Tornjak breed: the two resident shepherd

Molnár Enikő

2023. October 31 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The Tornjak is a big and powerful dog with a big heart. He is a loyal companion who protects his owner and the territory entrusted to him.


The Tornjak is an intelligent, obedient and brave breed of dog. Friendly and
very protective
with the people he knows and the people he is close to. Basically calm breed, but distant and distrustful of strangers – not aggressive! Although they are not the most patients with the children, they can be great family dogs due to their loyal nature, early and proper socialisation.


Tornjak has a long history, being referred to as a separate variety as early as the 11th century, and documents from the 14th century have survived that mention the Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian varieties.

The first written documents on the Tornjak date back to 1067 and 1374. This shows how long the history of the breed goes back.

In mountainous areas he helped the local shepherds by herding and protecting the livestock. It is said to be related to the Tibetan Mastiff, but this claim is mostly based on reports. Mountain dogs were originally used to assist in nomadic animal husbandry, but as this became increasingly rare, the breed’s population slowly but surely declined. Before the 1970s, the Tornjak was on the verge of extinction, but in 1972 breeders in both countries began a systematic effort to save the breed.

Breed standard

A large, powerful, but agile dog breed. The body is rectangular but well distributed, the height at the withers is around 60-70 cm, females weigh 28-40 kg, males around 35-50 kg. The head is elongated, the eyes are dark-coloured and slightly almond-shaped. Scissor bite, jaws strong and long. The ears are triangular and set high. Chest is strong, broad and deep, reaching to the elbows. Limbs are also strong and well arched. The tail is long and hangs downwards at rest but points upwards when moving. It is not uncommon for the tail to bend backwards when it is in this position.

These dogs helped in the mountains, so they had to have a coat that could withstand the elements. They are a long-haired breed, but have short fur on their legs and face. It has a thick and dense coat, usually straight and coarse, which forms an even longer and thicker mane around the neck. It has a dull coat and its predominant ground colour is usually white, with markings of several colours, black, brown and red being common. The Tornjak is characteristically sedentary, with a balanced and supple movement.


They are brave, confident but obedient dogs who are also intelligent and friendly. Loyal and devoted companions, they love to be close to their owners and their families. They are good house guardians and even better protectors. They are affectionate and social dogs who don’t like to spend all day alone, but if they are well looked after this is not a problem. The Tornjak breed is strong and energetic, usually requiring daily exercise, but they don’t mind the occasional rest day with their family. They are sporty dogs and can be taken for long walks. A well-trained breed, usually quick to learn if motivated enough and with a very good memory. Barking is average, not excessive. He gets on well with other dogs, but this also requires early socialisation (but this is typical of all dogs).

Ideal environment

These large dogs do not thrive in the heat, as they are bred for mountainous conditions. It also follows that they are not dogs for the home. It is best kept outdoors, because it likes the company of its owner and finds it difficult to be alone.

He is an athletic type who cannot be stopped by a weak fence, so a strong, unclimbable barrier is needed in the garden where a Tornjak is kept. It can get along with other pets, but early socialisation is very important because it has a strong defensive instinct and if it feels threatened, it can be defensive towards them.
It can also get on well with children and be a loyal companion if they start bonding soon enough. Always monitor the interaction between the child and the dog.

They are friendly dogs and very intelligent.


Caring for him requires some attention. The coat should be combed out weekly (daily during the moulting period) to avoid tangles. Frequent bathing should also be taken into account. It is also worth keeping an eye on the health of your teeth and nails, and last but not least, even though you don’t have a droopy ear, it should be checked because a lot of hair can be a problem.

He is a relatively high-energy dog, even if it sometimes likes to relax with his owner. He may be prone to obesity if his food is not of the right quality and quantity, or if he does not get enough exercise. Feeding twice a day is highly recommended for large dogs.

Health problems

Tornjaks are basically a healthy breed, but that does not mean that all dogs are healthy. There are common diseases, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia. You should also watch their nutrient intake, as too much protein can cause hair problems.

breed breed description breeds herding dog large dog mountain dog sheperd dog

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