The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a breed of dog introduced into the Tatra Mountains of Southern Poland by Vlachian (Romanian) shepherds. Tatras are primarily considered livestock guardian dogs. Their instinct, through hundreds of years of breeding, is to protect livestock, though they easily adopt a family as a flock. They are a good companion dog as well as a protection dog. They are not an attack dog, but rather move threats away through intimidation. They have a loud bark. They are not all that similar in temperament to their Mountain dog cousins the Kuvasz, Great Pyrenees or Maremma Sheepdog. They are less aloof than the other breeds, tending to be better tied into their breeding and not as domesticated or inbred as some of their cousins. In the USA the Tatra sheepdog is considered a rare breed. It is not recognized by the AKC.
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog, which sometimes goes by the Owczarek Podhalanski and the Polish Mountain Sheepdog, originated in Podhale, in the Tatra Mountain area of Poland, hence the breed's name. The breed has lived in the Polish mountains for thousands of years, but no exact date for the start of the breed was ever recorded. There is a similar mystery around what breeds were mixed to form the Polish Tatra Sheepdog. While no one is certain, many dog breeders say that the Polish Tatra Sheepdog came from the Mastiff breed. The breed was very popular among mountain workers for several centuries, and up to today. It was so popular because, as its name implies, it was a fantastic sheepdog. This success at herding sheep was mainly due to their high intelligence. When predators were around the sheep, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog would gather up the sheep and stand by them instead of trying to attack the predator, which would leave the sheep open for other attacks. This demonstrates their intelligence. Their white coat also made them easily distinguishable from a bear or wolves, which was very helpful for workers. Also, owners could shave the dogs and use their coat to produce wool. Mountain workers also used to hold their tails while they lead the workers through the mountains and rough terrain. Herding sheep was not the only job the breed could perform. They were often used as personal guards and frequently guarded factories and other private property. On top of this, it was often the case that the breed was used by the police force. The breed faced some hard times, though. After the World Wars the breed was on the brink of extinction. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, (FCI), would not allow this to happen, though, and by the 1960s they started breeding the sheepdog more and more. Centuries ago, as their reputation as excellent sheepdogs spread, the breed spread slowly across Europe, but in 1980, an American Foreign Service Officer enjoyed the breed so much that he had three of them shipped to America, and by 1981 the breed also spread to Canada.
The Breed Today Even though being bred more frequently, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a very rare breed. There are about 7500 dogs of this breed in the world right now registered on http://www.owczarek-podhalanski.eu/. The majority are still in Poland, with about 600 being there, but America is sporting around 300 Polish Tatra Sheepdogs. In other European countries, such as France, the breed is growing in popularity, as in 2003 there were 150 births there. The Netherlands now has a booming breeding business for Tatras. About 150 of them are still used for herding.
The average height for males is 26-28 inches tall (66–71 cm), while for females it is 24-26 inches (60–66 cm). The average weight for the breed is somewhere in between 80-130 pounds, or 36-59 kilograms. Their signature would be their massive pure white double coat. The coat is wavy with a curly top.
Health The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is generally a very healthy dog with very few health risks. The average life expectancy for this breed is usually 10–12 years old. As with most large breed dogs, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog can occasionally get hip dysplasia.
Temperament A lot of today's Polish Tatra Sheepdog's behaviors and qualities can be traced back to its use of guarding. They are territorial, loyal and protective of their owners, and are very good watchdogs for this reason. They have a very loud bark and will bark at anything that is suspicious, as they are trying to protect their family. Since they were trained to be cautious and not attack until completely necessary when predators were around sheep, The Polish Tatra Sheepdog will not bite a stranger or other animals unless continuously provoked, leading them to be considered very dog and animal friendly. From thousands of years of guarding sheep, they are very intelligent, calm and independent.
Maintenance After thousands of years of running around sheep, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog has a good amount of energy and needs a decently large fenced yard to run around in. It is not a good apartment dog because of its size and amount of energy. They are not very active inside, but are very active outside. This is why constant walks are recommended. During late spring and early winter, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog sheds its undercoat profusely, but for the rest of the year it stays clean, due to its self-cleansing coat. Also, this breed does not drool. The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is very intelligent, independent and needs a strong hand to train.