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
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.