Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and also spends time training and caring for his own canine family.
Hungarian Working Dogs
The Magyar people have been herding in the steppes of Eastern Europe for thousands of years. They have always used several great dog breeds to manage their herds of sheep during their travels. Eventually (probably about 2000 BCE), they settled in the Carpathian Basin of Hungary, where they continued to perfect their shepherd and livestock guard dogs.
The Kuvasz is probably the oldest, but the Komondor and Puli are more recognizable because of their corded coats. Pumi and Mudi were available for those Hungarians who wanted a smaller sheep dog, or maybe just one that did not need much grooming.
The Hungarians also developed several other dog breeds, among them a hunter, a Greyhound-type sighthound, and even a companion.
5 of the Best Working Dog Breeds From Hungary
This cool little Hungarian dog is famous for his corded coat. He looks like a little Rastafarian, sometimes black, sometimes white, cream, or even grey. They are small to medium sized dogs, about 12 kilos (25 pounds). Even though their coats require quite a bit of care, they are a dog that needs to run outside and make a mess.
Pulis developed that coat to withstand the Hungarian elements, since they are actually a type of shepherd. Because of their versatility, they are one of the best dogs for a small farm.
Like the Collie and many other shepherd breeds, they are not the type of pet that should be confined to an apartment. There are a lot of good dog breeds for a person that works all day; the Puli is not one of them.
Since the Puli is also very protective of their human family, they can be used as a guard and can be used as a personal protection dog, but unlike the Doberman or Cane Corso, they are not large enough to knock down a human attacker. When working sheep in Hungary, the Puli was supposed to alert the big dogs like the Komondor and Kuvasz if the wolves attacked.
They need obedience training, but even then may attack strangers they feel are a threat.
Pulis are usually healthy, but like all dogs, they can have problems like retinal atrophy (PRA), and sometimes even hip dysplasia. Good breeders will have the parents certified before breeding. Their average lifespan is about 12 years.
If you have a flock of sheep to watch, the Puli is an amazing little dog. If not, the Puli is still a great dog with an interesting history!
If you like the fantastic looks of the Puli but want a massive dog that is powerful enough to knock over any intruder, the Komondor is waiting. They are tall, thickly muscled, and males weigh around 50 to 60 kilos (up to about 130 pounds).
This dog is always white, like a lot of sheep guard dogs, and so distinctive that he has been declared a national treasure in Hungary. That long, corded coat protects the dog from rough weather, and may have even been developed to protect him from wolf bites. That coat is even thicker than it looks; after a bath, one of these dogs needs several days to dry off.
These dogs have been around Hungary for almost 1000 years, but were first brought there by nomads fleeing the Mongols. They are tough, willing to dive in and do their job protecting the livestock or family, and despite their looks are very good livestock guard dogs.
Obviously, a big dog like this needs obedience training, and it should start early before the puppy can throw his weight around. They also need to be well socialized.
Like all big dogs, they can be prone to bloat, and like their smaller cousin the Puli, some can develop hip dysplasia. They usually live over 10 years, which is good for such a large dog.
This good-looking livestock guard breed has been used by the Magyars for thousands of years, and since World War II has often been purchased as a pet.
They are big, with males weighing about 50 kilos (110 pounds), and both sexes have a thick double coat that is almost odorless. Like many livestock guard dogs, they are all white or cream colored.
The Kuvasz is intelligent, loyal, independent, and a good family member; one of the best things about the dogs is that they do not stink much. The breed does not have the normal doggy smell that most dogs have when wet.
Since they are so big, they need to be well socialized. Many Kuvasz breeders also recommend that a puppy not be purchased unless the new owner is used to handling dogs, and only by someone willing to invest in obedience training. Since they are livestock guard dogs, many of them bark a lot, and some dogs are also known to be aggressive to other dogs.
Like all big dogs, they are prone to hip dysplasia, but most dogs are healthy and live about 12 years, which is a good lifespan for a big dog.
This small Hungarian sheep dog has always been worked around the farm, herding the family sheep, cows, pigs, and also serving as a small hunting breed. Some dogs have been exported to other countries in Europe and even a few to the US.
Most of these little dogs (they only weigh about 8-15 kilos) are gray, but they can come out in a lot of colors. They are also one of the dog breeds that does not shed much. Since their coat grows constantly, they have to be groomed every few months to prevent matting.
The dogs are usually healthy and have a long lifespan (13 or 14), but they can have knee problems and hip dysplasia.
This is one of the rarest dogs from Hungary, but like the others on this list the Mudi is a type of shepherd. They are still used for herding, but most of them are kept as companions. Since they are so active and healthy, many are used as competitive dogs for flyball, tracking, agility, and most of the other dog sports.
Some of these dogs are even kept on the farm to kill rodents when not busy taking care of the sheep.
Mudi are medium sized, about 10 kilos (22 pounds), and come in several solid and merle colors. (That size is great for a dog that is around the farmyard a lot.) They have short tails, natural or docked, and have a normal coat with average shedding.
They do not have any recorded health problems, but a few cases of hip dysplasia have been reported. They usually live about 12 to 14 years.
Finding That Hungarian Dog
If you are interested in one of the dog breeds from Hungary, you need to look around before giving up on your decision. Check with your local shelter, try searching the internet for a breed rescue that works in your area, and look at the website Petfinder to see if the breed you are searching for is available at a shelter near you.
If you are looking for a puppy, you should visit a dog show and talk to some breeders. They are more likely to point you to the best dogs available from breeders in your area. Be prepared to wait. Not all breeders have puppies available all the time, and most of them want to talk with you and make sure you are willing to care for your new Hungarian dog.
The Pumi is available in only a few countries. The Mudi is rare, and you will probably not be able to find one unless you happen to be in Hungary.
Whatever you do, don't buy your new dog from a pet shop or an internet dog wholesaler. You will be supporting a puppy mill, a type of breeding facility where dogs are treated like livestock. A puppy from a mill is more likely to have behavioral problems—a big issue if buying a dog like a Kuvasz or Komondor—and may also have housetraining and other problems.
More About Hungarian Dogs
- Good Hungarian Dog Names for a Puli or Komondor
Are you the proud owner of a bouncing baby Puli or Komondor? Would you like an authentic Hungarian name but are not sure which to pick? Check out these great suggestions.
© 2016 Dr Mark
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 02, 2016:
Hey Bob, good to see you back on HP! I am surprised you dont see Pulis up in your neck of the woods. I bet those dogs never get cold; definitely not suited for a life in the tropics.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on November 02, 2016:
This was fascinating. I have only seen the Komondor in dog shows and none of the others you've mentioned. I can see why that coat would be a good deterrent for wolves.
I am pleased you've given the potential problems of having some of these specialist breeds as well as their benefits.
Bob Bamberg on November 02, 2016:
Interesting article, Doc, especially since we don't see these dogs in my neck of the woods. Given today's nomadic lifestyle, one would think differently. Personally, I can't warm up to the corded coat dogs. They just look like an unmade bed...in a constant state of chaos. But I'm sure many of your readers would disagree.
Norma Lawrence from California on November 01, 2016:
Great article. They are all very good dogs. Thanks The pictures are also great.