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Hungarian Pumi Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Pumi Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Pumi, Hungarian Herding Terrier

Life Expectancy
Approximately 14+ Years

Litter Size
Average 4-6 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC-Herding Group

General Description

Pumis can be in varying shades of grey, white, or fawn. Grey Pumis are the most common, born black, and ranging from almost black to light grey in adulthood. Puppies usually start greying at six to eight weeks old and the shade progressively lightens. The final shade is predicted by the color of the parents. Other accepted colors are black, white, and cream to red with a darker mask, known as fawn with mask. An analysis of 1023 Pumi puppies carried out in 2009 by the University of Debrecen found that 56% were born black turning grey, 14% were black, 13% white, 11% grey, and 4% are fawn-colored. Brown, mottled or blue-merle-colored puppies are born occasionally.

The thick coat is curly and of medium length approximately 4–7 cm (1.5–3 inches) long and consisting of a harsh topcoat and soft undercoat, which provides good insulation and enables the dog to tolerate extremes of weather. The coat is maintained by combing every few weeks, and trimming every two to four months. The coat grows constantly (similar to that of the Poodle) and, if grooming is not maintained, it may start matting. The breed has little to no shedding. The Pumi is known for its alert and lively ears, which are high-set and carried semi-erect and with longer hair than the body.

The Pumi is a square, light-bodied dog which looks somewhat larger because of its thick coat with a long, narrow head. The muzzle is 45% of the length of the head, which is of equal length to the neck. The stop is barely noticeable, and the skull is flat when seen from the side. The eyes are small, dark, and slightly oblique. Movements are lively and energetic as is the Pumi itself.

Breed Standard

Head: Long with a long bridge. Domed forehead. Indistinct stop. Straight muzzle. Long, pointed nose.
Ears: Set on high. V-shaped. Held erect with tips breaking forward slightly. Medium size, well-proportioned.
Eyes: Set slightly oblique. Dark brown color.
Body: Medium size. Sturdy. Pronounced withers. Short back. Ribs relatively flat. Deep, broad, long chest. Short, slightly sloping croup.
Tail: Set high, carried horizontally or slightly above the level of the back. One-third of the tail is removed.
Hair: Medium length with undercoat. Curly, forming ringlets, but not cords. Never feltlike. Short hair on the legs.
Coat: Solid colors preferred. Any shade of gray (slate, silvery gray). Black, reddish brown, white. Brindle not permitted.
Size: 35 to 44 cm (14-17 in).
Weight: 8 to 13 kg (18-29 lb).


This breed emerged in the 17th–18th Century as a descendent from the Puli, German spitz, French Briard and some type of terrier. The breed was first mentioned by name in 1815 but it was regarded by many as a regional variation of the Puli. In 1921, the breed was recognised as a distinct breed when Emil Raitsitz distinguished the Pumi from the Puli by writing a separate breed standard for the Pumi.

The breed evolved spontaneously and was not the result of planned breeding. Pulis were cross-bred with German Pomeranians, French Briards, and several varieties of terriers during the 17th and 18th century. In the 18th century, many Merino sheep were imported to Hungary, along with small Pyrenean Mountain Dogs that probably contributed to development of the Pumi producing dogs with a shorter and curlier coat. The first known drawing of a Pumi is from 1815.

The breeding of pedigree dogs began on the initiative of Count István Széchenyi, founder of the Hungarian Academy of Science. Within the Austro-Hungarian empire, during the later part of the 19th century, breeding of native Hungarian dogs was not encouraged. During the early twentieth century, Hungarians separated their herding dogs into the various breeds according to their phenotypes, and so the first distinction between Puli and Pumi was published in 1902. The Puli was most common on the east Hungarian plains the Pumi in the hills of west Hungary with the Mudi common in southern Hungary. In the 1910s, controlled breeding began, but many large herds and their dogs were lost during the First World War, and the subsequent division of Hungary.

Dr Emil Raitsits who created the Pumi breed standard in 1921, referred to it as a "sheepdog terrier". Numbers rose between the wars with 130 of the dogs registered in 1924 when they were seen in the show ring and as working dogs. Raitsits was keen to preserve its typical terrier qualities. Before 1923, Pumis had been shown as local varieties of Pulis, but, by 1927, the two breeds had been officially separated. The Pumi standard was approved by the FCI in 1935 along with the scientific name Canis familiaris ovilis villosus terrarius-Raitsitsi. This had been proposed by Csaba Anghi to reflect the great deal of terrier in the Pumi both in its features and character. The early breed standards, focused on the differences between the related breeds noting for the Pumi with its distinctive features such as a longer muzzle, smoother stop line, upright folding ears, and its non-corded coat.

During the Second World War, food shortages and lack of veterinary care reduced their numbers again and many dogs were shot by soldiers. Ria Hörter wrote that "Ilona Orlay, one of Dr Raitsits's assistants, walked through a burning Budapest pushing a chart containing valuable Hungarian sheepdog papers, from the office of the Hungarian Kennel Club to a place of safety."

Breeding became possible again in the period after the 1956 uprising. The 1960 breed standard, which remained current through to the 1980s, allowed any solid coat color, but the variations seen within the breed during the 1950s had since been reduced. It was first exported to Finland in 1973 and Sweden in 1985 and then to Italy and the Netherlands and the US in the early 1990s. The current international breed standard dates from September 2000. In 2016, the Hungarian government named the Pumi as one of its eight indigenous dog breeds, created a gene bank to preserve its characteristics, and announced support for breeding at the Hungarian national breeding centres.


The Pumi is lively, expressive, bold, a little suspicious of strangers, but never aggressive or overly shy, somewhat vocal and always ready for action. They can be very protective of their own families. Early socialisation is important.

Pumis are intelligent and bark easily, but are easy to train. With the intelligence of a herding dog and the alertness of a terrier, this breed needs to be kept busy, for example with herding, agility and obedience training, flyball, jogging, or playing fetch. Pumis are good with children and other animals, as long as they are trained from an early age. It retains a playful temperament into adulthood and this, together with its tufted ears, gives its Hungarian nickname, "the clown".

A well-socialised Pumi with mental stimulation and physical activity should not have behavioral problems, but some natural behaviors that might become a problem if not managed properly include digging, barking, and a tendency to try to herd people. The Pumi was bred as a herding dog and it is still so used today, working close to and driving livestock with its rapid movement, barking, and the occasional nip. It has also acted as a guard dog barking at any strange person or animal. Consequently, it can be a vocal breed and dogs that are not engaged in farm work should be discouraged from barking unnecessarily.


The Pumi was originally used as a herding dog and most working sheepdogs in Hungary are Pumis. However, today many are used for dog agility, dog dancing, and obedience. They also can be trained for detection, search and rescue, and other purposes. Since the Pumi was originally used for herding, they are eligible to compete in herding events; appropriate instinct and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive tests. Pumis that exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in trials. Pumis have also been used for hunting wild boar


Pumis have a typical life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, but have been known to live to 19 years. Known medical issues are a knee problem called patella luxation and canine hip dysplasia. Responsible breeders have DNA testing performed for degenerative myelopathy and an eye disease called primary lens luxation, although neither is common. They also screen for patellar luxation and sometimes for elbow dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can lead to serious joint problems for the dog. It is a genetic trait also affected by environmental factors, and can be identified by X-Ray. It is probably the most common health problem specific to the breed. Tests on 93 Pumis in America found that about 9 per cent had abnormal hips. Health records of the breed from Finland and Sweden indicate that 80 per cent of the Pumis born there have healthy hips.

Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord, found typically after the age of seven years. Pumis can be carriers of the trigger gene. DNA testing can identify those dogs that are carriers, and these should not be bred with other carriers. Twenty per cent of 65 Pumis tested in the US were found to be carriers.

Primary Lens Luxation
Primary Lens Luxation is a dislocation of the eye's lens. This is also a genetic disease, for which the carrier gene can be identified by DNA testing. Of 60 Pumis tested in the US, about 22 per cent were found to be carriers.

Elbow Dysplasia
Elbow dysplasia involves developmental abnormalities of the elbow-joint, and the growth of cartilage or the structures surrounding it, leading to osteoarthritis. As of 2016, none of the Pumi tested in the UK have recorded abnormal scores.

According to the Hungarian Pumi Club of America, the tests that are recommended for the Pumi are:

  • Hip Dysplasia (X-ray)
  • Patellar Luxation (veterinary certification)
  • Primary Lens Luxation (DNA test)
  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DNA Test)
  • Eye examination by an ophthalmologist (optional)
  • Elbow Dysplasia (optional) (X-ray)
  • DNA repository (optional) (blood sample)

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