The Karabaş (Blackhead) is descended from ancient livestock guardian dog types that migrated with the transhumance, guarding flocks of sheep from wolves, bears, lions, tigers, leopards, jackals, and even cheetahs. It is probable that dogs of this type existed 6,000 years ago in what is now Turkey. Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are members of a very old breed, probably descended from powerful hunting dogs from Mesopotamia. This mountain dog breed was developed over time to meet a specific set of circumstances. The most formative were climate (very hot, dry summers and very cold winters), lifestyle (sedentary, semi-nomadic and nomadic) and duties (guarding flocks moving great distances on the Central Anatolian Plateau).
In the 1970s, breeders in the West became interested in these dogs and began developing the landrace natural breeds as modern breeds by documenting their descent from particular ancestors and writing breed standards. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog was imported from central Turkey into the United Kingdom by author and archaeologist Charmian Hussey. Although the first pair of dogs brought in by Roger Fanti Sr. were Karabakh (aka Kangal) dogs, other types of dogs were brought in later and cross bred under the definition of an Anatolian Shepherd dog. Many Turkish breeders believe that the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a cross of the Kangal dog and the Akbash dog.
The Anatolian Shepherd dog is a muscular breed. They have thick necks, broad heads, and sturdy bodies. Their lips are tight to their muzzle and they have triangular drop ears. Males stand 660 to 790 mm (26 to 31 inches) tall, females between 680 and 760 mm (27 to 30 inches). They weigh between 40 and 70 kg (90 and 150 pounds), with females on the smaller side and males on the larger side. The coat may be any colour, although most common are white cream, "sesame," and white with large coloured spots that do not cover more than 30% of the body. Known as piebald, these colours may or may not be accompanied by a black mask and/or ears.
They have a thick double coat that is somewhat wiry, and needs to be brushed 1-2 times a week in warm weather due to excessive shedding. They have very thick hair on their neck to protect their throat. They are seen with docked as well as intact tails. They are a naturally thin animal with a large rib cage and small stomach. They look as if they are heavier than they actually are, due to the thick coat.
The Anatolian Shepherd dog was developed to be independent and forceful, responsible for guarding its master's flocks without human assistance or direction. These traits make it challenging as a pet; owners of dogs of this breed must socialize the dogs to turn them into appropriate companions. They are intelligent and can learn quickly but might choose not to obey.
According to Turkish shepherds, three Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are capable of overcoming a pack of wolves and injuring one or two of them. These dogs like to roam, as they were bred to travel with their herd and to leave the herd to go hunt for predators before the predators could attack the flock. Therefore, it is recommended to microchip and tag pets.
The Anatolian Shepherd is not recommended for life in small quarters. They do well with other animals, including cats if they are introduced while still a puppy and have their own space. They mature between 18–30 months. Due to their history, both puppies and adults seem to have little interest in fetching. Rather, they prefer to run and sometimes swim.
Presence of some Anatolian shepherd genes in Alaskan huskies positively correlates with husky work ethic.
There is some discussion about whether the Anatolian Shepherd is a distinct breed, or a general name for different types of shepherd dogs in Anatolia that look alike (such as the Kangal, which is used as a synonym for the Anatolian Shepherd and has the same 'Blackhead' -karabas- nickname). This view accepts the name Anatolian Shepherd as a general name for breeds such as the Kangal dog, Akbash dog and the Aksaray Malaklisi dog. Recognition of the Kangal as a different breed than the Anatolian Shepherd was retracted in Australia.
There appears to be only one health survey of Anatolian Shepherds, done in 2004 by the UK Kennel Club. The median life span for the 23 deceased dogs (a small sample size) in the survey was 10.75 years. This is 3–4 years longer than other breeds of their size, which have median longevities of 6–8 years. The leading causes of death of the dogs in the survey were cancer (22%), "combinations" (17%), cardiac (13%), and old age (13%).
Based on a small sample of 24 still-living dogs, the most common health issues cited by owners were dermatologic, musculoskeletal, and lipomas. Entropion and canine hip dysplasia are sometimes seen in the breed. Eyes and hips should be tested before breeding.
Anatolian Shepherd dogs are used by Dr. Laurie Marker and the Cheetah Conservation Fund in their ongoing efforts to prevent livestock-hunting cheetahs being killed by farmers.
These dogs are bred and then given to the farmers to use in protecting and guarding their livestock from cheetah attacks. The dogs are an effective, non-lethal discouragement that prevents the cheetahs from taking livestock. The incentive for farmers to preemptively shoot the cheetahs is thus removed, and the cheetahs then concentrate their hunting on wild game.
The UK Kennel Club has announced it is to recognise the Kangal Dog as a breed with effect from July 2013. It also stated that dogs currently registered as Anatolian Shepherd Dogs may be eligible (where appropriate) to be recorded as Turkish Kangal Dogs instead.
As of 1 January 2012, the Australian National Kennel Council no longer recognises the ANKC Kangal as being a separate breed from the ANKC Anatolian Shepherd.
Duke; animal ambassador at the San Diego Zoo.In fiction
Bart, from Kate and Leopold
Butch, from Cats & Dogs and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Corky, from Road Trip
Marlowe, from Simon & Simon
Sam, from Shooter
Haatchi, a three-legged Anatolian Shepherd who has formed a special bond with Owen, a 7-year-old boy suffering from Schwartz-Jampel syndrome. Haatchi and Owen were the winners in the "Friends for Life" category at Crufts in 2013. Haatchi was also awarded The Braveheart Honour in the ceremony of The British Animal Honours in April 2013 (Haatchi the dog), and an Endal Medal.