The Tornjak, also known as the Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Shepherd Dog, is an ancient breed of sheepdog from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. It was on the verge of extinction until some dedicated breed breeders revived it in the 1970s. The breed has been preserved, but the tornjak is still extremely rare.
The Tornjak is large and powerful, but well-proportioned and agile, with a deep, broad chest and an almost square body outline. The long, thick coat is usually two-tone: a base color of white with markings in black or some other solid color. The long tail is abundantly covered with hair, creating a type of feathered tail known as a plume. The tail hangs low when the dog is resting, but rises over the back when the dog moves.
The Tornjak is full of dignity and self-confidence and has a calm being with a steady being. The breed is friendly and very affectionate to their immediate family and shows ample affection for their special people. The Tornjak is intelligent, extremely easy to train, and very obedient. Born as a security guard, the Tornjak is suspicious of strangers, especially anyone the dog believes to be threatened. The Tornjak is brave in the face of danger and will vigorously protect its flock, family and home from intruders or any threatening person or animal; the tornjak acts with swift and appropriate aggression when warranted.
The tornjak protects livestock, but the breed can be aggressive towards other dogs, especially unfamiliar dogs. Some torkjaks can get along with a family cat, although not all torkjaks can live peacefully with cats.
Group: Schutzhund (UKC)
Weight: 62 to 110 pounds
Size: 23 to 28 inches tall at the shoulder
Fell: Long, thick, coarse and straight double hair
Colours: Solid color (white with black or another solid color)
Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years
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History of the Tornjak
The Tornjak, also known as the Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Shepherd Dog, existed as early as 1067 in the mountains and valleys of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Historical writings from that year mention a “Bosnian-Herzegovinian-Croatian” breed of dog. The tornjak is believed to be directly related to the Tibetan mastiff. The Tornjak watched over flocks of sheep and protected his family and his homestead from intruders, regardless of whether they were animals or humans.
By the 1970s, the Tornjak breed was on the verge of extinction when it was rescued and carefully restored by breeders in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. In 1978 the Tornjak was revived and breeding programs kept the breed going. He was recognized by the international Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 2017. In the United States, the Tornjak was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 2011. He is currently part of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, which is a stepping stone to full recognition. The tornjak is extremely rare, especially outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The long double skin of the Tornjak is relatively easy to care for. All you have to do is weekly brushing and occasional bathing. However, you may prefer to brush more often if your tornjak spends a lot of time indoors; the coat throws off a good amount. Trim your nails every other week and clean your ears every couple of weeks. Make sure the ears aren’t red or smelly, which could indicate an infection.
Tornjaks are large, but only require a moderate amount of exercise and activity. Tornjaks enjoy spending time outdoors exploring, patrolling, and keeping a close eye on your home, family, and other animals. Tornjaks also enjoy walking, hiking and swimming. The breed is extremely smart and very trainable, can learn a lot of tasks and is happy to perform them. Tornjaks are naturally suspicious of strangers, so offer pups plenty of socialization early on so that they can grow into demanding, yet accepting, visitors.
Common health problems
The tornjak is exceptionally healthy and robust, with few genetic health conditions known to plague the breed. The Tornjak also has a typical lifespan of 12 to 14 years, which is a fairly long life for a large breed. Reputable Tornjak breeders are committed to ensuring that the health of their breeding dogs is a priority.
Diet and nutrition
The Tornjak is a large breed; some can weigh 100 pounds or more. However, the tornjak’s moderate energy needs mean they may need to eat less than you might think. As your tornjak is more active, it may need to eat a little more, but take the “less is more” side to avoid overfeeding. Obesity puts stress on the body and joints, which can lead to joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as other health problems like diabetes. Ask your breeder or vet to recommend a healthy diet and recommended amount of food for your Tornjak. Feed measured meals twice a day (morning and evening) rather than free-feeding (skip food all the time) to avoid weight gain.
Get to know 10 breeds of mountain dogs
Very rare / hard to find
Need a lot of socialization
May not get along with other pets
Where to adopt or buy
The tornjak is extremely rare, especially in North America. You are unlikely to find a tornjak for adoption by a shelter or rescue group, but you may be able to purchase a reputable breed puppy. It is best to look for a breeder who lives in your own country, although for very rare breeds like the Tornjak your only option is to import a puppy from one of their home countries.
More dog breeds and further research
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