The best known of all the Hungarian and Balkan dogs is probably the Kuvasz (plural, Kuvaszok). His name is really Turkish, and may be freely translated "Guardian of Nobles." He has been known in his present form in Europe for nearly a thousand years.
Some stories say that the Kuvasz was imported from Tibet, the cradle of so many large dogs, by the Huns. Others believe that the Magyars brought him into Europe. The name might indicate that the Ottoman Turks brought the dogs out of Asia, using them as guardians for both their nobles and their supply dumps. Still another story is that the Hungarian nobles brought the dogs into their country, probably from Asia, to protect their castles during the period of the Industrial Revolution.
Certain it is that the breed was well-established at the time of King Matthias I, who reigned from 1458 to 1490. He is said to have had a large kennel of these dogs at Siebenbuergen. A kennel in those days might have upwards of a thousand dogs in it, since expense was not a matter of concern.
Many authorities on the Kuvasz and Komondor believe that the two are very closely related. These include Horowitz von Stephanitz, and others. In Germany, the distinction between the two has been chiefly one of coat, with the ragged and matted dog being called the Komondor and the smooth coated dog the Kuvasz. Many Komondor fanciers bitterly resent this, saying it would be difficult, If not impossible to cross the two breeds. The Germans, with no sanction from Hungary, now recognize also a smaller type of Kuvasz.
At one time, all pure-bred Kuvaszok were white. Now a black strain is sometimes seen. Aside from this, and the coat color, the Komondor and Kuvasz do have much in common. Both are very large dogs, strong-bodied, with wide skulls, "v"-shaped drop ears, and roughly similar height. With the male being about twenty-six inches at the shoulders with the female somewhat less.
It is said that in Hungary, itself, the Kuvasz is now preferred over the Komondor. This would be natural, since the Kuvasz long ago moved into the towns and cities, whereas the Komondor still stays chiefly on the plains and steppes of the interior.
Kuvaszok began to appear in America several years before the Komondorok. Their white coats, soft hair, and sturdy good looks attracted immediate attention. Some of them were reserved for show purposes, but others appear to have been taken to the western sheep country, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where they proved excellent sheepdogs and flock guardians.
It is said by Hubbard, the noted British authority, that Kuvaszok on the plains of Hungary are usually ill-tempered. He states that, for that reason, they were made to wear iron hoops, which restricted them from wandering. This apparently kept neighbors from harm.
However, those which have been brought to the United States have not differed much from other dogs which have been used for guard work. They inherit strong property-guarding instincts, and therefore are understandably suspicious of strangers. They are not apt to wander far from home, and without teaching appoint themselves as ever-present guardians.
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