Breed Profile: Šarplaninac

AKA: Illyrian Shepherd, Macedonian Shepherd
Nicknames: Shar, Sar, Sarpla

The Šarplaninac land race/breed originates in the Balkans, dating well before the Holy Roman Empire. Back when the region was called “Illyria,” these dogs roamed with their owners and their flocks of sheep. Traditional shepherd’s dogs, the Shars were selectively bred to perform guardian work integral to the lifestyle of their shepherds. Many breeders in the region maintain this tradition to this day, maintaining sheep and goat herds and using the Šarplaninac shepherd dogs to protect them from bear, wolf and lynx in their native lands of former Yugoslavia- Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo. 

Memati (Mountain Type) ~ Sire to Eos/Selene
Owner – Gjorgi Nachevski, Macedonia

There are three main types of dogs/owners in these countries today:
-The “exhibition type” show dogs who are bred to the conformation standard set by FCI.
-The working “mountain dogs” who still roam with their flocks and shepherds.
-And the military line remnants from out crossing experiments to increase the aggression to be like guard (not guardian) breeds for military use.

The intermixing of the three types is a matter of some contention between the owners of each type. The land race shepherd dog in Macedonia and surrounding countries has a wider variety of coat, color and even type- the shepherds prefer a shorter coated dog and prioritize instinct over a standard appearance.

Not for everyone, the sharp personality and intelligence of these dogs can be threatening to an inexperienced dog handler with harder temperament breeds. As with any livestock guardian dog breed, the learning curve for your first pup will be rather steep. It is important to be honest with yourself and your breeder/mentor when considering a harder breed, since we want to help set you and the puppy up for success!

Our Šarplaninac

Selene (Mountain Type) and Duke (Exhibition Type)

We brought our first Šarplaninac Duke to our program to add a fierce edge and harder temperament to our working pack. Duke came to us as a 20 month old dog from a breeder of a single litter here in Montana. His litter was raised to near maturity before the breeder was forced out of his ranch and sold off the litter. Duke was the first dog sold, a trainer dog with proven goat bond, and we selected him to replace Dierks, our original LGD.

When Duke turned 2, we decided that his results were worth pursuing further, so we found two litter mate sisters out of a mountain dog sire in Macedonia (Memati) and paid for them. In February of 2016, we imported Selene and Eos from Deniz Selim of the Gazi Baba Volcanoes Kennel in Macedonia. The process was difficult and the relationship with their breeder is quite strained due to the way he conducts himself and his business, but the girls are great dogs and we cannot fault them.

Eos and Selene, first day in the US. February 2016

Selene and Eos did require a significant amount of training and exposure to the goats for their first year and a half in the US, compared to a puppy raised with stock from day 1 like we and the breeder of their sire raise our puppies. We are very proud to have the sire line of Memati (pictured above) in the girls in the US.

Selene (front) and Eos all grown up, January 2018

Eos did not fit into our pack and pen setup here. She wanted more space and fewer dogs. We sold her, and she now lives in Northern Montana with a family raising sheep for wool and dairy. We kept Selene for her wonderful temperament and ability to get along with the existing pack of LGDs. Selene has given us 17 beautiful Sarplaninac pups as of May 2020. She is a great mother and teacher.

Duke x Selene puppies, 2 weeks old. August 2018