Kangals are a unique dog breed with a very long history. While most people have never heard of a Kangal dog, these canines have played a very important role in human history. They’re considered to be one of the oldest dog breeds that still exist today!
They’re massive canines that are devoted to protecting both livestock and humans. Not a herding dog in the traditional sense, Kangals are more focused on protecting the flock from would-be predators. Take one look at this breed and it’s obvious that they’re equipped for the job. With their towering size, strong jaws, and vicious attitudes, they’re more than ready to defend their territory.
That said, Kangals are wonderful companions, too. If you’re thinking about adopting a Kangal dog, it’s important to know what you’re in for. These are not like your standard dog breed. Thus, they have some unique care requirements that you need to consider.
The History of the Kangal Dog
Also known as the Turkish Shepherd Dog, the Kangal was first bred in the Anatolian Plateau of Turkey. Their origins date back to the 12th century! These dogs are thought to be related to early mastiffs. Many historians believe that Kangals are an ancient breed connected to mastiff-type dogs seen in Assyrian artwork.
They’re often confused with the Anatolian Shepherd or Karabash, but the Kangal is a separate breed. They were bred to protect flocks of sheep from a wide range of predators. Shepherds and breeders spent centuries perfecting the Kangal breed to ensure that the right physical and mental traits were present. Most of those traits are still intact, giving us a glimpse into the past.
Strict breeding standards in Turkey have helped keep the Kangal breed relatively unchanged through several centuries.
Today, Kangals are still a huge part of Turkish culture. This is especially true in the Sivas province. There are two government breeding facilities in Sivas, which is the same area where these dogs originated from.
Of course, the breed has spread throughout the world as well. They are quite rare compared to other breeds, but Sivas breeders continue to export the dogs to Europe, the United States, and even Africa.
Kennel Club Recognition
The Kangal breed is recognized by several kennel clubs throughout the world. It’s recognized by the United Kennel Club, also known as the UKC. Unfortunately, the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize Kangals as a separate purebred. They’re typically lumped in with Anatolian Shepherd dogs.
That said, efforts to standardize the breed have been around since the 1980s. Today, the Kangal Dog Club of America has a set of standards that are used to preserve the breed.
Types of Kangal Puppies
Because breeders in Sivas and beyond have gone to great lengths to preserve the Kangal breed, you’re not going to find a ton of variety out there. These dogs don’t have much cross-breeding in their pedigree. As a result, there is only one type of Kangal dog. In the United States, these dogs are incredibly rare.
As such, it’s not easy to get your hands on a Kangal puppy. There are only a handful of recognized breeders out there, so do your research before adopting a puppy. To get a true Kangal, you’ll need to stick to one of those recognized and reputable breeders. They follow established breed standards.
If you’re lucky enough to own a Kangal, you’ll notice that these dogs exhibit very strong instincts at a young age. As we mentioned, Kangal Shepherd dogs have spent centuries protecting livestock. They are natural-born protectors and don’t need any training to know what to do.
Even as puppies, Kangals are very independent. These dogs know that they have a job to do and will start protecting pretty early.
While they primarily protect sheep, they will also keep an eye on virtually any livestock you have. They’ll stand up to any predator that dares to cross the lines. This includes jackals, raccoons, wolves, and more. They are even used in Namibia and Kenya to protect herds from cheetahs!
Kangals will spend their days patrolling the area. Oftentimes, they go to the highest point in the land so that they can keep a watchful eye over the entire herd. Thanks to their impeccable hearing and sense of smell, they can spot potential predators from pretty far away. If that happens, be prepared for a show.
These dogs will often take a three-phase approach to deal with predators. At first, they intimidate the intruder by barking and growling. If that doesn’t work, the barking will turn into a ferocious roar. Finally, the Kangal will attack.
Born To Protect
Kangals are very methodical when they attack. They typically run to put themselves in front of the flock before knocking the predator down. Then, they’ll go for the throat or hind legs to immobilize the intruder. Kangals are well-equipped for attacks. Despite their massive size, they can run up to 30 miles per hour. That’s not all.
