KUVASZ DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY

The following passages are from the book How to Raise and Train a Kuvasz by Dana I. Alvi and Leslie Benis.

There are still some copies of this thirty year old book available. You may find one in a used book store, especially in the United States. There is also a new release of the publication called Kuvasz Complete and Reliable Handbook. It is $19.95 and is published by T.F.H. publications. The ISBN is 0-7938-0758-1.

TEMPERAMENT

It is not surprising that the Kuvasz was the first of the three ancient Hungarian herding breeds to find his way into the cities and suburbs adapting himself to modern-day living. A spirited dog, wholeheartedly devoted, fanatically loyal with plenty of self determination, courage, and curiosity, he was used for centuries as a guard and companion dog earning the respect and love of all those who shared their lives with him. The Kuvasz is proven to be fearless in his guarding duty, and is a rugged working dog capable of adjusting to extreme climates and conditions. Whereas young dogs have a sense of humor and stay clowns for a long time, the grown dog is quiet and dignified, barking only when necessary. Though not a fighter, he will stand up to any foe. He is always alert, and is able to move with lightning speed if necessary. Apart from the basic physical requirements of food and reasonable shelter his greatest need is the sharing of each day's activities with his human family, or having a responsibility such as guarding his home, watching over children or helping with livestock. Constant inactivity, or kennel life, is definitely not for a Kuvasz. Basically, he is a one family dog. Given the chance, he seems to prefer the company of children. He likes to be near them, is gentle but ready and willing to accept an invitation to play. Being very sensitive, the mature dog is able to judge the intensity of his play. Moments after lively wrestling with older children the same dog will quietly accept the affections of a crawling infant. The play of puppies and young children should be supervised as neither seem to know the limit, and it is of great importance that parents educate their small children in the care of a dog and teach them the difference between a stuffed toy and a live animal whose feelings of pain and pleasure must be recognized. Towards accepted strangers, he is polite but rather suspicious and very discriminating in making new friends. He has a good nose and has been used to hunt large game.

APPEARANCE

Being a working dog of large size, the Kuvasz is well proportioned, sturdily built with excellent balance. Strong boned, well muscled, but not coarse under any circumstances. His impressive strength and tireless activity combined with graceful light-footedness compose unsurpassed beauty and elegance. Among dog breeds tendency to weakness or lack of substance is considered a serious fault. In judging the Kuvasz, it is most important to pay attenion to the balance of substance and graceful movement. Front and hindquarters are well developed to assure elastic and rhythmic movement on strong legs. Dogs with signs of unsound hips, straight stifles or cowhocked legs should not be considered for exhibition or breeding purposes. The conscientious breeders pay attention to the finer details of quality in their effort to preserve correct type and beauty. They consider the head of the Kuvasz to be his most attractive feature. It should show harmony, gentleness, kindly expression combined with intelligence. The skull is oblongated but not pointed, with a long, slightly domed forehead. The ideal length of the head is 45% of the dog's height at the top of the shoulders. The width of the head is half of its length. The top of the muzzle is straight, and it connects to the forehead with a not-too pronounced stop. Its length is less than half (42%) of the length of the head. The V shaped ears measure 50% of the length of the head, stand slightly away from the head in the upper part, then lie close to it. The scissors bite is ideal, and the level bite is acceptable. Flews are tight and black, even the slightest droopiness here is considered faulty. The length of his body forms a horizontal rectangle only slightly deviated from the square. The medium length, well-muscled neck flows into the chest without dewlap. The other characteristic feature of the breed is the profusely coated, low-set tail which, with the exception of the end curl, never rises above the topline. The lower third of the tail can bend upward, but it should never curl over the back or corkscrew over the loin. The Kuvasz moves like a wolf with much agility, freedom, ease, elasticity and light-footedness. His gait is powerful, outreaching, graceful and rhythmic without any side swing of the legs and body. His feet travel close to the ground, and as the speed increases they angle under the center line of the body, almost single tracking. At a trot and fast gallop the Kuvasz seems to glide with minimal up and down movement of the body. This effortless movement makes him capable of trotting 15 to 18 miles without tiring;-this desired graceful, rhythmic movement cannot be maintained without sufficient angulation and firm slimness of the body. Although size is quite desirable, bulkiness, excess weight, coarseness of bone and head structure are most undesirable. A twenty-eight inch male Kuvasz should weigh around one hundred pounds, a twenty-six inch female around seventy-five pounds. 

Word of caution: although the present A.K.C. Standard is very forgiving and generalized, Kuvasz owners and breeders have to realize that the Hungarian Kuvasz Club and Breeding Association, in agreement with all Kuvasz Clubs of the Western Hemisphere, recognizes the following faults as disqualifications: upstanding ears, undershot bite, strongly overshot bite, overly pronounced stop, massive broad head, short heavy muzzle, loose hanging flews, matting or cording tendency of the coat, wiry coat, long coat on limbs, tail which rises above the loins, coat color other than white, dogs smaller than 25 1/2 inches, bitches smaller than 23 1/2 inches, weight over 135 pounds. Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of this white dog is the frequent occurence of litters whelped with complete black pigmentation on skin, eye lids, nose, lips and nails. From the standpoint of pigmentation, such puppies are the most desirable for the consideration of their use as breeding stock. The Kuvasz that is sufficiently exercised on rough ground wears his nails down keeping his cat like feet tight. The amount of excess nail that has to be trimmed off by the owner indicates the amount of needed exercise the dog did not receive.

