The Karakachan Dog - a Loyal Bulgarian Shepherd and Guardian

Today's dogs are often seen as pale shadows of their former selves, let alone their wolf ancestors. However, there is a dog breed that has been with us for hundreds, possibly thousands of years and stays strong to this day. A dog that will protect its territory, master, and herd, even if that means fighting men, wolves, and even bears. That dog is the Karakachan Shepherd.

Origins of the Karakachan dog

The breed is named after the Sarakatsani, called Karakachans in Bulgaria. Traditionally they were Balkan nomadic shepherds who lived off sheep husbandry. The Karakachan dogs were their loyal companions in that endeavour, forming a strong bond with their masters and the livestock. Some Bulgarian shepherds even argue that this bond is biological and Karakachans don't have to be trained in order to become excellent sheepdogs.

One theory of the origins of the Karakachan dogs is that they are a mix of the sheepdogs local to what is now Bulgaria and the dogs brought here by the Ancient Bulgars. Karakachans bear a striking resemblance to the Molosser of Ancient Greece as they were depicted in the Jennings dog sculpture of a Molossian hound from the 2nd century AD:


 The Sarakatsani people were quite selective in their breeding and kept the hardy, brave dogs pure for centuries. Very few breeds can cope with the harsh life of a nomadic shepherd, especially today’s apartmentized pooches. A thick coat, strong muscles, and an independent character go a long way in the Balkan wilderness and mountains. Human selection mixed with the natural one enforced by the heavy conditions may have kept the Karakachan pure and district for the period between Ancient Thrace and today’s Bulgaria.

Difference Between the Karakachan Dog and the Bulgarian Shepherd Dog

A new version of the Karakachan breed called “Bulgarian Shepherds Dog” was created in recent years by mixing several other breeds of similar size and characteristics. It may be confusing, as Bulgarians usually refer to the Karakachans simply as “sheepdogs” and “shepherds dogs.” However, the so-named “Bulgarian Shepherds Dog” is district from the Karakachan formed as a companion pet rather than a working shepherd dog.

Are Bulgarian Shepherd Dogs Nice?

At their core, the Karakachan dogs are guardians. They love their masters, dislike strangers and anyone or anything wishing to harm their herd. Karakachans are big, strong, and active. Those qualities make them excellent sheepdogs, but poor pets. Karakachans need a purpose, some space, and a task.

Their strict territoriality can lead to attacks. They are rare, but the dog’s size and dominating character can make them quite dangerous when they do happen. The prowess of a Karakachanka is such that they can fight off men, wolves, foxes, and even bears. Anything that can stand its ground against such creatures is probably a bad pet.

Are the Karakachans endangered?

With Bulgaria modernizing and moving away from animal husbandry, the natural task of the Karakachan is no longer needed as much, which means the dog itself lacks purpose. The Karakachan still makes for an excellent guard dog, but again, technology often replaces it in that field.

The Bulgarian Shepherd Dog was bred in an attempt to preserve the Karakachan breed into the new world of pets rather than working animals. But will the Karakachan manage to survive or will it be completely replaced by its meeker brother or by machines? Only time will tell.

Photos taken from WikiMedia.


Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for

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