The Furry Critter Network

Owczarek Tatrzanski Breed Description

Back to Canine Breed Menu


Breed Organization

United Kennel Club (UKC)

Native Country

Other Names
Polish Tatra Sheepdog, Owczarek Podhalanski, Polish Mountain Dog, Polski Owerzarek Podralanski, Tatra Mountain Sheepdog, Podhalan, OP, Tatrzanski

Life Expectancy
Approximately 10-12 Years

Litter Size
Average 5-8 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a Polish breed of large flock guardian dog originating in the Tatra Mountains of the Podhale region of southern Poland.  It was fully recognised by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1963. It is one of five dog breeds originating in Poland, the others being the Polish Greyhound, the Polish Hound, the Polish Hunting Dog and the Polish Lowland Sheepdog.

The double coat is heavy with a top coat that is hard to the touch, straight or slightly wavy. The undercoat is profuse and dense. Coat color is pure white, with no color markings. The breed has a black pigmented nose, lip and lid edges. The foot pads are dark.

Breed Standard

Head: Clean and broad. Marked stop. Large muzzle. Broad forehead. Tight lips.
Ears: Medium size, drop, set on high. Triangular, fairly thick.
Eyes: Medium size, set slightly oblique. Dark brown color. Dark rims
Body: Long, sturdy, and muscular. Pronounced withers. No dewlap. Deep chest. Broad, well-knit loin. Ribs sloping and rather flat. Belly moderately tucked up. Sloping croup. Straight, broad back.
Tail: Set on low. Carried below the topline, curving slightly at the tip. Covered with thick hair forming a flag.
Hair: Short and thick on the head and front of the forelegs. Long, thick, and straight on the neck and body. Thick mane. Heavy undercoat.
Coat: Uniform white. Cream markings are not desirable.
Size: Dog: 65 to 70 cm. (25.6-27.5 in). Bitch: 60 to 65 cm. (23.6-25.6 in).
Weight: 36 to 59 kg. (80-130 lb).


The Polish Tatra Sheepdog originated in Podhale, in the Tatra Mountain area of Poland, hence the breed's name. The breed has lived in the Polish mountains for thousands of years, but no exact date for the start of the breed was ever recorded. There is a similar mystery around what breeds were mixed to form the Polish Tatra Sheepdog. While no one is certain, many dog breeders say that the Polish Tatra Sheepdog came from the Mastiff breed. The breed was very popular among mountain workers for several centuries, and up to today. It was so popular because, as its name implies, it was a fantastic sheepdog. This success at herding sheep was mainly due to their high intelligence. When predators were around the sheep, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog would gather up the sheep and stand by them instead of trying to attack the predator, which would leave the sheep open for other attacks. This demonstrates their intelligence. Their white coat also made them easily distinguishable from a bear or wolves, which was very helpful for workers. Also, owners could shave the dogs and use their coat to produce wool. Mountain workers also used to hold their tails while they lead the workers through the mountains and rough terrain. Herding sheep was not the only job the breed could perform. They were often used as personal guards and frequently guarded factories and other private property. On top of this, it was often the case that the breed was used by the police force. The breed faced some hard times, though. After the World Wars the breed was on the brink of extinction. The Federation Cynologique Internationale, (FCI), would not allow this to happen, though, and by the 1960s they started breeding the sheepdog more and more. Centuries ago, as their reputation as excellent sheepdogs spread, the breed spread slowly across Europe, but in 1980, an American Foreign Service Officer enjoyed the breed so much that he had three of them shipped to America, and by 1981 the breed also spread to Canada.

Like other large white European flock guardian dogs such as the Kuvasz, the Pastore Maremmano and the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the Tatra Shepherd Dog is believed to derive from dogs brought from Asia by nomadic pastoralists.

The first show for these dogs was held in 1937. Because they were in isolated areas of the mountains, a small number of them survived the events of the Second World War. By 1954, when the first post-War show was organised, about 120 examples had been located; once the Zwiazek Kynologiczny w Polsce, the Polish kennel club, was reconstituted after the War, shows were held in Kraków.

The breed was fully recognised by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1963 or 1967. It is no longer found only its area of origin, but is distributed through much of Poland; some are in other countries.

The stud-book is open to unregistered dogs judged to be typical of the breed may be added to it. Approximately 300 puppies are born per year, in about 50 litters. Total annual new registrations with the kennel club were 473 in 2011 and 383 in 2012.  Not all dogs of this type are registered in the stud-book. Currently, the AKC does not recognize the breed.


A lot of today's Polish Tatra Sheepdog's behaviors and qualities can be traced back to its use of guarding. They are territorial, loyal and protective of their owners, and are very good watchdogs for this reason. They have a very loud bark and will bark at anything that is suspicious, as they are trying to protect their family. Since they were trained to be cautious and not attack until completely necessary when predators were around sheep, The Polish Tatra Sheepdog will not bite a stranger or other animals unless continuously provoked, leading them to be considered very dog and animal friendly. From thousands of years of guarding sheep, they are very intelligent, calm and independent.

This dog must not live in an apartment. He needs considerable space and exercise. Weekly brushing is sufficient. During seasonal shedding, stripping the coat is recommended.


Sheepdog, Guard Dog, Pet.


Allergies, cataracts, epilepsy, hip dysplasia and bloat. Bloat is a common health concern to most dogs, being the largest killer of dogs second to cancer. It is also referred to as gastric torsion or twisted stomach.

Back to Canine Breed Menu

Featured Rescues

"Don't Shop ... Please Adopt"

laptop pro


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world.

Our organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence, and with programs that extend our anti-cruelty mission across the country, we are recognized as a national animal welfare organization. We are a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and are proud to boast more than 2 million supporters across the country.

The ASPCA’s mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

laptop pro


If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)

laptop pro

Rescue Me

Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network

Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.