Anatolian World

In the Beginning...

Here is the story of the first "Anatolian Sheepdogs" that were brought to England to become English foundation stock for a type of dog that is sometimes known as the 'karabash'.

The evolution of a "vision"...

Anatolian Origins
by Natalka Czartoryska

The first "Anatolian Sheepdogs"It is a great pity that Mrs. C. Steele who owned a Mastiff female should import Gazi, a very untypical and heavy, blocky animal to the UK in 1965. Being 'Mastiff-oriented' herself; all that resembled such a breed was perfection in her eyes. She told me she could not find a female of similar build, search as she may, and had to 'make do' with a normal 'rangy' one, Sabahat of Hayiroglu (all other details 'not recorded').

The pair were exhibited at Crufts 1966 as a curiosity, under the title 'Anatolian Sheepdogs' with mention of their 'herding' work!

Gazi of Bakirtoll Koyu had a long back, short legs, wrinkled head and rose ears. All this got put into the first breed standard, drawn up by Mrs. Steele, alas. Also mentioned, Anatolians MAY BE BRINDLE! - Later dropped. They must also have a black spot, on the dorsal side of the tail, one third of the way down - later dropped. It is the site of the scent gland, of course; also called the wolf gland and very many dogs, including mongrels have such a dark mark, but not all Anatolians.

In photographs Sabahat was always laying down so as to conceal the fact that she was a good deal taller than Gazi. Their first and only litter bred by Steele, exhibited 'hybrid vigour' in as much as they were all as massive as dad, but more normal in shape and as tall as mum. Mrs. Steele then concluded she had invented a 'new breed'. Later observations revealed 'all shapes and sizes' - nature abhors extremes! Intense inbreeding [on this site: see sample breeding contract] resulted in the dreaded 'mini-bash' in a very few generations. This curse still hangs over the kennel, which took in all her dogs as rescues and then launched themselves as 'experts' in our breed. These people have shown me Anatolian crosses in their runs years ago. They got hold of a new import (Capar born in Ankara Zoo) from the lady importer, and a female born in quarantine (dam: Tri-colour Mektup of Obruk, sire: White Akkus of Oltan - remained in Anatolia). This female was FAWN as was the whole litter! They bred her several times as KC records show.

When Mrs. Steele was challenged why her 'pair' were so unlike, and why no other Anatolians seen by anybody - in Anatolia - remotely resembled her Gazi, she invented the following fable.

Gazi was the last remaining example of a breed of Babylonian Mastiff - War Dogs of Kings and Princes, which went extinct 2,000 (TWO THOUSAND) years ago!

No less! And she was trying to 'breed back' to these wonders quoting as support - one single Bass Relief from the Louvre in Paris, of a monstrously heavy, lumbering giant dog, whose bones or any reference to have never been found. Such a dog would collapse half way up any mountain, would need more food than is normally available to feed a whole village in Anatolia, and clearly such a notion is totally ridiculous.

Mastiff breeds come and go. To create one is relatively easy, witness the recently 'made up' Dogo Argentino, which is white, and an older Brazilian Mastiff, which is often brindle, and bigger. The origins of the word 'mastiff' are said to come from 'massive' and anyone can select for this quality. Trouble is it is very unhealthy, this artificial accumulation of massive promoting genes. So such breeds soon die out. Like the 'Allant' of Mediaeval Europe. And many more. English Mastiffs practically died out after 1945. Rescued by crossing Newfoundlands, St. Bernards and many more, they still languish, age (on average) is reputedly six years! Even shorter for Neapolitan, Mastiff de Bordeaux, Spanish Mastiff (2 sorts at least), and others.

Nature abhors extremes!

There is a subtle, insidious danger, in being 'tempted' to claim relationship with Mastiffs of any description. Their sheer bulk is imposing, at first, but the very real dangers of 'bulk worship' are only discovered when it is too late. Every genetic student is told about the disastrous experiment conducted by a rich landowner in the last Century in England. He wanted to 'create' huge dogs - a new breed. So he crossed Great Danes (still then called German Dogo presumably), and the already becoming extreme St. Bernards. One selected for height, the other for bulk.


Each puppy was different, none viable, some unable to even stand and walk about. Why? Because two sets of very damaging genes were present, one per breed. St Bernards suffer from Agnathism , which in humans causes monstrous heavy bones and heads, but they have a set of genes which control it sufficiently for life to be possible. Likewise the Great Danes their long bones go on elongating to an abnormal degree (stage before Agnathism) - its called 'Giantism' in humans. They too have a set of 'modifying' genes. By crossing the two, the controlling genes become separated from the lethal ones - disasters! As it happens, this sad example was exposed to me three times on different occasions, in different departments, during lectures at Cambridge University, allowing me to remember it well!

