Hungarian Kuvasz -The Dog With A Big History

Hungarian Kuvasz -The Dog With A Big History

Hungarian Kuvasz – Pastoral Breed

Image: SasaStock/

Name Hungarian Kuvasz - Pastoral
Size Large
Grooming Weekly at least
Training Tricky
Exercise Twice Daily
Origins Most Likely Hungary

Ok, you have had a few years experience as a dog owner, live in the countryside and like the outdoor life. Add to that you want a challenge, a dog which looks the part and one that has an interesting history? Well if that's you then a Hungarian Kuvasz is the dog to choose. With their striking thick white coats and surprising agility for such a large powerful dog, it is no wonder that they have been linked to Royalty since the middle ages and it is reputed that the original Dracula (no not Christopher Lee) Vlad Tempes owned several during his reign. Anyway more on this later.

Kuvaszok (the plural of Kuvasz) are not suited to living in a small house or flat and need company and loads of exercise. So if you are a city dweller who works long hours owning one is a definite no. Similarly, Puppies and younger dogs tend to not know their own strength so they are not suited to families with young children either. Having said that mature dogs (over 2 years old) tend to be a bit less boisterous. They don't like other dogs unless they have grown up with them and are art to the point of hostile to strangers. They need a firm yet kind approach to training as if they don't respect you they will just ignore anything you say and being rather intelligent they do need a bit of mental stimulation.

So now you know the possible issues what's good about a Hungarian Kuvasz as a pet? Well, they are striking to look at being invariably white with long lush coats, and they are very protective of their owner and close family. Given their extra-long coats, you would think that they would be high maintenance however this is not the case. Their coat is quite coarse allowing any dirt to be easily brushed out and outside of Spring and Autumn they shed surprisingly little although do expect some clumps of fluff to hoover up.

Anyway even if it's not the dog for you why not read on and learn a little more about this historied breed.


Hungarian Kuvasz

Image: La Su/

Quick Overview

Name:                               Hungarian Kuvasz

Size:                                  Large and Robust 28- 30 inches tall (71 - 76 cm)

Weight:                            70 - 115 lbs (32 - 52 kg)

Grooming:                      Surprisingly easy for such a thick-coated dog think brushing twice a week as a minimum.

Training:                         Not for the faint-hearted or beginner.

Exercise:                         As much as you can throw at them they have legendary endurance.

Temperament:              Fiercely loyal towards their family but don't like strangers or other dogs be careful around children.

Origins:                          Hungary but some sources point to Tibet & even Ancient Samaria (now Israel)

Lifespan:                       10-12 years not bad for a large dog breed


A Little History

As alluded to above - this is a dog with a history worth telling and even today there are various schools of thought regarding its origins. The most popular view is that they are an ‘ancient’ breed native to Hungary, dating back a thousand years or so, while others whilst others speculate that it may have originated further afield – possibly from central Asia or even China & Tibet. What is not in doubt is that they are an ancient breed possibly as old as Hungary's other elder statesman dog breeds the Komondor & the Puli.  The age of this breed is also a point of debate with some claiming they were introduced by the Magyar tribes who invaded Hungary around the 9th Century while other schools of thought have them dating back to around 1100 to 1300 BC. Who knows?

What we do know is that they became very popular in the country during the middle ages and by the 15th century, the Kuvasz was held in high esteem thanks to King Mathias I (Corvinus) who used them as his personal bodyguards. They were hunting dogs in his court too and puppies were often given as ceremonial gifts to visiting dignitaries. It is also rumoured that Vlad Temopes who was closely associated with the King in the latter part of his reign was gifted puppies and may even have had his own kennel of Kuvaszok. His love of dogs is well documented so this is one rumour which has a grain of truth in it.

The death of Mathias saw the breed go into decline popularity wise and soon they were the preserve of herdsman and the like who valued them for their guarding abilities and physical prowess, which made them capable of fending off the large predators which lurked in middle age Europe.  It is thought likely that the breed was kept white through selective breeding so that they could be distinguished easily from wolves.

This remained the case until 1884 when the breed became recognised by the Hungarian Kennel Club and its popularity began to grow amongst the wealthier classes. By the 1920s the Hungarian Kuvasz had become a bit of a fashion statement and by 1935, they were listed by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Sadly World War II drove the breed to the verge of extinction as the breeding kennels closed down and dog keeping in general declined. Fortunately enough survived and despite the issues arising from the  Hungarian revolution in 1956 the breed has gone from strength to strength and today they are widely recognised by the main Kennel Clubs.

Quick Facts About Them

Ok, we have covered a bit of history there which includes a few of our now customary fact list however here are a few additional little snippets of information:

  • In the Middle Ages it is likely that they would be used to hunt Wild Boar and Brown Bears
  • The first record of them entering a dog show is 1883 when  Count d'Esterházy displayed two in Vienna
  • The first Hungarian Kuvasz probably reached America in the early 1920s via Hungarian Immigrant families, however, the first to be officially registered was in 1931.
  • In Romania legislation decrees that they must wear a muzzle when in public places

So What's Their Temperament Like?

