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Anatolian Shepherd: Breed Information, Facts, Traits & More

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Last Updated: March 26, 2020 | 11 min read

Anatolian Shepherd Dog

The Anatolian Shepherd is a rare breed who is certainly not suited to all families. However, if you are lucky enough to be one of the few families that would suit this guy, then you are in for a rewarding relationship indeed.

The Anatolian Shepherd also goes by a few other names, such as the Kangal, the Coban Kopegi and the Karabash, but unless you have been to Turkey or live on a working ranch in America, it is unlikely that you would have met this lovely but formidable dog. He is a member of the big boy club, and as such he needs a large home and an even larger backyard, preferably with a flock to protect.

There is some debate in the canine kingdom that the Anatolian Shepherd is a separate breed from the Kangal.  By most breed purists, the Anatolian Shepherd is a completely different breed from the Kangal, although they come from similar breeding and historic lines.  The AKC has consolidated the Kangal and Anatolian shepherd and consider them the same breed. Read this comprehensive guide to the Anatolian Shepherd to see if he would suit you and your lifestyle.

History

The Anatolian Shepherd is an ancient breed, with his molosser ancestors dating back to 2,000 B.C., and he is named after the land from which he hails, Anatolia in the central part of Turkey. He was bred to be a flock guardian, and he is traditionally left for months at a time to guard his flock single handedly, and he is one of the most independent canines on the planet. He is rarely fed after puppyhood, and he is to feed and defend himself in the wild, but of course he can distinguish between his flock and other animals. He is commonly found on duty wandering the vast terrain of Turkey with a spiked metal collar around his neck which protects him from predators.

The Anatolian Shepherd first came to America in the 1930s when he was gifted by the Turkish Government, and he was first used as a ranch dog to protect flocks of sheep from wolves and bears. In 1973 the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which protects endangered species, including the wolf, improved the Anatolian Shepherd’s popularity as flock guardians thanks to his unique ability to scare predators without the need to harm them. He is still the chosen American Cowboy colleague, and despite changes to the ESA, he is likely to remain the chosen one.

In 2019, the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranked him as the 90th  most popular dog breed in America, and overall he is described as loyal, independent and reserved. If you’ve never met an Anatolian Shepherd before (and don’t worry most people haven’t) then be sure to check out this Instagram page as it provides a real insight to their striking size and personality, both at work and in the family home!

Temperament

The Anatolian Shepherd is a working guardian, and it is his work ethic that is his first and foremost personality trait. He is insanely intimidating to those outside of his family pack and flock, and he has a loud booming bark which is usually enough to scare off the likes of cheetahs and wolves without having to physically fight them. If of course a predator ignores his bark and proceeds to attack, he will defend his flock or family to the end if necessary. He is one of the most protective dogs on the planet, and this is something to consider if you are bringing one of these guys into the family home, as whilst he may not be used as a working dog, this innate trait will never be trained out of him.

With that being said, he does have a place in the right family environment, and he is playful with his littermates and family. Despite his formidable façade, he is a very gentle dog who is loving and enjoys a snooze in the evening by the feet of his master. He is a tranquil dog who is very independent, and he is happy to spend most of his day relaxing in the garden without the need to be near his family. This is great news for those who prefer a less needy dog who is not going to be your shadow.

Because of his innate guarding tendencies, he is very protective of his family, and as such he is very suspicious of all that aren’t in his immediate pack. He is alert and always on guard duty. Even if a friend comes to visit the family home several times a month, it is unlikely that he will be over friendly with them, and it is more likely that he will always sit from afar with his watchful eyes on his pack. Do not expect him to greet visitors, and many Anatolian Shepherd owners will warn their guests not to make a fuss of him unless he allows it.

The Anatolian Shepherd is an intense dog who needs a strong and firm leader that is going to instill discipline and boundaries into the home. He will mature at around 2 years of age, and it is this time that his guarding tendencies and authoritative traits begin to flourish. He is a pack dog with an innate sense of hierarchy within his pack, and therefore his human family also need to understand pack mentality in order to create a harmonious environment.

Size & Appearance

The male Anatolian Shepherd will measure up to 29 inches tall, from paw to shoulder, whereas the female Anatolian Shepherd measures up to 27 inches tall. The male will also weigh between a hefty 110 and 150 pounds, whereas the females will weigh much less between 80 to 120 pounds. He is a large and formidable looking canine, and not one you would want to meet alone if you happen to find yourself wandering through his fields!

He is a rugged looking dog, but one who carries himself with intelligence and power. He has a large head with large drop-down ears. He has a broad muzzle that extends up to dark brown or amber colored almond eyes. He is a well-proportioned dog with a thick neck and a deep muscled torso. His tail is long and curls at the end, and in a state of alert his tail will tighten and curl even more so. His full breed standard provides detailed information regarding his appearance. Because of his size, the Anatolian was introduced as a parent breed for the American Mastiff (designer dog) over 30 years ago.  He was also added into the line to create the American Alsatian.

Coat & Colors

The Anatolian Shepherd’s coat is thick, and it is medium length that measures approximately 1 inch long. The hair around his neck tends to be slightly longer and thicker than the rest of his body, and it is rough to the touch.

His coat comes in 8 recognized colors including brindle, blue fawn, fawn, grey fawn, liver, red fawn, white, and also his most recognizable color being the light biscuit with the black facial mask. There is also a variety of other markings that his coat can take which is outlined in the above breed standard.

Exercise & Living Conditions

The Anatolian Shepherd is a medium energy dog, but one who is self-exercising. He is different from other dogs in that he does not require to be taken out for a walk as such, as he will instead exercise himself roaming and protecting his estate. Through his self-governed walking he will actively exercise between 45 and 60 minutes of exercise a day. Whilst he would not be against going out for a walk with his master, he must be placed in a home with at least 4 acres of land for him to roam. Quite simply, if you do not have the land then the Anatolian Shepherd is not suited to you.

This land needs to be enclosed and reinforced, as he will attempt to escape should he feel that there is a threat to his family beyond the fencing. A 6-foot fence should be used, with a further 2-foot underground barrier which will prevent him from digging out. Whilst he does not necessarily dig to escape, he does dig to entertain himself throughout the day, or to keep cool, so it’s always good to be on the safe side. Of course, he should be given access to shelter outside protect him from the extreme elements.

Once his guarding shift is complete and he has roamed to his heart’s content, he will join his family for the evening and relax with them. For this reason, he should only be placed in a larger home where there is room for him. Whilst he is a peaceful and tranquil dog, because of his sheer size he is not suited to families with younger children, and ideally, he should only be placed into families with much older children, preferably of High School age.

If you are, or want, a multi-pet household then the best way is to bring the Anatolian Shepherd into your home as a puppy, as he will grow up knowing that the other animals are part of the flock. Introducing other animals into the family when he is an adult is not always successful. Ideally, he should be with a family that is going to work him, as he will be lost if he does not have a purpose. It is also likely that he will become restless, and his destructive behaviors will soon begin if he has nothing to do.

Additionally, if he is not used on a farm to protect a flock, many owners comment that they will find him protecting the youngest family members and other family pets. This can cause issues within a family environment, because whilst he may have good intentions, overprotectiveness of any family member can be dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Of course, early and successful training at a young age will help to deter this behavior.

Training

The Anatolian Shepherd requires much more intense training than the average dog, and as such he is not suited to first time dog owners. Ideally, if you have little experience with Anatolian Shepherds, or similar flock guardian dogs, then it would be very useful to seek help from a professional dog trainer with experience in this breed as conventional dog training methods will not work with this guy. He needs a firm pack leader who he can look up to.

The Anatolian Shepherd will need the earliest possible socialization to ensure that he becomes familiar with as many different situations and sounds as possible. It is particularly important to introduce him to unfamiliar people and dogs in order to increase his chances of being polite around them. Whilst he will never be over friendly, he can be trained into a well-mannered pooch with the right training. A great way to introduce him to dogs of all shapes and sizes is to take him to puppy classes or to the local doggy field, just be sure not to let him off leash in a public space.

The Anatolian Shepherd matures at the age of 2, and his guarding tendencies aren’t fully developed until then, as such as a puppy he may not exhibit the strong guarding tendencies that we have outlined in this article, but do not worry, they will develop naturally. He does not require any training to be a flock guardian as he will naturally become this.

Overall, efficient training as a young pup is going to set the tone for your life together, so it is imperative that you do it, and do it right. It is also really important to recognize that due to centuries of flock guardianship and specific breeding practices, it is impossible to suppress his guarding tendencies through training, so if you are after a dog that isn’t as protective you should steer clear of the Anatolian Shepherd altogether.

Health

The Anatolian Shepherd is a very healthy dog breed whose main concern is Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, which is expected considering his size. Reputable breeders will only breed healthy dogs, and his hip and elbow score will be indicated on their health certificates. Another issue to look out for is Entropion, which is characterized by the lower eyelids folding or creasing inwards, causing irritation, pain and vision impairment. His lifespan is between 11 and 13 years on average.

The Anatolian Shepherd is sensitive to anesthesia, so before he undergoes any treatment at the Veterinarian be sure to remind him of this. Whilst he will probably know this, the Anatolian Shepherd is a rare breed and as such the Veterinarian may have never dealt with one before.

