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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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Richard and Therese Heaney (hean...@bp.com), for the Komondor Club of
America, Inc. Copyright 1995. Distributed with permission of the
Komondor Club of America. This article may be reproduced in its
entirety with credit given to the Komondor Club of America. Copyright
1995 by the Komondor Club of America.
Table of Contents
Komondor Origins and History
The Komondor is believed to be a very ancient breed, although
historical references to the dog only go back several centuries. It is
probable that the Komondor moved to the Danube Basin (present day
Hungary) with the nomadic tribes which settled there in the ninth
century. These early Komondors were used to guard herds of sheep,
goats and cattle from predators, which included wolves, bears and
humans. The dogs lived out in the open with their charges, and often
had to make their own decisions in the absence of a shepherd to guide
them. Thus they developed into a very intelligent, independent and
strong-willed breed. A few Komondors were imported to the United
States in the 1930s, at which time the breed was recognized by the
AKC. During World War II, Komondors were used to guard military
installations and a great number of them were killed. The hardships
suffered by both the people and dogs of Hungary also took their toll,
and after the war, the dogs were extremely rare. Dedicated individuals
who loved the breed searched out remaining Komondors, which for the
most part still lived as flock guardians in remote rural parts of
Hungary, and started breeding them again. Once the Iron Curtain
separated Hungary from the western world it became quite difficult to
export the dogs, and very few made it to the U.S. However, enough dogs
made it through, mostly via the efforts of Hungarians living in the
West, that the breed had become fairly well established in the U.S. by
the late 1960s. The Komondor is still a very rare breed, and most
people have never seen one. The largest populations of Komondors today
are in Hungary and in the United States, with numbers of animals in
each country probably in the two to three thousand range. The total
number of Komondors worldwide is far less than ten thousand.
A correct Komondor should give an impression of imposing strength,
courage, dignity and pleasing conformation. The Komondor is a large,
medium-boned, muscular dog with an unusual white (never colored or
black) coat which consists of tassels of hair which are called cords.
(The coat is hard to imagine, if you have never seen it, but it is
somewhat similar to the dreadlocks worn by Rastafarians.) In ancient
Hungary, working Komondors were out on the plains during most of the
year with their flocks, and the Komondor coat developed to give the
dogs protection against both predators and extremes of weather. The
coat is also very similar in appearance to that of the Hungarian Racka
sheep, which allowed the dog to blend in with his flock. Unlike the
herding breeds, the Komondor is a flock guardian. When with his
charges in the fields, a mature, experienced Komondor tends to stay
with the flock, keeping predators away, but not allowing himself to be
drawn away in a chase. In the United States, many Komondors are
employed as livestock guardians (with sheep, goats, cattle, exotic
birds, etc.), with some success. However, the majority of them are
kept as companions and house guards. For these dogs, the family,
including both humans and other animals, becomes the flock. Komondors
living in households will be reserved with strangers, but
demonstrative with those they love. They are selflessly devoted to
their families, and will protect them against perceived threats from
any quarter. Their devotion to those in their care and their sense of
responsibility towards them, produces a courageous, vigilant and
The Komondor was developed to be an independent, intelligent and
sensitive dog capable of making decisions on his own. This makes him a
terrific family guardian, but also makes him unsuitable for some types
of homes. The adult Komondor is a large, territorial dog, and
prospective owners must understand that a Komondor puppy must be
well-socialized and taught to behave in a manner acceptable to the
owner. Because Komondors traditionally cared for their charges without
a human to tell them what to do, they do not automatically look to
people for direction the way herding and sporting breeds do. They are
very smart dogs, and learn quickly, but a Komondor owner must make it
clear from puppyhood (and continuing throughout the dog's life) that
no means no, and must consistently correct the dog for behavior that
is not acceptable. Having said that, the Komondor is also an extremely
loving dog. He loves his family absolutely, and hates to have any of
them out of his sight. The typical Komondor will follow his people
from room to room, and actively seeks out physical contact with those
he loves. The Komondor is a wonderful guardian of home and property,
but must have an owner who will see to it that the character traits
that made the Komondor valuable as a livestock guardian will not
become a liability in the modern world.