They have a bite that’s reportedly three times stronger than that of a Pitbull!
Talk about intimidating!
If you’re worried about how all that protective energy may fit into a home setting, don’t fret. They make wonderful companions. In a home setting, they’re surprisingly gentle and calm. Kangals even do well with children and other family pets. Though, you should always exercise caution and keep a watchful eye just in case.
Kangals will work hard to protect you and your family just like they would if they were watching after a flock of sheep. They make excellent guard dogs and will be wary of any strangers that approach your property. So, be prepared for barking! That said, they can get familiar with other humans if you provide proper socialization when they are puppies.
Speaking of socialization, Kangals need it at a very young age. During puppyhood, a lot of their personality traits are going to be developed. It’s a good idea to expose your new pup to other dogs as well as the land they will protect. Many Kangal owners have multiple dogs that work together. They do well in pairs or packs. If you plan to go this route, make sure that you give your first Kangal plenty of time to meet any other dogs you throw into the mix.
Intelligence and Training
Training isn’t much of a problem with Kangals. That’s because they don’t require a ton of it. Aside from basic housetraining, Kangals are smart enough to know what to do right off the bat. In fact, they don’t take too well to obedience training. Most owners won’t even attempt it.
Your role during the training phase will be more about supervision than anything else. Depending on your needs, you may train them to either guard livestock or actively patrol a field. Other than that, don’t expect to get anything else accomplished in the realm of training. They aren’t going to be trick dogs or agility canines.
The best thing you can do is provide your Kangal with a safe space for their job. These pups are notorious for getting out of confined spaces, so you should invest in a fence that’s at least 6 feet tall. Make sure to construct a deep and durable foundation. They can easily dig and escape to chase predators.
Kangals are a standout breed. While there are several other livestock guardian dogs that landholders will use to protect their properties, Kangals are cut from a completely different cloth. Not only are they unique in terms of personality, but they have some distinct looks, too.
Size and Weight
The first thing you’ll notice about a Kangal is its size. These dogs are massive! Adult males can get to be about 145 pounds and reach heights of 30 to 32 inches at the withers. Females tend to be slightly smaller, but they still tower over other breeds. Adult females can tip the scales at 120 pounds and get as tall as 30 inches at the withers.
These are large dogs with plenty of muscle. They’re not as bulky as some other breeds out there, but there’s no denying that Kangals are strong. A healthy Kangal will have some impressive muscles on their hind legs, which are used for running and attacking predators.
Kangals have a few identifying features. Starting at the head, these dogs have rounded skulls. Their heads are quite wide. According to breed standards, the width should be about 55 percent of their head’s length. This rounded shape is accompanied by a thick muzzle and some strong jaws.
On the top of the head, these pups have large floppy ears. They’re black in color and hang down to about cheek level. As for the tail, Kangals have a tail that’s slightly longer than their height. It’s thick at the base and tapers down to nice curl.
The dog’s coat is an important part of the Kangal breed standard. These dogs have a short double coat. The hair is very dense. Thanks to the fine undercoat, Kangals can do well in any temperature.
All Kangals will have a tan color, which is sometimes referred to as fawn. This color covers most of the body. Some pups will have some subtle white markings on their feet. This should be solid patches of white. If it’s spotted, the dog is likely not a purebred Kangal. The tan color was a conscious choice by Turkish breeders back in the day. It was meant to make the dog more visible at nighttime!
Beyond the tan coat, all Kangals also have a black mask on their face. It covers the entire muzzle and ears. Sometimes, the black will extend a bit to the top of the head. It’s an acceptable breed standard, but it’s rare.
Typically, larger dogs have significantly shorter lifespans than their smaller canine brethren. However, that’s not the case with the Kangal. Most healthy Kangals will live to be 12 to 15 years old.
Possible Health Conditions To Be Wary Of
Thanks to years of selective breeding, the Kangal is a healthy breed. These dogs are known for staying relatively healthy throughout their lives. That said, there is one condition that may affect your pup.
