The Secret Origin of the Kangal Dog


The Kangal is an ancient livestock guardian dog breed that originated in the Sivas province in Turkey. Originally bred to protect sheep and livestock, the large and powerful Kangal is known for its protective and loyal nature. This article will provide an overview of the Kangal dog’s origins, early development, breed standards, recent history, popularity, temperament and controversies surrounding the breed. We will examine how the Kangal was created through selective breeding for specific working traits and has become a treasured national icon in Turkey and gained popularity worldwide.


The Kangal dog originated in the Sivas Province in central Turkey, specifically in the Kangal district where the breed gets its name. The Kangal is considered one of the oldest domesticated dog breeds, with ancient origins likely dating back thousands of years. Some theories suggest the Kangal may have arrived in Anatolia with migrating Turkic tribes from Central Asia around the 11th century.

kangal dog ancient origins

The Kangal developed as a livestock guardian dog to protect sheep and goat herds from predators in Turkey. Their origins are closely tied to the nomadic Turkmen people in the Sivas-Kangal region, who bred the dogs and relied on them to guard their flocks from threats.


Early Development

The Kangal Shepherd Dog originated in the Sivas province of central Turkey as livestock guardians and herding dogs.1 The large, powerful breed was developed to protect sheep and other livestock from predators like wolves, jackals and bears roaming the Anatolian plateau.2

For centuries, the Kangal was renowned for its protective abilities and worked alongside local farmers and nomadic shepherds. Their imposing size, loose skin, alertness and loyalty made them ideal guard dogs to keep sheep and goats safe. While gentle with livestock, they could be fierce in confronting predators.

early kangal development

The Kangal became an essential part of the livelihood and economy of the Sivas region. Their traditional role was deeply ingrained in the local culture. Through continued selective breeding, the Kangal developed as an unmatched livestock guardian dog over many generations.

Breed Standards

The first official breed standard for the Kangal Dog was created in 1964 by the Kangal Dog Club of Turkey. This established the ideal traits and characteristics of the breed.

Per the original 1964 standard, male Kangal Dogs should stand between 29-33 inches at the withers when fully mature at 2 years old. Females should stand 27-31 inches. The ideal dog has a balanced build with a large, domed head, dark eyes, triangular ears, and a powerful jaw. The standard calls for a thick double coat that is short and dense on the face and legs, longer on the body. Coat colors include variations of tan, gray, and light dun or cream. Black masks on the face are acceptable.

Key temperament traits described in the standard include loyalty, aloofness with strangers, gentleness with family, independence, strength, and protectiveness. The Kangal is expected to be calm and controlled when working with livestock yet ferocious when defending against predators. This reflects the long history of the breed as guardian dogs in Turkey.

While some revisions to the standard have been made over the decades, the 1964 document established the fundamental criteria for Kangal Dogs that remains authoritative today.

Recent History

The Kangal Shepherd Dog has existed in the Sivas-Kangal region of Turkey for centuries, having been bred as a livestock guardian dog by local villagers. However, the breed’s formal recognition and promotion began in the 1900s.

In the early 20th century, the Turkish government began efforts to promote native dog breeds like the Kangal. Starting in the 1920s, Kangals were exhibited at dog shows and entered into breed registries in Turkey. This brought more widespread attention to the dogs outside their home region.

The Kangal Shepherd Dog was first officially recognized as a distinct breed in 1965 in Turkey. The Kangal Shepherd Dog Association was founded in the 1980s to further establish breed standards and promote the dogs.

By the late 1900s, some Kangals were being exported from Turkey to other European countries like Germany and the UK. This helped introduce the breed to the rest of the world. However, Kangals were still relatively unknown outside of Turkey until more recently.

kangal history in 1900s

Popularity and Use

The Kangal dog originated and is most popular in Turkey, where it is a national breed. This large, powerfully built dog was historically used by Turkish shepherds to guard livestock and defend against predators. According to The Turkish Kangal Dog: A Popular Breed, the Kangal is still commonly used today in its homeland of Turkey as a guardian of sheep, goats, and other livestock, thanks to its protective instincts and capability to fend off wolves, bears, and jackals.

The Kangal has also seen some popularity as a guard dog and companion in other countries like the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. However, its primary role remains as a livestock guardian in Turkey, where it is cherished for its Working Dog skills and ability to protect flocks from harm.


The Kangal dog is known for having a calm, controlled, and protective temperament. Despite their large size and intimidating appearance, Kangals are often gentle and affectionate around family, especially children. According to DogTime, Kangals exhibit a composed demeanor and are aloof towards strangers. However, they remain alert and willing to take courageous action to protect their family or property if necessary.

Kangals are highly intelligent and independent thinkers. They need extensive socialization from an early age to curb any unwarranted aggression towards other animals. With proper training, Kangals can get along well with other household pets. Their independent nature also means Kangals respond better to firm, consistent training methods that rely on positive reinforcement techniques.

The Kangal’s protective instincts and trainability have made them excellent guard dogs throughout history. Their calm temperament suits them for family life, so long as they receive proper early training and socialization. Overall, the Kangal’s blend of gentle affection and courageous protectiveness make them a versatile working dog well-suited for both family and farm life.

kangal temperament


The Kangal dog breed has been the subject of some controversies and legal restrictions due to their size, strength and reputation as aggressive dogs. Some locations have banned or restricted ownership of Kangals.

In the United Kingdom, Kangals are one of four dog breeds banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, along with Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, and Dogo Argentinos. This legislation bans the breeding and sale of these breeds in the UK. However, some UK owners have received court permission to keep Kangals as pets if they are deemed not dangerous. There is controversy over whether banning entire breeds is justified.

Some apartment buildings, neighborhoods and home insurance companies in the United States have banned Kangal dogs or require owners to purchase liability insurance. According to this source, this is due to their reputation as dangerous dogs, although Kangal advocates argue they are not inherently aggressive if properly trained and socialized.

There are also controversies around using Kangals for dog fighting and baiting large animals. However, most Kangal breeders strongly condemn such practices as abuse, arguing these dogs’ protective instincts should only be channeled into legal guarding activities.

Status Today

The Kangal Dog is considered a national treasure in Turkey. The government and people of Turkey have made great efforts to preserve this ancient livestock guardian breed. In 2018, it was estimated that there were around 7,000 Kangal Dogs in the Sivas-Kangal region of Turkey where the breed originated. Their numbers have been increasing elsewhere as the breed becomes more popular outside of Turkey.

The Kangal Dog was first recognized by the United Kennel Club in the United States in 1998. The breed gained full recognition by the UKC in 2012. In their homeland of Turkey, the Kangal Dog is recognized by the Kennel Club of Turkey. However, the breed has yet to be recognized by many major international kennel clubs, including the AKC and FCI. Despite this, Kangal Dog clubs and breeder associations have formed around the world to promote this magnificent breed.


In summary, the Kangal Dog originated as a livestock guardian breed in the Sivas region of Turkey, with a history stretching back hundreds of years. They were an essential part of rural life, protecting sheep and goats from predators. Their large size, strength, and protective instincts made them well-suited to this role.

While the exact origins are unclear, they likely descended from ancient Molosser dogs and local Anatolian shepherd dogs. Over time, they became an established breed in Turkey with consistent physical and behavioral characteristics. They were only recently recognized as a standardized breed by kennel clubs in the 1960s.

Today, the Kangal remains a national treasure in Turkey, though it is still a relatively rare breed outside its homeland. Their popularity has grown due to their loyal nature and bold guarding abilities. However, misconceptions about aggression have also brought some controversy. With proper socialization and handling, the Kangal continues to excel as a guardian, proving its historic working ability.

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