Meet A Giant Anatolian Up Close And Personal

They're called Anatolian shepherd dogs, Anatolian Karabash dogs, Turkish sheepdogs, coban kopek (shepherd dog in Turkish) and were honored on a 1978 Turkish stamp.

But to Neal Duncan of Snohomish, Turkey's only recognized dog breed can best be categorized as an Anatolian mutt.

"There is no registry for them in Turkey," says Duncan, a quarantine animal keeper at Woodland Park Zoo who along with his wife, Pam, own three in Snohomish.

For more than 6,000 years, the dog has patrolled the Anatolian Plateau of Asia Minor as the shepherd's prime defense against wolves, jackals and even lions, all noted sheep predators.

The breed is culled heavily in Turkey. For example, if a litter of eight to 10 is born and only one to two are needed by the farmer, the others are killed or allowed to starve. While obviously inhumane by our standards, the average income in Turkey is approximately $100 annually, which leaves no money to feed unneeded offspring.

Next weekend, you can meet one and possibly three members of the Duncans' Anatolian flock, at two fund-raisers for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. A 7:30 p.m. lecture is scheduled Saturday in 220 Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus, followed by a 9:30 a.m. brunch, Sunday, Nov. 6 at the Outabounz Sports Bar/ Restaurant, 4308 198th St. S.W., in Lynnwood.


Funds from both will go to CCF, which is dedicated to saving the wild cheetah from extinction.

CCF explores means of assisting Namibian ranchers to protect their stock from cheetahs. Last January, along with the Livestock Guarding Dog Program in Hampshire, Mass., CCF imported four Anatolian shepherds. Recently six more puppies were sent. The pilot program's success is reflected by a lengthy list of ranchers awaiting free dogs.

This is one of those can't-lose propositions. The dogs protect and save livestock for the farmers while eliminating the need to kill cheetahs. Anatolians' first instinct is to bark menacingly, which tends to leave the big cats thinking twice about dining on sheep, cattle or goats.

Since most attacks are nocturnal, the patrolling Anatolians' time clock is ticking at night and quiet in daytime.

There are approximately 1,500 Anatolian shepherds in the U.S., according to Duncan.

"A Celebration of Rare Breeds," by Cathy Flamholtz, traces the genesis of the U.S. movement to an incident involving Lt. Robert C. Ballard, USN, and his wife, Dorothy, who purchased Zorba (Turkish for tyrant) from a farmer after their car had been ransacked on a street in Ankara, while he was on a two-year tour of duty in the late 1960s.

Later, Ballard attempted to locate other Anatolian owners in the U.S. without success. Consequently, as his duty assignment neared an end, he found a female puppy, Piki (Turkish for OK), in a remote farming village, and the two dogs accompanied him and Dorothy back to the U.S., where the first litter was born in 1970.


Today, however, exporting a coban kopek from Turkey is illegal. "But because there's no standard," Duncan says, "Turkish veterinarians have a difficult time identifying one. The trademark seems to be a big fawn dog with a black facial mask. Anything other than that has a chance of being exported."

Duncan's "mutt" characterization stems from the fact just about any coat color or length is permissible. Fawn and white are the dominant colors.

The breed is territorial, intelligent and laid back. "They are affectionate and sensitive to those they know and accept. Love given is returned many times over," says Ballard. Describing their independence, he adds, "You're unlikely to see an Anatolian catching a Frisbee or fetching a ball. My dogs seem to think that if you threw it away, you must not want it."

Duncan says, "The one given, with most large breeds, is a short life expectancy (8 to 10 years for most). We'd owned a bull mastiff and experienced that heartbreak. Anatolians live into their teens.

Congenital defects, while limited, include hip dysplasia, entropionism (where the eyelid rolls in toward the eye, permitting the lashes to rub against and irritate the cornea) and hypothyroidism (when inadequate hormone levels from thyroid-gland secretion force the body to function at a lower metabolic level).

"We have five acres and I wanted a dog that would protect Pam when I wasn't there. Also, one I wouldn't have to worry about a lawsuit with." A fenced yard is a prerequisite to ownership.

In the symphony of the Anatolian's powerful warning bark is a melody of personal responsibility and implied geographical limits for an intruder or visitor. In other words, the Anatolian draws a mental line in the sand, so don't cross it. It's a protection dog, not a guard dog in the true sense, yet doesn't go looking for a fight.


"They're kinda like Old Yeller," says Duncan, "with a streak of suspicion thrown in." Hence, if you arrive at an Anatolians' home, don't proceed toward the house until the owners greet you. Once the dogs are given the clear signal, it's OK, everything's fine.

The breed has an almost dual personality, i.e. protectiveness on its home turf and a gregarious, outgoing personality elsewhere, providing it has been socialized early. To be compatible with cats and other dogs, it is best to introduce the Anatolian when it's a puppy.

Like many breeds, smell is its keenest sense. It's been said that an Anatolian can recognize the scent of each member of a 300-sheep flock, making it highly unlikely one will go astray or a foreigner would mingle within.

Don't let its size fool you into thinking the Anatolian is a lumbering giant. The breed has been clocked up to 40 m.p.h.

Four years ago the Duncans purchased Sadik (faithful in Turkish), a puppy from a Spokane area breeder. Since then they have added two males, Kamyon (truck in Turkish), and Faal Fil (active elephant in Turkish). Sadik, for certain, and possibly the other two will be at the fund-raisers next weekend.


"These are not dogs for everyone," emphasizes Duncan. "They're big (females range from 90 to 120 pounds and males weigh between 110-140), they bark a lot at night (a warning to city dwellers considering one) and they're diggers (own a beautiful landscaped yard, think twice)."

In contrast to their homeland where they are not registered or seldom selectively bred, hips aren't X-rayed and they're used strictly for working, the Anatolian Shepherd Dogs International of the U.S. registers all offspring and encourages breeders to have all dogs X-rayed for hip dysplasia by age 2.

The Anatolian's prowess isn't limited to livestock protection. It has proven its versatility in obedience competition, military sentry, therapy, search and rescue and in the Canine Companions for Independence program.


Halloween is a time to indulge that sweet tooth. But, be careful, don't offer chocolate to a dog or cat. It can be deadly.

"Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be toxic to canine and feline digestive systems. In large amounts, it can cause seizures and death in both dogs and cats," says Dr. Dan Carey, a veterinarian for The Iams Co.