As with any large dog, Kangals are prone to suffering from hip dysplasia. This condition is genetic. Though, certain lifestyle factors could exacerbate the problem. With hip dysplasia, the hip socket doesn’t develop properly. Thus, the joint is unable to move freely like its supposed to.
This can affect dogs early on if they do not grow at the right pace. However, it’s usually more evident in older canines. It can cause debilitating pain and prevent the dog from running or walking. The condition can be treated with surgery if it’s caught early on. However, most vets will recommend pain management techniques if surgery is too risky.
The Turkish Kangal requires a healthy and balanced diet that’s rich in protein. Many owners provide raw meals for their Kangals, but that isn’t necessary. They will do just fine with dry kibble. However, you need to make sure that you’re getting a quality food product that meets all of their nutritional requirements.
These are large and muscular dogs, so protein should be at the top of the ingredients list. The higher the protein content, the better. Stick with wholesome meat sources like chicken, beef, or bison. The meat should be easily identifiable. Mystery meats and byproducts will do more harm than good. The goal is to provide your pup with an array of amino acids to support their bones. So, go with foods that have quality meat ingredients.
Because Kangals are working dogs, we recommend choosing dog food products that utilize complex carbohydrates as well. Complex carbs, such as sweet potatoes and peas, are converted into glucose and absorbed by the body slowly. As a result, your pup will experience a constant supply of energy rather than a quick spike and subsequent crash.
Another good thing to look out for is food that has some kind of joint support. Ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin are always welcome for dog breeds that are prone to suffering from joint problems.
Whatever food you choose, be prepared to buy a lot of it! An adult male Kangal will need between 2,600 and 3,500 calories every day! Females will require between 2,100 and 2,800. Of course, all dogs are different. Your pup’s needs may change based on their age and activity level. Just keep a watchful eye and aim for roughly 20 to 30 calories for each pound of body weight.
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There are a lot of good options out there fit for a Kangal livestock guardian dog. However, nothing quite compares to Orijen. The Orijen dry food is one of the best on the market because it has very high levels of protein. 85 percent of the formula is made out of animal ingredients. It has roughly 38 percent protein, which comes from things like chicken, turkey, herring, flounder, and so much more. Pair that with the glucosamine and chondroitin and you have a solid food option to keep your Kangal healthy.
Typically, a Kangal will need about 45 minutes of exercise a day. This isn’t something that you’re going to be able to force on your dog. Kangals will self-exercise by simply doing their job. In addition to physical exercise, try providing some mental stimulation as well. These dogs are smart and may turn to destructive behavior if they don’t have a flock of livestock to protect.
Grooming a Kangal Dog
Grooming a Kangal is not difficult at all. Regular brushings every once in a while should do the trick. You will need to spend a little more time on grooming during the winter and spring. This is when that dense undercoat starts to shed off. You can control the shedding by using a metal comb brush and de-shedding tool.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Kangals make good guard dogs?
Kangal dogs make fantastic guard dogs. It’s what they were bred to do! They will protect your livestock and your property from intruders.
Are Kangals good with other pets?
These dogs can do just fine with family pets as long as they are properly socialized early on. They are relatively calm when not working, so it’s usually not a problem.
Are Kangals good with families?
Kangals are good companions. They are fiercely loyal and quite gentle in a family setting.
How big does a Kangal dog get?
Adult male dogs can weigh upwards of 145 pounds. They can get to be as tall as 32 inches at the withers. Females are a bit smaller, but they are still very large.
Are Kangals aggressive?
These dogs are fully capable of being aggressive. However, they usually only show those signs of aggression to predator animals and humans they are not used to. Again, proper socialization is key if you want them to get familiar with other humans.
Are Kangal dogs recognized by the AKC?
The Kangal is not recognized as a separate purebred by the American Kennel Club. It’s considered to be part of the Anatolian Shepherd dog. However, the UKC, or United Kennel Club, does recognize the Kangal as a separate breed.
If you have a farm and livestock that need protecting, the Kangal may be the breed for you. This ancient dog has been around for centuries and continues to serve humans well. Of course, they also make lovable companions. Thanks to their loyalty and fearless attitude, they will be your side no matter what.