Pictured above: Nice masculine profile with correct coat distribution, photo by Ellen Van Der Meijden
Article by Kathy Ringering, Double Ring Kuvasz & Budagyongye Kuvasz – Member of the KCA Judges Education Council. From the February 2019 issue of ShowSight. Click to Subscribe.
I first became aware of the Kuvasz breed in 1980. I thought they were beautiful but the thing that attracted me most was their willingness to sacrifice themselves to protect their families. Fast-forward 30 years, and I have found them to be incredible companions. It is the closest thing to a 50/50 relationship I have ever had with a dog. They feel just as responsible for you as you do for them, and they show it in countless ways.
Our first Kuvasz was a show quality male in 1989. We (my husband Chuck and I) showed him to his championship and enjoyed the traveling and the camaraderie of the sport. When he finished, we purchased two females so we could continue showing. The rest is history, as they say. We thought we would have one litter, and 30 years later we are still breeding under the kennel names Double Ring and Budagyongye. I have held several positions in the Kuvasz Club of America, the AKC parent club, including President, Board member, chair of the Health committee, and chair of numerous National Specialties and have been a member of the Judges Education Council for many years.
In my admittedly biased opinion, the Kuvasz is one of the best-kept secrets in the dog world. They are often looked upon as just another big, white livestock guardian dog when they are so much more. Those of us who own them and love them know this, but how do we tell the world without also endangering them? The truth is that not everyone should own one.
The Kuvasz can be the perfect family dog but only if you are devoted to training and socializing, especially the first year. They are uncannily smart, with great problem-solving skills. How smart are they? Here are some examples:
One male was walking in a field with his owner when the owner fell and lost her glasses. She could not find them and tried to engage the dog to help her look. She thought he did not understand what she was asking. The next morning he showed up at the door, she let him in, and he laid her glasses at her feet. They didn’t have a scratch on them.
Below: Lovely female in adolescent coat. photo by Ellen Van Der Meijden.
Or the dog who went to school with his kids for show and tell. When his part was finished, he did not want to go sit in the audience with his kids; he always went to sit with a kid whose parents were unable to attend. Their empathetic nature is why so many of them are doing therapy work in children’s hospitals and nursing homes. Raised with children, they can be excellent. They still have the skills necessary for livestock guarding but are mostly family companions in the U.S.
Kuvasz are clowns and like to entertain their families. They can be quite silly and will do just about anything to hear us laugh. They can be excellent guard dogs and still be super friendly; in fact, my most friendly dogs are also my best guard dogs. Those are the dogs I can trust to correctly assess a situation and act accordingly. They generally are not an aggressive breed if they are well-socialized; they manage threats with barking, growling, charge, retreat, etc. But rest assured, if I am ever in danger, my dogs will intervene.
Kuvasz are capable of excelling in many AKC sports. They are not blindly obedient, but are easily motivated to have fun and/or do it to make us happy. New titleholders are becoming more common in Trick Dog, Scent Work, Fast CAT, Lure Coursing, Farm Dog and Barn Hunt. Sports like Rally, Obedience, Agility, Tracking and Carting are either stagnant or in decline. Conformation is in decline. We may even have more dogs competing in performance events than in conformation.
Below (left) Kuvasz being a clown. photo by Ellen Van Der Meijden. Below (right) Nice Kuvasz head with good proportions show correct stop. Too much or too little stop should be equally faulted. (photographer unknown)
When I came into the breed 30 years ago, there were a couple dozen breeders. You could find a breeder in Dog World, Dog Fancy, some livestock magazines and on the Kuvasz Club of America breeder list. Today there are six breeders on the KCA list. One is retired, three are infrequent breeders, and two are nearing retirement. There are a handful of breeders outside the KCA but the only ones who signed up for full health testing and reporting are the KCA breeders. This is not a problem unique to Kuvasz; other breeds are also showing decline.
• In 1931 there was one Kuvasz registered. Registrations continued to climb to a peak in 1991 of 493.
• Since 1991 there has been a gradual decline. In 2017 there were only 104 registrations out of 21 litters.
• In 2018 through June there were 30 registrations out of 13 litters. Since 2008 that is a 75% decline. (all per AKC data)
When you consider most of us are Breeders of Merit and make sure every single puppy is registered, the numbers become even more alarming. All of the years spent protecting our breeds from unscrupulous breeders, people who had a litter or two and decided breeding was not for them, animal rights activists slamming purebred dogs, and judging based on advertising instead of the AKC standard have all taken their toll in numbers and in quality.
Many of us have become discouraged showing in conformation. We have a breed standard. It is our blueprint from the past, intended to take us into the future. We are losing quality in the breed as well as numbers. This same problem affects many breeds. This is not a unique problem for Kuvasz in the U.S. Hungary, the mother country, has the same problem.
We need people with an eye toward the future with long-term goals. We need judges who judge to the standard, knowing our breed’s future is at stake. The Judges Education Council is working on additional educational materials for breeders and for judges. Will it be enough? We will see.
My advice for new judges is the same advice I would give all judges and breeders: Use our blueprint. Your breeding decisions and judging today will determine our tomorrow.
Below – Kuvasz with good, correct front, nice forechest with good width, photo by Isidora Miljkovic