Anatolian Shepherd Dog Breed – History of This Working Dog
Anatolia, or Asia Minor, is the peninsula that constitutes the Asian portion of Turkey. It was at this crossroads of early civilization that sheep and goat herders developed a livestock guardian known as the Coban Kopegi (“shepherd’s dog”), forerunner of today’s Anatolian Shepherd.
The central region of Anatolia is a high plateau of endless plains and rolling hills. Summers are dry and brutally hot, and the winters are snowy, with sub-zero temperatures. In this harsh, unforgiving crucible the Anatolian Shepherd forged his longstanding reputation as the flock guardian supreme.
Ancient artifacts going back to the days of the Babylonian Empire document the breed’s ancestors. Assyrian bas-relief carvings housed in the British Museum, dating to 2000 b.c., depict large dogs of recognizable Anatolian Shepherd type. The earliest books of the Bible refer to shepherds whose dogs were most likely some local variation of the Anatolian.
The breed’s history in America begins in the years immediately preceding World War II, when the Department of Agriculture imported a breeding pair from Turkey to participate in the top-secret “Sheepdog Project.” The program’s objective was to determine which breeds would be best suited for work on American sheep pastures. With the outbreak of war, the project was disbanded and the Anatolians and their offspring were dispersed.
American ranchers began importing Anatolians in the postwar 1950s, but the breed really took hold in this country in the 1970s. The credit for firmly establishing the breed in America goes to Lieutenant Robert Ballard, U.S. Navy, who acquired a pair of Anatolians while stationed in Turkey. He brought them home to America and bred his first littler in 1970, providing foundation stock for U.S. breeders.
This new breeding activity coincided with the passage of the Endangered Species Act. The new law required that ranchers control the population of predatory wolves without killing them. Anatolian Shepherds, who would rather intimidate predators than fight them, were perfectly suited for the job. Many Anatolian Shepherds are still working ranch dogs today, protecting everything from sheep and goats to ostriches and llamas.
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