TOP 10 LIVESTOCK GUARDIANS
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Number 10 – The Tibetan Mastiff There is no doubt about it - the Tibetan is the King of the Mastiffs. And quite possibly, this breed is also the ancestor of many livestock guardians we have today. Tibetan Mastiffs are glorious dogs who come with quite an impressive physique: Their lion-like manes and lose skin around the neck protect them from bites during battle with predators. But Tibetans are not the best flock guardians – even though gentle with livestock, they do not mingle with the herd: These are primarily perimeter guardians, who patrol the outskirts of their territory. And they do so predominantly at night, barking loudly for no apparent reason, to ward off any potential predators. Number 9 – The Great Pyrenees Our number 9 spot goes to one of the most popular livestock guardian breeds – the snow-white Great Pyrenees. These gentle giants are bred to blend in with the flocks of sheep they are protecting. To this day, these beautiful, large and shaggy dogs are placed in sheep herds as puppies, and they grow up closely bonded to their herd. This breed is ideal for ranchers and farmers who have lots of people coming and going from their property: Although watchful and ever alert, Great Pyrenees are among the most human-friendly livestock guardian breeds. Like the Tibetans, they are quiet in the day, but roam their territory at night, barking and chasing off predators like coyotes and wolves. Number 8 – The Estrela Mountain Dog And on the number 8 spot on our list of the TOP 10 flock guardian breeds, we have Portugal’s version of the Great Pyrenees: The majestic Estrela Mountain Dog. Just like the Pyrenees, the Estrela is named after the mountain range that it was first bred in – in this case the Estrela Mountains of Central Portugal. Giant-sized, yet athletic, these hardy dogs are used to working in the searing heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter. Just like the Pyrenees, they are placed among flocks as puppies, and bred to blend in with the herd. Only, in their case, these herds predominantly consist of goats. Which is perhaps why the Estrela’s coat comes in various shades of fawn, black-tipped fawn or red. Number 7 – The Cao de Castro Laboreiro Our number 7 spot goes to another Portuguese breed. But among all the livestock guardian breeds on the planet, the Laboreiro Dog is unique. Even though classed as Mastiff-type breed, this dark-coloured protector is much smaller than the Mountain breeds we have just discussed: The Laboreiro is only the size of an average German Shepherd. But precisely this lack of size and bulk allows it run with their flock for the entire day – and to have enough energy to spare for chasing off wolves and wild dogs. These dogs’ track record in protecting herds from wolves is impressive. And contrary to other livestock guardian breeds, Laboreiros do not usually get killed by wolves in the line of duty. Number 6 – The Spanish Mastiff Another candidate from the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish Mastiff is an immensely impressive guardian: Large and heavy, Spanish Mastiffs have big, blocky heads, with deep skin folds and large jowls. They are able and willing to wander with a herd. However, their bulk and low energy levels make them more suited for the role of a close-quarter guardian: Spanish Mastiffs are excellent family- and property protectors. Gentle with their humans (including children) and other animals on the property, they are quite effective in fighting off predators. Which is why farmers in Brazil often prefer them to their own Mastiff – the more aggressive Fila Brasileiro, who is our next candidate: Number 5 – The Fila Brasileiro The light-footed, large and agile Fila is incredibly effective when it comes to guarding duty. Highly suspicious of strangers, these dogs excel when it comes to warding off predators. Bred as catch dogs, Filas will not hesitate to attack whatever animal – or human! – is trying to harm the animals in their care. So, should you be located in an area where theft is an issue, the Fila is a better choice than the French or Spanish breeds we mentioned: Whilst the Pyrenees (or even the more mellow Spanish Mastiff) might merely bark at an intruder, a Fila will usually attack them. Of course, to avoid tricky legal situations, you want to make sure your property is fenced in securely - before getting a Brazilian Mastiff. Number 4 – The Cane Corso Everything we have just said about the Brazilian Mastiff also applies to this majestic Italian one: Today, the Cane Corso is not commonly known as a livestock guardian breed. But before these Mastiffs became popular as property guardian- and personal protection dogs, they were the main multi-purpose farm dogs throughout Italy. Corsos are extremely versatile and eager to please, and they can absolutely be raised to protect livestock from predators. Of course, their high prey drive must be taken into consideration: Only the most even-tempered young Corsos should be tasked with guarding farm animals. Number 3 – The Presa Canario And here we are, at the TOP 3 positions on our list of the TOP 10 livestock guardian breeds on Earth! The winner of the Bronze Medal is a dog from the Canary Islands: The feared and revered Presa Canario. Contrary to popular belief, the Presa was not predominantly bred for dog fighting, but for livestock protection: In the early 20th century, farmers on the Canary Islands were at their wits’ end: They kept losing animals to predators, and none of their own dogs was able to prevent it. Ultimately, the Presa was created, and this dedicated catch dog succeeded where so many others failed: Built like a large Pitbull, a Presa will not hesitate to catch and kill any stray dog, fox or wolf entering their territory. Number 2 – The Caucasian Shepherd We have arrived at the Silver Medal spot. And on it, we have a shaggy giant from Russia who is built like a bear: The Caucasian Shepherd is the most powerful of all the livestock guardians on the planet. Fiercely protective and absolutely fearless, these dogs work together in teams to fend off wolves, snow leopards and even bears. Countless farmers and ranchers swear by this breed, and keep at least a pair of them to protect their cows, sheep or goats. But despite their fierce nature, Caucasians make calm and loving companions to their family – when socialised and trained by an experienced owner. Guarding is very much part of their nature, and they take protection duty extremely seriously. Number 1 – The Turkish Kangal And there could be no better candidate for this number 1 position among the livestock guardian breeds than the Turkish Kangal. Countless sheep and goats owe their survival to this sand-coloured protector. Large, fierce and fearless, packs of Kangals are busy guarding flocks in rural Turkey as we speak. It is no surprise that the people of the country have declared the Kangal as their national dog! Quite similar to the Caucasian Shepherd in their dislike for strangers, Kangals are best kept on more remote properties: Extremely territorial, they are prone to attacking other dogs or humans that venture onto their property. These beautiful fawn-coloured dogs are quite independent, and yet gentle to their families. An experienced owner can train them to amazingly high levels of obedience, but they should not be expected to become “everyone’s best friend”.