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Other names
  • Ilirski Ovčar
  • Illyrian Shepherd Dog
  • Jugoslovenski Ovčarski Pas – Šarplaninac
  • Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog – Sharplanina
  • Jugoslovenski Ovčarski Pas
  • Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog
  • Sarplaninac
  • Sharplanina
DistributionŠar Mountains
Height Dogs
62 cm (24 in)
58 cm (23 in)
Weight Dogs
35–45 kg (75–100 lb)
30–40 kg (65–90 lb)
Coat double; guard hair long, flat and coarse, undercoat thick and fine[1]
Colour any solid colour, without white markings; iron grey or dark grey preferred[1]
Life span 11–13 years
Kennel club standards
Kinološki Savez Republike Srbije standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Šarplaninac[a] (colloquially also Šarac[b]) is a breed of dog of livestock guardian type.[2] It is named for the Šar Mountains or Šar Planina range in the Balkans, where it is principally found. It was recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog or Ilirski Ovčar[c] from 1939 until 1957, when the name was changed to Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog – Sharplanina or Jugoslovenski Ovčarski Pas – Šarplaninac.[d]

In Ottoman times, the dogs moved with the flocks of sheep, spending the summer in the area of the Šar Mountains and the winter in Thessaly, where they were known as Greek Shepherd Dogs.[3]: 124 


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

The origins of the Šarplaninac are not known.[1] It was traditionally used to guard cattle[1] or sheep.[3]: 124  In the transhumant system of management, livestock was moved twice a year, to the high mountain pastures for the summer, and to the warmer plains for the winter. In the southern Balkans, very large numbers of sheep were moved in this way, accompanied by men and dogs.[4]: 35  In Ottoman times, dogs of this type moved with the flocks of sheep, spending the summer in the area of the Šar Mountains and the winter in Thessaly – where they were known as 'Greek Shepherd Dogs'.[3]: 124 

In 1939 it was recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale as a Yugoslav breed with the name 'Ilirski Ovčar' or 'Illyrian Shepherd Dog';[1] In 1957, following a request from the Yugoslav Federation of Cynology (Jugoslovenski Kinološki Savez), the Fédération Cynologique Internationale agreed to change the official international names of the breed to 'Jugoslovenski Ovcarski Pas – Sarplaninac' and 'Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog – Sharplanina'.[2][1] In 1968 the Kraški Ovčar or Karst Shepherd Dog, which had previously been considered a sub-type, was recognised as a separate breed.[5]

Breed numbers were much reduced by the conflicts associated with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.[6]: 299  Following these events, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale recognised North Macedonia and Serbia as the countries of origin.[1]

The Šarplaninac is found mainly in the Šar Mountains, where it is thought to have originated and from which the name 'Šarplaninac' derives.[3]: 124 [7]: 25  It is also distributed in the areas of the Jablanica, Korab and Pelister mountains.[8]: 358 


The Šarplaninac is a large and 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.

It 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 emphasises the short coupled appearance.[citation needed] Dogs weigh some 35–45 kg, bitches about 5 kg less.[1] The average height at the withers is 62 cm for dogs and 58 cm for bitches.[1]

It is always solid in colour: fawn, iron grey, white or almost black; usually sable or grey 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.

The dogs may be expected to live for some 11–13 years.[9]: 43 

Guarding sheep near Lake Peak in Kosovo


The Šarplaninac is on the list of banned dog breeds in Denmark.[10] 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.[11]


  1. ^ Serbian: шарпланинац, romanizedšarplaninac; Macedonian: шарпланинец, romanizedšarplaninec; Albanian: qeni i Sharrit
  2. ^ Serbian: шарац, romanizedšarac; Macedonian: шарец, romanizedšarec
  3. ^ Serbian: илирски овчар, romanizedilirski ovčar; Macedonian: илирски овчар, romanizedilirski ovčar; Albanian: deltari Ilir
  4. ^ The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up in 1991–1992


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i FCI-Standard N° 41: Jugoslovenski Ovcarski Pas – Sarplaninac (Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog – Sharplanina). Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Accessed June 2023.
  2. ^ a b FCI breeds nomenclature: Jugoslovenski Ovcarski Pas – Sarplaninac (41). Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Accessed January 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Raymond Coppinger, Lorna Coppinger (2002). Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226115634.
  4. ^ Petko Hristov (2015). The Balkan Gurbet: Traditional Patterns and New Trends. In: Hans Vermeulen, Martin Baldwin-Edwards, Riki van Boeschoten (editors). Migration in the Southern Balkans: From Ottoman Territory to Globalized Nation States. IMISCOE Research Series. Cham: Springer. ISBN 9783319137193. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-13719-3.
  5. ^ FCI-Standard N° 278: Karst Shepherd Dog (Kraski Ovčar). Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Accessed January 2023.
  6. ^ David Alderton (2010 [2008]). Encyclopedia of Dogs. Bath: Parragon. ISBN 9781445408538.
  7. ^ Yann Arthus-Bertrand; André Pittion-Rossillon (2000). Dogs. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 9780760722183.
  8. ^ Vladimir Dimitrijević, Slobodan J. Jovanović, Mila Savić, Ružica Trailović (2005). Genetic polymorphism of blood proteins in Yugoslav shepherd dog. Acta Veterinaria (Beograd). 55 (5-6): 357-365.
  9. ^ Kim Dennis-Bryan (2020 [2012]). The Complete Dog Breed Book, second edition. London: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9780241412732.
  10. ^ "Danish Legislation on Dogs". Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. 13 March 2019. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  11. ^ Government won’t change criticised list of illegal dog breedsat cphpost.dk, 21 October 2013, Retrieved 14 September 2019 Archived 23 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine