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|Other names||Hungarian Kuvasz|
|Dog (domestic dog)|
The Kuvasz (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈkuvɒs]), is an ancient breed of livestock dog of Hungarian origin. Mention of the breed can be found in old Hungarian texts. They have historically been royal guard dogs, or guarded livestock, but have been increasingly found in homes as pets over the last seventy years.
Around 2000 BC, the Magyar tribes moved along the recently established trade routes of the steppes, gradually leading them to the Carpathian Basin in Hungary which they conquered in 896 A.D. With them came Kuvasz-type dogs, which primarily served as livestock guardians. In 1978, the fossilized skeleton of a 9th Century Kuvasz-type dog was discovered in Fenékpuszta near Keszthely, a discovery which was remarkable in that the morphology of the skeleton was almost identical to a modern Kuvasz.
After the Magyar settlement of the Carpathian Basin, the tribes converted to a more agrarian lifestyle and began to devote more resources towards animal husbandry. Whereas the Komondor was used in the lower elevations with drier climates, the Kuvasz was used in the wet pastures of the higher mountains and both were an integral part of the economy. Later, during the 15th Century, the Kuvasz became a highly prized animal and could be found in the royal court of King Matthias Corvinus. Kuvasz puppies were given to visiting dignitaries as a royal gift, and the King was said to have trusted his dogs more than his own councilors. After the king's death, the popularity of the breed among the nobles waned but it was still frequently found in its traditional role of protecting livestock.
By the end of World War II, nearly all the Kuvasz dogs in Hungary had been killed. The dogs had such a reputation for protecting their families that they were actively sought and killed by German and Soviet soldiers, while at the same time some German officers used to take Kuvasz dogs home with them. After the Soviet invasion and the end of the war, the breed was nearly extinct in Hungary. After the war, it was revealed that fewer than thirty Kuvasz were left in Hungary and some sources indicate the number may have been as few as twelve. Since then, due to many dedicated breeders, Kuvasz breed have repopulated Hungary. However, as a result of this near extinction, the genetic pool available to breeders was severely restricted and there is conjecture that some may have used other breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, to continue their programs.
Possible origins of the breed name
The word most likely comes from the Turkic word kavas meaning guard or soldier or kuwasz meaning protector. A related theory posits that the word may have originated from the ancient farmers of Russia, the Chuvash, who nurtured the breed for generations and contributed many words to the Hungarian language.
The Kuvasz is a large dog with a dense, double, odorless coat which is white in color and can range from wavy to straight in texture. Although the fur is white, the Kuvasz's skin pigmentation should be dark and the nose is usually black. The eyes should have an almond shape. Females usually weigh between 32–41 kg (70–90 pounds) while males weigh between 45–52 kg (100–115 pounds) with a medium bone structure. The head should be half as wide as it is long with the eyes set slightly below the plane of the muzzle. The stop (where the muzzle raises to the crown of the head) should be defined but not abrupt. The precise standard varies by country (see the Breed Standards for a more precise description). To a casual observer, the Kuvasz may appear similar to a Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Maremma Sheepdog, Slovak Cuvac and Polish Tatra Sheepdog, all of which are similar in size, coat color, and general appearance.
As with many livestock guardian dogs, the color of the Kuvasz's coat serves a functional purpose and is an essential breed criterion. Shepherds purposefully bred the Kuvasz to have a light colored coat so that it would be easier for the shepherds to distinguish the Kuvasz from wolves that would prey on the livestock during the night. The Komondor, a cousin of the Kuvasz, has a white coat for the same reason. Traditionally, the Hungarian Kuvasz's coat could be either white or cream colored with a wavy texture. However, there is some debate, particularly in the United States, concerning the appropriateness of "cream" colored coats in show-quality dogs and whether the coat should be straight or wavy in texture. Since washing and brushing out a coat, as done for shows in the US also causes the coat to appear straight, the debate may be circular. Straighter coats may also have appeared as the result of breeding programs that developed after World War II, when the breeding lines in Hungary were isolated from the rest of the world as a result of Soviet and German occupation (see History, below). By Hungarian standard the straight coat is not acceptable. There must be special twirls in the coat.
Although generally a healthy and robust breed which can be expected to live approximately 12–14 years, the Kuvasz is prone to developmental bone problems.
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Great Pyrenees
- Slovak Cuvac
- Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Labrador Retriever
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Hódosi, József, ed. A Kuvasz. Hungaria Kuvasz Klub, 1996. English Translation by International Kuvasz Book Project.
- "Kuvasz Club of America – Kuvasz History". Archived from the original on 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2007-01-19.
- "Everything You Need to Know About the Kuvasz Dog Breed".
- Kuvasz Fanciers Association – The Kuvasz
- "Cainii din rasa Pitbull vor fi interzisi in Romania". Adevǎrul (in Romanian). Bucharest, Romania. 2002-04-26. Archived from the original on 18 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- Open Letter from KFA Concerning Breed Standard
- "Kuvasz Club of America – Kuvasz Health". Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2006-09-11.