These striking dogs retain the intelligence and independence of their livestock-guarding ancestors
- Dog Breed Group
- Working Dogs
- 2 feet, 2 inches to 2 feet, 6 inches tall at the shoulder
- 70 to 115 pounds
- Life Span
- 10 to 12 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Kuvasz is a large, white flock-guarding dog who hails from Hungary. A one-family dog, he's protective of his people and suspicious of strangers. The Kuvasz thinks for himself and can be challenging to train.
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The Kuvasz (pronounced KOO-vahss; the plural is Kuvaszok, pronounced KOO-vah-sock) is probably the oldest of the three ancient Hungarian breeds. He has a regal bearing and a history (which includes an association with Count Dracula himself) as complex as his personality.
His almond-shaped eyes, black nose, and dense white fur make him an eye-catching breed. So does his size. Males can weigh up to 115 pounds or even more. They're sturdy and well-muscled, very strong with great endurance, yet elegant. Many think the Kuvasz moves like a wolf, with a powerful, graceful stride. When he trots or runs, he seems to glide, with little up-and-down movement of the body. Because his gait is so effortless, he's capable of trotting for 15 miles or more without tiring.
A Kuvasz's white coat is beautiful to behold, and has at times contributed to the breed's popularity as a "fashion dog." But they were bred to have white coats for reasons other than beauty: Their color helped shepards distinguish their dogs from wolves.
The Kuvasz can be a wonderful, loyal, and patient companion, but he's not for everyone. Because he was bred to guard, he can be aloof, independent, and suspicious of strangers. Your Kuvasz will be polite to welcomed guests, but no more — regardless of how hard the strangers try to befriend him. His almost fanatical loyalty makes him very protective; he's always alert for any signs of danger, and when aroused, he can move with surprising speed given his size.
Kuvaszok are extremely intelligent, but they aren't easy to train. Their fierce independence makes them a challenge even for experienced dog owners. Puppies are playful well into adolescence, but older dogs usually are calm and reserved. Excessive barking, however, can be a problem at any age, depending on the individual dog.
In true working dog spirit, Kuvaszok like to have a job to do, whether it's watching over livestock or watching over your children. They're typically gentle with kids and love to play with them. Mature dogs seem to understand their great strength, but Kuvaszok puppies, like children, often don't know their limits, so you should always supervise the play of puppies and children.
Kuvaszok are active dogs who wouldn't do well in an apartment or house without a yard. If kept in a kennel or, worse, tethered or chained, they can become aggressive. Kuvaszok are determined and have a high tolerance to pain, so an underground electronic fence probably wouldn't hold them if they really wanted to run free. But you shouldn't always keep them outdoors. Let them inside so they can be with their family. Everyone will enjoy it.
- Kuvaszok require a confident, experienced owner, one who gains their respect and understands their independent nature.
- Kuvaszok shed profusely, especially in the spring and fall. Brushing them at least once a week, and preferably every two to three days, is recommended.
- Like many large dogs, the Kuvasz may develop joint problems if exercised too much while he's still growing. Don't push your Kuvasz to over-exercise, jump excessively, or go up and down stairs too often until he's passed his second birthday.
- Kuvaszok are suspicious of strangers and can be overly protective. Obedience training is imperative when you own a large guarding dog such as a Kuvasz.
- Although he's pretty self-sufficient, a Kuvasz doesn't like to be kept apart from his family. Like all dogs, he does best spending at least part of his time with you in the house rather than being left alone in the backyard. There really is no such thing as a "good backyard dog."
- Your Kuvasz can become aggressive and frustrated if kenneled, tethered, or chained. This is a breed that needs to run. He needs a large, fenced yard as well as a long daily walk or run once he's physically mature.
- Kuvaszok are intelligent and like many guarding dogs, they think for themselves. Training can be difficult and requires a lot of patience, time, and consistency.
- Although they're very gentle with children if they were raised with them, Kuvaszok puppies can be rambunctious and may accidentally knock over a small child.
- Your Kuvasz may consider any children other than the kids in your family to be threats. Opt to be safe rather than sorry, and when other kids come over to play, watch your Kuvasz carefully or put him in a secure area.
- Never allow anyone to reprimand your Kuvasz. If he feels that the person who's reprimanding him isn't "worthy" to do so, he will resent it.
The Kuvasz is perhaps the oldest of the three ancient dog breeds of Hungary, the other two being the Puli and the Komondor. They may have arrived with the Magyar tribes who invaded Hungary some 1,200 years ago, and one Hungarian dog historian posits that they were there many centuries earlier.
The name Kuvasz is said to be a corruption of the Turkish word kawasz, meaning bodyguard. Another theory suggests that it comes from a Sumerian word, ku assa, referring to a dog that guarded and ran alongside horses and horsemen.
Whatever their origin, by the 15th century, Kuvaszok were highly prized in Hungary as guard dogs, especially by King Matthias. Matthias was crowned on March 29, 1464 when he was just 15 years old. Despite his youth, Matthias was a shrewd and wise military leader. He built a large army of mercenaries that was able to beat back the Ottomans and expand the holdings of the Kingdom of Hungary. As might be expected in such turbulent times, palace intrigue was rampant. Plots and assassination attempts were commonplace. It was a time when a king couldn't even trust his own family, but Matthias felt secure so long as his Kuvaszok were close by. It's said that he took a brace of Kuvaszok with him wherever he went, even to his sleeping chambers.
Matthias built huge kennels, housing hundreds of Kuvaszok on his estate at Siebenbuergen. In addition to protecting the king, these dogs were used to guard the estate's livestock and sometimes to hunt large game, such as bear and wolves. The Kuvaszok were highly prized, and sometimes King Matthias would give a puppy to a visiting noble. Because they were associated with royalty, Kuvaszok became very popular.
One noble who received such a gift was Vlad Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia. Vlad (also known as Vlad the Impaler, after his preferred method of torture) was a vassal of King Matthias at different times. At one point, King Matthias imprisoned Vlad in a royal tower for many years. Vlad worked his way back into the good graces of the king, and after his release, reportedly married a member of the royal family — probably a cousin of King Matthias. As a wedding gift, the king reportedly gave Vlad Dracula and his bride two Kuvaszok.
After King Matthias died, the breed declined in popularity among royal and noble families, but continued his traditional role of protecting livestock for farmers and horsemen. In the late 1800s, breeders took an interest in standardizing the breed. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Kuvasz became the most fashionable large dog in Hungary and western Europe.
During World War II, however, like many breeds, the Kuvasz nearly went extinct. Food shortages took their toll, and many kennels cut back or stopped breeding. When Nazi, then Soviet, soldiers moved through Hungary, brave Kuvaszok were often shot trying to protect their families and livestock. Some officers took Kuvaszok home with them, but even so, the breed was nearly wiped out.
By the end of the war, there were fewer than 30 Kuvazok to be found in Hungary. Many Kuvasz fanciers were dead. The Russians who occupied Hungary looked upon dog breeding as a luxury hobby of aristocrats and punished breeders.
Despite these hardships, breeders met in secret, selling puppies and dogs for cigarettes and food. But because food was still in short supply, Kuvaszok, like other large breeds with hearty appetites, were not popular.
Since the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, conditions have steadily improved in Hungary and the Kuvasz has begun to regain his popularity. Today, there are active Kuvasz breed clubs scattered throughout Europe. It has been a struggle, however, because the near extinction left a very small gene pool from which to rebuild the breed, forcing some breeders to use other dogs, such as Great Pyrenees, to continue their programs.
Kuvasz were first shown at a dog show in 1883 when Count d'Esterházy, a strong supporter of the breed, displayed two Kuvaszok in Vienna.
In 1884, the first Hungarian standard for the breed was written. In 1931, the first Kuvasz was registered in the U.S.
The Kuvasz Club of America (KCA) was established in 1966, and granted status as the official breed club in America by the American Kennel Club in 1993.
Today, the breed ranks 134th in popularity among the 157 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.
SizeMales are usually 28 to 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 100 to 115 pounds. Females are 26 to 28 inches tall and weigh 70 to 90 pounds.
