding breeds, but don’t let their size fool you. They’re super strong and have some big teeth, making them a force to be reckoned with when protecting their herd from predators. What’s really interesting about Sarplaninacs is their temperament. They’re intelligent and independent but also super loyal to their family and can be a bit wary of strangers. They’re pretty calm most of the time, but if they sense any danger, they’ll jump into action without hesitation.

The Sarplaninac has an average litter size of five to seven adorable puppies. These little pups may take a bit longer to develop due to their larger size, but with early socialization and training, they can become excellent companions who get along with other pets.

Sarplaninec - Shara Mountain Dog, Macedonian shepherd dog, couple of months old
Image Credit: Nikola Spasenoski, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Sarplaninac

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

With family, these furry friends are a true joy to be around. They exude a sense of calmness and are always on their best behavior, especially around children. However, training and socializing them early is vital to ensure they remain well-mannered and obedient. Despite their natural instincts, they can be taught to follow commands with patience and gentleness. They’re not the most adaptable breed, but for families who provide a safe and secure environment, they’re a perfect fit. With their thick, all-weather coats, they’re always ready to explore and play outdoors, no matter the conditions.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Some Sarplaninacs can exhibit wariness towards strangers or react aggressively towards other dogs. While it’s possible to train their protective instincts to be more accepting of others in relaxed settings, this process is challenging and requires patience and dedication.Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New

Things to Know When Owning a Sarplaninac

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

If you have a Sarplaninac, it’s essential to give them a diet that’s appropriate for their life stage, whether they’re a puppy, adult, or senior. These dogs can be a little bit difficult to gauge weight-wise since their thick coats and heavy bones can obscure their body shape. You can determine whether your dog is overweight by weighing them or feeling their body shape with your hands.

To keep them at a healthy weight, monitor their food intake and measure their meals to avoid overfeeding. Remember to include treats in your calculations, as they should only comprise at most 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake.

It’s best to feed these canines high-quality dry dog food supplemented with healthy additions that include essential nutrients. You can even add eggs and cooked meat into their food plan.

Exercise 🐕

Sarplaninacs require a high-energy environment and enjoy spending time with their families. To avoid poor behavior and frustration, they need consistent exercise. If you’re an active family that can dedicate time to walking or running every week, along with 60 to 70 minutes of exercise daily, a Sarplaninac would be an excellent fit for your household.

They take pleasure in monitoring the property and yard, but providing them with daily mental and physical stimulation is crucial to ensure their happiness and well-being. With proper care and attention, your Sarplaninac will be a faithful and uplifting companion for many years to come.

Sarplaninac dog breed running in snow
Image Credit: OgnjenO,Shutterstock

Training 🎾

The Sarplaninac is a highly intelligent breed that is always eager to get the job done. These dogs have a strong instinct to protect and herd, making them highly valuable working animals. Even if training them from a young age to keep their dominant and stubborn nature in check, they can still be challenging pets for inexperienced owners.

However, with the right approach and mindset, anyone can train a Sarplaninac successfully. These dogs respond well to a consistent and firm strategy, and it’s essential to establish yourself as the pack leader. Remember that even after being trained, they remain independent thinkers, but with patience and persistence, you can help them become obedient and well-behaved companions.

Grooming ✂️

You’ll want to brush their double coat a couple of times a week to keep them clean and free of loose fur. And when they start shedding, you might have to brush them more often. Remember to trim their nails, too, to avoid any discomfort when they walk or run. One thing to keep in mind is that dental disease is pretty common in adult canines. But it’s not something you want to ignore because it can lead to other health issues. So, as well as getting professional cleanings, you should brush your dog’s teeth regularly and give them the chews your vet recommends.

Sarplaninac dog breed in the field
Image Credit: OgnjenO,Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

These dogs are fairly healthy overall and suffer from very few known genetic health conditions. Since they are so large, the main issue to look out for is obesity, as this can put extra pressure on their joints and organs.

Minor Conditions
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Obesity
Serious Conditions
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Male vs Female

While male and female dogs share many similarities, there are subtle differences in their physical characteristics and behaviors. Male dogs tend to be slightly larger and taller than females and may display stereotypical behaviors such as mounting and scent marking. They are also more likely to demonstrate aggressive behavior towards other males when challenged.

Females, on the other hand, are generally smaller in size and less likely to engage in mounting or scent marking, although they may still exhibit these behaviors in some contexts.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Sarplaninac

1. In Macedonia, These Dogs Are a Symbol of National Pride

It’s lovely to know that the Sarplaninac holds such a special place in the hearts of the people of Macedonia. This loyal and beloved dog is even honored on their official currency and the emblem of a charming town in Kosovo. It’s clear that the Sarplaninac is not only a symbol of national pride but also a treasured companion to many.

The breed is deeply ingrained in the history and culture of Macedonia, with enchanting stories passed down from generation to generation. The Sarplaninac is affectionately known as “Sharko” and is a cherished member of the community. If you ever have the chance to visit this beautiful region, you will undoubtedly cross paths with these magnificent animals.

2. They Served as Guard Dogs in the Military

The Sarplaninac breed has a remarkable history, dating back to the usage in the Yugoslavian military in 1928. These loyal and reliable canines were entrusted with guarding ammunition, critical installations, and camps. Not only did they serve as sentries, but they also patrolled the area for any escaped prisoners or fugitives. None other than Josip Broz Tito, the famous Yugoslav communist revolutionary who owned a Sarplaninac, praised their extraordinary abilities.

Tito’s dog, who saved his life by detecting and removing a bomb, is an example of this breed’s bravery and intelligence. The military also experimented with breeding Sarplaninacs with other breeds, such as the German Shepherd and Caucasian Ovcharka, to enhance their performance. Today, these dogs continue to serve as loyal guardians in the Serbian mountains, a testament to their unwavering dedication and exceptional capabilities.

Resting dog sarplaninac
Image Credit: Noemi Simon,Shutterstock

3. They Are Named After the Sar Mountains

The Sarplaninac gets its name from the Sar Mountains, located in the Balkans of Southeast Europe. The word “Sarplaninac” means “Shara Mountain Dog” in Macedonian. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) also calls them the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog (Sharplanina).

Interestingly, in 1939, the breed was initially classified into two types. One was known as the Karst Shepherd from Slovenia, and the other was the Sarplaninac from the Sharr Mountains. However, in 1968, the FCI recognized both types as individual dog breeds. Despite their name being associated with the Sar Mountains, Sarplaninacs can also be found in other mountains in Macedonia, such as Mavrovo, Bistra, Korab, and Pelister.Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New

Final Thoughts

Sarplaninacs are amazing dogs with a relaxed and intelligent personality that makes you happy to be around them. Plus, they’re super loyal to their families and make really great guard dogs. They might not be all that cuddly, but they still love kids and make great pets. The only thing is, they can be a bit shy around strangers or other animals, but with some socializing when they’re young, they can learn to be relaxed in any situation.

Just remember, they need someone with some experience to take care of them, and if you give them suitable attention, they make wonderful pets.

Featured Image Credit: OgnjenO, Shutterstock

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