In our opinion, the best word we could use to describe a Hungarian Kuvasz temperament would be possessive. They were originally bred to guard flocks and herds and once they have bonded with you and your family then you become their herd so to speak. This means that although they will be loving and playful around you they will always have one eye on what they perceive to be threats which means that visitors to the home or other children playing with "its children" will be treated with suspicion at best.

The Kuvaszok (this is the plural for Kuvasz) are fun and playful as puppies and remain young at heart well into their adolescence, before finally maturing into calm and gentle adults at around two years of age. Like so many herding breeds, they are intelligent, patient and loyal. They enjoy using their brain and thrive when set to work guarding or herding livestock.

However, because they are an independent spirit, they are best suited to an experienced dog owner, who will quickly gain their respect - it is not uncommon for them to ignore a command if they deem the person giving it as ‘not-worthy’ (perhaps this is a nod to their royal heritage!). Aside from acting slightly superior at times, they are said to have a ‘good sense of humour’ and enjoy playing and having fun.

The Kuvasz adores being in the company of people and dislikes spending time alone. If they are properly trained and well-socialised from puppyhood through to adulthood, they can make a gentle and loyal family pet and integrate well with other pets. However, due to their inner ‘guard dog’, they can also be aloof, suspicious or even aggressive towards strangers and visitors to the home! For some individuals of this breed, this trait will be stronger than for others, which means that not all Kuvaszok are suited to being a family dog.

When introducing this breed to children, care needs to be taken. Although they are gentle and loving towards children in their own family, they can misinterpret other children’s rough play, as a threat to their ‘own’ child. Because of this, they are not suited to being a child’s companion and close supervision is recommended at all times (and especially when around your child’s friends). Also, Kuvasz puppies are prone to underestimating their own strength and may accidentally bowl over a child in their eagerness to play. Mature dogs (over 2 years old) tend to be a bit less boisterous and better suited to families with younger children. Puppies and younger dogs tend to no know their own strength, however.

Because of their intelligence and athleticism, this breed can quickly become bored if not given enough exercise and mental stimulation (or if they are starved of human contact). This can lead to unwanted behaviours, such as excessive barking and destructive tendencies, for example, digging. Also, despite their independence, they thrive in the company of people and do not do well if left alone for long periods of time. If confined to kennels or tethered, they can become aggressive. Also bear in mind they have a tendency to wander if bored or alone so if you must leaven them unaccompanied make sure they cant get out of the garden or yard. This would be a big problem given they are highly prey driven and would very likely chase any small animal (including your neighbours beloved cat) that crosses their path.

Training and Maintenance

These are bold, curious and independent dogs who need lots of training by a confident, experienced and patient owner. We will say this again Kuvaszok are not a breed for a first-time or timid dog owner. We won't elaborate on this further as if you don't know what's involved you shouldn't be even considering buying a Hungarian Kuvasz!

Maintenance wise think lots exercise, two or three thorough grooming sessions a week and a very occasional bath. Their coat although thick and long does seem to repel the dirt pretty well and unless they start to smell then bathing is probably counter-productive as it will wash all the protective oils out of their coats. Dry shampoo is a better alternative.

Brush their teeth a few times a week and keep an eye on their feet as their toenails will need to be clipped and any excess fur growing on them trimming. This is best done by a professional unless you are used to the job.

Common Health Concerns

Kuvaszok are generally healthy, but like every breed, certain health conditions can occur with the following being the most prevalent:

  • Canine Hip Dysplasia - where the femur doesn't fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. This inherited condition usually exhibits its self as pain and lameness on one or both rear legs and if this occurs talk to your vet as treatment is available. Obviously dogs showing this condition should not be used for breeding.


  • Bloat or torsion This is not inherited but is one that large, lively and deep-chested dogs are prone to. It occurs when the stomach gets distended with gas and twisted (hence gastric torsion). The main causes of this is eating a large meal too fast, exercising straight after eating and or drinking too much water after a meal. If it occurs urgent veterinary attention is needed so prevention is better than cure, think small regular meals and encourage your dog to rest for a bit after eating.


  • Osteochondritis Dissecans or OCD which is bone degeneration affecting the joints. This painful condition usually occurs in young dogs and is especially common in large breeds. It manifests as a limp and sometimes a period of rest can mitigate the symptoms; alternatively, surgery may be required.


  • von Willebrand's Disease is an inherited blood disorder caused by a deficiency in clotting factors. If present it will manifest its self as excessive bleeding after an injury or surgery and sometimes as nose bleeds. Most dogs with von Willebrand's disease can lead normal healthy lives as long as precautions are taken to avoid the issue. Obviously being an inherited condition means that responsible breeders are trying to breed it out. A good reason to only buy from them.

Where to buy A Hungarian Kuvasz?

Sadly Hungarian Kuvaszok due to their unique needs often find themselves in dog shelters so unless you have your heart set on a puppy give them a look. If you are after a puppy then check out the lists of registered breeders on your local Kennel Club site and be prepared for a wait as they are not many around and there is often a waiting list. However, if you can offer them the right home the wait will be worth it

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