The Sarplaninac

FCI Standard N° 41 / 03.10.1980/ GB

(Jugoslovenski Ovcarski Pas-Sarplaninac)

ORIGIN : Serbia/Macedonia.


CLASSIFICATION F.C.I. : Group2Pinscher and Schnauzer
- Molossoid breeds -
Swiss Mountain and 
Cattle Dogs.
Section2.2Molossoid breeds, 
Mountain type.
Without working trial.

BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY :  The Yugoslavian Dog Sharplanina has been bred since time immemorial in the south eastern mountain regions of Yugoslavia.  The breed was named after the Sharplanina Mountain range where it is the most common.  Today Sharplaninas are being bred all over the country.  The breed is registered with the F.C.I. since 1939 under n° 41 under the designation “Illirski Ovcar” (Yllyrian Shepherd Dog).  In 1957 the General Assembly of the F.C.I. accepted a motion proposed by the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology to change the name of the breed to “Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina”.
The origin of the breed remains controversial.  It seems likely that it came to Europe from Asia in the course of the prehistoric mass migrations.  The original type of the breed has been maintained solely in such parts of the country where intense cattle breeding is still prevailing and where this dog still can play its original role of a guardian and protector of the cattle herds against predatory animals.

a)The Sharplanina is a robust, well proportioned dog with plenty of bone, of a size that is well above the average and with a thick, long, rather coarse coat that emphasizes the short coupled appearance.  Of sturdy constitution, even disposition, good temperament, reliable, protective but not snappy; incorruptible and devoted to its master.
b)Height : The average height at the withers is 62 cm for males and 58 cm for bitches.  Males under 56 cm and bitches under 54 cm are not eligible for breeding.
Weight : Dogs from 35-45 kg; bitches from 30-40 kg.
c)Length of body : The length of the body is slightly longer than its height at the withers; the relation is about 8 : 10 for dogs, 10 : 12 for bitches.

a)The head is proportioned to the body.  Its total length measures approximately 25 cm which corresponds to about 40% of the height at the withers.  The skull is slightly longer than the muzzle (the relation being 57 : 43%).  The skull has a slightly convex topline; the nasal bone is straight.  The lines of the two profiles are converging.
b)Skull  (upper head) : Is broad with a well marked groove.  Seen in profile as well as from above, the skull should appear slightly convex and a little rounded.  The eyebrows are only slightly marked.  The occiput is invisible.
c)Stop : Slight.
d)Muzzle : Is shorter than the skull, broad and deep at the root, slightly tapering towards the nose.  The nasal bone is straight and broad.  The underjaw, as seen in profile, starts with a bend and then proceeds in a straight line diverging from the profile of the nasal bone.
e)Nose : Broad and black.
f)Lips : Moderately thick and tight; the upper lip is only slightly overhanging over the under lip.  The corners of the lips are clean without even a hint of a flew.
g)Teeth : Scissor bite; full dentition.
h)Eyes : Almond shaped, neither large nor deep set, dark or light brown in colour, with a quiet but piercing gaze that should never show fear.  The lids and the visible connective tissues should be black.
i)Ears : Are set on a line running from the tip of the nose through the inner corner of the eye or slightly underneath.  They are V-shaped and dropping, hanging close to the cheeks, and covered with short, dense hair.

NECK :  The crest is either slightly convex or straight. The throatline is straight.  The  neck is of medium length but because of the length and thickness of the coat it looks shorter than it really is.  Broad, deep and muscled, it is merging smoothly into the head and the shoulders.  To be carried slightly above the line of the back.
The skin is tight and without dewlaps.  The coat is dense, long and coarse with a marked frill at the junction of head and neck (nape); this particularity is inbroadening the width and depth of this body part.

a)General appearance : The topline is horizontal or slightly sloping towards the croup.  Dogs bred in the mountains may be allowed a croup that is lying slightly higher than the withers but this is not a desirable feature.  The total length of the body exceeds slightly the height at the withers.
b)Withers : Are moderately developed and broad.  The connexion with the neck is powerful and the passage hardly noticeable.
c)Back : Is straight and broad, not too long.  The loin is shorter, broad and muscular.
d)Croup : Of medium length, sloping and well muscled.
e)Chest : Is deep, the brisket reaching to the elbows, of medium length, with slightly sprung ribs.  The forechest is broad and muscular.  The girth of the ribcage should exceed the height at the withers by at least 20%.
f)Belly : Is tucked up and muscled.  The lower profile is gently rising from the front to the rear.  The flanks are rather short and with a pronounced groove.
TAIL : The tail is long and reaching at least the hock joint.  The topline of the croup is sloping gradually and evenly into the tail.  Strong at the root, tapering to the tip, with feathering along the lower side.  Carried in a slight curve like a sabre; when the dog is excited, the curve is accentuated and the tail may be lifted above the line of the back.

General appearance : The front legs are straight and well proportioned to the body.  The elbows are at about 55% of the total height at the withers.  The different parts of the forequarters are well proportioned to each other and to the body.  The shoulders are fairly long and broad, flat, sloping and forming an angle of 65° with a horizontal line.  The upper arm (humerus) is more obliquely set than the shoulder blade, the angle with the horizontal line being of 55°.  It joins the forearm at an angle of 145°.  The elbow joint is broad, neither out-nor inturned and placed only very slightly off from the ribcage.  The forearm is straight, long, with plenty of bone and well developed muscles and feathering along the rear side.  The pasterns are broad and strong, slightly slanting.  The feet are firm, oval shaped with well arched and closed toes.  Nails strong and black.  Soles tough but elastic, black.

HINDQUARTERS :  Viewed from behind the legs appear to stand evenly, slightly wider apart than the forelegs.  Seen from the side, they also appear of even construction and fairly well angulated.  The upper thigh is well muscled, rounded, obliquely placed, the angle with a horizontal line being similar to that of the shoulder.  The stifle (joint between the upper and the lower thigh) is slightly less angulated than the scapula-humerus joint (about 125°).  The stifle is strong and broad. The second thigh is also obliquely placed, strong, with long muscles and very bushy feathering.  The hock is broad and displays a rather open angle (about 130°).  The metatarsus should be less slanting than the pastern.  Dewclaws are rare and should be removed.

GAIT : The stride is long and elastic.  The most usual gait is the trot with a high and moderately outreaching action.  At a gallop the dog appears to be somewhat clumsy but the jumps are long and covering plenty of ground.

SKIN : The skin is moderately thick, elastic and tight all over the body.  No dewlaps.  All the visible mucous membranes are black or deeply pigmented.

HAIR : The head, ears and front side of the legs are covered with short hair.  Around the neck, on the rump, at the rear side of the legs and on the tail the hair is long, almost flat and somewhat coarse.  Under the guard hair the abundant undercoat is short, dense and of fine texture.  At the withers the hair should measure between 10 and 12 cm; it should not be shorter than 7 cm.

COLOUR : The Sharplanina is a solid coloured dog.  All colours are acceptable from white to dark brown that looks almost black.  The preferred shade is a greenish grey (iron grey) and dark grey.  Spotting and white markings are not allowed.  Pigmented dogs may show tiny white markings at the chest and toes but they are undesirable.  The upper part of the head, the neck and the body is of a darker hue that fades out into a dirty white or a yellowish grey toward the extremities.  The change must be very gradual and by no means give the impression of a spotted pattern of actually create a spotted coat.

WEIGHT : Males in good working conditions : between 35 and 45 kg, females between 30 and 40 kg.
FAULTS : Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

•Insufficiently broad skull.
•Muzzle too long.
•Jaws too heavy.
•Chest lacking in width and depth.
•Flatsidedness or exaggeratedly sprung ribs.
•Any slight deviation of the limbs from the correct position.
•Coat slightly shorter than desired as long as the feathering is alright.  
•White markings on chest and feet.
•Tail slightly too short.
•Hare-feet and other minor physical blemishes.

•Muzzle too long or snipy.
•Ears set too high or standing off (not hanging close enough to the cheeks).
•Pincer (level) bite.
•Tail carried with a side bend.
•Lympathic constitution and other severe physical faults.

•Aggressive or overly shy.
•Missing premolars.
•A striking disproportion between the length of the body and the height at the withers. 
•Insufficient height at the withers.
•Hair shorter than 7 cm.
•Extended white markings (spotting) and brindle pattern.
•Unpigmented visible mucous membranes and eyes.
•Any future betraying a degeneration, severely cowlegged or cowhocked, like over- or undershot mouths, bobtails (dogs born with only a stump or not tail at all), severe swayback, etc.

Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.

N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Prof. Dr Slobodan Pavlović
(Szlobodán Pávlovity)

Under Construction...

                              Writings of the breed...

Sarplaninac Shepherd dog


The Knight of Mountains

Several quarrels have been blown up over the origin, naming and standard of the breed, and the controversy is still going on. Slovenian cynologists got angry as together with the austrians were the first to call this breed as "Krasi" or "Istrian sheepdog"

After the native place of the dogs was officially recognized, Slovenian cynetologists felt as their dogs would have been stolen, so they hastily created their own national  breed, the "Krasi shepherd dog".

On the Yugoslav Cynological  Union's nationwide general assembly that was held on december 8, 1964, where  the most popular local expert's, professor Pavlovics's viewpoint was that "krasi" and "sarplaninac" are the same types. There is no significant difference between the two types disregarding the fact that the "krasi" is of smaller build. In 1969 FCI finally admitted "krasi sheepdog", professor Pavlovics elaborated his "original" sarplaninac standard. Otherwise, Sar mountain is on the verge of today's  Kosovo and Macedony.

After the disintegration of Jugoslavia FCI has distributed the local breed of that place, and Slovakia naturally got "krasi". The situation at present is the following: "krasi" shepherd dog is not the same as sarplaninac, but remarkably similar to it. However, this fact is indecent to declare on the Balkans, because you can easily get into trouble even for smaller things.


Dogs against bears

On September 1990, two bears attacked a flock in Stogovo. The shepherds did not bear arms, but their 8 months old sarplaninac dog has managed to chase the predators away. Earlier, in 1955 between Popova and Karabunar a bear was forced to leave the Sar mountain by its hunger. The beast broke the spine of a cow, when the two tending sarplaninac dogs attacked it.  During the struggle the belly of the bitch was tore open by the bear, the male dog was also seriously wounded, but he remained alive. The following day the herdsmen  had found the bear corpse about 100 m (109 yards) away from the battlefield. The traces showed that the throat of the bear had been bitten by the dogs. The story has been told by the already mentioned Slobodan Pavlovics, the belgradian professor of veterinary sciences, and the creator of the sarplaninac standar. He says: " The sarplaninac is a kind of dog which has not much knowledge of fear, but corageous, brave and full of vitality". This dog is intelligent, extremely loyal to its owner, the protector of the flock, herd, preserver of the family and of its own territory. Anyway, the sarplaninac sheepdog is not aggressive, neither vicious, rather primarily frightening.  The Sarplaninac of course never hesitates about attacking the predators like the wolf or the bear.

For lack of dogs , predators are able to decimate the flock of sheep even within a sole night. It turned out that a Zelinian shepherd and his dog drove one part of the flock to the market, he had left 148 sheep to themselves. While the shepherd was away, the cattle had been attacked by four wolves and scarcely two or three of them remained alive.

Sar mountain, the cradle of the Sarplaninac is an extremely dismal place with an exceptionally hard and strict climatic relations. Sheep-farming is the only source of living for the local people. The dogs protect more than 100.000 sheep and about 20.000 goats. The geographical isolation of these mountains made it possible for the Sarplaninac to keep its "identity", appearance and personal homogeneity.


Chinese ancestors

The Sarplaninac together with the Hungarian sheepdog: the kuvas, shepherd dog of Tatra, Czech cuvac, Italian abruzzo, or with the mountain dog from the Pyrenees belong to the same group of mountain dogs. The appearance of the sarplaninac is the same as the Malasser dog: huge body, massive bony system, well developed muscles, stubby head, broad breast and round paws. We can go on with listing breeds like Anatolian, Caucasian etc. as the group of mountain dogs is not complete.

Tibetan mastiff is considered as the ancestor of mountain dogs by the vast majority of Cynetologists. This huge malasser exists even nowadays, this breed can be found in several places among the chains of the Himalaya. This breed was mentioned even by the famous  Venetian traveler, who had met them during his visit to the court of the Big Mughal. He says:" Some of them were as big as a donkey". This breed  came to Europe long before the Mongolian invasion. Due to the suppositions the sarplaninac had arrived to Greece before 5th century B.C. By the way, "malasser" is a word of Greek origin, that means Malasser dog. Malasser kingdom  was situated in today's North-East of Greece, and in the southern part of  today's Albany. These dogs probably were crossed with the famous nomadic tribes, the Illyrian's dogs. Then in the 3rd century B.C. the Celts had arrived to the area, later between the 4th and 6th century, they were followed by the Avars and Slavonic peoples, then in the 9th -10th century by the Hungarians. All of them had carried their indigenous dogs and sheep. We can presume, that the Sarplaninac has begun to take shape 1000-1600 years  ago.


