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Other namesBosnian and Herzegovinian Shepherd Dog (FCI)
OriginBosnia and Herzegovina
Kennel club standards
Croatian Kennel Club standard
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Tornjak (pronounced [torɲâk]), is a breed of livestock guardian dog native to Bosnia and Herzegovina.[1] The name comes from the local word for a sheep pen, "tor". The foundation stock is made up from genetically homogeneous landrace shepherding dogs dispersed in the mountains and valleys of the region.[2] They are molosser-type mountain dogs,[1] similar to other livestock guardian breeds of the region, the Šarplaninac, Bucovina Shepherd Dog, and the Greek Shepherd.


Tornjaks belong to the rare livestock protection breeds and share many characteristics with other livestock guarding dogs. The Tornjak is an old breed first mentioned in the 11th century. It was the transhumance dog of the medieval Vlach shepherds of Bosnia.[3] Descriptions of the Tornjak were found in the writings of Peter Horvat, bishop of Đakovo, Croatia, which date back to the year 1374, those descriptions were also found in the writings of Peter Lukić, Canon of the Đakovo diocese, which were written in 1752. To this day, these dogs are called Toraši (Torashi) in the surroundings of the city of Sinj and on the Kamešnica mountain, whereas the shepherds of the Dinara-mountains call them Dinarci. Descriptions of Tornjaks from these documents are the very same as they are today, except for the name of the breed, which was Bosanski Ovčar, meaning Bosnian Shepherd Dog.[4] It was also called the Hrvatski pas planinac, meaning Croatian mountain dog. The dogs in these documents were described entirely equal (in respect to their function and their appearance) as they are today: a protective guarding dog which keeps and watches all that their owners ask them, but is highly intelligent and selectively bred to be without excessive aggression. They are also pleasant toward strangers that they meet outside of their domain.

It is considered that dogs of the Tornjak's type have existed in the area around and in Dinarides (Dinaric Alps), especially in the region around Vlašić (close to the city of Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina) as a central area of the region since the Roman times. The Romans used their dogs for war and as guardian dogs, as well as for fighting in the arena. Although the Tornjak is a very old breed, it gradually vanished with the vanishing of nomadic sheep herding. In the early 1970s, a group of local cynologists began to collect the remaining dogs which best corresponded to the old writings about the breed.[5] Tornjaks were first imported to the UK in 2013 with intentions of working towards UK Kennel Club Recognition.


A female Tornjak of Croatian breeding participating in the European Winner Show 2008 in Budapest, Hungary.


The Tornjaks are large and powerful dogs, with well proportioned, almost square-bodied features and agile movements. Their bones are not light, but nevertheless not heavy nor coarse. The bodies of these dogs are strong and well built, with harmonious and dignified movements, possessing a self-confident, serious and calm disposition. In general the Tornjak is a long-coated breed with short hair over the face and legs. The hair is distinctively long and abundant over the neck (mane), and on the back of the upper thighs (breeches). The tail is especially well feathered, and carried like a flag while the dog moves. The coat is very dense and can not be parted.

As a rule, the Tornjaks are parti-colored, with white being the dominant ground color. White markings are most commonly found around the neck, over the head and along the legs. The patches can be any color. Similar to other livestock guardian dogs, the distinct markings served an utilitarian purpose, helping shepherds distinguish their dogs from both sheep and wolves.


Tornjaks have a calm temperament. A typical adult Tornjak is very calm, peaceful, at first sight an indifferent animal, but when the situation demands it, it is a vigilant and very alert watchdog. The character is equal to the temperament; they are not nervous nor aggressive. In general, they are very tough, not too demanding, sturdy dogs. With their human family they are very emotional. When living in a pack they are highly social animals, without fighting between the pack members. Towards strangers or other animals, as a rule, Tornjak is not overly aggressive. But when the situation calls upon it, Tornjak is quite decisive and it can without any consideration attack even much stronger rivals. Shepherds used to say that a Tornjak that guards the flock is a fair match to two wolves, and that a couple of Tornjaks will confront and chase away a bear. In these situations, Tornjaks can be very tenacious.

an example of shorter coat in the Summer.
The coat is shorter in the Summer.


Tornjak's exercise levels are usually not demanding, especially in the first 9–12 months (during the last intensive growth period). They prefer long walks without a leash and a lot of playing with other dogs. They will also be just as satisfied with only a 20-minute walk if its owner is in a hurry. Tornjaks learn quickly and do not forget easily; they happily perform tasks and are therefore easy to train. Strong and hardy, during the snowy winter nights, these dogs lie on the ground and often get covered with snow without freezing due to their thick coats. They are primarily used for herding and protection of livestock.


Tornjak is not recommended for apartment life. They need space and will do best with at least a large yard. Because it's thick coat protects it so well it can happily cope with living outdoors provided it has proper shelter. This breed is best suited to a family with much space surrounding the home where it can attend to its own exercise needs.

Tornjak is a very healthy breed, but because they were very poorly fed in their past, they now do not need much protein in their food. For feeding Tornjaks, a low protein diet is suitable. A high protein diet can lead to the development of coat problems. Climbing up and down stairs the first six months can ruin hock joints or lead to hip dysplasia (canine).

Tornjak needs early socialization. Early experiences (before 9 months of age) have a very significant effect throughout the dog's life. They need to be confronted with potentially fearful stimuli as early as possible in order to avoid later fear reactions. Traffic noise, big trucks and buses will provoke fear reactions in adulthood if the Tornjak has not previously faced these situations as a puppy. In this early age all Tornjak puppies have to meet as many unknown people as possible, and also other animals, dogs, and pets especially, for developing a good and stable behavior as an adult.


The dog is banned in Denmark.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tornjak". FCI. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  2. ^ Tornjak (Bosnian and Herzegovinian 2017 (PDF). FCI. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  3. ^ Cathie Carmichael, A Concise History of Bosnia, Cambridge University Press, 2 iul. 2015 - 221, p. 17
  4. ^ "TORNJAK - Bosnian shepherd dog". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Tornjak - A Breed Resurrected - Dogs and dog breeds and dog pictures". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Danish Legislation on Dogs". Retrieved 15 February 2019.

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