The Puli is a small-medium breed of Hungarian herding and livestock guarding dog known for its long, corded coat. The tight curls of the coat, similar to dreadlocks, make it virtually waterproof. A similar looking, but much larger, Hungarian dog breed is called Komondor.
The Puli is a solid colored dog that is usually black. Other less common coat colors are white, gray, or cream (off white or fakó in Hungarian). A variety of the cream-coated dogs have black masks. The white Pulis are not 'albino', nor do they have blue eyes. They commonly have dark pigment, black pads, black noses and black pigment inside the mouth. The white gene is recessive to the pure black gene. The breed standard is for females about 16.5 inches (42 cm) at the withers, and 17 inches for males. Females weigh 23-25 pounds, males slightly more. The coat of some Puli dogs can be different, thinner or thicker cords, either flat or round, depending on the texture of the coat and the balance of undercoat to outer coat. The coat is the result of a controlled matting process. Thin rope-like corded coats are desired and the grooming should control the coat towards the forming of thinner ropes. The Puli's coat needs considerable grooming to keep its cords clean, neat, and attractive. With age the coat can become quite long, even reaching the ground. Alternatively, the coat can be trimmed short regularly for easy maintenance, although the corded coat is what attracts many people to the breed. Contrary to some beliefs, the coat of a healthy puli will grow out again after trimming. This breed has little to no shedding (see Moult).
Pulis are intelligent, agile dogs. Despite their bulky appearance and very thick coat they are very fast, agile and able to change directions instantly and are obedient enough to train for athletic competition. They are devoted and form close bonds with their owners. The breed is intelligent and can do well in obedience training if begun early. Traditionally, the Puli dog breed was used as a herding dog and sometimes even as a livestock guarding dog as well. They make very good guard dogs, as they are very protective of their master and territory. The Puli is sensitive, fun loving, courageous, but also at times tough and headstrong. They are loyal to their owners and wary of strangers. They are highly active and keep a playful, puppy-like behavior their entire life. They need a lot of exercise and free space, preferably outdoors. They can be trained and housebroken, but Pulis are generally not very well suited to be city or indoor pets. When restricted to closed spaces for long times, they grow restless and might develop unwanted personality traits, such as becoming hyperactive or, instead, increasingly aloof and lazy. As a working dog, the Puli is very obedient, focused and determined when assigned a task. Some of them are used as police dogs. As a livestock guarding dog they are fiercely protective of their territory and flock, and, despite their relatively small size, will fearlessly try to scare and drive any intruder away, however they very rarely inflict any real injuries. As a family dog, they make good security dogs and faithful family guardians. They can be very friendly and playful, even in old age. They regard their family as their flock, and will keep their distance until they are sure a stranger is not a threat. When annoyed, they may attack without warning, so a considerable distance may be advisable for strangers. They can be extremely independent and obstinate, and only accept strong willed individuals as master. Pulis can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, Rally obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Pulis exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
Training Pulis are valued for their energy and determination, which is a result of their sheepdog history. Every Puli is a natural shepherd, and instinctively knows how to herd a flock of sheep or livestock, even if they have been raised as a family dog and never been trained to do it. It is advisable to start training the Puli early, especially obedience. They are very independent, strong-willed and hard to train in adulthood.
The Puli is an ancient sheepdog, from Hungary, introduced by the migration of the Magyars from Central Asia more than 1,000 years ago. The Puli were used for both herding and guarding livestock. The Puli would commonly work together with the much larger, white Komondor, a Hungarian breed of (solely) livestock guardian dog. The Komondor is a large, solidly built dog, around 30 inches tall. The Komondor (or several Komondors if there was a large amount livestock) guarded the sheep or cattle mostly at night, while the Puli herded and guarded them during the day. When wolves or bears attacked the livestock, the Puli would alert the pack and the Komondors would come and fight the intruders. Puli can be good at fighting off wolves, because the thick coat protects their skin from being bitten. The Komondors usually rested during daytime but at night walked around the flock, constantly moving, patrolling the area. Nomadic shepherds of the Hungarian plains valued their herding dogs, paying as much as a year's salary for a Puli. In Asia, the breed dates back 2,000 years and anecdotal evidence suggests that a Puli-like dog existed 6,000 years ago. This breed is possibly the ancestor of the modern Poodle. Although the coats may look slightly similar, the Puli has never worked in water and the Puli's coat does not grow continuously in the same fashion as a Poodle's once the cords are formed. The ancestry of the Puli, however, is not known with certainty as there are some references to Ancient Rome. Possibly the Puli’s ancestors are ancient Hungarian shepherd dogs. Travelers brought the Puli with them to the Carpathian-basin, to help organize the flocks, and herd the stallions of the area. The huge Komondor and the Kuvasz were used for guarding the belongings of the owner. while the Puli would keep the animals together. Around the beginning of the 20th Century a real turning point for the breed came when it was rediscovered but no longer used much as a sheep dog; extensive shepherding was replaced by intensive farming. The Puli’s role was reduced in the life of the flock. Although, their traditional duty was kept, they started to fulfill jobs that were convenient in the circumstances of their owner: they became house dogs. After World War II, the breed became a less popular pet; even now the breed has not been able to regain the popularity it previously enjoyed.
In 1978 a Puli called Cinko Duda Csebi won the world exposition organized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale. The Mexican born dog was owned by breeder Roberto Hernández Ávalos. The dog known as "The Auditor" is assumed to be a Puli. It lived in the contaminated Berkeley Pit copper mine in Butte, Montana. Notable for being one of the few things that could live, and thrive in such a place, in time it became a sort of mascot for the town. After The Auditor died, several memorials were erected, celebrating its existence. British grunge-rock band Bush featured a picture of a leaping Puli in the booklet to their album Sixteen Stone. This particular Puli belonged to frontman Gavin Rossdale and was named Winston. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a white Puli named Beast. In the 1960s, writer Harlan Ellison adopted a Puli named Ahbhu and wrote about him in the 1975 Hugo-winning novelette "The Deathbird" (part of the 1975 collection Deathbird Stories). In addition, Ahbhu appeared in the 1969 short story "A Boy And His Dog" as a predecessor to the main character's telepathic dog Blood.