Kuvasz is a large, sturdy breed of livestock guardian dog. Originating in Hungary, the Kuvasz has a thick, wavy white coat. It was originally used as a royal guardian and the name Kuvasz is believed to derive from the Turkish word “Kawasz”, meaning “armed guard of the nobility”. Some think the name is derived from the Arabic word “kawwasz”, meaning “archer”. Kuvasz is striking in appearance, with a long white coat with a wavy texture.
Kuvasz History and Origin
The Kuvasz dogs are believed to have arrived in the Carpathian Basin of Hungary around 896A.D. with the Magyars, who conquered the area and settled there. They used the dog as a livestock guardian and bred it to suit the wetter highland climate. King Matthias Corvinus is known to have used Kuvasz as his guardians. It is said that he trusted his dogs more than his royal couriers. Visiting royalty were given Kuvasz puppies as gifts.
During World War II, most of the Kuvasz in Hungary were killed by the German, and later Russian invaders. This stemmed from the breed’s natural tendency to be a fierce guardian of its territory. The Kuvasz shares this trait with the Komondor dog. After the war, it is believed that only as few as 12 individual Kuvasz dogs remained in Hungary. It took the efforts of dedicated breeders to revive the breed. Today, happily, the breed is well established and enjoys a good reputation as a guardian dog and family companion.
Appearance, Colour, and Size
The Kuvasz is large but not bulky. It is muscular and agile, a trait that makes it a good sheepdog and guardian of family and property. The body is slightly longer than its height at the withers, with a rectangular outline. The ears fold forward a stand erect when the dog is alert. The head is about half as wide as it is long, with almond-shaped eyes and a black nose. Kuvasz fur is invariably white, with dark skin pigmentation.
The coat can vary from straight to wavy and curly. This often leads to heated debate when it comes to show dogs. Some people argue that the washing and grooming that is done in preparation for shows is the cause of the straight appearance and that the traditional appearance of the coat should be wavy.
Male Kuvasz weighs between 100-115 pounds (45-52kg) while females average 70-90 pounds (32-41kg). In height, males average 28-30 inches (71-76cm) while females typically stand 27 inches (68cm) tall. As with most large dogs, Kuvasz takes at least two years to reach maturity.
Kuvasz Characteristics and Temperament
The Kuvasz was bred as a working dog to guard flocks of sheep and goats and other property. As a result, the breed is naturally protective. Kuvasz is intelligent and active dogs and requires a lot of exercise.
Obedience training should begin as early as possible as Kuvasz can be rather destructive. Kuvasz puppies love to chew on things like shoes and sandals so the guardian should be prompt to set limits early. Properly trained the Kuvasz is an excellent family dog and can be trusted to protect everything left in its charge, be it a family, a flock of livestock, or small children. They are naturally suspicious of strangers and take their time before trusting unfamiliar people and animals, especially other dogs.
The Kuvaszok (the plural of the name) is unsuited to apartment life. A yard with a high fence is best suited to them. They need to be trained and socialized early, otherwise, they can become aggressive and destructive. They require daily exercise but are not suitable for unsupervised play in parks because of their tendency to roam. The breed requires constant attention and should not be chained in a yard and left alone. They, however, make good family dogs and are loving and fiercely protective. They have a tendency to bark a lot, but with proper training, this can be controlled. Kuvaszok have a great sense of humor and, properly trained, make great companions for the family.
Kuvasz is generally healthy, with a life expectancy of 12-14 years. However, the breed is prone to bone development problems. Guardians should provide proper nutrition from a young age and avoid rough play with puppies. It is not uncommon for Kuvasz to experience hip dysplasia, which is painful and potentially debilitating. Proper nutrition can help avoid these complications.
As with all dogs, cooked bones should never be given to the dog as the cooking process makes bones brittle and easy to splinter, which can seriously injure the dog’s mouth and digestive tract.
Despite their size, Kuvasz does not eat that much and diets high in calories and protein should be avoided. Vitamin supplements should be avoided completely.
Grooming and Shedding
The Kuvasz’s coat is dense and stiff, growing to a length of about 6 inches (15cm). Frequent brushing with a pin brush or grooming rake every two to three days is generally enough to keep the coat clean and shiny. In spring and autumn, the Kuvasz sheds copious amounts of hair, a process known as molting. The Kuvasz coat has no odor – if it does, it probably means a visit to the vet is called for as that is a sign of illness or poor diet.
Kuvasz Price and Breeders
It is important to familiarise yourself with the Kuvasz breed standards before considering it as a pet or companion. Canadian and American breeders have established 3 different standards for the breed and potential buyers have to be especially careful. Visiting the breeder and asking to see the dog’s papers is imperative. Face-to-face meetings are always preferable as you can judge the breeder’s character and practices. As the Kuvasz can be difficult to live with, it is not recommended for a first-time dog guardian.
This ancient Hungarian breed averages out at about $1,000 for a pet, but the price can be significantly higher for a show dog.
For those whose pockets are not deep enough, there’s always the option of adopting a rescued dog. Kuvasz rescue centers can easily be found with a search on the internet. Rescue homes can be found all over Europe, North America, and Asia, with prices ranging from $50 to around $400.