The Anatolian Shepherd Dog (Turkish: Anadolu çoban köpeği) is a breed of dog that originated in the Anatolia region of central Turkey. It is rugged, large, and very strong, with good sight and hearing that allow it to protect livestock. With its high speed and agility, it is able to run down a predator with great efficiency. Historically, it has been treated as a separate breed from the Kangal Shepherd Dog by many canine registries, but is now generally treated as part of the same breed population.
The general appearance of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a tall, rugged, and powerful livestock guardian dog with a dense double coat, a broad, strong head, well-developed muscular shoulders, and a long tail with a slight curl (reaching to the hock) that is carried high and curled over the dog's back when the dog is alert.
The physique embodies balance and strength. Movement of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog should be supple and powerful. A low head carriage, which shows the head, neck, and topline being level when moving - creating the impression that the dog is stalking - is an important characteristic of the breed.
As with many breeds, several breed standards exist for the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, so some variance is seen in the described size and weight. They weigh between 40 and 70 kg (90 and 150 lb), with females smaller and males larger. The coat may be any colour, although most common are white cream, "sesame", and white with large coloured spots that do not cover more than 30% of the body. Known as piebald, these colours may or may not be accompanied by a black mask and/or ears.
They have a thick, double coat that is somewhat wiry, and needs to be brushed one or two times a week in warm weather due to excessive shedding. They have very thick hair on their necks to protect their throats. They look as if they are heavier than they actually are, due to the thick coat.
The Anatolian Shepherd was developed to be independent and forceful, responsible for guarding its master's flocks without human assistance or direction. These traits make it challenging as a pet; owners of dogs of this breed must socialize the dogs to turn them into appropriate companions. They are intelligent and can learn quickly, but might choose not to obey.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is very loyal and can be fiercely possessive and protective of its family, stock, and territory. The Anatolian is also a bold, confident dog that does not become overstimulated easily. It is generally curious but aloof with guests, not an outgoing dog that wants to make friends with everyone and dislikes strangers who are too forward. It is calm and observant of its surroundings and may not go looking for trouble, but may not back down if challenged. An Anatolian that has been agitated may be too angry to be controlled and cannot be stopped on command.
According to Turkish shepherds, three Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are capable of overcoming a pack of wolves and injuring one or two of them. These dogs like to roam, as they were bred to travel with their herd and to leave the herd to go hunt for predators before the predators could attack the flock. Therefore, microchipping and tagging pets are recommended.
Anatolian Shepherds are not recommended for life in small quarters. They do well with other animals, including cats if they are introduced while still a puppy and have their own space. They mature between 18 and 30 months. Due to their history, both puppies and adults seem to have little interest in fetching. Rather, they prefer to run and sometimes swim.
Presence of some Anatolian shepherd genes in Alaskan huskies positively correlates with husky work ethic.
Some discussion exists about whether the Anatolian Shepherd is a distinct breed, or a general name for different types of shepherd dogs in Anatolia that look alike (such as the Kangal, which is used as a synonym for the Anatolian Shepherd and has the same 'Blackhead' - Karabas - nickname). This view accepts the name Anatolian Shepherd as a general name for breeds such as the Kangal dog, Akbash dog, and Aksaray Malaklisi dog. Recognition of the Kangal as a different breed from the Anatolian Shepherd was retracted in Australia.
Apparently, only one health survey of Anatolian Shepherds was done in 2004 by the UK Kennel Club. The median lifespan for the 23 deceased dogs (a small sample size) in the survey was 10.75 years. This is 3–4 years longer than other breeds of their size, which have median longevities of 6–8 years. The leading causes of death of the dogs in the survey were cancer (22%), "combinations" (17%), cardiac (13%), and old age (13%).
Based on a small sample of 24 still-living dogs, the most common health issues cited by owners were dermatological and musculoskeletal defects, and lipomas. Entropion and canine hip dysplasia are sometimes seen in the breed. Eyes and hips should be tested before breeding.
Anatolian Shepherd dogs are used by Dr. Laurie Marker and the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia in their ongoing efforts to prevent livestock-hunting cheetahs from being killed by farmers. These dogs are bred and then given to the farmers to use in protecting and guarding their livestock from cheetah attacks. The dogs are an effective, nonlethal discouragement that prevents the cheetahs from taking livestock. The incentive for farmers to preemptively shoot the cheetahs is thus removed, and the cheetahs then concentrate their hunting on wild game.
Anatolian Shepherds are also used in Yellowstone National Park to keep people and predators—such as wolves and bears—separate and safe from harm.
The UK Kennel Club has announced it is to recognise the Kangal Dog as a breed with effect from July 2013. It also stated that dogs currently registered as Anatolian Shepherd Dogs may be eligible (where appropriate) to be recorded as Turkish Kangal Dogs, instead.
As of 1 January 2012, the Australian National Kennel Council no longer recognises the ANKC Kangal as being a separate breed from the ANKC Anatolian Shepherd.
As of June 2018, the Federation CynoIogique International Standards Commission determined the population of FCI-registered Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Kangals Shepherd Dogs in Turkey were the same breed and belonged to the same breed population. (FCI Anatolian Shepherd Dog = Standard No. 331 = FCI Kangal Shepherd Dog.) The breed name of Anatolian Shepherd Dog was changed to Kangal Shepherd Dog and the breed standard content was updated. Under the FCI, the Kangal Shepherd Dog is not defined as a separate breed from the FCI Anatolian Shepherd Dog. The population of FCI-registered Anatolian Shepherd Dogs are renamed to Kangal Shepherd Dog, and an updated breed standard for that population of dogs was put in place. If it was possible for the Kangal Shepherd Dog breed to be genetically distinct and differentiated from the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, the Kangal Shepherd Dog would have undergone the FCI Provisional and Definitive breed recognition process and be issued its own FCI Standard Number.