The Canine King Of Turkey

“Let there be one ruler, one king” Homer

One of our many Kangals

Standing in the main square of the shelter, a vast space whose centre is lined with streets of brightly coloured huts, you cannot help but notice how many Kangal dogs call this place home.

The Kangal is a native breed in Turkey & considered a national treasure by many. Originating in the town of Kangal, Sivas province. The Kangal has stood beside man and livestock for centuries and is thought to be an ancestor of the ancient Molossian Hound, a muscular, strong dog hardwired to guard. A mastiff type breed, loyal to their families and handlers but fierce in the field. Originating in Greece it is thought that the hounds were brought to Turkey by the Persians.

Molossian Hound 320 BC

A large breed, a Kangal typically stands between 28 to 32 inches tall and weigh around 90 – 145lbs. They make excellent family members. They do not require a huge amount of exercise, are very loyal and loving to their families but are hardwired to guard and bred to make their own decisions which can be a challenge. As with any dog you are considering bringing in to your family please get to know them first and be sure you can meet their needs.

The Kangal is a Livestock Guardian Dog. They were and still are kept to work in the field. Unlike herding breeds their job is to look after the sheep and cattle they live with.

A good LGD will be brought up around the livestock they will protect, in most cases this is sheep. Puppies will be placed in the herd from a very young age and sometimes suckle from the ewes. They grow up viewing the sheep as family and have no contact with humans or other animals outside of the shepherd and his family.

The instinct to guard is strong. They will find themselves a good vantage point and lie in wait, alert to anything or anyone who may invade their territory. Some LGD’s are aerial orientated and are employed to scare birds away, in the case of lambs they prevent them being taken by birds of prey.

A Livestock Guardian Dog At Work

When a predator presents themselves (usually a wolf) the LGD will bark as the first line of defence hoping that this will deter the wolf. If it doesn’t work more aggressive body language and vocalisation will be used. Only if this fails will the dog engage in combat with the invader.

LGDs need to be able to assess situations in the field and make decisions. There is no human with them telling them what to do. This trait is essential in the field, lives depend on it but in a domestic setting it can be challenging.

Shepherds often place spiked collars on the dogs. This isn’t to weaponise the collar but to protect the throat of the dog from a fatal bite from a wolf. Sadly ears and tails are cut off by shepherds despite this disgusting practice being illegal. This is to stop a predator using these areas to latch on to the dog.

Dog fighting is illegal in Turkey but sadly it is rife, hidden from view, it takes place throughout the country and Kangal dogs are used in the fighting rings. Money is not just made in the rings, puppy farms exist where pups are bred from fighting stock to be sold for use in the rings.

Sometimes young men will pitch dogs against each other in a bid to show their masculinity. No money changes hands in these situations.

Sometimes organisers of fights are arrested, many times they are not and it has been alleged that law enforcement have little interest in stopping the fights. In some areas men will voice insistence that dog fighting is a tradition and a right they should not be denied.

As in the case of LGD’s dogs abused in the fighting rings will have their ears and tails illegally cut off.

There are plans supported by the major, powerful, wealthy animal welfare charities to ban rescue dogs with cropped ears coming in to the UK. We do not rehome overseas, our efforts are 100% in country so this does not affect us or the dogs we care for. However, we strongly disagree with legislation which throws vulnerable groups of dogs under the bus and we will challenge any legislation which further harms dogs that have already been horribly abused. There is a great amount of responsibilty which comes with campaigning for legislative change. And sadly once campaigns are out of the hands of grassroots campaigners there is little control over specific outcomes. Ear cropping for fashion is absolutely abhorrent and it is true to say that some may use a rescue route as a smokescreen. It is the responsibility of legislators to ensure that this does not happen. One might also say that by allowing rescue dogs with cropped ears in to the country we may be impeding prosecution. However, since our involvement at the coalface we know that this argument, which makes perfect sense to anyone not on the ground does not fly. Recently, the only way to secure accountability for killing a dog by shooting was to prosecute for discharging a weapon in a public place.

There are also calls for us to not make pictures of our dogs with cropped ears accessible to the public. We will not comply with this request. We will not hide our dogs away purely because they have been disfigured. Our dogs are not breed dogs cropped to order for fashion. They are abused sentient beings who have had their ears painfully and cruelly hacked off with a kitchen knife. That is plain to see and this is the message that they convey.

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