The Tornjak, sometimes called Croatian Shepherd Dog, is a very old and rare mountain dog that originates from the areas of Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Croatia. They are believed to have existed in this area for thousands of years, perhaps as far back as the 9th century. These dogs have remained relatively unchanged throughout the years. These dogs have been used to perform different tasks, but are mostly used as watch dogs and flock guardians. There are some breeders that believe that these dogs are a descendent of the Tibetan Mastiff. The Tornjak has not yet officially been recognized by the AKC, but they are being recorded in the Foundation Stock Service, which is the first step to AKC recognition. The purpose of this is service is to keep records and information on breeds that are either rare or still being developed.
Tornjaks are a very large and powerful breed. These well proportioned dog stand at about 23 to 27 inches tall at the withers. The somewhat elongated head is flat and has a rectangular muzzle with a slightly pronounced stop. The nose is large and usually dark in color and should match the coat. The almond shaped eyes are also dark in color. The medium sized ears are pendant shaped and folded forward. They are set high and carried close to the cheeks. The chest is deep and the long tail is set at a medium height and very mobile. The Tornjak has a long coat that is short over the face and legs. The undercoat is thick and wooly, especially during the winter months, and the topcoat is long and straight, with a coarse texture. Over the shoulders and back the coat can be slightly wavy. They also have a slight mane around the neck. The tail is also coated with long hair that is well feathered. The Tornjak’s coat is usually parti colored with the dominant color being white.
Although the Tornjak is a breed usually used for herding and protecting livestock, it is possible to raise them as a family companion. These even-tempered dogs are friendly and calm, but they are still suspicious of strangers. They are affectionate with their family and those familiar to them. Naturally obedient and loyal, these dogs will be very protective of their home and family. Tornjaks are intelligent and can learn very quickly with the proper techniques. Once they learn something they are not likely to forget it. Obedience training should begin early on and the owner of this dog needs to be a naturally authoritative owner that can issues commands in a form and consistent manner. These dogs are fairly easy to train. It is also very important to properly socialize this dog while they are still young. This is a process that should involve taking them out to expose them to new people, places, and situations. Doing this helps the dog to grow up well adjusted and keeps them from becoming aggressive or timid adults.
Tornjaks are a large breed and are not recommended for apartment life. This breed needs a lot of space and will do well with at least a large yard. They can also live outside since their thick coat will protect them from cold weather, but they still need an adequate shelter. Life on a farm or ranch would be ideal for this dog, but they will need a long walk every day in order to keep them happy and healthy.
The Tornjak is a fairly healthy breed, but like many large dogs hip dysplasia is a concern. Letting the dog run up and down stairs and exercising them too vigorously during the first 6 months of their life can cause developmental problems that make hip dysplasia more likely. Dogs with a large chest like the Tornjak may also suffer from bloat and gastric torsion at some point. This is a condition that happens when the dog eats too fast and takes air into the stomach. This can cause the stomach to inflate and twist, blocking off air supply and blood flow. Bloat is a condition that requires immediate veterinary attention and possibly surgery.
Overall the Tornjak is a rare breed that has been around for hundreds of years. They are primarily guard dogs and work on farms, but they can be raised as a family companion instead. They are a naturally friendly breed despite their protective nature, and they are also easy to train.