Kangals are huge dogs that once enjoyed life being put to work as a protector of herds and livestock. They are sometimes known as Kangal Shepherd dogs and have quite an intimidating presence owing to their large size. This has made them suitable to protect people and animals from some pretty fierce predators in the past like wolves and bears.
This is a guide to the Kangal dog breed with some facts about the breed including what its temperament is like as well as some general history. They’re an interesting species or type of dog, but it’s good to know their quirks and plus points if you are thinking about buying one for your home or family. They certainly have the potential, as most dogs do with the right love and affection, to become wonderful household pets and family members.
History of the Kangal Dog
Originally, this huge dog came from the Sivas region of Turkey. In fact, the Kangal is the national dog of Turkey, but it is now widely seen in the US owing to its uses for protecting sheep and cattle on large farms. They were first seen in Turkey however at the turn of the 12th Century, so they are a pretty old breed. While they were used by a number of wealthy large landholders and chieftains that were local to the area, they were largely bred by villagers who also had flocks of sheep and goats to protect.
They are believed to be closely related to Mastiffs though are a purebred dog breed with very little outside DNA having infiltrated their bloodline. Their coloring has therefore broadly remained the same throughout the ages. They are famous for their cream or tan-colored coats with a black face that is predominantly dark around their snout or muzzle. This coloring can continue up to its ears, though the black coloring will often stop short. It is not unusual for some Kangals to have a few white markings dotted around the rest of the bodies in patches – not spots. To be a proper Kangal, these markings need to be below the knee or on the chest and nowhere else.
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- Despite their thick coat, they are often seen in African countries such as Namibia and Kenya where local farmers seek protection from lions, cheetahs, and other big cats.
- Its name is derived from an early Turkish tribe, the Kankalis, who gave the modern-day town which the Kangal comes from in the Sivas Province, its name.
- Despite its very large size, the Kangal can achieve speeds of around 30 miles an hour or 50 km an hour.
- Its thick coat is very adaptable to all weathers. It has two layers. The outer layer is resistant to both water and snow, while the undercoat is what provides the Kangal with insulation in the coldest temperatures as well as protection from the very hot summer sun.
- A male Kangal puppy can eat anything up to 4800 calories a day to maintain its weight and continue to grow healthily.
- Kangal dogs love to work in pairs or sets. They are very much a pack animals although they can display some independent tendencies.
- A Kangal has some of the strongest jaws around. In fact, they can bite so hard that they incur a force of 700 pounds per square inch. For comparison, a Rottweiler, also known for its strength, is able to administer a force of around 328 pounds per square inch when it bites down. A human’s bite force is just 150.
- When in a pack of two or three Kangals, they can be used to protect a flock that is up to 250 sheep strong. They do so by barking at predators as their first line of defense. If this does not deter the unwanted intruder, one of the two or three Kangals will approach and roar as loudly as possible. Lastly, if this does not work, a Kangal will try to attack the predator by throwing their shoulder into the animal to knock them over, exposing a throat or hind leg that is easy to bite down on.
- The Kangal was first written about in Europe and the US by an American couple who studied dogs while living in Turkey. They are thought to have brought over one of the first Kangal dogs to the States in the 1980s.
- The average litter size for a Kangal female is anything from 5 puppies all the way up to 10 little ones.
Things You Should Know
Kangals have short dense double coats. They will shed and malt twice a year at the beginning of Springtime and the beginning of Wintertime. As such, to save your home from being turned into one giant furball, any potential owner will need to thoroughly brush down their Kangal with a de-shedding brush and metal comb as soon as a Kangal’s malting begins. The tool is ideal as it actually removes loose hair from the undercoat which can become trapped by the overcoat. Other than this brush down, a Kangal will still need a regular monthly brush as well as having their nails clipped at the same time.
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Training this breed is not without its difficulties. It is naturally a very protective guardian dog so has an instinctive ability to look after flocks of sheep or herds, which is why they prove so helpful on farms. However, that does not make them easy to teach in terms of obedience and agility training as it can make them quite stubborn. Instead, simply play to their strengths and improve their ability to protect and to guard that comes from being a clever dog who is happily quite independent.
