The Sarplaninac is on the first sight very very strong dog with big and muscular body. But even though quite large, it is still well proportionate breed, which shows great athleticism and that is definitely very fast and agile.
This is a mountain dog from the area of Shar Mountains and they are used to work with the livestock for all day long even in harsh weather. Which is why, the Sarplaninac posses a very practical and dense doublecoat, which enables them to work easily in these conditions.
The abundant and thick doublecoat is pretty harsh to touch, but the undercoat is very soft. On the body, the coat is approximately 4 inches long, which is 10 cm, but the coat is shorther on the head, front legs and ears. On the other hand, the coat is longer around the neck and sometimes it resembles a lion like mane. It is also slightly longer on the thighs and on the tail.
The Sarplaninac comes in several solid colors. According to the FCI breed standard, they come in almost all the colors, ranging from white to dark brown, but the preffered color is iron grey and dark grey.
And what is the height and weight of Sarplaninac? Well, the breed standard says, that the weight should be between 30-40 kg, which is 66-88 pounds and height is usually around 60 cm which is 24 inch. But it is important to mention that some breeders and owners say, that Sarplaninac dogs over 100 lbs are not uncommon at all. The height and weight is not that important, if the working abilities of the breed are not affected by it.
Other Sarplaninac dogs typical appearance traits are relatively large head and rounded skull, broad muzzle, medium sized v-shaped ears and almond shaped dark eyes. The tail is usually quite long a thick coated.
The personality and temperament of Sarplaninac is just perfect for its purpose. These dogs are used for centuries for protecting the livestock, and they are just amazing at it. The Sarplaninac create pretty strong bond with the livestock, they live with them and they are absolutely devoted to the owner, but also, to the flock.
And their loyalty is expceptional. They will definitely protect the flock, its owners and its property against any kind of predator or intruder. It is a highly protective, courageous and brave, alert and watchful breed.
In order to be capable of working all day long, these dogs just must be very endurant and indeed, they do have high stamina. If they are not used for livestock protection, they need some kind of regular job in their life. They will naturally patrol your yard if they have the chance and they will definitely enjoy daily long walks and playtime. They will do best if they can have access to some kind of large outdoor space which they can naturally guard.
The Sarplaninac is sometimes viewed as dangerous and agressive dog breed, which is a reason why they are banned in some countries, for example in Denmark. But just like with all dogs, if the adult Sarplaninac is agressive without a reason, it is most often fail of the owner, who did not socialize and train the puppy properly. There are many Sarplaninac dogs that are living as family companion dogs and they have no behavioural issues. But it is true, that this is definitely not a dog for novices as they need experienced dog owner who will provide them with firm, but kind, patient and most importantly consistent training and socialization.
The Sarplaninac is very often described as head strong or stubborn and it is true. It is an independent breed. They must be able to make their own decisions when they are working and guarding. Independent and stubborn does not mean stupid. Quite the opposite. The Sarplaninac is very intelligent breed, but they might not be the easiest dogs to train the classic obedience, due to their independence.
When the Sarplaninac is with its family, they are very friendly, they would never harm its own pack. They are also known to be quite gentle with kids, but of course, you should never leave any dog breed with a very young child unsupervised. The Sarplaninac can also live with other dogs or other pets in the family, as they dont have high prey drive, but it is better if they are socialized together from the puppyhood.
There is one very similar dog breed to Sarplaninac. It is named Kraški Ovčar or Karst Shepherd. It is a visibly smaller breed than Sarplaninac, but still, it is a breed with very similar appearance. And for a long time, the Sarplaninac and Kraški Ovčar were recognized as a same breed – as Illyrian Shepherd Dog. The Sarplaninac was a so called Type A and Karst Shepherd Type B of Illyrian Shepherd dog. It was not until the 1968, when these two dogs were separated and recognized as two distinct breeds, but until than, these two breeds were very often crossbred with each other.
There are also other similar livestock guardians from Balkan region. To mention few, there is the Tornjak, Karakachan and Greek Shepherd. If you would be interested in Balkan breeds, i created a separate video just about them and i will give you link in description.
The Sarplaninac is very old dog breed, with its presence in the area of Shar Mountains for centuries, if not thousands of years. Shar Mountains are also called Šar Planina and as you can probably guess, that the Sarplaninac is named after this mountain range.
But how did the first Sarplaninac dogs, or their ancestors, got into this area of Shar Mountains? Well, no one is exactly sure about that and we can only make guesses. One of the theory says , that they are descendants of the ancient Molloser dog of Epirus. Other experts suggested, that they evolved from ancient Turkish livestock guardian dogs. It is also possible, that they came to Balkan peninsula with the people and their cattle who migrated there from Asia. But it is impossible to say, which theory is the right one and there is an ongoing debate about this topic, which will probably never be solved.
No matter what is the exact ancestry of the Sarplaninac dog, we know for sure, that they are present on the Balkan peninsula for centuries. They lived in isolation of high mountains, where they evolved by natural selection, and later, by breeding solely for purpose, rather than for appearance. So the breed is a result of a long natural selection and breeding in pretty isolated area, where they lived untouched and where they adapted and evolved into the tough dogs we have today.
The breed was first recognized by the FCI in 1939 as Illyrian Shepherd Dog. Later, in 1957, their name was changed to Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog. But today, the breed is mostly recognized as Sarplaninac, which i would say is a perfect name for this dog.
Health and grooming
The Sarplaninac is capable of living without almost any grooming. But it is not ideal. They have long coat that is prone to matting and it should be brushed regularly to prevent matting and tangling. Brushing the coat occasionally will maintain it in excellent condition. No other grooming is really required and there is no reason to bath the dog if it is not really really dirty. Of course, just like with any other dog breed, you should also regularly check their eyes, ears, nails and teeth and clip them or clean them if needed.
For a big dog, the Sarplaninac is pretty healthy and hardy breed and they have good lifespan around 12 years. But they can suffer from the same health issues as other large breeds, such as hip dysplasia and other joint and skeletal problems. Since they have pretty deep chest, bloating can also be a problem. But those health issues should not be as common as with some other giant breeds and the Sarplaninac is really pretty healthy dog breed.