Let's talk Karst Shepherd Dogs

Not heard much about the Karst Shepherd Dog? That may be because there are only an estimated 1000 of them in the world, mostly in their native Slovenia, where the Karst Shepherd Dog has special conservation status to breed and safeguard the country’s oldest indigenous dog. While some of these mountain dogs still work today herding and protecting sheep as they have for centuries, with the right training as a puppy, the Karst Shepherd Dog makes a wonderful companion dog for an active family. Complete with the knowledge that your chosen canine is truly one-of-a-kind. Literally, one in a 1000.

Official name: Karst Shepherd Dog

Other names: Kraski Ovcar

Origins: Slovenia

Black and white portrait of a Karst Shepherd Dog
 Drooling tendencies  Medium Warm weather?  Very low
 Shedding level  High Suited to apartment living?   
 Physical activity needs Moderate Kid-friendly?
 Compatibility with other pets   Can stay alone?  Medium

We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Inline Image 15
Illustration of a Karst Shepherd Dog
57 - 64 cm Height
30 - 42 kg Weight
53 - 60 cm Height
25 - 37 kg Weight


 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 15 months
 Adult age  15 months to 5 years
 Mature age  5 to 8 years
 Senior age  From 8 years

Karst Shepherd Dog stood head looking up in snow


Get to know the Karst Shepherd Dog

All you need to know about the breed

One look at the imposing grey Karst Shepherd Dog - with their almost bear-like face, majestic size and dense fur and you can see why they make a great watchdog. They are definitely not a breed with a "come on in!" appearance.

For they are the King of the Kars, historically roaming Slovenia’s windswept Kars region, guiding and guarding their flocks. Famed for their bravery, they traditionally worked in groups to fend off potential predators, be it wolf or bear. But rest assured today, once trained, they’re increasingly common as a family dog - and a very content one at that.

Like the iron grey colour of their long and dense fur, designed to protect them from the mountain elements, there’s a strength to the Karst Shepherd Dog’s character, as one would expect of a working dog. While today some are still on duty as sheepdogs, as a family dog, their wariness of strangers means they’ll keep a careful watch over the comings and goings of your home. And readily herd up the family when it’s time to leave the house.

Born to roam, the Karst Shepherd Dog is, of course, somewhat lively, but their exercise needs are categorised as moderate, up to three hours a day. Though less suited to apartment living, they’ll thrive with plenty of outdoor space they can busy themselves protecting.

Karst Shepherd Dog walking low across rocky terrain


2 facts about Karst Shepherd Dogs

1. A Karst is a rare find

Though their numbers are slowly rising - from around two dozen in the 1920s, to something like 1000 today, the Karst Shepherd Dog remains a rare breed. They are found mostly in Slovenia, with a few Karst Shepherd Dogs also living in Germany and Italy.

2. Meet Slovenia’s national dog

The Karst Shepherd Dog is the pride of a nation. Very much the national dog of Slovenia, the breed is named after the country’s mountainous Kras region, and today a growing group of breeders and owners are raising the profile of these Sons of the Bora - the name of a film made to celebrate the Karst Shepherd dog.


History of the breed

When it comes to their exact origins, the Karst Shepherd Dog retains an element of mystery. Known to be Slovenia’s oldest dog breed, they have roamed over the country’s Karst region for several centuries. The most probable theory is that this excellent herder guarded the sheep flocks of an ancient tribe called the Illyrians. These nomadic people migrated across the Balkans, including across a rugged plateau called the Kras Massive, of what is modern-day Slovenia.

Originally, the Karst Shepherd Dog was thus named the Illyrian Shepherd Dog after their ancient origins. However, this was also the name used for a similar, slightly bigger mountain dog from neighbouring Macedonia’s Sar mountains. There was no distinction between the two. FInally, in 1968, the Central Society of then Yugoslavia officially recognised the two breeds as separate from each other. And the Karst Shepherd Dog gained their name. Today Karst Shepherd Dogs are considered a vital part of Slovenia’s national heritage. Recognition for the breed came from the United Kennel Club in 2006.

Black and white portrait of a Karst Shepherd Dog


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Karst Shepherd Dogs

1. Colouring

Iron grey coloured fur, with black mask from nose to skull.

2. Coat

Long, dense coat with mane.

3. Head

Big rounded head in relation to the body.

Karst Shepherd Dog sat, tongue out, in long, dry grass


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Karst Shepherd Dog
Karst Shepherd Dog sat in a forest, looking downhill


Caring for your Karst Shepherd Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

With their thick double coat, your Karst Shepherd Dog will benefit from weekly brushing. Be prepared, though, for though they lose a great deal of their coat seasonally, the breed is likely to shed some year-round. This is when a daily brush outdoors is a good idea. They should have their teeth brushed often, ideally daily, nails clipped as required and their long ears checked regularly. A dog that is most content on the move, the Karst Shepherd Dog needs up to three hours of exercise each day. This can be anything from walking, hiking, games in the garden and canine sports. When training your Karst Shepherd, one thing to consider, though, is their independent-mindedness. Centuries in charge of flocks on the mountain will do that. So puppy-training classes and early socialisation are strongly recommended for the Karst Shepherd Dog. Their education should be consistent from a very young age and owners will need to stay patient. Take any training treats out of their daily kibble portion to help keep them trim.


All about Karst Shepherd Dogs

As a diligent guard dog, your Karst Shepherd Dog is highly distrustful of strangers, so may not come across as the friendliest of dogs. While highly loyal to you, it’s worth bearing in mind that they do like their independence, inherited from their herding past.

While similar in name, with some aspects in common, these are two very distinct breeds. The Karst Shepherd Dog is grey compared to the black and tan fur of the German Shepherd or Alsatian, and the Karst has a more rounded, bear-like face.

Other breeds that might interest you.


1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/