- Often suffers from hip dysplasia
When you have a dog breed that has not been interbred too much over the years like a Kangal, they look great but are subject to a few issues that come from not strengthening the bloodline like mongrel benefits from. For that reason, it is not uncommon to see a Kangal dog suffering from hip dysplasia at some point in his or her life so this is something to keep an eye out for. It can cause a dog a fair amount of pain in terms of arthritis in its hip joints. All that being said, for a large dog, they’re a relatively healthy breed.
- Size and Weight
There is no denying that this is a big, big dog. Female Kangals have been seen to grow to around 30 inches high with males just passing them at 32 inches. Most Kangals won’t be shorter than 28 inches and won’t weigh less than 90 lbs. The male of the species can weigh a massive 145 pounds while the female can achieve around 120 pounds and still be of a healthy weight.
- Life expectancy
The Kangal dog can get to a pretty good age considering its giant size. On average, if you have a Kangal, you can expect him or her to live between 12 and 15 years which is an age much more common to dogs about a quarter of the size. Obviously, to live this long, Kangals have to have been given the right nutrition and diet as well as the optimum amount of exercise to keep them healthy.
To maintain a Kangal’s health they do need a fair amount of exercise, though not as much as Border Collie or Beagle would. They do have a lot of energy to expend however so expect to be walking this gentle giant around 40 minutes a day to make sure he or she remains in the best of conditions. Having come from a working dog background, they will thrive in huge outdoor spaces like farms. In such scenarios, a daily walk is not necessary as they will naturally take themselves off to make use of that energy in the most interesting way possible to them each day.
In terms of food, they obviously eat a lot. In fact, male Kangals can need anything up to 3500 calories a day from their kibble, so factor this into your sums if you thinking about buying this type of breed. Feeding them that much every day can really add up quickly. That being said, compared to other giant breeds they have a slightly smaller appetite.
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If you are looking to buy a Kangal, you can expect to pay around $1,000 or more for a puppy from the outset. From there, potential owners should factor in how much a monthly insurance plan will be as well as the aforementioned food bill.
Not only did the physical nature of a Kangal make it a great dog for guarding and protecting herds, but it was also its natural temperament that made it a highly useful dog breed to early Turkish tribes. They are largely incredibly predictable dogs and therefore very reliable. Turkish shepherds were drawn to the fact that Kangals are not aggressive to either humans or sheep. That being said, if aggressive behavior was exhibited, that dog was not used for breeding so that characteristic never became a wider part of the breed’s character.
While they look intimidating, they are actually very gentle dogs and are therefore great family pets as they are fantastic with young children and adults alike. As an extension of their pack, their protective nature comes out and so they also like to guard any family they are a part of. This makes them great to have in the house at night if intruders are ever a worry. They are loyal to a fault when it comes to their family or master, which is a strength of character in them that starts to be displayed when they leave puppyhood at about 2 years old. While they can be independent, this is a plus point to the breed given that it means they do not suffer from separation anxiety like some more common dog breeds do.
Being working dogs, they do need something to do if they are not living on a farm with plenty of space to run around to burn off energy. While they do not need exceptionally long walks, it is good to remember that their natural habitat is one with acres of space for them to roam. As such, to avoid any negative behavior within the home when left alone, remember to give them something to do so that you do not come back to a house that has been ravaged by this huge canine.
Kangal Dog: The Bottom Line
Kangal dogs are the epitome of a gentle giant. Given that they can weigh as much as a fully grown human, it seems remarkable that we can have them as family pets in households that are home to young children. They will tolerate the longest of ear pulls and tail tuggings while simultaneously being fiercely protective of their small owners.
While they won’t suit every home, especially ones in urban settings or with a very small amount of outdoor space, they can make fantastic pets for those that have the time to exercise as they need – both physically and mentally. Ideally, they should be in houses on farms or within homes with acres of space for them to run around in as a form of self exercise. When owners are lucky enough to have that space in their backyard, they will find the maintenance of these dogs very low – despite their need for a monthly brush and the amount of food they will require.
- Turkish Kangal Dog – The Kennel Club