One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from people who are hearing about the Sarplaninac for the first time is whether it is a “small Caucasian”.
When we answer in the negative, they usually follow up with: “What distinguishes the Sarplaninac dog from the Caucasian Shepherd?”
I empathize with those who may confuse two similar-looking breeds of dogs.
Nevertheless, there are distinct differences between them, which I will explore in this article.
To provide a comprehensive comparison, I will be referencing the FCI-Standard N° 41 and FCI-Standard N° 328 documents (the best source of information).
Let’s dive in.
The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a harmonious built, large, strong dog with plenty of bone and powerful muscular system; of a slight rectangular format.
Males are masculine, with well developed withers and a bigger head in comparison with females. They are also more massive, bigger and often shorter in body than females. In dogs with longer coat-variety males have a distinctly pronounced mane.
The Sharplaninac is a robust, well proportioned dog with plenty of bone, of a size that is well above the average and with a thick, long, rather coarse coat that emphasizes the short coupled appearance.
Of sturdy constitution, even disposition, good temperament, reliable, protective but not snappy; incorruptible and devoted to its master.
Both breeds are large and powerful, but the Caucasian Shepherd (left) tends to be slightly bigger than the Sarplaninac (right).
Males: Desirable height 72-75 cms;
Minimum 68 cms;
Females: Desirable height 67-70 cms;
Minimum 64 cms.
Larger stature is accepted, as long as conformation is harmonic.
The body length exceeds the height at withers by 3-8 %.
The length of the forelegs averages 50-52% of the height at the withers.
The length of the skull correlates with the length of the muzzle as 3:2.
Desirable height 70 -73 cm.
The average height at the withers is 62 cm for males and 58 cm for bitches.
Males under 56 cms and bitches under 54 cm are not eligible for breeding.
Higher dogs with the following catches are preferred:
The length of the body is slightly longer than its height at the withers; the relation is about 8 : 10 for dogs, 10 : 12 for bitches.
The head is proportioned to the body. Its total length measures approximately 25 cm which corresponds to about 40% of the height at the withers.
The girth of the ribcage should exceed the height at the withers by at least 20%.
The skull is slightly longer than the muzzle (the relation being 57:43%). The skull has a slightly convex topline; the nasal bone is straight.
Ears: Moderate size, thick, triangular shape naturally pendant, high and wide set.
Inner part of ear is close lying to the cheeks. Ears are traditionally cropped in country of origin. Natural ears are of equal value.
Are set on a line running from the tip of the nose through the inner corner of the eye or slightly underneath.
They are V-shaped and dropping, hanging close to the cheeks, and covered with short, dense hair.
According to the breed standard, high-set ears in a Sarplaninac are deemed a serious fault, which means that it is a major deviation from the ideal physical features of the breed.
Lips: Thick, close-fitting, well pigmented.
Moderately thick and tight; the upper lip is only slightly overhanging over the under lip. The corners of the lips are clean without even a hint of a flew.
Having “too much meat” on the muzzle is not desirable in Sarplaninac dogs.
This is because it can create pockets that are not allowed and serve as a weak point during a confrontation with wolves or other predators.
As for the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, it is difficult to determine if such a feature is permitted by the breed standard.
However, in my opinion, the likelihood of such a characteristic being present in the Caucasian Shepherd Dog is much higher due to their overall massive size.
Molossoid vs lupoid type
Molossoid dogs tend to be larger, heavier, and more robust, while lupoid dogs are more agile, leaner, and better suited for activities that require speed and endurance.
The Sarplaninac is often considered the golden mean, as it possesses a balanced combination of size, strength, and agility that make it an ideal working and companion dog.
Our kennel prefers the lupoid type (wolf-like). While it is an indisputable fact that the strength is on the side of the Molossoid type of dog, in my opinion, top examples of the lupoid type can be a very tricky opponent. How?
Simply put, these dogs have remarkable endurance and can withstand unimaginable attacks. In the end, the scene may play out like in the movie Rocky Balboa, where the opponent wins the battle but not the war.
The match is played for 90 minutes, not 45 …
Rounded and oval shapes are not the same, and it’s important to pay attention to the shape of the dog’s paws during the first meeting to determine which breed the dog belongs to (taking into account other elements).
Forefeet: Large, rounded in shape, well arched, well-knit.
The feet are firm, oval shaped with well arched and closed toes.
To confirm a direct genetic connection between the two breeds, it’s important to consider certain factors, such as the fact that both breeds exclude the possibility of black coat color.
Theories surrounding the origins of the Sarplaninac, including the influence of figures such as Alexander of Macedonia and the migration of peoples from the East, are becoming increasingly important.
Colour: Any solid colour, piebald or spotted colour.
Except for solid black; diluted black or black in any combination or genetic blue or liver brown colour.
The Sharplanina is a solid coloured dog. All colours are acceptable from white to dark brown that looks almost black. The preferred shade is a greenish grey (iron grey) and dark grey.
Spotting and white markings are not allowed. Pigmented dogs may show tiny white markings at the chest and toes but they are undesirable.
The upper part of the head, the neck and the body is of a darker hue that fades out into a dirty white or a yellowish grey toward the extremities.
The change must be very gradual and by no means give the impression of a spotted pattern of actually create a spotted coat.
White markings at the chest are allowed in Sarplaninac, but they must not be bigger than one human hand!
In Caucasian Shepherds, they can be bigger …
I prefer to see white markings on the chest of dogs, as it gives me an indication of their capabilities when it comes to performing defensive tasks.
Popularity of breeds
Caucasian Shepherd enthusiasts have certainly been successful in promoting the breed, and I commend them for it.
They have effectively highlighted its impressive physical features, such as its imposing stature and voluminous coat.
However, it’s unfortunate that there has been relatively little marketing effort put toward promoting the Sarplaninac breed.
While dog shows and television appearances (in the Balkans) have helped with marketing, they’re not enough to promote the Sarplaninac breed to a global audience.
With a population of 8 billion people, there’s a huge potential “market” out there that we need to tap into.
To achieve this, a significant effort is needed to launch a major project that will put this breed very high on the world map of cynology.
I firmly believe that it’s possible, but it will require the right people with the necessary expertise and resources to make it happen.
Let me take you back to a dog show in 2010 where we presented Krom on a hot summer day with the temperature soaring over 30 degrees.
I noticed a “Sarplaninac” being held by its owner who was carrying a towel.
As the dog drooled, some sticky, gum-like substance started oozing out of its mouth.
The owner wiped it off with the towel, but it was clear that the drool wasn’t reaching the ground.
In contrast, I looked at my dog and saw a similar drool, but it was running like water and dripping onto the ground.
The alleged Sarplaninac ended up winning the Best of Breed (BOB) title …
While both the Sarplaninac and Caucasian Shepherd are large, imposing dogs with a long history of guarding and protecting their flocks, there are some key differences between them.
If I lived on a mountain and had a herd of sheep, I would use both the Sarplaninac and Caucasian Shepherd for protection. I would make such a formation that the Caucasian shepherds would be placed in the middle, and Sarplaninac dogs would be all around.
Thank you for your time and attention.