The Kuvasz is a large, white flock-guarding dog who hails from Hungary. A one-family dog, he’s protective of his people and suspicious of strangers. The Kuvasz thinks for himself and can be challenging to train.
Around 2000 B.C., the Magyar tribes moved along the recently established trade routes of the steppes, gradually leading them to the Carpathian Basin in Hungary which they conquered in 896 A.D. With them came Kuvasz-type dogs, which primarily served as livestock guardians. In 1978, the fossilized skeleton of a 9th Century Kuvasz-type dog was discovered in Fenékpuszta near Keszthely, a discovery which was remarkable in that the morphology of the skeleton was almost identical to a modern Kuvasz. If accurate, such a discovery would mark the Kuvasz as among the oldest identifiable dog breeds as only a few breeds can be dated beyond the 9th Century.
After the Magyar settlement of the Carpathian Basin, the tribes converted to a more agrarian lifestyle and began to devote more resources towards animal husbandry. Whereas the Komondor was used in the lower elevations with drier climates, the Kuvasz was used in the wet pastures of the higher mountains and both were an integral part of the economy. Later, during the 15th Century, the Kuvasz became a highly prized animal and could be found in the royal court of King Matthias Corvinus. Kuvasz puppies were given to visiting dignitaries as a royal gift, and the King was said to have trusted his dogs more than his own councilors. After the king’s death, the popularity of the breed among the nobles waned but it was still frequently found in its traditional role of protecting livestock.
By the end of World War II, nearly all the Kuvasz dogs in Hungary had been killed. The dogs had such a reputation for protecting their families that they were actively sought and killed by German and Soviet soldiers, while at the same time some German officers used to take Kuvasz dogs home with them. After the Soviet invasion and the end of the war, the breed was nearly extinct in Hungary. After the war, it was revealed that fewer than thirty Kuvasz were left in Hungary and some sources indicate the number may have been as few as twelve. Since then, due to many dedicated breeders, Kuvasz breed have repopulated Hungary. However, as a result of this near extinction, the genetic pool available to breeders was severely restricted and there is conjecture that some may have used other breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, to continue their programs. The issue is further clouded by the need to use an open stud book system at the time to rebuild the breed.
Their almond-shaped eyes, black nose, and dense white fur make him an eye-catching breed. So does his size. Males can weigh up to 115 pounds or even more. They’re sturdy and well-muscled, very strong with great endurance, yet elegant. Many think the Kuvasz moves like a wolf, with a powerful, graceful stride. When he trots or runs, he seems to glide, with little up-and-down movement of the body. Because his gait is so effortless, he’s capable of trotting for 15 miles or more without tiring.
A Kuvasz’s white coat is beautiful to behold, and has at times contributed to the breed’s popularity as a “fashion dog.” But they were bred to have white coats for reasons other than beauty: Their color helped shepards distinguish their dogs from wolves.
The Kuvasz can be a wonderful, loyal, and patient companion, but he’s not for everyone. Because he was bred to guard, he can be aloof, independent, and suspicious of strangers. Your Kuvasz will be polite to welcomed guests, but no more — regardless of how hard the strangers try to befriend him. His almost fanatical loyalty makes him very protective; he’s always alert for any signs of danger, and when aroused, he can move with surprising speed given his size.
Kuvaszok are extremely intelligent, but they aren’t easy to train. Their fierce independence makes them a challenge even for experienced dog owners. Puppies are playful well into adolescence, but older dogs usually are calm and reserved.
Kuvasz are active dogs who wouldn’t do well in an apartment or house without a yard. If kept in a kennel or, worse, tethered or chained, they can become aggressive. Kuvasz are determined and have a high tolerance to pain, so an underground electronic fence probably wouldn’t hold them if they really wanted to run free. But you shouldn’t always keep them outdoors. Let them inside so they can be with their family. Everyone will enjoy it.