The Kuvasz is a spirited dog of keen intelligence, determination, courage, and curiosity, sensitive to praise and blame. He's devoted to protecting his family, especially children, and is suspicious of strangers. If a family member appears to be in danger, he acts on his own initiative. Adult Kuvaszok are gentle and patient with children, but puppies can be too rambunctious for young kids.
This is a bold and independent dog who needs confident, patient training. This isn't the breed for a first-time or timid dog owner.
HealthKuvaszok are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Kuvaszok will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Kuvaszok, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip and elbow dysplasia (with a score of fair or better) and hypothyroidism. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site.
Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than two years of age. That's because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it's often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.
The following conditions may affect Kuvaszok:
- Canine hip dysplasia: This is a condition where the femur doesn't fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Screening for hip dysplasia can be done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or by using the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs that have hip dysplasia shouldn't be bred. If your dog displays signs of hip dysplasia, talk to your vet. There are many new treatments that can help your dog if hip dysplasia is found.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): This is a degeneration of bone that lies beneath the cartilage layer of joints. It's often seen in young, fast-growing dogs of the larger breeds. X-rays often are inconclusive. OCD usually appears during the growth phase of a young dog (six to nine months of age) and can affect the shoulder, ankle, or elbow joint. Because it is painful, the dog limps. Jumping off furniture and being overweight can contribute to the problem. Your vet may recommend complete rest and limited play for several weeks or surgery to remove torn cartilage pieces.
- von Willebrand's Disease: This is an inherited blood disorder caused by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII antigen (von Willebrand factor). The primary sign is excessive bleeding after an injury or surgery. Other signs, such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding in the stomach or intestines may also be present. Most dogs with von Willebrand's disease lead normal lives.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus: Also called bloat or torsion, this is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs such as Kuvaszok, especially if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, or exercise vigorously after eating. Some think that raised food dishes and certain types of food might also be factors. It is more common among older dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid itself of the excess air in its stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. There is some indication that a tendency toward GDV is inherited, so it's recommended that dogs that develop this condition should be neutered or spayed.
CareKuvaszok are active dogs who need a lot of exercise, and they're not suited to apartments or homes without access to a large, fenced yard. Even with a yard, they need exercise such as long walks or runs once they're physically mature. When left alone for long stretches, they can become destructive or aggressive.
Because of their dense coats, Kuvaszok can stay outdoors in temperate to cold climates so long as they have shelter, water, and food. Like any dog, however, they also need access to the house, so they can be close to their family. Warm weather and high humidity make them uncomfortable.
Recommended daily amount: 2.75 to 3.75 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.
How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Kuvasz in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Coat, Color and Grooming
The dense white coat of the Kuvasz can grow to six inches in length. Expect to brush your Kuvasz a couple of times a week to prevent mats from forming, using a grooming rake, slicker brush, or pin brush. If your Kuvasz gets matted, use a large-toothed comb and a conditioning spray, along with your fingers, to gently work the mat loose. Kuvaszok shed heavily in the spring and the fall, and need more frequent brushing during these times.
Unless he's sick or has been rolling in something smelly, the Kuvasz coat is odorless and repels dirt and water, so you won't need to bathe him often. In fact, bathing him too frequently could strip his coat of its natural protective oils, causing him to get dirty faster. Many Kuvasz owners clean their dogs' coats by sprinkling talcum powder or cornstarch into the coat, and then brushing it out. Trim the fur that grows between his toes, and trim his toenails as needed. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long.
Brush his teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Start getting your Kuvasz used to brushing and handling when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy vet exams and grooming sessions when he's an adult.
Children and other pets
Kuvaszok are fond of children, and can be gentle and protective with them. If your kids are playing with friends, though, it's essential to supervise if a Kuvasz is nearby. He may mistake other children's play for aggression and will move to protect "his" kids. Kuvaszok puppies can be too rambunctious for young children.
As with any dog, always teach children how to safely approach and touch your Kuvasz, and supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent biting or tail-pulling from either party.
Rescue GroupsKuvaszok are sometimes bought without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups in need of adoption or fostering. Other Kuvaszok end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. If you're interested in adopting an adult Kuvasz who has already gone through the destructive puppy stage and may already be trained, a rescue group is a good place to start.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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