The Turkish Shepherd Dogs in America – a Brief Timeline

There is a long-standing debate between the owners of various Turkish Shepherd dogs in the United States and beyond. Varying opinions on which breed is “real,” “original,” or “recognized.” Some owners believe theirs is the only breed worth owning, or that the others are false imitations. This stems from a cultural difference between America and Türkiye. While working to preserve these fantastic dogs, Americans unintentionally created something new and exciting to argue about!

While I do enjoy a good debate, it has become increasingly obvious that I don’t need to attend every argument I’m invited to attend. I know- I must be getting old or something. But it does raise the question – Why can’t we just get along? I believe we can!

Natalie with a Panter line Kangal bitch in Summer, 2012. We stopped in Las Vegas, NV for a walk on our trip from Los Angeles to Montana.

What is a “Turkish Shepherd” though?

Great question! Essentially, what I mean when I say “Turkish Shepherd Dog” is a dog from Türkiye called “çoban köpeği” which means “shepherd’s dog.” These livestock guardian dogs are raised by shepherds to live with and protect their flocks and herds from predators and rustlers. They are selected for guardian traits and the pups who do not exhibit proper behaviors are culled, not kept. This is how the dogs have developed into reliable assets to their shepherd owners over millenia. These dogs are not herders like many of the other shepherd breeds (German, Australian, etc.).

Why are Americans Involved?

Another good one! The quick version here is that the United States of America and Türkiye have a long-standing diplomatic relationship. This means that servicemen and women from each country regularly reside for a time in the other country. In addition to the military presence, there are business and tourism draws to Türkiye. Since the 60s, multiple Americans have visited and fallen in love with the shepherd’s dogs of Türkiye. Prior to the 60s, the dogs that protected livestock across Türkiye were more of a landrace, but a few Americans (as well as some Brits!) took an interest and collectively dedicated hundreds of thousands of dollars to researching, exporting, and preserving the shepherd’s dogs of Türkiye. Today, you will see Kangal, Anatolian and Akbash dogs living across the world, from Africa to Russia, Britain to the United States.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Many people don’t know the history of how these breeds- the Kangal Dog, the Akbash Dog, and the Anatolian Shepherd Dog were actually formed, standardized, and recognized. These dates are available, but not in a single place- until now! I went to each American registry of note (American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club) as well as each breed parent club (Kangal Club of America, Akbash Club of America, Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America) to verify dates.

Here is the timeline of the Turkish Shepherd Dogs in America: