King of the Hungarian livestock guarding dogs, the Komondor, is one of the most unusual breeds seen in the United States today. A big muscular dog covered with dense, white cords. This coat protects the dog against the elements and predators on the Puszta of its homeland, Hungary. The Komondor is a large dog with males standing at least 27 1/2″ at the shoulders, while females must be at least 25 1/2″ tall. Occasionally one may see a Komondor as large as 31″ or even bigger, but these cases are rare. While large, the Komondor is not an overly heavy dog. Males usually weigh more than 100 pounds and females more than 80 pounds. Despite its size, the Komondor is astonishingly fast, agile and light on its feet. The quick movement, large size, unique coat and majestic appearance of the Komondor can be awe inspiring. A fearless dog, the Komondor’s main task is to guard flocks of sheep or other livestock against predators such as wolves, coyotes, feral dogs, or human predators. The nature of the Komondor is that of a calm watchful dog who thrives on responsibility. Komondors need something to watch over. Be it livestock, children, or a cat, a Komondor is happiest when taking responsibility for another’s well-being. As a pet, the Komondor is quiet around the house, unless it perceives a threat to those entrusted to its care. If challenged, the Komondor becomes a fearless protector knocking down an intruder or breaking windows to protect its “flock”. In the field, the Komondor is vigilant and trustworthy, reducing losses and even caring for orphans. It is important to remember that the Komondor is, first and foremost, a stock guard dog. When evaluating whether this is the breed for you and your family, keep this in mind. If you are seriously considering acquiring a Komondor, we strongly urge you to see adult dogs in their home environment before making your final decision. Contact the Corresponding Secretary of the Komondor Club of America for the names of owners in your area. The KCA can also provide you with a list of breeders, members of the KCA, who have pledged to abide by the Code of Ethics of the KCA, and strive to breed only healthy animals who conform to the American Kennel Club standard for the breed.
The AKC Komondor Standard can be found on the AC website at
The Komondor is an ancient breed. While its homeland has been Hungary for many centuries, it is generally thought to be a descendent of the Russian Owtcharka brought to what is now Hungary by the invading Magyars. The word “komondor” can be found in Hungarian documents dating from the 16th century, though reference to large sheepdogs predate that. The Komondor was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937. During World War II contact between the United States and Hungary was cut off and there was virtually no importing and no breeding done in this country. In Europe the breed was almost wiped out because of the war. Only a few dozen specimens were left afterward, and the breed was slowly re-established in Hungary, but was rare even there. During the entire period between World War II and 1960, only about 1000 Komondors had been registered in Hungary. Contact between the American Kennel Club and the Hungarian Kennel Club was re-established in 1962, and importation of Komondors resumed. The next two decades saw dogs imported from Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, and American breeders produced an average of 50 litters a year in the 1980’s.
Komondor temperament is like that of all livestock guarding dogs: calm and steady when things are normal. In cases of trouble, the dog will leap to defend its charges. It was bred to think for itself and is unusually intelligent. It is extremely affectionate with its family and friends and gentle with the children of the family. Although wary of strangers, it will nonetheless accept them when it is clear that no harm is meant. It is very protective of its family, home and possessions. It will instinctively guard them without any training. Once a new member has been introduced into the family or flock, the Komondor will never forget them. A Komondor will routinely greet someone it has not seen for years as though it had just seen them yesterday. Once you are a “member of the flock,” you are always a “member of the flock.” A Komondor has keen instincts and can sense the intentions of anyone in its presence. Should it decide its flock, territory, family, or master needs protection, it will not hesitate to spring into action, defending it charges fearlessly and with suddenness which take the intruder by surprise. An athletic dog, the Komondor has great speed and power and will leap toward a predator to drive it away or to knock it down. Because of the Komondor’s size, power, and speed, its owner must have it under control. Obedience training is a must, preferably starting at an early age (4 – 8 months). Komondors are intelligent and take well to training if started early. Komondors become obstinate when bored, so it is imperative that training sessions be upbeat and happy. Praise is a must, as are consistent and humane corrections. Once a Komondor gets away with unfriendly or hostile behavior, it will always think such behavior is appropriate. Therefore, consistent corrections even with a young puppy are necessary to ensure a well-adjusted adult. Socialization is also extremely important. The Komondor should be exposed to new situations, people and other dogs as a puppy. Because it is a natural guard dog, a Komondor that is not properly socialized may react in an excessively aggressive manner when confronted with a new situation or person. Again, puppy training is strongly recommended for all Komondors.
Given the proper environment and care, a Komondor is a responsible, loving dog. They are devoted and calm without being sluggish. They can be wary of strangers, but may accept people readily and are quite friendly. As in any breed, there is quite a range of personalities, so your needs should be outlined clearly to your breeder. An experienced breeder can try to identify that personality which would be happier as an independent livestock dog, or that which wants more to please and would make a good obedience dog or family pet. Diet for the adult Komondor need not be a complicated matter. As with all livestock guarding dogs, Komondors have been bred for many centuries to make efficient use of their food. Many adult Komondors eat no more that three cups of food per day and are in excellent health and weight. Generally, portions indicated on the dog food bag are far too generous. Be careful not to over-feed or over-supplement your Komondor. Your breeder can provide more information relative to the care and feeding of your dog. Many Komondors are “late bloomers”, not fully mature until nearly three years of age. Adolescence can be marked by changes in temperament, eating habits, trainability and general attitude. This should not cause alarm. By the time they are three years old, they are responsible adults. However, to expect an eight month old puppy to behave as an adult is unreasonable. Puppies are as active, playful and troublesome as in any breed. Truly responsible behavior cannot be expected until they reach full maturity
Komondors do not suffer many heredity problems. Perhaps because the breed has descended from centuries of hardy working stock, Komondors have few genetically linked problems. In particular, there is no evidence of the retinal eye problems found in other breeds, nor is there dwarfism or hereditary blood disorders. As in all large breeds (and some small ones) there is some hip dysplasia, though the incidence is about 10% of all radiographs submitted, according to statistical studies of the OFA. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), an organization affiliated with the university of Missouri, reads hip x-rays and rates them against other x-rays of the same breed at the same age. Actual certification that a dog is free of hip dysplasia cannot take place until the dog is over the age of two years. All breeders in the United States who are affiliated with the Komondor Club of America should be in compliance with the Code of Ethics which requires that their breeding stock be x-rayed and certified free of hip dysplasia by the OFA. However, even two parents certified clear of hip dysplasia can produce dysplastic offspring. Often it will be years before this condition is noticed. One eye disorder which is found in the breed is entropian, which is indicated by the curling inwards of either the upper or lower eyelid. This lid deformity causes the lashes to rub against the cornea causing lacerations and infections of the eye. It can be corrected by surgery, but after such surgery, the dog cannot be shown and any dog with this problem should not be bred since it is genetic in nature. Another genetic eye problem that has recently been documented in the breed is juvenile cataracts. The Canine Eye Registration Foundation, CERF, located at Purdue University, evaluates eye exams and assigns a CERF number if the dog’s eyes are free of genetic problems. Before buying a puppy, find out if the puppy’s parents have been properly evaluated for hip and eye problems, and what (if any) guarantee the breeder is willing to provide you for your dog. There is some indication of “bloat”, (gastric diliation-torsion syndrome), a life threatening condition is genetic, but the incidence of bloat is no greater than with any other large breeds. This condition is marked by acute distress, and emergency measures should be taken immediately. If not treated immediately complications, both neurological and circulatory, can result in death. Please discuss this disease with your vet and your breeder, and learn the symptoms. Surgical correction of the problem is available and has been successful in many cases. External parasites can be a problem due to the heavy coat. As with any long-haired dog, a skin check should be part of your regular grooming routine. Should you find fleas or ticks, aggressive measures are in order. Shampoos and powders work well, but be sure to make sure you reach all parts of dog’s skin. With the big coat, it is easy to miss a spot where the fleas can hide. Owners should check anti-flea and tick preparations carefully as Komondors are extremely sensitive to some of these products. Also be sure to spot-test the coat before dipping as some flea dips have been known to discolor the white coat. Flea collars too can discolor the hair beneath them, so look for a white or transparent one. Ear care should be routine also. Since Komondors have ears which hang down preventing air circulation, it is especially necessary to keep them clean and hair-free. Some ear canals are hairier than others, but commercial powders, cleansing fluids, and plucking can greatly reduce the infections. Thick hair grows between the pads of the feet which also requires maintenance. This hair can pick up burrs, or, when wet, becomes a source of irritation and infection. For the health and comfort of the dog, this hair should be cut out with an electric clipper or scissors to keep mats from forming between the foot pads. As in all breeds one should be careful that Komondors have the proper vaccines against rabies, distemper, parvo, etc. Dogs should also be checked periodically for worms and other internal parasites. Like all stock guard dogs Komondors are usually extremely sensitive to anesthetics. These drugs should always be administered to effect… never by weight.
