From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
OriginBosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia
Kennel club standards
Croatian Kennel Club standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Tornjak (pronounced [torɲâk]) is a breed of livestock guardian dog native to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.[1] The name comes from the local word for a sheep pen, "tor". The foundation stock is made up of 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 breed was first mentioned in the 11th century and 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, and in the writings of Peter Lukić, Canon of the Đakovo diocese, 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 similar to modern descriptions, 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 in a similar manner: a protective guarding dog that keeps and watches all that their owners ask them, but is highly intelligent and selectively bred to be without excessive aggression. They are also said to be pleasant toward strangers that they meet outside of their domain.

It is considered that dogs of the Tornjak's type have existed in and around the area of 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, as guardians, and for fighting in the arena. Although the Tornjak is a very old breed, it gradually declined with the end 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 dogs, with somewhat square-bodied features and relatively agile movements. Despite this, their bones are not lightweight. 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 notably feathered and carried like a flag while the dog moves. The coat is very dense and cannot be parted.

As a rule, the Tornjaks are particolored, 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 a utilitarian purpose, helping shepherds distinguish their dogs from both sheep and wolves.


Tornjaks have a calm temperament. A typical adult Tornjak is a calm, peaceful, and seemingly indifferent animal, but when the situation demands, it is a vigilant and alert watchdog. The character is equal to the temperament; they are not nervous nor aggressive.[citation needed] In general, they are very tough, sturdy, and not overly demanding dogs. With their human family, they can be very affectionate. When living in a pack they are highly social animals, without fighting between the pack members. Towards strangers or other animals, as a rule, Tornjaks are not overly aggressive. But when the situation calls upon it, Tornjaks are quite decisive, and they can attack even stronger rivals without consideration. 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.


A 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 their 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, these dogs lie on the ground during the snowy winter nights and often get covered with snow without freezing due to their thick coats. They are primarily used for herding and protection of livestock.[citation needed]


The Tornjak is not suited for apartment life. They need lots of space and will do best with at least a large yard. Because its thick coat protects it so well, it can cope well with living outdoors provided it has proper shelter. This breed is best suited to a family with space surrounding the home where it can attend to its own exercise needs.[citation needed]

Climbing up and down stairs the first six months can ruin hock joints or lead to hip dysplasia.[citation needed]

Tornjaks need 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 frightening stimuli as early as possible 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. At this early age, all Tornjak puppies have to meet as many unknown people as possible, and also other animals, dogs, and pets especially, to develop good and stable social behavior as an adult.[citation needed]


This breed 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 Jul. 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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