Akbash breed: the giant guardian of herds and flocks

Mádi-Krezinger Cintia

2024. April 16 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The Akbash is a white shepherd dog breed native to the western plains and mountainous regions of Turkey. It possesses distinctive characteristics of both mastiffs and sighthounds, which combine to make it an extraordinary dog.


The Akbash is the Western Anatolian sibling of the Kuvasz, believed to have originated from a common ancestor, specifically the massive, white guardian dogs that lived 7-8 thousand years ago. Based on this, it is presumed to be one of the oldest dog breeds still in existence.


While the origin of the Akbash is not fully clarified, it is certain that it is an ancient, pure breed. In its homeland, villagers and shepherds breed it to protect cattle herds and flocks of sheep from wolves. The breed was unknown outside the country for a long time, but from the 1970s onwards, numerous specimens were imported to various parts of the world, including Europe and the United States. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1998, although the AKC and the FCI have not yet accepted it.

Breed standard

The Akbash is a white, long-legged, slender, muscular dog. Its impressive size and strength are complemented by immense courage, discipline, and endurance. Akbash head is wedge-shaped, with hanging ears, and it has a long tail.

Its height varies depending on gender, ranging between 70-86 centimeters at the shoulder. Weight-wise, the key is for it to have a proportionate appearance, giving it a muscular, slender look. A well-conditioned female Akbash weighs around 40 kilograms, while a male weighs around 54 kilograms.

The Akbash has a double coat, consisting of a longer, coarser outer coat and a fine undercoat. Its fur can be short to medium in length, always white in color. A light biscuit color or gray shade may occur around the ears.

The brave guardian of the flock


The Akbash’s most important characteristics are what make it such an excellent working dog. It is vigilant, intelligent, and courageous, readily confronting predators that threaten the livestock entrusted to it. It’s a quiet and calm dog, extremely independent and capable of reacting appropriately to changing circumstances even without human direction.

Moreover, the breed is well-suited as a companion or guard dog at home. The Akbash is loyal, gentle, and affectionate with its family – including children and other household pets. However, it is wary and reserved with strangers. Due to its original function, it may react aggressively towards unfamiliar dogs entering its territory, hence proper training is crucial. The Akbash is a highly intelligent breed that responds well to training, but appropriate teaching and socialization are essential for such a dog.


The Akbash’s double coat should be brushed once a week, but during shedding season, it may need to be done daily. It’s worth investing in a high-performance vacuum cleaner as the dog sheds a significant amount of fur. One great advantage of the breed is that its fur doesn’t mat and it doesn’t have a strong odor, so bathing is only necessary on rare occasions.

Ideal environment

If socialized early, the Akbash will protect children just as fiercely as it does the flock, making it ideal for families with young children. However, it’s important to note that it’s a large breed and can be stubborn. These traits make it more suitable for rural life, where it can guard the yard and enjoy long walks in nature with its owners.

It’s not inherently a high-energy dog, but without enough exercise, it may be prone to obesity. It’s essential to always give it tasks to keep it motivated for physical activity. While it can make a perfect family pet, it requires a large space and a firm, strong-handed owner.

Common health problems

The Akbash is generally a healthy breed, but it may be prone to health issues associated with its Mastiff ancestors, such as hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, or dilated cardiomyopathy.

Are you interested in large dogs? Click here to get to know the Boerboel, another impressive-sized guardian.

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