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Get to Know the Anatolian Shepherd: Ancient Guardian of Livestock

These giant dogs are also helping to save cheetahs from extinction in Africa.

Caroline Coile  |  Jul 27th 2015


How many breeds do you know that can be credited with helping to save an African big cat from extinction? Meet the Anatolian Shepherd. He’s one of the best livestock guardians in the world.

The Anatolian is a giant breed with an athletic, lithe build. This ancient livestock guardian probably comes from Tibetan Mastiff and Roman war dogs, with a touch of sighthound, possibly Saluki. They are one of the fastest, and most effective, of the livestock guardian breeds.

Anatolian Shepherd by Shutterstock.

Anatolian Shepherd by Shutterstock.

Read more interesting things about Anatolian Shepherds

  • In their native Turkey, they are called the koban copek, which means shepherd’s dog. They are also called Anatolian Karabash dogs.
  • The Anatolian Shepherd is a livestock guardian, not a herder. The breed is still used to guard flocks from wolves along the Anatolian Plateau to Afghanistan. They wear long-spiked collars for protection — although they can kill a wolf even without protection.
  • Puppies are raised as part of the flock so that when they mature, they protect their goats, sheep, or other livestock family against intruders or threats.
Anatolian Shepherd by Shutterstock.

Anatolian Shepherd by Shutterstock.

  • In Africa, they are used in cheetah conservation areas to protect livestock from attacks. Farmers were killing cheetahs who killed their livestock; the solution was to guard the livestock using Anatolian Shepherds, so the cheetahs don’t even try to trespass. And the farmers have no reason to kill them. About 500 dogs have been placed with farmers so far, resulting in an 80 to 100 percent decrease in livestock loss. Previously, farmers were killing up to 1,000 cheetahs a year; now that number is slashed. There is a long waiting list for dogs, and the project has expanded to other countries with similar problems. Here’s a video about the how the dogs are helping:

  • They are one of the more popular working livestock guardians in America.
  • The Anatolian is currently the 92nd most popular AKC breed, up from 115th five years ago.
  • This is a very large dog, standing over 27 inches at the withers and weighing from 80 to 150 pounds.
  • The AKC recognized the Anatolian in 1996. It is a member of the AKC Working group.
Anatolian Shepherd by Shutterstock.

Anatolian Shepherd by Shutterstock.

  • No Anatolian has even placed in the group — yet — at the Westminster dog show. But they’ve only been shown there since 2000.
  • Anatolians have had roles in the films Kate and Leopold (Bart) and Cats & Dogs (Butch). The TV series Simon & Simon had an Anatolian named Marlow, and an Anatolian is also featured in SportsNation.
  • This is not exactly a typical Hollywood dog, but we wouldn’t be surprised if some celebrities have them hiding out on their rural retreats.

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

Read recent stories by Caroline Coile:

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.