The Hungarian Kuvasz is part of the family of dogs known as Livestock Guardians (LGD’s). Amongst these are the Big White Dogs – Kuvasz, Maremma, Pyrenean, Kommondor, Slovenski Cuvac etc.
The original task of the Kuvasz was to live with, and guard, their flocks from the predators endemic in the Carpathian Basin of Hungary where they settled in the 9th Century with their nomadic masters.
The ancient origin of the Kuvasz is uncertain and theories have been put forward (and demolished by alternative theorists) that they came from Sumeria or Tibet with bands of nomadic tribesmen. Since the 9th Century however, they have made their home in Hungary and played an important role in both protecting flocks from wolves, bears and wild dogs, and, as companion/guard dogs.
Villagers would pool their resources in order to purchase a pair of Kuvaszok to protect their village from bandits.
Perhaps their greatest supporter was King Matyas, who ruled the Magyars from 1458 to 1490. Matyas was reported never to go anywhere without a Kuvasz by his side to protect him from attackers. He also had a large pack of Kuvaszok which he kept for hunting. It may not be strictly true but legend has it that he also used Kuvaszok at his banquets – their thick wavy coat acting as hairy but effective napkins.
The history of this magnificent breed almost came to a premature end as a result of the Second World War. By the early 1950’s, when enthusiasts sought to re-establish the wonderful dogs they remembered with affection from pre-war days, only 12 dogs were found alive. Gradually the breed was brought back from the brink of extinction, although this process was not without its problems. Some postwar breeders, under the mistaken impression that the Kuvasz’s wavy/curly coat was the result of mixed breeding with the Kommondor, bred Pyrenean blood into the mix, resulting in many “Kuvaszok” with flat coats and even extra dewclaws – the hallmark of the Pyrenean. Even today the ramifications of this mistake are visible in occasional flatcoated Kuvaszok.
The Kuvasz is similar, but separate and distinct from the other “Big White Livestock Guardian Dogs” – the Kommondor, the Maremma and the Pyrenean Mountain Dog amongst others.
The are extremely intelligent and capable of independent thought and decision making. They are not an “attack” dog and will chase off rather than fight with intruders but are completely confident and fearless in their guarding duties. They are a big dog, but not in any way cumbersome or plodding. On the contrary they are amazingly speedy and agile for their considerable size.
Kuvaszok develop a strong bond with their human family and love children (although, of course play with young children should always be supervised). They are extremely good at “sussing out” strangers and seem rarely to make a wrong decision in this regard. If your Kuvasz doesn’t like someone, they are usually right!
The Kuvasz is not a kennel dog and blooms when it is given a job of work to do – a house to guard, a family to protect, a perimeter to patrol.
The Kuvasz is not the dog for everyone and it requires firm leadership from its human owners. Like any big, powerful dog, a confused and dominant Kuvasz can be dangerous. It must be made very clear about its role and position within ‘the pack’. A well socialised Kuvasz, happy in its work and happy with its family, is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable.