With their proud demeanour and proud history, the Turkish Kangal is a breed that often intrigues people. The dogs are known for their calm temperament and often serve as loyal protectors of livestock. But what is it really like to own one of these dogs? And how does their personality differ from other breeds of dogs? We'll take a look at the temperament of the Kangal, their history and if this dog is the right dog breed for you. This blog will give you some idea and inspiration so lets dive right in.
History of the Turkish Kangal Dog
This extraordinary breed originated from Turkey, in the Kangal province. In their native country they’re known as “Karabash”, meaning “black head” in Turkish. There are only three standard breed colours accepted by the British Kennel Club: Cream, dun and fawn. The Kangal must always have a black mask.
This dog was bred as a herder and guardian of sheep flocks. They were bred to live with shepherd and livestock and scare away or kill marauding wolves and other predators. Their size is probably already doing half the job, as a male dog can stand at up to 80cm at the withers. There is most definitely bigger Kangals but they were less suitable for the job as a sheep herder.
The nomadic life made the Kangal hardy and agile as they had to live outdoors and travel great distances in hot summers as well as sub-zero winters. This led to a very agile and fast breed. The Kangal has sighthound influence which contributed to their agility. Being bred to survive in rural areas and vast surroundings, they’re perfectly adapted to withstand the toughest weather conditions.
Certain molosser breeds with strong guarding instincts have been chosen to perfect this dog over centuries and make the Kangals what they are today.
Whats the difference between an Anatolian Shepherd and a Turkish Kangal Dog?
This can be a touchy subject for some and a very confusing one as both breeds come from the same lineage. Some countries, like the AKC don’t distinguish between the two. Within Turkey however, they’re two different dogs. The Kangal comes from the Kangal province whilst the Anatolian Shepherd can be from a very wide region. The Kangal is on average a bit larger and heavier. The main difference is seen in their coat colours and appearance.
Whilst an Anatolian can look like a Kangal, a Kangal can’t look like an Anatolian Shepherd. Various coat colours are acceptable in an Anatolian Shepherd and they can be masked black or not masked. The breed standard of the Kangal is always a black mask. From a temperament point of view, they’re very similar. Now if this still sounds a bit blurry, that’s because it is.
Now that we have a good idea of the breeding history, lets have a look what your life would look like with a Kangal.
What is it like to live with a Turkish Kangal?
One thing you can never forget when owning a Kangal is that they’re a speciality breed. They have a strong defensive guarding behaviour ingrained in them. Calm and collected when trotting with the life stock but watchful and animated as soon as they spot a threat.
These dogs were the answer to a specific problem of the shepherds in the vast herding regions and perfected over centuries. Once they spot danger, their tail will go up high, they will bark or growl and stand ready. If the foe is silly enough to not take the warning posture serious, they will run and can attack.
At first glance, they might not look agile. But the Kangal is big and strong without being cumbersome. Bred to be left alone with life stock for several days, these dogs know how to make decisions and sustain themselves. Kangals are no obedience dogs. If they feel you can’t take decisive actions, these dogs will probably take them for you. Teaching them tricks and playing fetch might also be a waste of time.
Other dogs love pleasing their hooman friend, but Kangals are differently build. They exist to protect, not to please.
Training is hard and requires consistency, firmness, and leader pack qualities. It’s a difficult dog to handle for a novice dog owner. Many owners joke, that if you get a Kangal to successfully recall consistently, then you’ll be the first.
Kangals tend to be good with people. If you’re a good pack leader, they will trust your judgement and not be unkind towards people entering your home. They might remain aloof and watchful but will show their people-orientated side. Polite, respectful and calm is the dog you would get in these situations. But you will never be able to take the watchdog fully out of this breed. Once they have bonded with their flock or family, they will always make sure that you’re protected.
The Kangal is not a status symbol dog. They’re workers and should be put to work to flourish. They’re not very suitable for apartment living or living in urban areas. They should have a territory or area to patrol and to watch. A big garden and rural living are best suited for this breed.
Early socialisation with other dogs and many different people will determine how your Kangal will respond to strangers and meeting new people. They’re friendly and like to be petted but will probably always keep their guard up and the eyes peeled on their family. This is one of the breeds where socialisation from a young age is crucial for success. Due to their strength and size, a Kangal on the loose can result in a dangerous situation.
Kangals shouldn’t be walked off lead especially if there is an area where you walk them on a regular basis. After a while they might claim the local dog park as “their” area to patrol and can become aggressive towards other dogs if they feel disrespected. Selective hearing and stubbornness are a quite common trait in Kangals. To avoid confrontation, its better to always walk with a leashed Kangal.
Having the unreserved love from your Kangal will be the greatest gift. They’re affectionate and very loyal dogs who won’t do half things. They don’t need attention 24/7 like a Golden Retriever or Labrador. If you have life stock to protect, this is the dog breed for you.
Some articles might say that Kangals are not suitable for young children. But again this all comes down to socialisation. Kangals are known to sometimes even nurture lamb. With the right training, they will excel as companion dog and watch dog. But these dogs are certainly not for the faint-hearted dog lover.
Turkish Kangal temperament in a nutshell
Needs a big house and garden to roam around and patrol their area
Requires a strong pack leader
Early socialisation is an absolute must
Will protect his pack, family or lifestock with their life
Affectionate, loyal, calm and watchful towards their family
Potential diseases in the Turkish Kangal breed
The Turkish Kangal is a generally healthy breed. Their lifespan can range from 12-15 years which is old for a dog this size. Its believed that their nomadic breeding, added a lot of different gene pools, making it a healthier pure breed dog.
As a new owner you should also be prepared to pay medical expenses that come with the breed. The sheer size of this dog will make a medical treatment very expensive. You should always opt for a comprehensive insurance with the Kangal.
Hereditary diseases are genetically predisposed. For this reason, its important to always choose a reputable breeder who has screened their dogs DNA and knows from which family they come from. Good pre-work and research can help minimise any of the below upsetting conditions.
Hereditary diseases can be the following:
Hip dysplasia: Skeletal disorder that can lead to arthritis
Entropion: Inwards folding eye lid that can cause infections
Lipoma: fatty lumps or tumour growth that can imped movement causing discomfort
Most diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means that the puppy must inherit the gene from both parents to become an affected. If the mutation is only present in one parent, then the puppy becomes a carrier. Hence, it is so important to choose a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their Kangal.
The more aware you are of these diseases, the higher the chances that you can prolong the life of your dog if problems arise. Same as with your child, you should be aware of all required vaccinations, risks and even risks outside of your home. This blog post for example outlines all toxic spring plants that can be harmful to your dog.
The more you know, the better you will be prepared.
Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues, when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber play things like chew bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation and are not breathable like natural materials. Swap out those harmful materials with eco friendly pet products from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend. Breathable, eco-friendly and sustainable!
Turkish Kangal Fun facts
We love nature here at Hooman’s Friend. For this reason the following fun fact got us really excited.
Kangals have helped in several conservation projects worldwide. Many farmers are using poison or shooting predatory animals. This puts biological diversity into jeopardy and can lead to unsustainable practices. Kangals are helping by scaring predators away instead of killing them, keeping the natural ecosystem in balance.
In 1994 over 500 Kangal dogs have been gifted to the Cheetah conservation project in Namibia. Instead of farmers killing cheetahs, they use Kangals and Anatolian Shepherds to protect and herd their precious lifestock. A study estimated that lifestock losses were reduced by 91%. The main benefits however are encouraging co-existence, protecting the life of viable predators and preventing a destabilised ecosystem.
"To follow soon"
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The Turkish Kangal is a unique breed of dog with a temperament that is unlike any other. They are protective of their family and property, and require a lot of independence and space. If you are a future owner of a Kangal, it is important to understand their temperament and personality so you can make sure they are happy and healthy.
Turkish Kanga; Summary Info box
70cm - 81cm
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig