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Forsaken Guardian Dogs Haunt Rural Nevada

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Howard Copelan

With sheep season over many Abkash guadian dogs are left to fend for themselves in rural Nevada.

With sheep season over many Abkash guadian dogs are left to fend for themselves in rural Nevada.

With the sheep migration season over reports  of large white dogs apparently lost and wandering the stretch of road between Ely and Wendover are again coming in.

According to descriptions given the dogs are most likely Akbash, a Turkish live stock guardian. Unlike herding dogs such as shepherds or collies, protection dogs as their description implies protect the herd usually goats or sheep but sometimes cattle from predators.

Fall Festival Flyer 2015Their lineage goes back as long as 10,000 years and  they are still in use and can be seen accompanying Peruvian sheepherders in eastern Nevada during the spring and summer months.

Needing very little if any training, the dogs mingle with the sheep and fend off attacks from local predators such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions just as their ancestors fought off wolves, jackals and lions at the dawn of civilization.

Advocate fall Charley adThe dogs’ success also has a tragic side however. Because they are so easily trained any pup will do and once the season is over the adult dogs guarding a particular herd are either put down or left to fend for themselves once they are no longer needed. Used to be fed regularly and having a instinctive aversion to hunting large herbivores most of these cast offs slowly starve to death over the winter or die of cold, unless they are adopted by sympathetic humans.

Most do die but not all said Janet Davis who operates the onlyAkbash dog rescue in the country. According to Davis there have been reports of Abkash dogs going feral and breaking thousands of generations of conditioning to become hunters again.

“It is getting to be a problem,” Davis said. “There are reports of packs of large white feral dogs attacking livestock in Montana. They could be Pyrennees orAkbash.”

wrecnewBoth breeds were once considered rare in the United States and even in their home countries until the 1980’s when federal and state governments began to promote guardian dogs to prevent predetor attacks on flocks and herds.

“It was a great idea but very badly executed,” Davis said. “They began to give out puppies, not spayed or neutered. They weren’t registered. It is still going on. Just this year in rural California they wanted to give farmers, unfixed unchipped  Abkash puppies. They asked my opinion and I told them they were crazy. These are beautiful animals of an ancient breed. But they aren’t for everyone.”

The Akbash is a large dog, weighing from 75 to 140 pounds, averaging 90 pounds for the female, and 120 pounds for the male. Akbash dogs range from about 27 to 34 inches tall.

centraThe Akbash personality tends to be calm and aware. As a breed, it is not shy, nor is it aggressive. When used as a protection dog, it is suspicious of strangers in its territory, and unusual sounds and changes in its environment. The breed is not naturally hostile, and is, instead, naturally discerning, bred to think independently. The Akbash can be powerful against predators, yet, when properly exposed, be gentle with newborn lambs and goat kids. The usual first means of protection by an Akbash is prudently warning potential threats by barking or growling. The Akbash will chase away a predator, or physically protect against it, only if it deems that wise and necessary.

While considered an excellent companion dog it sometimes does not have a chance.

“Agents actually tell farmers and shepherds not to interact with the dogs,” Davis added.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. John Herbert Says:

    My wife and I are a retired couple with a small 1 acre farm that keeps chickens and goats we are looking to rescue a dog that will not eat our livestock please contact me if you can help

  2. Brenda M Negri Says:

    I am a long time and renowned breeder of Livestock Guardian Dogs in Northern Nevada, just outside of Winnemucca. I wish you could have contacted me before doing this article and I could have shared stories with you. What you are reporting is sadly happening all over the country and much of it has to do with bad practice on the part of the shepherd/sheep owners, who often raise the pups “hands off” with very little interaction, thus, increasing their chances of going feral. Some sheep guys don’t even try to bring along the dogs when they move bands. LGDs have also become a fad. As more and more ‘hobby farmers’ surface, they all get LGDs. Now sadly, many of them are breeding LGDs and they have no idea what they are doing. The market is glutted the rescues, overloaded. Check out the paper I wrote on LGD abuse in my LGD library on my website, listed. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to chat, my contact info is on that site. Thank you so much for doing this article, I am spreading it far and wide, including a link on my site, and on my Facebook pages. Someone needed to write this. When you see the Abuse paper I wrote about abandoned LGDs, you will see – we are on the same page in spades…..

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