Nutrition

The Anatolian Shepherd will consume around 4 cups of food a day once he reaches maturity at 2 years of age, and the food should be aimed at large to extra-large dogs. Of course, his feeding requirements will change as he grows older and increases in size, but if you are in any doubt then be sure to speak to your Veterinarian. Of course, as with any large dog, food bills do stack up, so be sure to take this into account before welcoming him into your home.

Anatolian Shepherds hunt for themselves when they are guarding their flock, so don’t be surprised if he catches a small animal in your backyard if he is feeling a little hungry.

Grooming

Generally, he should be brushed several times a week in order to keep his coat in a manageable order, and to prevent his shedding hair from clustering up in your home. During the spring and summer months his shedding intensifies and so you will find yourself brushing him every day in order to keep his coat manageable. Of course, if he is a ranch worker then he will need brushing much less than this.

As a dog who is naturally out and about for most of the day, he will come into contact with parasites and fleas, so it is important to keep up to date with his vaccines and yearly checkups. Other grooming habits such as nail clipping and ear cleansing are the same as any other dog, just be sure to check him over weekly.

As Family Pets

  • The Anatolian Shepherd is a unique dog who has different needs.
  • Because of his stubborn streak, he is not suited to a first-time dog owner.
  • He is a large boy who needs a large home, with at least 2-4 acres of enclosed land.
  • The Anatolian Shepherd should be used as a flock or livestock guardian.
  • He is happiest when he is working and not simply a companionship dog.
  • He is very protective of his family and estate.
  • If he feels that they are under threat then he will not hesitate to attack and defend.
  • The Anatolian Shepherd is gentle and placid in the home, and enjoys relaxing with his family.
  • He is suspicious of strangers, so gated and reinforced fencing is required.
  • Fencing is critical to ensure that he cannot escape, nor can others enter.
  • He is a moderate shedder and as such he is not suited to families with dog allergies.
  •  The Anatolian Shepherd is only suited to families with older children.
  • He should be raised as a puppy alongside other animals if you are a multi-pet household.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Your first point of call in your search for a reputable Anatolian Shepherd breeder should be to visit the AKC’s breeder page, as they have selected a handful of reputable breeders across the country. The Anatolian Shepherd is a rare dog breed and as such, there is not an abundance of breeders, so you should be prepared to travel. The average cost of an Anatolian Shepherd puppy is around $1,000 from a reputable breeder, and his litter size will be between 5 to 10 pups.

Alternatively, you can search online for breeders, however you need to ensure that you thoroughly research them and read reviews about them. Unscrupulous breeders will often try to pass off other dogs and mixes as Anatolians, and they simply aren’t that.

Rescue & Shelters

The Anatolian Shepherd, whilst a rare breed, often finds himself in shelters as owners are often overwhelmed owning him, and completely underestimated his needs and requirements. The National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network list adoptable dogs and details for regional contacts if you are keen to adopt one.

Final Thoughts

The Anatolian Shepherd is a lovely and kind dog, who really is a gentle giant unless he is provoked. You do not want to be around if he is, because he is a vicious and scary dog if he feels that his family are under threat. But with that being said, he is one of the kindest and placid dogs around when he is relaxing with his family. This juxtaposition is appealing to some, and frightening to others.

He is not suited to the average family, so unless you fit the bill, and unless he will be worked and has at least 4 acres of land to roam, then he is definitely not for you. If you can fulfil his needs then he makes a fantastic flock guardian and a family protector, and he is a sweet soul to those in his immediate pack. All in all, he is a lovely boy who just needs the right home!

Leave a Comment

18 Comments

Kitty Knoll-Aldrich

March 15, 2021 at 10:54 pm

I have an Anatolian Shepherd mix female who is about 5 years old. She was found at about 6 to 8 weeks old. Searching for who lost her wasn't successful. She has been a wonderful companion and I would be heartbroken without her. She is everything your article describes but she adapts very well. Not knowing her mix isn't a problem. She weighs 92 pounds.

Her only problem started when she was 2 years old. A skin problem. Maybe veterinarians weren't knowledgeable enough. Yeast? All the time it's taken to discover chicken is the problem. She's beautiful again like when she was 2 years old.

Kelly Wilson

March 16, 2021 at 4:02 pm

Sounds like a great dog, Kitty! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Randy Schrier

March 30, 2021 at 7:44 pm

I have a 5-month female who is a fantastic pup. Working on getting her registered as my service dog due to my PTSD.

