Karst Shepherd Dog (Kraški ovčar)

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iron grey with a light grey, sandy or pale fawn colour, with a dark dark mask on the muzzle
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • good guardian
  • wonderful companion                              
  • can live outside
  • great herder
  • requires a lot of daily exercises
  • doesn't suit for living in a small apartment
  • needs a dominant owner


The Karst Shepherd Dog is an average-sized guarding and herding breed, which was created in Slovenia centuries ago. This dog is known for its fearless nature and serious approach to its original duties of guarding and handling sheep. It’s valued not only for its quite memorable appearance but also for its remarkably pleasant and biddable disposition, which allows it to play the role of a supreme family pet.

The Karst Shepherd is believed to be the oldest native breed of Slovenia. It was granted its name in honour of the Slovenian Karst region where it was initially developed. This area is situated on the northern border of Yugoslavia that includes the Istrian Peninsula. The lineage of this breed will most likely forever remain the subject of pure speculation. It’s commonly believed though that it had acquired its unique characteristics well before the onset of the Roman era.

Some dog’s historians stick to an opinion that the Karst Shepherd descended directly from the Caucasian Shepherd. Others presume that its ancestors existed in ancient Pompeii where remains of resembling canines were located. Nonetheless it’s most probably that the forefather of the breed was the Greek Molosus that the Illyrians imported to the Krast area with their sheep flocks.

The Karst Shepherd was treasured by local shepherds for its outstanding personality, including incredible intelligence, responsiveness and unfailing loyalty to its human master. This beautiful dog deserved references of many writers of that time particularly its description can be found in the books of famous Janez Vajkard Valvasor. The breed faced the reversal of fate in the wake of the World War I. The dog’s breeding was fully abandoned, which led to the rapid decline in the number of the Karst Shepherd.

Actually the breed was literally saved from complete extinction through the dedicated work of Teodor Drenik, a Slovenian artillery officer. Thanks to his efforts this dog was recognised in 1939 outside Slovenia. The Karst Shepherd and the Sarplaninac were classified under the same name, the Illyrian Shepherd. In 1955 the Yugoslav Kennel Club excluded the breed from the list of native breeds.

In 1968 the Karst Shepherd’s fanciers obtained its repeated registration under the current name. In following decades the popularity of the breed never stopped growing in its homeland as long as in European countries. It was also ascribed to the Slovene Natural Treasure. The vast majority of these dogs still herds sheep in the rich pastures of Slovenia but some of them enjoy a life of loving and good-natured home companions.

The Karst Shepherd is a reliable and highly capable working breed, which is also highly appreciated for its gentle, devoted and docile nature. It will make a lovable companion dog for families who won’t be scared away by its extensive exercise requirements. This dog suits families with children as well-brought-up specimen will always handle them with essential patience and care. Proper socialisation is an outmost importance for the puppy of the Karst Shepherd if you plan to keep it as a household pet.

This friendly dog is usually well-behaved when it comes across unfamiliar people although it always stays on alert. The Karst Shepherd is extremely protective of its human family and will lay down its life without second thought for the sake of people it loves. As a rule it’s highly successful in the role of a guard dog. It can also make a very capable watchdog, which will reliably warn its master about any suspicious person in the vicinity of its subordinated territory.
The Karst Shepherd gets along with other dogs if it had a chance to interact with them since an early age. This confident and authoritative dog strives to take a superior position in the pack hierarchy and can initiate a fight to prove its leading status. That’s why its master should stay close while two unfamiliar dogs are getting to know each other. The breed is almost deprived of prey drive and it usually respects the private space of other non-canine pets including a household pet.
Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:
• canine hip dysplasia;
• malignant hyperthermia.


The Karst Shepherd has rather unsubstantial grooming requirements. Systematic brushing with a firm bristled brush would keep its coat in a healthy condition as well as give it an attractive sheen. This dog should be bathed as rarely as possible in order to preserve natural oils, which cover its skin and hair and protect it from severe weather. The breed is a moderate shedder and thorough approach to its brushing will make shedding process much less noticeable.


The Karst Shepherd is a keen-witted and docile dog, which training demands average investment of time and efforts. The dog is also quite capable of handling the flock without interference of a human for hours so it is a highly talented problem solver. To make its training successful it is crucial to establish with the dog proper human to canine communication.

It should never doubt the dominative position of the handler otherwise this breed will apply to selective listening more often than desirable. Training methods based on rough-housing don’t work with the Karst Shepherd so it should be motivated exclusively with gentle encouragement and plentiful of its favourite food.

The Karst Shepherd’s exercise routine should consist of a daily long and vigorous walks and a free run in a safely enclosed area. Because of its high exercise requirements the dog is ill-suited for an apartment living and fits best to the rural environment. It would also be glad to live outdoors on the permanent basis since its dense longish hair serves it as a reliable protection from adversary weather.

The Karst Shepherd can be turned into an indefatigable partner for a jogger or a bicyclist. Anyway without a proper amount of opportunities to expand its energy surplus this dog will gradually evolve from a well-natured companion into destructive, hyper active creature with the tendency to unreasonable barking.