The very sad 'mis-noma' which has befallen the Flock Guard of Tibet needs considering next. As exposed in the UK Kennel Gazette in 1985/6 at length. What excellent photographs of WORKING Shepherd Dogs in Tibet today, which are indistinguishable from 'run of the mill' Anatolian Shepherd Dogs today. One can only tell; from the 'cut' of the felt cloaks of the shepherds in what region the photographs were taken. Tibetan Monks do not have a prejudice against BLACK coat (as in Muslim countries) and seem to have favoured or rescued from the shepherds (?) Or been given (?) Predominantly dark coated dogs. A heavy coat for sitting around on stones in the biting wind, outside Monasteries, was an obvious advantage. So the 'Monastery Guards' slowly became heavier, darker, and thicker (but not longer) coated, that their normal working cousins upon the hillside…….Then along came a Victorian Lady and on seeing 'something big' - is surely - a Mastiff? In common parlance…..

So much for the 'mystery of Tibet' - (like all greyhound type dogs are fascinated by 'Ancient Egypt'…..)

Mastiffs and all the bull breeds were originally bred to GRAB and HOLD their victims, unruly bulls by the nose, till they dropped dead from lack of oxygen, if they did not submit to slaughter beforehand.

The Romans created the ancestors of Rotweilers - on these lines! Even today these tendencies are deeply embedded in these breeds. A charming millionaire of Istanbul (owner of many mines) recently crossed a fine Anatolian male with an English Mastiff female. The bulk of the pups were 'most pleasing'…and he kept the most prominent male pup. When it grew up, it proceeded to strangle all his other dogs, whereupon it was put down, in horror, or so I am told.

In England today an ugly fault has surfaced in UK born, so-called 'karabash' which has never been seen in Anatolia. It is called a Hygroma, or leaking of the sinovial (joint) fluid, and causes big soft lumps on elbows. Well known in 'heavy' breeds, such as Gt. Danes and Mastiffs!!! What is going on? All apparently from the same kennel - descended from one dog! Dangerous aggression towards people!! At shows, also reported.

Now let us consider these fabled 'kings and princes'. How many of them would it take to support one humble shepherd upon the Steppe? Or could it possibly be the other way round?

This ignorant fascination with 'Kings and Places' again shows a very basic misconception. Palaces were Fortresses (often smelly crowded places) which ruled the surrounding countryside with a fist of iron. True: King Midas of Gordium already had piped water and bathtubs in his apartments, which drained! - While Queen Victoria did not - yet.

Kings and whole civilizations - come and go - and always have done so, in the Middle East, it make one giddy to consider them all. Little boys will offer you a strange coin - for a cigarette. It may well be impossible to determine to which 'kingdom' or 'civilization' it belongs. Same goes for many rock carvings and other artifacts, about the place. Some incorporated into later buildings, only to be abandoned in their turn. Alphabets, languages, whole nations have arisen and vanished. The Kaukazus alone has several hundred such, experts claim, with 'writings' as yet undeciphered.

Amusing references have been made, in turn, to Assyrians, Babylonians, the even earlier Sumerians, not forgetting Lydians, Minoans, Hittities. All those highly sophisticated civilizations were rich settled ones! And managed to exploit, temporarily extremely fertile mud-flats, till 'disaster' swept them off the face of the earth. But man and his dog go back much further, when all these peoples were still in their infancy. The Climate of the high dry Steppes has endured, with a massive explosion of GRASSES after the last Glaciation. Followed by a massive explosion of: Herbivores. THAT is what gave 'man and his dog' their chance! To break with the 'hunter - gatherer' mode of life, as some Aborigines in Australia and the Pigmies in the Kalahari Desert - still live to this day! So, once man almost exterminated the herbivores (including horses) and started actually caring for his 'meat on the hoof' - some 10,000 years ago, his hunting partner - the dog - adapted likewise. Long long before the Romans, the earlier Etruscans, Greeks, Mecedonians etc, had ever been heard of, as in Europe - lumbering heavy Neandertals were still crouching in caves, waving clubs, and beating off the giant Cave Bears, for countless ages.

Yes - the 'Wolf Theory' is the only possible one. Just throw in a bit of 'neoteny' - the drop ears are the best-known example, and little more needs to be changed. Size has to increase greatly - of course, as the Anatolian wolf is on average 78lbs, so about half the weight of a well grown, bred and fed Anatolian male! (But giant wolves do occur, as the famous one which infested the surroundings of Bursa, and whose huge pelt graced a Mosque there, till recently - 20 years ago certainly).

There is nothing magic about the Romans. True they did build the only straight roads in Britain, and also Hadrians Wall, to keep the northern barbarians out of the part he occupied. Hadrians Palace (whats left of it) is a very graceful pink marble 'lacy' thing in Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. The Romans also grabbed hold of a few big dogs and used them for their barbarous sport in the 'circuses' but it was the crafty Phoenicians who supplied them and the ancient Britains too, with big dogs - as barter (for silver in Wales, now worked out). And took 'blond' children for sale in Rome, from Britain. Angels - Anglos (soon died of sunstroke probably, adding to their mysteriousness).

The Roman Lucullus - undoubtedly transported cherry trees from Carisas on the Black Sea Coast - to Rome. Others later - to Britain, for which we must be grateful. Climate has changed though, edible sorts do not thrive anymore and the sterile Japanese sort now dominate, purely ornamental, but the rest of Europe enjoys the various cherries - in season!!

And now? The admirable, uncanny, ancient, steady, unique Anatolian Shepherd Dogs - Coban Kopegi - are again in danger, in their land of origin - from: Greedy puppy farmers on the one hand, and mongrelisation on the other.

Under VARIABILITY we must consider two things: Quality and Type.

Quality first. Turkish people are easygoing and very merciful (in direct contradiction to Europeans ideas about them). So they tolerate a motley assortment of dogs - if times and economics permit.

What endangers quality most? Hunger and mongrelisation. Gun dogs are fed superbly during the hunting season. Often fend for themselves the rest of the time. Cross breeding is rife. All along the sea cost in European Turkey, gangs of cross-breds proliferate. Every town dump is also inhabited by mobs of cross-breds. THESE ARE NOT repeat NOT Coban Kopegi - even if fawn! In Istanbul the street dogs got so numerous, they were all banished to the 'Island of Dogs' once, in semi-recent historical times. Returning 'gast arbeiters' from Germany, on holiday etc, bring with them mongrels and sometimes even pure breds of various breeds. These are often killed on arrival, but alas survive and cross sometimes. Very nasty tempers, shapes and faults get introduced this way. Instead of banning exports - the authorities should ban Imports; they do so much harm! Finally remember the proverb: many cows - no decent dogs! as cows graze in the daytime, spend nights in barns, the opposite to sheep, so need for the true Working Coban Kopegi disappears.

Only in areas where the population depend on flocks alone, where it is too high and too dry, or growing season too short - can one be sure to find the superb Anatolian Shepherd Dogs - and even then they may be hidden away from strangers, as too precious to be exposed to 'temptation'.

Having said all that - Variability is a precious gift, once lost (as in popular breeds of ANY animal, in the West), degeneration follows! We should treasure the variability we still posses, which is still available to us -long may it continue! So say geneticists and rare breed specialists of all sorts, as especially people fighting to delay extinction of endangered species. For they are already looking into the abyss..........

However 'different' a WORKING ANATOLIAN may appear to our Western eyes, accustomed as we are to our boring uniformity - it is still UNIQUE and unmistakably an Anatolian - and nothing else! It is itself, first and foremost, in shape and gait, in reactions, hardiness, behaviour.

ISOLATION - another myth!

Based on suburban notions, in tiny Europe. There are no secret isolated valley in Turkey, where populations live self sufficient - for hundreds of years! It is a fairy tale! The opposite is true. The population is surprisingly mobile, and for many reasons. Everyone, not only reads, but writes and receives letters, even in remote tiny hamlets. Even full time nomads living in tents have cousins in Australia and visit them in hired taxis, keep in touch. I have had the privilege of assisting in such family reunions and celebrations. Colour TV and generator functions just as well in a cave in the mountains, alongside sheep, as it does in a tower block. Together we laughed at the morning lesson in aerobics. Not only do villagers undertake huge travels by bus, on foot, etc, but traditionally 'The Flocks' of the nomads visit fields after harvest, for grazing in the mountains. As their dogs are superb, any female in season can and often will 'benefit' from their attentions. To the joy of the owner! In this way- the whole of Anatolia - as far as the dogs are concerned, is like a huge piece of dough, being continuously worked and re-worked. Isolation? Only in the minds of David Nelson and such, who hope to benefit financially.

Rather - the appearance of Superb Examples of the breed - is CYCLICAL, depending on predator pressure. First a plague of 'gophers' (like prairie dogs in the USA). Then predators, then shortage of gophers, so sheep are on the menu. THEN sudden heroic efforts are made - and the quality of the Anatolians rise astoundingly. I have seen it - again and again!



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