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Characteristics, History, and Health


The Šarplaninac dog, also known as the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog, Sarplaninac, or the Yugoslav Shepherd Dog – Šarplaninac, is an ancient breed that originated in the mountain regions of Southeastern Europe, particularly in the Šar (Sharr) mountain range from which it derives its name. These mountains stretch across North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania. Historically, these dogs have been primarily used as livestock guardians, protecting flocks of sheep and other farm animals from predators such as wolves and bears. Despite their long history, they were not officially recognized as a breed until the 1930s by the Yugoslavian Kennel Club, and then internationally by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1957.

Main Info
Southeastern Europe in the Šar (Sharr) mountain range
Alternate Names
Šarplaninec, Yugoslavia Sheepdog, Illyrian Shepherd Dog
Life Expectancy
11-13 years
Average Male Height
23-26 inches
Average Female Height
22-24 inches
Average Male Weight
77-100 pounds
Average Female Weight
66-89 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Double, Dense
Coat Colors
Gray, Black, Tan, White, Agouti
Coat Pattern
Black Mask, White Markings

Genetic Predispositions and Health

The Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog (aka Šarplaninac) is a generally healthy breed, but can suffer from neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. As a larger breed they are at risk for developing orthopedic problems, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Genetic testing is recommended, including for the following specific conditions: hyperuricosoria, degenerative myelopathy, and progressive rod-cone degeneration.

Personality and Behavior

The Šarplaninac is known for its intelligence, independence, and fierce loyalty. These dogs are protective by nature and are always alert and vigilant, making excellent watchdogs. They tend to be aloof with strangers but are very gentle and loving towards their family. Their protective instinct makes them suitable for homes with children. They require a firm, confident owner who can provide consistent training and socialization .

Fun Facts

The Šarplaninac is a national symbol in North Macedonia, and you can even find it on their postage stamps.

Despite their large size and powerful appearance, these dogs have a calm demeanor and are known to be very patient, especially with children and other animals.

The Šarplaninac's protective instincts were honed over centuries of guarding livestock in the harsh mountain conditions against large predators, including wolves and bears.