The most striking and unusual aspect of the Komondor is the coat, and
because it is so unusual Komondor owners seem to have more problems
with coat care than anything else. The Komondor's puppy coat is fluffy
and curly, with a tendency to fall into curly ringlets. At about 8 or
10 months of age, the coat begins to shed and mat. This matting is the
beginning of the cording process. The larger mats must be torn apart
into smaller mats (the cords), which is a simple procedure, although
it can be physically demanding and time consuming if the mats are
really tight and large. Once formed, the cords will lengthen with age,
eventually reaching the ground if not cut. The Komondor sheds his
undercoat twice a year like all dogs do, and the softer undercoat
binds together with the long, strong outer coat, lengthening the cords
from the skin out. The cords will have to be separated again each time
the coat goes through this stage, as they will tend to mat together
near the skin. This is not difficult once the cords are established,
requiring a few hours of work each year. To many people the cords
resemble the strings of a mop or spaghetti, and many Koms have names
which play on this resemblance (Mop or Pasta, for example). Other than
separating the cords twice a year and bathing the dog, there is not
much special grooming required. The hair must be plucked from the ear
canal, as with all long-haired breeds, and the hair kept trimmed from
the bottoms of the feet. Many pet Komondor owners keep the cords
trimmed to a length of 8 or 10 inches. This looks nice and is easier
to care for than a floor length coat. The dogs also may be sheared 2
or 3 times a year, if desired. Either way, the Komondor should be a
handsome, well-cared-for looking dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find out if this breed is really the best for me?
We strongly suggest that anyone who is thinking of getting a Komondor
should make every effort to see some adult Komondors in their homes
before making a final decision. The Komondor Club of America (KCA) or
Middle Atlantic States Komondor Club (MASKC) will assist you in
locating owners of Komondors in your part of the country (or in other
countries in many cases). Many Komondor owners are willing to let you
visit with their dogs and will explain what it is like living with
this unusual breed. The reason that we feel this is so important is
that Komondor puppies, with their fluffy coats and playful natures,
are extremely appealing, but they are not necessarily like the adult
that you will eventually own for many years. It is in the best
interest of both you and your Komondor that you understand what an
adult Komondor is like, so that when the puppy days are over, you
won't be dismayed at what that fluffy puppy has turned into.
Unfortunately this happens over and over, and not just with Komondors.
We believe that people who obtain a dog are making a commitment that
lasts the life of the dog, and we encourage people to make that
commitment with full knowledge of what it entails.
Where can I find a Komondor if I decide to buy one?
The Komondor Club of America can furnish you with a list of breeders,
including information as to who has puppies or older dogs available.
Breeders listed with the KCA have agreed to abide by the Club's Code
of Ethics which specifies responsible practices to be followed by
breeders to ensure the health of the puppies and the satisfaction of
purchasers. Komondors are often available through the KCA Rescue
Program. These are dogs which have been given up by previous owners
for various reasons. Occasionally Komondors are offered for sale by
pet stores, but the chances of getting a sound, healthy puppy from
this source are not good. Puppies are also sometimes available from
breeders who supply working dogs. Whatever the source of the puppy,
the parents should have been X-rayed and certified clear of hip
dysplasia, and every effort should be made to ensure that the puppy is
healthy and has been well cared for.
How big are Komondors when fully grown?
The Hungarians are very clear on this subject: if it isn't big and
impressive, even if it has cords, it isn't a Komondor. The Komondor
should be large enough to command instant respect. The actual size of
Komondors in the United States ranges quite a bit, but on average
males are 27 1/2 inches or taller at the shoulder and bitches are 25
1/2 inches or taller. Males usually weigh 100 pounds on up and bitches
80 pounds or more. These are good average sizes, but many dogs are
bigger and some are smaller. There are a lot of breeds which are more
massive, are taller, or heavier. But with his thick coat and large
size there are few that are as impressive as the Komondor.
Will I have to worry about friends or acquaintances coming into the house or
yard with my Komondor?
The Komondor is a large territorial dog that is used for flock and
home guarding, and the Komondor owner must always anticipate his dog's
behavior based on this fact. The Komondor will make up his own mind
about who is or is not welcome on his property if he's not taught by
you how to behave when strangers come to the house. It is important
that Komondor puppies be socialized from the beginning. Kindergarten
Puppy Training classes are excellent for Komondor puppies, as they
expose the puppy to lots of people and dogs at an early age. These
classes can usually be found through obedience class instructors or
clubs in your area. Komondors learn very quickly which people are
welcome in your house, and will greet them happily, but as a
responsible owner, you must be sure the dog is under control (either
through strict obedience training or physical restraint) when
strangers are introduced to him.
Are Komondors noisy? How would they do in an apartment?
As a guarding dog, part of a Komondor's job is to alert people when a
potentially threatening situation exists. He does this by barking, and
a Komondor's bark is meant to, and will, get your attention. As we
have mentioned, the Komondor's nature is to decide for himself what
constitutes a threat, and they definitely tend to err on the side of
caution. Thus some Komondors are constantly barking because they hear
a strange noise, or see someone passing by on "their" road, or because
a strange car pulls into the neighbor's driveway. Obviously this sort
of situation can be worse if you live in close proximity to others and
have lots of strange people and strange cars coming and going. Having
said this, however, there are people who have successfully had several
Komondors living with them in an apartment. Komondors generally are
quite adaptable and can adjust their behavior to fit the situation. If
they are constantly perceiving threats (in their own mind) however,
they will be noisy, and the situation could become very uncomfortable
for both the owner and the dog.
How much exercise does a Komondor need?
Komondor puppies are as playful and energetic as any other puppy.
Adult Komondors are generally quite inactive, and require very little
exercise. They take their job of guardian seriously, and will usually
position themselves in a location where they can keep an eye on their
family, rather than running around checking things out. Often the most
exercise adult Komondors get is accompanying you as you move about the
house. If the dog doesn't have access to a fenced yard or large run,
however, he should be walked two or three times a day.
Do Komondors have any particular health problems that I should know about?
There are no known health problems which are peculiar to Komondors. As
with all dogs there is a certain amount of hip dysplasia in the breed.
Responsible breeders have all their breeding stock certified as being
free of dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
Also as with many large breeds, there is some incidence of bloat, or
gastric torsion, in Komondors. The causes of bloat are still largely
unknown, but when it occurs, the stomach becomes enlarged and filled
with gas, eventually rotating inside the chest cavity and killing the
dog if not corrected in time. Anyone with a large dog should talk to a
veterinarian in order to learn to recognize the symptoms of bloat and
should know what to do if it occurs.
How much will a Komondor puppy cost?
Prices vary from breeder to breeder, but current prices for pet
quality puppies are in the $600 to $800 dollar range, and
show/breeding quality puppies are somewhat higher in price. Reputable
breeders will usually sell pet quality puppies with limited
registrations or spay/neuter guarantees, the object of these
provisions being to prevent breeding of puppies sold as companions.
List of ResourcesUnfortunately, due to the rarity of the breed, there are no
books on the Komondor that we can recommend. However, the following
organizations can furnish additional information on request:
Komondor Club of America, Inc.
Linda Patrick, Corresponding Secretary
4695 Peckins Rd., Chelsea, Mi 48118
Ph. (313) 433-0417; Fax (313) 433-0527
For breeders list, breed information, livestock guardian
information, grooming information, club membership
applications, information about rescue dogs.
Middle Atlantic States Komondor Club, Inc.
Joy Levy, Corresponding Secretary
102 Russell Road, Princeton, NJ 08540; (609) 924-0199
For breed information, newsletter subscription information.
Quarterly publication of the Komondor Club of America
Mary Ann Blanks, Editor 10511 London Lane Apison, TN 37302
Richard and Therese Heaney, hean...@bp.com