EARLY HISTORY

Many conjectured theories have evolved around the histories of the old breeds. Some claim antiquity and facts not authenticated by reliable evidence. Until recently, the history of the Hungarian working breeds was surrounded by many such speculations and their origin placed in vastly separated regions. In November 1965, the first monthly periodical entitled The Puli was published in the English language. Its author, the Hungarian-born kynologist, Sandor Palfalvy M.D., member of the Alabama Academy of Science. Dr. Palfalvy has bred the Puli for forty-seven years. Many of those years were spent in serious research delving into the history of his chosen breed. His inquiries led him in contact with other Hungarian scientists, who fled their occupied country and in the free world were busily working on their old project, the origin of the Hungarian nation. This long research produced startling discoveries not only on the history of the Hungarian people, but also on the background of the three Hungarian breeds, Kuvasz, Puli and Komondor, which, until now was uncertain. Dr. Palfalvy's and his colleagues' search included a thorough study of the Sumerian, Sanscrit, Greek and Latin literatures, as well as the study of the excavated findings of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. He informs us that the names of the three breeds are frequently mentioned in the ancient literatures. Kuvasz, Puli and Komondor were domesticated and belonged to the Sumerian herdsmen dating back 7000-8000 years, and accompanied them during their travels from Mesopotamia to the Carpathian encircled, present day Hungary. The word Kuvasz is Sumerian. The first letters KU are from an old Sumerian word for dog, Rudda. Kudda is made up of two words: KUN meaning tail, and ADA meaning give. KUN-ADA: give the tail, the animal that gives the tail, that expresses itself with the tail. KUDDA later evolved into KUTTA, and is used even today by people speaking the Dravidian languages, whose ancestors fled Mesopotamia when it was conquered by the Assyrians. Modern Hungarian, a Sumerian language on a twentieth century level, has the word as KUTYA. ASSA means horse in Sumerian. KU-ASSA was a dog that guarded and ran alongside horses and horsemen. In 1931, during explorations of the ruins of the 5000 B.C. city of Ugarit in Mesopotamia led by an English archeologist, Sir H. J. McDonald, a 7000 year-old clay tablet was found. Inscribed on it in cuneiform writing was the word KU-AS-SA. This tablet can now be viewed at the British Museum in London. In the Oriental Museum of Paris, two clay boards are displayed that were found at the ruins of the city of Kish by a French archeologist, Maurice Espreaux. Both are inscribed in cuneiform with the word KU-AS-SA. Also in Mesopotamia, by the river Euphrates, was a city called Ur which flourished during the 35th century B.C. It is also mentioned in the Old Testament. Within its ruins, two clay boards were found which listed the belongings of two families, Kuth and Bana. Along with a number of horses, cattle and sheep there are listed Pulis, Komondors and eight KU-AS-SA owned by the Kuth family and two by Bana. The excavations of the city of Ur were conducted by the British Academy of Science headed by Sir C. Leonard Wooley, archeologist. The boards are at the British Museum. Still another clay board with cuneiform written KU-ASSA, now at the Asmolean Museum, was found at the site of Akkad, a Sumerian city of the 30th century B.C. in Northern Mesopotamia. The great Babylonian king Hammurabi, 2250 B.C., inscribed a series of laws on a huge stone now at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Code of Hammurabi as it is called, dictates almost all aspects of daily life. Included in the Code is the mention of the three Hungarian breeds, Kuvasz, Komondor and Puli by their names, unchanged for many thousands of years. Of course, the experts on kynology could not find the origin of the words Kuvasz, Komondor and Puli, as their search was based on the Finno-Ugric theory which originated Hungarians in the Ural area of the Caucasus. Dr. Palfalvy's findings are not in opposition to the historical facts that Hungarians migrated to present-day Hungary with their horses and dogs and sheep from the Ural area, but takes them back another 5000 years before that era. The latter-day written evidences dating back as far as the 1400's seem to prove that the Kuvasz became the first of Hungarian breeds to follow his master into the homes and cities from the endless prairies. King Mathias' enthusiasm for this breed (around 1460) opened the doors for the Kuvasz among the nobility. The horsemen and the shepherds who bred the Kuvasz for thousands of years did not concern themselves with keeping pedigrees of their dogs. There was no real paper work as the dogs were not permitted to mate unselected. The beginning of scientific breeding, and the time when strict breeding records were kept can be considered to have started from the late 1800's.

