Sapsaree (Sapsali)

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yellow (light yellow, dark yellow, deep yellow, golden-yellow); blue (black and tan, all black, blue black); white; chocolate; spotty
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Good with kids:
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Pros Cons
  • friendly
  • wonderful family companion
  • extremely devoted
  • great herder
  • heavy shedder
  • requires regular grooming
  • needs a dominant owner


The Sapsaree is an ancient Korean sheepdog, which was officially declared as a national treasure of this country in 1992. This breed is best known for its amicable temperament and rustic appearance. It has long and somewhat tragic history but today its popularity as a companion animal is steadily growing in its homeland.
Written sources allow suggesting that the early development of the Sapsaree dates back to Korea’s Three Kingdom period, approximately 37 BC to 668 AD. It’s no wonder that its lineage is impossible to determine with any amount of certainty. At this point this dog was kept exclusively by the royal houses whose members revered its alleged ability to bring luck.

The name of the breed is derived from the original Korean term «Sapsaree». «Sap» means «to dig out» and «sar» is translated as «a ghost». From the earliest times Koreans firmly believed in the supernatural talent of this dog to send away evil spirits. After the Silla Unification period it became available also to other Koreans, although its primary owners still were affluent and noble people. In the era of the Koryo and Chosun Dynasties the Sapsaree spread throughout the country so its specimen could be found amongst all Korean social layers.

The Sapsaree thrived in its homeland as a herding and companion dog until the First World War. Sadly enough but the Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945) resulted for the breed in dramatic drop of its population. According to official records during this period from 100 thousands to 150 thousands dogs were brutally killed annually for their dense shaggy coat and leather. Thereby long Japanese occupation meant for Koreans not only radical political and economic degradation but also loss of its rich cultural legacy, including the native ancient breed, the Sapsaree.

By the end of 50s of the XX century a pureblooded dog could be seen exceedingly rare across Korea and the breed was actually pushed to the verge of eventual extinction. In 1969 several professors from the Kyungpook National University decided to reverse this situation and attempted to set up its organised breeding. Their efforts had quite moderate success and the breed’s future remained unclear until the 80s of the XX century. The honour of its rehabilitation belongs to Professor Ha Ji-Hong who spent tremendous amount of his time and finance to achieve this challenging goal.

Presently the Sapsaree is a moderately popular family dog in its homeland but it hasn’t yet gained an international recognition. At the same time the breed enjoys recognition of all major Korean dog clubs, including the affiliate of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the Korean Kennel Club.

The Sapsaree is notable for a truly legendary reputation of a superb family pet. This dog expresses endless loyalty to its master as well as to his family. Be mindful that it’s apt to develop severe separation anxiety if left alone for substantial amount of time. Its friendly and affectionate disposition makes it an appropriate playmate for children. However, it shouldn’t be fully trusted around a toddler since this frisky and stocky dog can accidently knock it over.

The breed members usually take very seriously their responsibility of a family protector so this dog meets all strangers with initial suspiciousness. At the same time the Sapsaree is highly sensitive to non-verbal signs that allow it to accurately discern the difference between a friend and a foe. This attentive dog is always keenly aware of its surroundings and therefore it excellently fits for the role of a watchdog. Without the slightest hesitation it will surrender its life for the sake of its family’s safety, which makes it a dependable guard dog.

The Sapsaree tolerates other canines as long as they are not perceived as a possible threat for its beloved people or territory. The puppy of this breed should be timely exhibited to a wide variety of situations (situations, sounds, and living creatures) in order to develop into a well-mannered and even-tempered companion animal. Thanks to the breeds’ stable and calm character it is commonly kind and gracious with other non-canine pets with which it has been properly socialised.
Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:
• heart diseases;
• canine hip dysplasia (CHD);
• patellar luxation;
• eye problems;
• obesity;
• gastric torsion;
• skin problems;
• allergies.

The proper grooming of the Sapsaree usually consumes sizeable amount of time. Its long double coat needs daily brushing, which will help to keep it free from various objects and tangles. The dog’s hair is prone to matting so it’s essential to take a thorough and responsible approach to its brushing.

This breed is extremely intensive shedder so it won’t become the best choice for a meticulously tidy person or an allergy sufferer. Its master should also regularly inspect and clean the dog’s ears as well as clip its nails and brush its teeth.

The Sapsaree is endowed with inborn desire for learning and sharp mind, which make its training an easy task. This dog usually seeks to please its master so there are virtually no limits as to what this dog can learn with correct training techniques. The handler should establish proper human-dog communication with the dog from the very first lesson.

The point is that the Sapsaree won’t follow commands of the individual whom it doesn’t respect as a strong and imposing leader. Gentle verbal encouragement and food treats are the only ways that proved to be useful in motivation of this dog to work. If you try to make this breed to oblige with screaming or physical force you will end up with intimidated and unruly animal.

The Sapsaree adapts easily to any lifestyle of its master but it would definitely prefer to live with a sport-minded person. On the whole this breed has moderate exercise requirements and will get by with a daily long and brisk walk. It will be absolutely happy to get involved in all outdoors activities no matter how extreme.

It is highly advisable to provide this dog a periodic opportunity to roam in a securely enclosed area so it can partially satisfy its herding drive. The Sapsaree is not a lap dog and without sufficient physical activity it will display its discontent with the situation by destructive actions, on-going barking and other types of unwelcomed behaviour.