In Hungary, the Komondor is hardly ever seen in cities. Considered to be the chief of the herdsman’s dogs, the Komondor is used to protect the herdsman and his animals. Recently, there has been considerable interest in the use of the Komondor as a livestock guardian among cattle, sheep, goat, and alpaca ranchers in the United States. Federally-funded projects have been established to study the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control and have found the dogs to be successful under certain circumstances. With increasing interest in re-establishing the wolf in the Western United States, more livestock ranchers will no doubt be looking to the Komondor and other guardian dogs to protect their assets. Komondors are well suited for the task of predator control (both two and four legged kind). The white coat allows the dog to mingle unnoticed among the sheep while allowing the shepherd to see him at night. Also the coat acts as a protective barrier from the harsh weather and jaws of an attacking animal. The cords both insulate and cool. They are open to the skin so that they allow air to pass through, yet the density and length of the cords protect he animal underneath. In the U.S., Komondors have been effectively used to fend off coyotes and bobcats. Even in livestock guarding situations, however, Komondors must be trained to know the owners rules. Many a Komondor who works well with the sheep cannot be taken to the vet when the need arises. All dogs must be trained to be handled by the owner and strangers when necessary. The Komondor Club of America has a committee dedicated to the education and assistance of the rancher. For more information about the Predator Control Committee, contact the Secretary.
To the Komondor lover, no other dog possesses the depth of soul or sense of responsibility of this breed, but because of this the Komondor can represent a real challenge to the serious obedience trainer. Komondors are smart and have been bred to think for themselves. Therefore it can be difficult for them to trust completely the directions of a mere human. Easy to train at the start, they can just as easily decide that, once a task is done, it need never be done again. Repetition bores them. It is up to the handler to think of ways to keep training fun and full of surprises. Some breeds thrive of repetition, getting the most satisfaction out of being asked to do something which is familiar and can be accomplished successfully. The Komondor is not one those breeds. Komondors love to learn something new. Often in competition, however, the Komondor can seem somewhat less than enthusiastic at having to do those exercises again. Lagging on heeling seems always to be the biggest point loser. Many Komondors can be seen keeping an eye on the judge… just in case he’s really a predator. Judges who follow the dog around the ring make them especially nervous. A Komondor has been known to go High-in-Trial, and a few have Utility degrees. They are capable of great accomplishments, but they may try the ingenuity of the trainer.
Nothing is more impressive than a Komondor in the show ring. A clean, well presented, happy Komondor is a sight to behold. Although Komondors are not often thought of as the ultimate show dog, quite a few have achieved top awards. Komondors are shown moving at a leisurely gait and are set square on their feet. The coat should be clean, and feet and mouths may be trimmed neatly. There is an A.K.C. rule regarding foreign substances in the coat, so no powder or whitening agents should be left in the show coat. No excuse should be made for a Komondor which will not allow the judge to examine it. Even though they are naturally wary of strangers, Komondors are smart enough to be trained to do whatever you ask of them. If a Komondor is unsure of himself, or if the handler is unsure of the dog, the dog should not be shown.
Most people are initially attracted to the Komondor because of his corded coat. When clean and groomed the coat can be quite beautiful, however sometimes the dogs are seen in public dirty, matted and bad smelling. When presented in such condition, the breed’s reputation suffers. Caring for the coat takes organization and effort, but it is not an impossible task. The cords form when the woolly undercoat is trapped by the harsher curlier outer-coat. As the coat mats together, the curl of the outer-coat helps determine the natural separation points. Separate the clumps following the pattern of the curls, having the base of the cords approximately the size of a quarter. With time and the process of wetting and drying, the clumps will tighten up forming cords. At first these cords will be short, but as the dog ages the coat grows longer, the cords will acquire the length and graceful swing of the impressive adult coat. Cords begin forming between the ages of eight months and twelve months, and continue throughout the life of the dog. As new coat grows, the cords will clump together at the base. You will need to spend time every week working on the cords to keep them neat. As you might imagine, it is easy for dirt to get into the cords. If that dirt becomes trapped as the cord tightens, the coat will become discolored and dull looking. The best way to keep a Komondor clean is never to allow it to get dirty. If the dog does get into a mud puddle, than a quick rinse with a garden hose will help get the dirt out. Trimming the hair around the mouth can help keep it dry and can lessen the odor, but there should be cords left on the muzzle. Hair which never dries can mildew, so cutting some of it off may lessen the problem. No working Komondor can be kept from getting dirty, and most mature dogs with full coats cannot be kept immaculate save by extreme measures. Even with the most extreme measures, the coat of a mature Komondor is not as white as that of other white dogs which shed out their entire coat once or twice a year. The true pure white color can be seen at the base of the Komondor’s cords. A dryer or floor fan is very helpful in caring for the corded coat. Because damp hair picks up dirt easier than dry hair, keeping the coat dry helps keep it clean. Komondors like moving air more than cold air, and a Komondor will often be seen lying on its back upside-down in front of a fan when one is available. Adult Komondors may occasionally lose an entire cord, but they do not shed in the usual sense of the word. Like poodles, which also can be corded, Komondors are a good breed for those who have allergies to dog hair and dander. If you are interested in an outside dog to stay with the livestock, coat care should consist of enough separating to keep the dog comfortable and routine examinations for large weeds, twigs, and burrs. Ears should also be cleaned occasionally and checked for infection and foreign objects.
The Komondor is not immune to the problem of unwanted dogs. The Komondor Club of America offers a rescue referral service, finding homes for previously owned dogs. You can find out what is available through the program by contacted the Club Corresponding Secretary. These dogs come from Humane Society organizations or directly from their original home. You can also occasionally adopt an adult dog directly from a breeder. Reputable breeders either take back dogs of their breeding that need homes or work with the owner to find a suitable second home. Komondors are at times available for adoption, ranging in age from several months to several years. Sometimes they are a show pup that didn’t live up to his potential, or perhaps a three year old who came back to the breeder after a divorce or the family moved. It is not uncommon for a five or six year old Komondor to be dropped off at a shelter because the family “no longer has time for a dog”. Opening your home to a Komondor that is no longer a ‘puppy’ can be beneficial to you and the dog. If you are interested in an adult Komondor ask that your name be kept on file, by both the Club and breeders, until a dog is available. With patience, consistence and training, your new adult dog can become a fitting member of your household. If you are in the position that you can no longer care for a Komondor you currently own, contact the KCA for assistance and placing the animal. Please do not take the dog to an animal shelter, but work with Komondor rescue towards finding the dog another suitable home. Forms to list your dog for placement through the KCA rescue referral service are available from the Corresponding Secretary. NOTE If you are seriously considering acquiring a Komondor, we strongly urge you to see adult dogs in their home environment before making your final decision. Contact the Secretary of The Komondor Club of America or the Regional Director for your state for the names of Komondor owners in your area.
THE NATIONAL CLUB
The Komondor Club of America, Inc. is a national organization licensed by the American Kennel Club. Responsible for looking after the welfare of the breed of the breed in the United States, it is involved with education, welfare, promotion, and representation of the Komondor at the AKC. Once a year, the club sponsors a National Specialty Show at which all Komondor owners are invited to meet each other, attend seminars, share information about breeding programs, and in general catch up on Komondor activities. This Specialty is in a different part of the country each year. Information regarding this event is available from the secretary of the KCA. The Komondor Club of America also publishes a newsletter four times a year, The Komondor Komments. Subscriptions are included with membership or can be purchased separately from the editor.