The Maremma Sheepdog, also known as Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese, is a breed of livestock guardian dog indigenous to central Italy, particularly to the regions of Maremma in Tuscany and Abruzzo. It has been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to guard sheep from wolves. The breed is known for its large size, thick white coat, and its gentle and protective nature. The Maremma Sheepdog is an ancient breed, with its roots dating back to Roman times. It's believed that the breed was developed from shepherd dogs used by the Romans, with the goal of creating a dog capable of defending flocks from predators. The breed has remained relatively pure, due to its isolated existence in the Italian Alps.
Maremma Sheepdogs are susceptible to bloat, also known as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that can come on suddenly, so it’s important to know the warning signs and get an affected dog immediate veterinary care. They can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and progressive rod-cone degeneration. The breed is also known to be sensitive to tick/flea treatments and anesthesia, the latter of which is important to discuss before any planned procedure or surgery. As for all breeds, genetic screening for hereditary conditions is recommended to assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.
Maremma Sheepdogs are known for their independent nature, which is a typical trait among livestock guardian breeds. They are protective and devoted to their families, both human and animal. Although gentle and affectionate with their families, they can be wary of strangers. These dogs need plenty of exercise and space to run. They're not suitable for apartment living and do best in homes with large, securely fenced yards.
In the wild, Maremma Sheepdogs have been used to protect a variety of animals, not just sheep. They've been used to guard chickens, goats, and even penguins!
The breed was made famous in the movie "Oddball," which tells the true story of a Maremma Sheepdog protecting a colony of Little Penguins in Australia.
Despite their size and strength, Maremma Sheepdogs are known for their gentleness with lambs and other small animals.