The Sarplaninac on the international stage

Until WWI. no one had interested about this nice and intelligent breed, except the shepherds from the Sar mountain. It is true that the sarplaninac lived isolated in the mountains, guarding and protecting the animals, so this dog was only well-known among its own patriarch; neither the 500 years old Turkish occupation on the Balkans let this breed break out of the shadow of its ancestors to introduce itself. Karel Kammerer Austrian cynetologist was the first who made local researches between 1914 and 1918 in connection with the sarplaninac mountain dog. Some amateur fans following in Kammerer's footsteps have obtained some dogs, so the breed came to Slovenia. The breed was represented first as the Illyrian sheepdog, in a national dog show in Ljubljana. After the WWI. the sarplaninacs were the dogs of the Serbian army, and created a dog breeding farm in Nis, 300 km (186 miles) from Belgrad. The sarplaninac breed  was officially recognized on June, 3rd, 1939 by the FCI National Cynetological Union.


The heavyweight champion

The sarplaninac's bear like, half molassar, half wolf type head pertain to a suitable body. Its weight changes between 40 and 70 kg (88 lb-154 lb). The prescribed standard weight for males is 35-45 kg (77lb-99lb).  The average height is 62 cm (156 in) for males, 58 cm (146 in) for females. Males under  55 cm (139 in) and females under 54 cm (136 in)  are excluded from breeding. Nowadays usually the large, tall dogs are breeded, the standard data of the sarplaninac determine only the lower limits, while the upper ones are open.  There are bitches which are 70 cm ( 177 in) tall and weighs 50 kg (110 lb)  and such males that are 75 cm (190in) tall, and weighs 60 kg (132 lb).


Mixture of colors, or the standard...

The most fashionable color of the sarplaninac is green gray or metal gray and dark grey. No other color is accepted at the army's famous nisi breed. The original color of the sarplaninac has a large variety, that professor Pavlovics did not leave out of consideration in his standard.

The most popular color is murdj (turkish-means grey), three quarter of pedigree sarplaninacs are grey. 20-30% of the original mountain breeds have the same color.

Karabas in Turkish means "black head". Color is really significant among the sarplaninac breed. Fur is usually creme,- or ivory, while the mask is black. 20% of the mountain breeds is of such.

Merdjan means pearl. These are white dogs, their nose and mouth area is black. It is almost the same as our kuvas or like the italian maremmo. These dogs are popular, favourite sheepdogs because of their bright color is easy to distinguish them from the wolves at night.

Karaman designates totally black animals. This type is not accepted by the standard, but they are very often within the Sar mountain.

Sari means red. These types are really red with coaly color. One-third of the mountain breed belongs to this color type.

Finally "baljus" is the name used for multicolored dogs. These kinds are basically white with black spots on their body. However standard does not accept such types, but shepherds like them as they are brave and never fall sick.


Incorruptible guardian angel

The sarplaninac is considerably distrustful with strangers, but it's measure depends on the situation. In the absence of the owner this dog can be a "mushroom", but if the keeper is present the sarplaninac bears even the unknown, at the same time this breed tries to avoid stroking, one might as well say it is not a dog for everyone. This dog is remarkably devoted to its owner but makes no display of its feelings by "slobbering". Besides, this breed is independent, does not obey automatically. On account of its task the sarplaninac is get used to decide alone. As a result of its activity, this breed is not as many-sided as the German shepherd.

According to security conduct experts differentiate two types.  The "nomadic" tribes which usually travel 100-150 km (62-93 miles) on the pasture with the flock, do not keep any distance from the dogs. A stranger can approach to 10 m (6 miles)  without any assault from it. The situation is completely else with the "stay-at-home" and local peoples. Professor Ferid Muhics, the colleague of  Slobodan Pavlovics describes a case, when he had come closer approximately 2 km (1 miles) to a sheep farm in the mountains. Through his binoculars he can see that two sheep guarding sarplaninacs start their ways toward him, while the third one remains on his place. However he has been followed by them through 4 km (2,5 miles) he is not attacked by the two dogs; then they returned back to their sheep-fold only when the "intruder" left their territory.


Mercedes for a dog

Let me finish with another story about this breed. Kaljus was a famous dog of a Serbian Mahomet in Restilica. It was  80 cm (202 in) tall, and weighed 70 kg (154 lb). Once Kaljus  had killed a wolf that was on his way and drafted the carcass before the gate of its owner. A rich tourist from overseas was falling for this situation and wanted to buy the dog from the "Goran " shepherd. The tourist offered a brand new Mercedes to him. Arif Aga was too proud to accept the offer.


Translated by Jules