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Five Uncommon Giant Dog Breeds

Mioritic Shepherd, by Caronna
By Linda Cole

This year's winner at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show was a Scottish Deerhound named Hickory. The Scottish Deerhound is one of the giant dog breeds of the world. Most of us know about the St. Bernard and Newfoundland, but have you ever heard of the giant breed that originated from Romania, called the Mioritic Shepherd dog? Here are five giant dog breeds that most people are not familiar with.

The Mioritic Shepherd has its origins in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. Standing 25-29 inches, males weigh 120-150 pounds and females 100-130 pounds. This is a fierce, brave and agile herding and guard dog that was bred to protect sheep against bear, wolf and lynx. Their coats are so white, predators mistake them for sheep which gives the dog the advantage by surprising a would-be attacker. Great with kids and extremely loyal to his family, the Mioritic Shepherd doesn't accept strangers well and will keep a watchful eye on anyone they don't know. They are well suited to cold weather with a long shaggy coat that gives them protection from hot weather as well. Medieval kings used these dogs in their armies because of their courage and strength.

The Macedonia-Yugoslav Shepherd Dog or the Sarplaninac (Sar), pronounced “shar-pla-nee-natz,” this giant dog breed originated in southern Kosovo and northwest part of Macedonia. At 22-24 inches and 55-88 pounds, this dog has a dense all weather 4 inch coat that makes him look bigger than his stated height and weight. Bred to guard sheep, the Sar is not a dog that enjoys being with people, and prefers the company of sheep. An independent and intelligent dog who is a natural at guarding, this breed is loyal to his owner, but he never fully gives his trust to anyone and is very careful in choosing his friends. This dog will tolerate children and other family members if raised with them, and will protect everything he considers to be in his territory, including all living things inside his domain. This dog will fiercely defend his flock no matter how large his challenger may be. In the United States and Canada, ranchers have been using the Sarplaninac to help control coyotes and other predators.

Caucasian Ovcharka, by Gary Sicard
The Caucasian Ovcharka originated in Caucasia, a mountainous area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea with Turkey and Iran as neighbors. They were bred to be a fierce and aggressive guard dog for livestock. This dog is alert, extremely strong, and brave with a thick weather resistant coat. At 25-28 inches and 99-154 pounds, the Caucasian Ovcharka is a formidable and powerful guard dog who will protect everyone he considers to be his family, including other dogs, cats and children. He's loyal to his family, but doesn't do well with strangers and can be dominant with dogs he doesn't know. This breed is very popular in Russia and “ovcharka” means “sheepdog” in Russian. This breed was used as a Border Patrol dog in East Germany and was also used to patrol the Berlin Wall from the late 1960s until the wall was torn down in 1989.

Leonberger, by Eli Duke
The Leonberger is a muscular dog from the working group and one of the six new breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club this year. Males stand 29-31 inches and weigh 130-170 pounds; females stand 27-29 and weigh 100-130 pounds. Established in 1846 in Leonberg, Germany by crossing the St. Bernard, Newfoundland and Great Pyrenees, the only goal of the breeder was to produce a dog that looked something like a lion. The Leonberger has webbed feet and is an affectionate, well balanced, intelligent family dog who loves everyone, including kids. He has been used as a guard dog for livestock, search and rescue, obedience, water rescue, tracking and as a companion.

The Shiloh Shepherd is like a German Shepherd, but is larger and has better hips than the GSD. This breed was developed in the 1970s by a German Shepherd breeder in the U.S. who wanted to take the standard back to the larger breed of Shepherd. The Shiloh Shepherd left AKC in 1990 and the breeder began keeping registry records for her breed standard. This is an intelligent herding dog who loves a challenge. They stand 28-30 inches with males weighing 100-130 pounds and females 80-100 pounds. The Shiloh is extremely loyal, courageous, self confident and friendly. They are excellent guard dogs and watchdogs who want to be close to the ones they love.

Read more articles by Linda Cole
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