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OriginŠar Mountains[1][2]
Dog (domestic dog)

The Šarplaninac (Macedonian: Шарпланинец, Serbian Cyrillic: Шарпланинац, Albanian: Qeni i Sharrit),[3] formerly also known as Illyrian Shepherd Dog (Macedonian and Serbian: Илирски Овчар, romanized: Ilirski Ovčar, Albanian: Deltari Ilir), is a dog breed of the livestock guardian type. It is named after the Šar Mountains (Šar Planina), a mountain range in the Balkans that extends from the northwestern part of North Macedonia over to Kosovo[a] and to northeastern Albania. It is a mountain dog of molossoid type. In Ottoman times, the dogs of the breed spent the summer in the area of the Šar Mountains and the winter in Thessaly, depending on the needs of the sheep they are used to protect.[2][4]


The dog breed is named for the Šar Mountains.[2][1] It is alternatively named the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (1980), Albanian Mountain Dog, Greek Shepherd Dog and Šarplaninec[3][2] The breed was initially standardised by the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology (Jugoslovenski kinološki savez, JKS) and recognised as a Yugoslavian breed with two types by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1939 under the designation Ilirski ovčar ("Illyrian Shepherd Dog"), FCI-Standard N° 41. Kraški ovčar and Šarplaninac were considered Type A and B of the breed. In 1957 the General Assembly of the F.C.I. accepted a motion proposed by the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology to change the name of the breed to Jugoslovenski ovčarski pas Šarplaninac ("Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina"), and this is the official name of the breed. In 1968, type B was recognised as a separate breed under the designation Kraški ovčar ("Karst Shepherd Dog"), [5][6] The breed was formerly known as Ilirski Ovčar (Cyrillic: Илирски овчар, "Illyrian Shepherd Dog") before it was renamed in 1957.[3]


Like other European breeds, the Sarplaninac breed is believed to have origin from the East.[7]

This breed and its origin are associated with the Šar Mountains region in North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania, which is how it got its name.[1] For that reason some sources have described it as a North Macedonia and Kosovo breed.[7] After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Macedonia and Serbia were recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale as the countries of origin.[3]



The Šarplaninac is a large, strongly built dog. The body is slightly longer than the height at the withers, and the front legs account for approximately 55% of the height. The head is large but proportional to the body, with dark eyes.

The Šarplaninac is a robust, well proportioned dog with plenty of bone, of a size that is well above the average and with a thick, long, rather coarse coat that emphasizes the short coupled appearance. According to the FCI breed standard males should weigh between 35 and 45 kilograms (77 and 99 lb) with females slightly smaller at around 30–40 kilograms (66–88 lb).[3] The average height is quoted as 62 centimetres (24 in) for males with females at 58 centimetres (23 in).[3]

The coat is dense, about 4 inches (10 cm) in length, and can be rough or smooth.

All Šarplaninac are solid in colour: fawn, iron grey, white or almost black; usually sable or gray with darker "overalls" on the head and back, the undercoat being paler. The colour need not be completely uniform, and most Šarplaninac have several different shades of the same colour fading into one another. There are no bicolours and no uniformly black-coated dogs among purebreds, but odd-coloured specimens do exist. The dogs must not have large white patches in their coat.

Šarplaninac guard sheep near Lake Peak in Kosovoa.

Working life

Šarplaninac service dogs of the Royal Yugoslav Army
Training of Šarplaninac in Yugoslav People's Army

Dogs of the breed spend the summer in the area of the Šar Mountains and the winter in Thessaly, Greece, depending on the needs of the sheep they are used to protect.[2]


Šarplaninac is on the list of banned dog breeds in Denmark.[8] The Danish list includes 13 breeds and it is considered controversial having received criticism from dog owners and several political parties because eight of the 13 breeds have no reports of any incident. Among the eight is Šarplaninac.[9]


  1. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognized as an independent state by 98 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 113 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.


  1. ^ a b c Yann Arthus-Bertrand; André Pittion-Rossillon (2000). Dogs. Barnes & Noble Books.
  2. ^ a b c d e Raymond Coppinger; Lorna Coppinger (2002). Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. University of Chicago Press. pp. 124–128.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Fédération Cynologique Internationale: Official FCI-Standard N° 41, Published 24 November 1970. – Retrieved on 14 February 2015.
  4. ^ Hristov P. (2015) The Balkan Gurbet: Traditional Patterns and New Trends, p. 36. In: Vermeulen H., Baldwin-Edwards M., Boeschoten R. (eds) Migration in the Southern Balkans. Springer, 2015; ISBN 3319137190, pp. 31-46.
  5. ^ FCI-Standard N° 278.
  6. ^ United Kennel Club: Official U.K.C. Breed Standard, Revised 1 July 2009. – Retrieved on 30 March 2010.
  7. ^ a b Yilmaz, Orhan & Ertürk, Yakup & Coşkun, Füsun & Ertuğrul, Mehmet. (2015). Using Livestock Guardian Dogs in Balkans. International Journal of Agriculture and Forestry. 61. 161-173. 10.17707/AgricultForest.61.1.21.
  8. ^ "Danish Legislation on Dogs". Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. 13 March 2019.
  9. ^ Government won’t change criticised list of illegal dog breeds at cphpost.dk, 21-10-2013, retrieved 14-9-2019