Kelly Wilson

April 1, 2021 at 3:06 am

Sounds like an amazing dog, Randy! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Mark Radomske

April 5, 2021 at 11:34 am

I owned an Anatolian Shepherd named Spacelee for 18 years. Best dog I've ever owned. I have a big cattle and grain farm and every single word of this article I believe to be on point for sure! A great depiction of my favorite dog who died at 18 from a heart attack doing what he loved chasing coyotes, lol!

Kelly Wilson

April 5, 2021 at 9:03 pm

Glad you enjoyed the article, Mark! Thanks for stopping by to comment and share your experience!

Mark Tuttle

April 7, 2021 at 7:58 pm

I just lost my Anatolian Shepherd (Bear) to a major seizure over the weekend. With that I'm not looking yet for another, was just reading about them again, keeping him close. I must say, the way you describe the bread is totally opposite to him. Yes, He was large, 160 lbs, 7 yrs old. Brown white coat with a black mask, but from that, he was the most gentle giant I had the pleasure to call my friend, my partner.

As for small children, he adored them. He would slowly walk up to them, stopping about a foot away and sniff. When I told him to sit or lay down, he would and allowed the children to hug him, kiss him, just about sleep on him, and this was the neighborhood children, and even children when we where out on the town.

He's been able to great children who had a fear of dogs, remember he's 160 lbs, very size intimidating, but after about 5 min, parents of these children were overwhelmed with emotions, their young son or daughter, didn’t matter the age were laying and petting this giant, with such smiles on their faces, was just amazing. This happened over and over, no matter where we lived. In the 7 years we had him, since a puppy, we lived in Ca, CO, TX, WI, NH, and now GA, due to work. He has never barked at anyone, other the when playing with us, and even that was a surprise.

He only growled twice, each time was due to a wild predator. When we walked, 90% of the time he was off-leash, never paid any attention to other animals unless we stopped and they met. And for being fenced in, somehow, no matter where we lived, he knew his boundaries, that's without a fence front yard and never left the yard, even if strangers or other's dogs came by. Bear was one of the kind. What a wonderful very very special friend, who brought joy and happiness not only to his family but those around him.

Kelly Wilson

April 12, 2021 at 6:29 pm

Hey Mark! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with the breed! Please keep in mind, that breed profiles are overall "generalizations" and that every dog is going to be different (we do state that in the article). It sounds like you had an amazing friend and partner. We appreciate you stopping by to share your experience with this wonderful breed!

Curt Herman

April 15, 2021 at 9:56 am

I have a 1-year-old Anatolian Shepherd. She can be super Affectionate. She howls at me when I get home. She hugs my wife when she does. I can Not house train her. I have 2 acres but haven't got a fence yet, so bring her I at night. She's the Alpha over my 7-year-old pitbull who has killed many varmints. The Anatolian has yet to.

Kelly Wilson

April 15, 2021 at 11:17 am

Sounds like a great dog, Curt! Thanks for stopping by to share your experience!

Lois

April 21, 2021 at 12:09 am

I have an Anatolian/Black Mouth Cur mix who is my service dog and she's amazing. I don't know what I would do without her.

Kelly Wilson

April 25, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Sounds like a great dog, Lois! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

Klea B

May 17, 2021 at 6:38 am

I own 2 Anatolians. My big guy I raised from a pup, from Shepherds Rest breeders. He's 8 years old and HUGE! Stands 33" at the shoulder and weighs 185lbs. He's a house dog, but we do have acreage. My other Anatolian is a rescue. There was quite a bit of adjustment to the household bringing in a rescue, but we worked through it and are a happy pack! Love this breed!

Kelly Wilson

May 21, 2021 at 1:48 pm

Sounds like an amazing pup, Klea! Thanks for stopping by to share your experience with the breed!

Jennifer Sass

June 5, 2021 at 11:01 pm

We have an Anatolian Shepherd that we rescued and she's a joy. She does will in exercising her self and she adores both my husband I only she gets a little uneasy if anyone's comes on my side of room. She's amazing.

Kelly Wilson

June 7, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Sounds like an amazing pup, Jennifer! Thanks for commenting!

R K

June 14, 2021 at 7:34 pm

My son took in a dog who's original owner said the vet said he was a German Shepherd. He looks and acts like everything I've seen and read about Anatolian Shepherds. Even strangers ask what he's mixed with as I did when I was told he is a German Shepherd. Is there any way to tell the difference between the two?

Kelly Wilson

June 15, 2021 at 9:11 pm

Hi RK - yes, you should be able to tell the difference between the two, mostly through looks. The Anatolian is generally larger in appearance, and their tails can curl up a bit more. They are also likely to be more fawn in color, whereas the German Shepherd is going to be more black and tan. The only real way to distinguish the difference between the two is to pay for a DNA test. We've used Embark twice now for our pups, and had a great experience. Good luck with your dog!