The Anatolian Shepherd – A Rare but Fascinating Breed


Originating in Turkey over 6,000 years ago, the Anatolian Shepherd was bred to protect livestock from wolves and other predators and to withstand the harsh environment of the Anatolian Peninsula, where summers are hot and dry and winters are marked by heavy snowfalls.  Unlike herding dogs that require direction from a person, Anatolian Shepherds were bred to work without human supervision, living with their flock full-time in remote areas and constantly attentive to potential threats.  Their size, speed, endurance and agility made them extremely effective at deterring predators, and their hardiness and self-reliance enabled them to survive extreme conditions on their own.

The Modern Anatolian

Today, Anatolians continue to work as livestock guardian dogs in Turkey and other parts of the world, as they have done for centuries.  In the United States, however, they have taken on a number of different roles – as livestock guardians, family pets, therapy dogs, and service dogs.  They compete in confirmation, agility, rally, obedience and carting.  Due to their loyalty, calm demeanor, and low prey drive, Anatolians make wonderful pets and are especially good with children.  Compared to the higher-energy herding-type shepherds, Anatolian Shepherds are delightfully mellow.

In recent years, Anatolians have played an important role in wildlife conservation in Africa by minimizing confrontations between farmers and endangered cheetahs.  Anatolians were selected by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to work in Namibia because of their ability to work without guidance and withstand the harsh climate.  The CCF has provided Anatolians to local farmers to keep cheetahs away from livestock and thus decrease the number of endangered cheetahs killed by farmers trying to protect their flocks.


Anatolians are intelligent, independent, fiercely loyal, and protective of family and livestock.  They are affectionate with children and family, but suspicious of and reserved around strangers.  Some Anatolians bark, but generally adults are quiet, only barking when necessary to announce a threat or issue a warning.


Anatolians must be socialized from an early age, and socialization must continue throughout their lifetimes.  Although important with all dogs, obedience training is particularly important with Anatolians due to their size, strength, intelligence and independent nature.  Anatolians can appear to be stubborn at times because it’s their nature to make their own decisions without human direction.  Their natural independence may cause them to be slow to respond to commands.


Anatolian Shepherds have a regal appearance due to their size, confidence, and composure.  Adult male Anatolians range between 29 and 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 110 to 150 pounds, and females range between 27 and 32 inches and weigh from 80 to 120 pounds.  Their coats are either short or rough.  Colors range from fawn with black mask to pinto, white, and brindle.


Unlike many giant breeds, Anatolian Shepherds do not drool. They shed year-round, and blow their coats twice a year.  They require minimal grooming – bathing when necessary, regular brushing, and brushing when blowing their coats.  A large fenced yard with a tall, sturdy fence is recommended.  Anatolians will often dig large holes for shelter and to keep cool in the summer, and have been known to dig under – and jump over – fences.  Unspayed females may dig dens large enough for themselves and their puppies.


The average lifespan of the Anatolian Shepherd is between 11 to 15 years.  They are a very hardy breed with few serious health problems and fewer inherited health conditions than most breeds.  Anatolians can be sensitive to anesthesia.  As with many large breeds, Anatolians can suffer from hip dysplasia but this risk is reduced when both sire and dam are OFA-certified.

Rebecca Randolph is a blogger, writer, artist, and attorney, but most importantly, a dog mom. You can read about her lab Garth and their adventures at The World According to Garth Riley (

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