MODERN HISTORY

We have to mention here that well-known German, Swiss and Hungarian scientists credit the origin of the Great Pyrenees from Kuvasz ancestors, in opposition to the views of some dog writers of the last decade. Just as one example, even at the time of this writing, the Great Pyrenees Breed Club in West Germany is still a subchapter of the Hungarian Herding Dogs Club. The Hungarian Herding Dog Breeders Association, since their first publications dating from the early 1920's, put much emphasis on working quality and set it as number one goal for hobby breeders. The Association's first president, Dr. Emil Rajtsits, put down the foundations to adapt the Hungarian herding breeds to the rapidly modernizing life in our century. His work was a success and so encouraging that many dedicated kynologists and breeders joined him to achieve the goals he set. As a result, to breed or to own a Hungarian dog became a national pride in the Kuvasz' native country, and this in itself is the greatest assurance for the future of the breed.

In the 1930's, the Kuvasz became the fashion dog among the large breed enthusiasts in Hungary and Western Europe alike. This progress was greatly harmed by the Second World War. Dogs suffered from shortages of food and other essentials such as vitamins and medicines. Kennels voluntarily reduced their breeding stock to a minimum, individual owners were forced to give away their most valuable animals due to military duty, and other wartime complications.

Faithful guard dogs were killed by the hundreds, first by the Germans, later by the Russian occupying forces in order to let them move freely on their ransacking missions.

The end of the war found the breed in a very sad state. Many Kuvasz fanciers were dead, most dogs had been destroyed or were missing. Numerous dogs were scattered all over Europe with their owners escaping before the Russian take-over. A new start could not be made immediately. For a long time mail service was unheard of, and it took years to measure up the extent of the loss. The occupying Russians and the new regime looked upon dog breeding as a luxury hobby of the aristocracy, and treated it accordingly. Nonetheless, as long as life goes on people have the desire to return to normal life, and will make all the sacrifices for their strongest interest. In the post-war chaos breeders met in secrecy to establish a direction to follow. The first puppies and dogs were sold for cigarettes, food and natural goods before currency stabilization.

The Kuvasz, like all other large breeds suffered a setback in popularity because of the feeding difficulties compared to smaller dogs, and this situation held true until the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Since then, the living standard improved to the point where the Kuvasz began to regain his pre-war popularity. During the period immediately following the war, living conditions in Western Europe improved at a much faster pace, and this helped the sport of dog breeding. Today, besides Hungary, there are Kuvaszok and active breed clubs advancing the breed in Holland, Switzerland and Germany.
 

MORE HISTORY

In his homeland, the Kuvasz is the most popular of the native Hungarian breeds. For centuries, Kuvaszok have guarded Hungarian sheep flocks. Bears and wolves were common predators and the Kuvasz was an able guardian. As early as the 1400's, the Kuvasz made the transition from solely a livestock protector to a guardian for man. The breed was propelled to prominence by King Matthias 1. The King reigned in a turbulent and tumultuous time. Palace intrigue was rampant, and plots and assassinations were the norm. The King could not even trust his own family. He did however, feel secure in the presence of his dog...a Kuvasz. It is said that the dog accompanied the King to his room each night and slept beside the closed door. So fond did the King become of his Kuvasz that he built huge kennels, housing hundreds of dogs, on his estate at Siebenbuergen. Indeed, his kennels were said to be among the most impressive in Europe. Estates in that day, were huge, self sufficient enterprises. The Kuvaszok guarded the estate's livestock. King Matthias also used the dogs to hunt large game, principally bear and wolves. Occasionally, visiting nobility were presented with a Kuvasz puppy. From this royal association, the breed gained great popularity. In this century, the breed has suffered years of hardship. In the 1920's and 1930's, the Kuvasz was the most fashionable large dog in Hungary and western Europe.World War ll devastated the breed. As with many of the large dogs in Europe, food shortages greatly reduced the breed's numbers. Many prominent kennels voluntarily curtailed their breeding programs. Many city owned dogs were sent to the countryside. There were, however, other difficulties that spelled disaster for the breed. Due to their inherent protective instincts, Kuvaszok often impeded the progress of the invading Nazis. They presented similar problems to the Russians. Both armies shot many dogs. It took many years for the breed to recover from its wartime adversity. Its progress was again interrupted by the Hungarian Revolution, in 1956. Thankfully, the Kuvasz has recovered and is once again popular in Hungary. Like many of the livestock protection breeds, the Kuvasz is white in color. No markings are permitted. Dogs stand 28-30 inches at the shoulder, while bitches are 26-28 inches. Dogs weigh in at approximately 100-115 pounds, while bitches tip the scales at 70-90 pounds. Although recognized by the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs, the Kuvasz is still a relatively rare breed in North America. Few have been used as livestock protectors. Those that have been employed as flock guardians, however, are reported to be doing an excellent job.

The last paragraph (MORE HISTORY) is from the book Livestock Protection Dogs, Selection, Care and Training by David E. Sims & Orysia Dawydiak. Published by OTR Publications.


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