Anatolian Shepherd Dog

When you look into the eyes of an Anatolian, you're looking into their soul.

 Anatolian Shepherd Dog



Just a note

Before I begin writing this page, let me just state that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the Anatolian Shepherd Dog. I am going to keep the information on this page brief in order to avoid getting into detail about the breed controversy. The history of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog can get very indepth.

Breed name

When you speak of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, a lot of people automatically assume it's a herding breed similar to the German Shepherd Dog because of it's name. The "shepherd" name is a misnomer since this breed was never used as a herder. The Anatolian is a shepherd's dog that is used to help protect the flocks, not move them.

In the U.S., the dog breeds that have a history of livestock protection are commonly referred to as livestock guardians, livestock guard dogs, livestock protection dogs or flock guardians. The word "sheepdog" is a generic term used to indicate dog breeds that worked with sheep or livestock. It is often used in contrast to the word "shepherd", which is commonly used to indicate a herding breed. However, the words "shepherd dog" are also used in translation of the Roman term meaning "shepherd's dog".


The Anatolian Shepherd Dog's actual origins are unknown. It is believed that they are probably descended from the Tibetan Mastiff by way of Roman war dogs who were purportedly brought from the Himalayas with migrating shepherds from Central Asia, who settled in what is now known as Turkey. Some people believe that they are an evolutionary product of the large Asiatic wolves that populate the Anatolian Plateau covering most of Turkey, and into Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It could be that they had some influx from the large hunting dogs (sighthounds) existing in Mesopotamia, which is now known as modern day Iraq. I believe that all of these theories could be contributing factors to the Anatolian Shepherd Dog that we know today. The Anatolians are mastiff-type dogs, which possess incredible speeds like those of wolves and sighthounds. Anatolian's also have a distinct tuck up at their loin just as the sighthounds do. The sighthound theory could also explain their sensitivity to anesthesia. The Asiatic wolf theory could explain their high intelligence. It has also been said about how Anatolians possess a wolf-like appearance and that you are living with a dog that is more wolf-like in nature then dog-like. 


The British Museum in London has bas-relief sculptures of mastiff-type dogs, which closely resemble today's Anatolian Shepherd Dog, that document their existence dating back to 2000 B.C. The Book Of Job also mentions Anatolian-like dogs working with flocks of sheep.

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog has evolved and been developed over the ages to suit specific sets of very demanding circumstances for strictly utilitarian purposes. For centuries these dogs were used as combat dogs in war and for hunting. When the need for them in war became less necessary, they became pastoral guardians of flock and family. They became valued for their victorious battles that they could fight with wolves. Breeders began creating dogs of the same size and colors as the livestock they guarded in order for the dog to fit in among the flock undetected by predators. These dogs accompanied the nomadic shepherds and became widespread over a large geographical region, accounting for the great variation in size, coat, type and colors.

Remaining relatively isolated on Turkey's central plains until the last third of this century, the Anatolian has been maintained by Turkish shepherds in the tradition of their forefathers. Anatolians still perform their work in an area that stretches from the Anatolian Plateau on to Afghanistan. These dogs serve as the shepherd's frontline of defense from predators. Their job is to protect the flock, not move it. They are capable of repelling or killing the large wolves, lions and jackals found thoughout many parts of Turkey. These dogs are often times outfitted with iron-spiked collars to protect their necks when they go into battle with a predator. According to Turkish tradition, young Anatolians must prove themselves to their owners by killing a wolf before they are given a spiked collar to protect their necks in future confrontations. You can still see these dogs in Turkey today being outfitted with these collars to help protect them. There are different styles of these collars depending on the region or village in which they were made. Below are some pictures displaying some of the different styles of the Turkish spike collars from my own personal collection.

My wall display

Aksaray style

Antakya style

Cappadocia style

Hatay style

Kayseri style

Mardin style

Medyat style

Sedat style

Sivas style

Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are still primarily used today in Turkey and also in other places throughout the world as livestock and family guardians. Even though they are still considered a rare breed, they can commonly be found being used as livestock guards throughout the U.S. and on British farms. In the U.S. they are primarily being used as livestock guards on ranches and farms, to help protect livestock from predators such as wolves, bears, coyotes, mountain lions and other predators. They are steadily becoming more popular as companions, family guardians and home security. Anatolian fanciers are adamant about retaining the Anatolian's working instincts above all else. Traits that have remained constant throughout the breed are loyalty, independence and hardiness.

Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are also being used in Namibia, which is in Southwest Africa, to help preserve the cheetah. In the 1980's, Namibia was hit by a bad drought that made much of the cheetah's natural prey base die, which forced the cheetahs to go after livestock. Cheetahs are a protected species in Namibia but farmers are allowed to trap or kill animals that would harm their stock. In 1994, the Cheetah Conservation Fund started the Livestock Guarding Dog Program to help the cheetahs and farmers live together in harmony in a non-lethal way. It has been a great success using the Anatolian Shepherd Dog in this program. You can read more about this program and learn ways to help by visiting their website which is attached to my Links page.

Importation & Registration

It has been said that Anatolian Shepherd Dogs first came into the U.S. in the 1930's as a gift from the Turkish Government to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The first known importation of Anatolian Shepherd Dogs to the U.S. was made by Professor Rodney S. Young, an archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania, who explored the city of Gordium. He brought several Turkish shepherd dogs, from southwest of Ankara, back to the U.S. in the 1950's. Those dogs bred and produced pups but had no impact on the Anatolian Shepherd Dog population in the U.S. Other importations have taken place by way of military families, who simply brought their family pets home when they returned from a tour of duty in Turkey. Those dogs that were brought back also had no impact on the Anatolian Shepherd Dog population in the U.S.

Dr. Charmian Steele is an archaeologist who trained at the University of London Institute of Archaeology. She spent a great deal of time working in Northern Iraq and traveling across Turkey in the late 1950's and early 1960's. In 1961, she observed some very impressive and distinctive working dogs in Turkey. She inquired about them and learned that they were highly prized as flock guardians for their abilities to protect sheep and goats against wolves. She returned to the U.K. to continue her studies, spending time in the British Museum where she often found herself looking at Babylonian terra cottas, which depicted massive mastiff-type dogs like the ones she had seen in Turkey. In 1963, she returned to Turkey where she spent over two years continuing her archaeological research. After living in Turkey for quite some time, Dr. Steele made the decision to acquire one of these dogs. Over a long period, she had observed that the best examples of the dogs appeared to be in a particular village on the Konya plain. She was fortunate enough to obtain a male puppy from that village. She named him Gazi and some months later she obtained a bitch named Sabahat. Dr. Steele imported these two dogs to Britain in 1965 and they were registered with the British kennel club, otherwise known as The Kennel Club in England. They were the first two Turkish dogs ever registered with a foreign kennel club.

In 1968 while returning to Turkey, Dr. Steele had met an American gentleman named Bob Ballard. Robert C. Ballard was a U.S. Navy Lt. that was stationed in Turkey from 1966 to 1968. He had told her how his car had gotten broken into and his belongings stolen. As a result of this he had been advised to get a shepherd's dog to guard his car. Ballard acquired a male, which he named Zorba, then when he returned home to California in 1968, he took along a bitch named Peki. He had obtained these two dogs from the village of Karapinar, a settlement west of Turk Taciri.  Zorba and Peki became the foundation dogs of the Anatolian Shepherd Dogs bred in America. The first active breeding program in the U.S. began in 1970, when Zorba and Peki produced their first litter. Ballard had the insight to establish a national breed club to promote and protect the breed. The ASDCA (Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America) was founded in 1970 and Ballard had invited the owners of puppies from his first litter to become the founding members.

Great Britain had started breeding Anatolians in the 1970's. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of Great Britain was founded in 1979, setting preservation of this centuries-old breed as its goal. In 1989, the Federation Cynologique Internationale, with input from the ASDCA, followed lead of The Kennel Club in England and announced that the Anatolian Shepherd Dog would be eligible for full international points at dog shows. The Standards Commission of the FCI drafted a breed standard which was adopted June 6th, 1989, that was consistent with the English breed standard, to help preserve the breed's qualities. The United Kennel Club recognized the Anatolian Shepherd Dog on January 1st, 1993. The American Kennel Club recognized the Anatolian Shepherd Dog in 1995. They were then placed in the miscellaneous class in 1996 and then they gained full recognition and moved into the Working Group in 1998. 

Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are now recognized and registered under the following kennel clubs:

Kennel Club - KC (UK) - Pastoral Group
Federation Cynologique Internationale - FCI - Group 2, Section 2
United Kennel Club - UKC - Guardian Group
American Kennel Club - AKC - Working Group
Australian National Kennel Club - ANKC - Group 6, Utility
New Zealand Kennel Club - NZKC - Utility Group 
American Rare Breed Association - ARBA - Working Group
Canadian Kennel Club - CKC - Misc. Class

PLEASE NOTE: The information on this page has been collected and compiled from various resources.