Croatian Sheepdog (Hrvatski Ovcar)

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black with a few white markings are allowed
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • forms strong bonds with its master
  • wonderful herder
  • great watch and guard dog
  • easy to groom
  • a one-person dog
  • barks a lot
  • requires a great amount of daily activity


The Croatian Sheepdog (Hrvatski Ovcar) is a strong, nimble and hardy herding dog of an ancient origin. For multiple centuries it served as a cattle drover and guardian in its native Croatia where it’s prized for its quick-wittedness and docile nature. Unlike majority of modern breeds this dog didn’t re-qualify into a household pet and still mostly performs its original herding duties in vast Croatian plains.

The predecessors of the present-day Croatian Sheepdog were brought to Croatia by ancient Croat people when they moved from their old settlements into this region in the VII century. This dog helped local cattle-breeders to manage their sheep during daylight hours and guarded houses and families of their masters at night. They used meticulous selective breeding in order to create dogs with superior working characteristics so only the most talented specimens were allowed to pass their genes. That’s why the breed’s appearance virtually didn’t change since the XIV century.

The most passionate populariser of the Croatian Sheepdog was Professor Stjeapan Romic who discovered its thorough descriptions in the archival document of 1374. It was put together by Petar, the Bishop of Djakovo and stored in the diocese of Djakov. The breed was portrayed to be approximately 46 cm tall with lavish curly hair, upright eared and mentioned for being an outstanding sheepherder. This historical record also contained the indication that the dog found its way to Croatia during the Great Migrations.

Other archives of the Djakovo diocese from years 1719, 1737, 1742 and 1752 included mentioning of the Croatian Sheepdog. In all written sources of that time the breed is referred as Canis Pastoralis Croaticus and its image perfectly matches its modern-day appearance. In 1935, Professo Romic initiated a purposeful breeding program in which he used the dogs from the Djakovo region. He spent approximately 34 years on the development and enhancement of the breed’s qualities and eventually he attained its recognition by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1969.

The Croatian Sheepdog is marked by a strong herding instinct and it remains a popular working dog in its native land. Nonetheless it has very scarce population in other countries of the world.

For several hundreds of years the Croatian Sheepdog was exclusively bred for working purpose so it possesses such personality traits as uncompromising loyalty to its master, keen intelligence and tendency to independent thinking. It is a one-person dog meaning it bonds very intensely only to one member of its family. Sociability is also a fairly typical feature of this breed and it usually gets anxious and upset if left alone for a long time. This dog is good with well-behaved children and likes to be engaged in their exuberant games. It’s essential though to teach your kids the basic rules of communication with dogs.

The Croatian Sheepdog tends to behave itself warily in the company of unfamiliar people. It is usually very serious about defending its territory and masters from any unwelcomed guests. At the same time its sensitive nature allows it to act with discretion so it will never charge at an innocent person. This makes this breed a highly efficient watchdog as well as a very reliable guardian.

The well-socialised Croatian Sheepdog is commonly friendly with other dogs. However, it has a dominant character and prefers to take an alpha status among other canines. This peculiarity may become the reason of serious confrontations between unfamiliar dogs. The master should always supervise the interaction of his pet with other canines. Since this breed has never been used for killing other animals it’s usually quite accepting of other pets in the household. However early socialisation is a must if you plan to keep your Croatian Sheepdog together with cats and other non-canine creatures.
Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

• patellar luxation;
• arthritis;
• difficulty in birthing;
• cataracts;
• cryptorchidism;
• gastric torsion.

The Croatian Sheepdog has very low grooming requirements. Rich and long coat serves this dog as a good protection against all kind of harsh weather and will stay well-attended only with occasional brushing. It is recommended though to comb out dead hair from its fur every week.

Frequent bathing should be avoided since aggressive shampoos may wash off the natural oils, which give the dog’s coat its weather-proof qualities. Other maintenance procedures include regular nail trimming (usually every 10-14 days) and systematic teeth brushing. The Croatian Sheepdog sheds average amount of hair.

It’s relatively easy to train the Croatian Sheepdog because of its obedient and sensitive nature. Nevertheless it becomes an eager learner only if it fully trusts the authority of the trainer. It purports that it will be reluctant to perform commands of the person with weak, irresolute character.

The Croatian Sheepdog is marked by quick-wittedness and inquisitive mind so it’s capable of mastering very advanced tricks. This lithe and fast dog can perform with flying colours in various sorts of dog’s sports. Take into account though that yelling and physical enforcement doesn’t work with this breed and only induce in it defiant behaviour.

The Croatian Sheepdog is a demanding breed when it comes to its exercise regimen. A daily walk on a leash won’t be enough to satisfy its strong instinct to roam. It’s highly important to let this dog spend some time running and playing freely in a securely enclosed territory.

This breed may be really noisy as it’s prone to react to any sudden change in its environment with vigorous barking. So choose this dog only if you have very patient and tolerant neighbours.

Remember that such behavioural tendencies as on-going barking, destructiveness, over excitability and even unmotivated aggressiveness are rather common for those specimens of the Croatian Sheepdog who aren’t provided with proper outlets for their boundless energy.