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Kuvasz Dog Breed information
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The Kuvasz (pronounced KOO-vahss; plural Kuvaszok, pronounced KOO-vah-sock) is a dog breed of ancient Hungarian origin. Mention of the breed can be found in old Hungarian texts. It has historically been used to guard livestock, but has been increasingly found in homes as a pet over the last seventy years.
The word, contrary to some theories, is probably not of Sumerian origin. It most likely comes from the Turkic word kavas meaning guard or soldier. A related theory posits that the word may have originated from the ancient farmers of Russia, the Chuvash, who nurtured the breed for generations and contributed many words to the Hungarian language. The Sumerian-origin theory hypothesizes that the name comes from the Sumerian phrase Ku Assa, meaning dog of the horse, and that the Hungarian word kutya, meaning dog, is also derived from ancient Sumerian.
Kuvaszok are large dogs with dense coats which are usually white in color and can range from wavy to straight in texture. Although the fur is white, the Kuvasz’s skin pigmentation should be dark and the nose should be black. The eyes should have an almond shape. They are larger than the average Labrador Retriever. Females usually weigh between 75-90 pounds (35-40 kg) while males weigh between 100-115 pounds (45-52 kg) with a medium bone structure. Their facial features are very similar to those of a Golden Retriever. The head should be half as wide as it is long with the eyes set slightly below the plane of the muzzle. The stop (where the muzzle raises to the crown of the head) should be defined but not abrupt. The precise standard varies by country. (See the Breed Standards for a more precise description.)
As with many livestock guardian dogs, the color of the Kuvasz's coat serves a functional purpose and is an essential breed criterion. Shepherds purposefully bred the Kuvasz to have a light colored coat so that it would be easier to distinguish the Kuvasz from wolves that would prey on the livestock during the night. Traditionally, the Hungarian Kuvasz's coat could be either white or cream colored with a wavy texture. However, there is some debate, particularly in the United States, concerning the appropriateness of "cream" colored coats in show-quality dogs and whether the coat should be straight or wavy in texture. This division is likely the result of a split in breeding programs that developed after World War II, when the breeding lines in Hungary were isolated from the rest of the world as a result of Soviet occupation (see History, below).
Kuvaszok are relatively intelligent for dogs and are often described as having a clownish sense of humor which can last throughout their adolescence and occasionally into adulthood. They are an intensely loyal yet patient pet who appreciates attention but may also be somewhat aloof or independent, particularly with strangers. In keeping with their origins as a livestock guardian, Kuvaszok are known to be fierce protectors of their families. Given their intelligence, constant awareness of their surroundings, as well as their size and strength, they can be quite impressive in this role. A Kuvasz should be courageous, disciplined and stable, while hyperactivity, nervousness and shyness are to be faulted.
The combination of intelligence, independence and protectiveness make obedience training and socialization necessities. On the other hand they make excellent guardians for sheep or manors managing this task all alone. Further, despite their intelligence, they should not be perceived as easily trained. Their independent personalities can make training a difficult task which can wear on the patience of even experienced owners. As a result, they are not recommended for novices and those who do not have time to train and socialize them properly. With a steady hand an adolescent Kuvasz should be able to quickly learn and consistently respond to basic obedience commands, however the instinctive need to investigate strangers and protect its owner may cause the Kuvasz to act independently when off leash and ignore the calls of a frustrated handler. Finally, a potential owner should refrain from purchasing a Kuvasz if barking will be a problem at the home. While not all Kuvasz are prone to barking, many of them fulfill their guardian role through vocally warning off potential threats, both real and imagined.
The Kuvasz's stiff, dense coat, growing up to 15 cm (6 inches) in length, does not require any special grooming. It needs to be brushed once a week or, better still, every two or three days. For standard grooming purposes, use of a grooming rake or a pin-brush with rounded pins is recommended. To remove stubborn knots, use a curry comb or a large-toothed comb. During the spring and autumn the Kuvasz moults (also known as shedding), and he will lose copious amounts of hair very quickly. Frequent brushing is therefore needed to keep his coat tidy. A Kuvasz should not smell or have an odor; such is usually a sign of illness or a poor diet.
Although generally a healthy and robust breed which can be expected to live approximately 12-14 years, the Kuvaszok are prone to developmental bone problems. Accordingly, owners should take care to provide proper nutrition to their Kuvasz puppy and avoid subjecting the puppy to rough play. As with many large breeds, hip dysplasia, a painful and potentially debilitating condition, is not uncommon. Good genetics and proper nutrition as a puppy are key to avoiding these complications.
A Kuvasz puppy should not be fed a diet high in calories or protein as such diets have been associated with the development of orthopedic disorders later in life. The Kuvasz has a very efficient metabolism and is predisposed to rapid growth -- vitamin supplements are not necessary and, in fact, should be avoided. Cooked bones should never be given to a Kuvasz or any other dog because the cooking process renders the bone brittle and prone to splintering, which can cause serious injury to the dog's mouth and digestive tract.
Although regarded today as one of the Hungarian breeds, the Kuvasz' origins actually lay with a nomadic tribe and may have its true origins from as far as Tibet. 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 a livestock guardian. In 1978, the fossilized skeleton of a 9th Century Kuvasz-type dog was discovered in Fenekpusta, a discovery which was remarkable in that the morphology of the skeleton was almost identical to modern Kuvaszok. 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. The Kuvasz and its cousins, such as the Komondor, were an integral part of the economy. Whereas the Komondor was used in the lower elevations with drier climates, the Kuvasz was preferred in the wet pastures of the higher mountains. Later, during the 15th Century, the Kuvasz became a highly prized animal and could be found in the royal court of King Matthias. Kuvaszok 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 waned but it was still frequently found in its traditional role of protecting livestock.
In World War II, the dog was almost driven to extinction in Hungary as they were killed for guarding their families from Nazi (and then Soviet) soldiers. It has been suggested that they were hunted at the time, yet some officers were known to take Kuvaszok home with them. Others perished after the war from food shortages and starvation. After the War, it was revealed that there were less than thirty of the dogs left in Hungary and some sources indicate the number may have been as few as twelve. Since then, due to many dedicated breeders, Kuvaszok have repopulated Hungary. However, as a result of this near extinction, the genetic pool available to breeders was severely restricted and many were forced to use other breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, to continue their programs. This problem was particularly acute in countries outside of Europe where Kuvaszok populations were limited.
Hódosi, József, ed. A Kuvasz. Hungaria Kuvasz Klub, 1996. English Translation by International Kuvasz Book Project.
Breed information on other dog breeds:
Text Source: Wikipedia