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Hrvatski Ovcar Breed Description

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Breed Organization

United Kennel Club (UKC)

Native Country
Croat Republic

Other Names
Croatian Sheepdog

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-14 Years

Litter Size
No Litter Information Available

Breed Group
FCI-Section 1 Sheepdogs

General Description

The Croatian sheepdog is a weatherproof, adaptable breed. They are of low to medium height and the base color is always black, although there may be very small patches of white on its chest and/or toes. A characteristic is the short hairs on its somewhat fox-like head and legs. The remainder of the coat is longer and wavy or curly. Traditionally the tail is docked very short but, if undocked, it is carried curled over the dog's back.

Breed Standard

Head: Fine, wedge-shaped (approx. 20 cm long), dry overall. Eyebrows not pronounced. Cheeks filled out. Stop not pronounced. Straight nose bridge.
Ears: Triangular, erect or semi-erect. Moderate length. Attached toward the sides of the head. Erect ears are preferred and must not be cropped.
Eyes: Chestnut to black color. Medium size. Almond shape. Dark rims.
Body: Slightly longer than tall. Short, muscular back, particularly in the short lumbar region. Chest not prominent. Ribs well sprung. Solid, well-filled out flanks. Croup slightly sloped.
Tail: Set on moderately high. Long, bushy hair. Carried below the line of the back at rest, above when alert.
Hair: Relatively soft. Wavy or curly. Never wooly. Short on the face. Long (7 to 14 cm) on the back. Feathering and culottes on the legs. Bushy undercoat.
Coat: Black background. Some white markings on the throat, forechest, and chest are permissible. White markings on the feet and toes are tolerated, but not desirable.
Size: Approx. 40 to 50 cm.
Weight: 15 to 20 kg.


This dog of eastern origin is almost unknown outside his home country, where he has guarded farms and herds for centuries. The breed is thought to be descended from northern Croatian sheepdogs. According to written documents, the appearance of this breed has not changed greatly from the 14th century to the present day. Probably because it possesses an excellent hereditary instinct for working sheep and cattle, selection on the basis of usability was being carried out spontaneously, which has resulted also in the balance of its look.


The Croatian Sheepdog is an alert, agile, keen and intelligent dog with enormous energy and with a strong need for human companionship. It is healthy, resistant to disease and not expensive to keep. It possesses a well-developed herding instinct and is an excellent watchdog.

It's a caring and modest shepherd's dog, very loyal to their master. The breed also possesses an hereditary predisposition for working cattle. Some farmers affirm that their Croatian Sheepdog knows and will single out every head of cattle by hearing its name.

In the past, the dog was often used to drive herds of pigs to oak woods in autumn. It is both a driving and a gathering dog and, depending on whether it comes from a show or working line, its desire to work stock varies. Its approach to the flock may be closer and harder than some other breeds, but is very effective. It may grip but seldom causes any damage. Nevertheless, it requires firm but sensitive handling and it is easy to overcome these aggressive tendencies by training. The breed is very intense and may bark a lot during the early stages of training, but, with experience, it will usually only bark at the right time, mostly when working in yards. This dog usually obeys only one person and an older sheepdog may take some time to switch allegiance to a new master. If not socialized early, it can be wary of strangers. The Croatian Sheepdog responds well to obedience training but as a pet without any work it can become very noisy, even destructive. It is, however, a very docile breed and comprehends quickly what is expected of it, which it accomplishes with pleasure. At around 3 or 4 months the pup is usually taken to the flock. In most cases, these pups are worked beside an older dog, and the pup learns its job and at around 6 months is useful for work.

It is always behind its master's heels, waiting for the next move and often looks into its master's eyes as it asks "What next?" Nowadays, fewer and fewer Croatian Sheepdogs earn their keep by working with stock in native Slavonia, because many open plains are put to crops and stock is kept indoors. Croatian Sheepdogs do well in an apartment as long as they get enough regular exercise.

This breed is easy to groom: an occasional combing or brushing to remove dead hair and a bath if dirty is all it needs. This breed is an average shedder.


The Croatian Sheepdog is a very good breed for dog sports. They can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Croatian Sheepdogs exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.


The Croatian Sheepdog is a healthy breed.

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