It was a bone chilling -17 C (1.4 F) at 6 am in the morning. I was bundled up well, but treacherous wind was assaulting me through the only exposed part of my body – my face. My eyes were watery. The mentally disconcerting sound of howling wind was accompanied by the calming sound of a creek cascading down the slope nearby. The small finger of my right hand was going numb for some odd reason and I had put on an extra mitten as a makeshift arrangement to warm it back to normal.
Once I felt better, I looked at K2, my 11 months old Kuvasz boy and affectionately known as the Great White, trying to determine how he was faring. And there he was, totally unimpressed by the freezing temperatures, about to descend down the bank slope on to the frozen part of the creek. Whenever he is about to do this, I am very careful. I let him go to frozen water surfaces slowly holding and releasing leash like a mountaineer belays his partner.
Once on the water, K2 looked at me as if saying, “Am I going to follow him or not.”
“No”, I told him, “Are you kidding me? It is freezing. I am not coming.”
For one, I don’t have his double coat. Unfortunately, the disadvantage of this furless companion is not known to K2. His hair is wavy and long, 4-6 inches, except on the feet and head. The coat is also self-cleaning. No matter how dirty it gets, it cleans itself within two hours. This is because the coat secretes oil from its root. I was told by the breeder not to bath him at all for it would wash away any oil that is his natural defense against mud and dirt.
As a family, we decided on Kuvasz breed after lot of research work. We wanted to have a medium to large size guard dog for home that had low prey drive, was agile and capable of protecting us against intimidating critters, was hypoallergenic, was a couch potato inside and able to accompany us on long-distance hiking adventures outside, and was able to cope with the extreme winters of southern Ontario. We did not only talk to the dog experts, we also took dog breed quizzes on the reputed websites.
The key learning from dog experts and quizzes was that it pays to have a dog matching with one’s lifestyle. Surely, if one is into water based activities in the freezing big lakes, getting a Borzoi will not be a good option even though it is also a cold weather breed. After our research and responses from quizzes, our search was narrowed down to Anatolian Shepherd, Komondor, Great Pyrenees, and Kuvasz.
Fierce protectors of livestock, home and persons
All the above dog breeds belong to working dogs group and are used in their native countries as livestock guardian dogs (LGDs).
Kuvaszok are in the same family of white LGDs as Italian Maremmas, Polish Tatra Shepherd Dogs, Turkish Akbash, Slovak Cuvac, and the most well known of the family - Great Pyrenees. The white colour was probably encouraged by owners to differentiate them from marauding wolves. And because these dogs had to protect livestock against bears and wolves, they were bred for large sizes, intimidating deep and booming barks and valour. These 3 characteristics are what all LGDs should display to thwart the advances of an intruder.
Generally, Kuvaszok, like other LGDs, are lazy dogs, who would spend most of their time half-dozing on a carefully chosen perch from where they can easily observe the proceedings. When an unwanted entity enters their territory, a Kuvasz will first give a low pitch alarm bark and will get up showing its large size. If the perceived enemy does not retreat, a series of deep booming barks coupled with a few quick intimidating paces forward should send it packing. If that does not work either, a Kuvasz will resort to an all out attack. And an attacking Kuvasz, as we found with K2 by the age 9 months, is a force to reckon. He is ferocious, agile, and unforgiving.
It is best to keep an LGD like Kuvasz working and bonded with livestock. However, if a Kuvasz is taken up as a pet and a companion, it will bond with its humans. For example, two Kuvaszok kept by Steve Hounsell, President of Kuvasz Club of Canada, are entirely companions and guard dogs of property and humans.
There is a Kuvasz by the name of Beamer belonging to one Kathleen Dahmer that has earned a TDX (AKC Track Dog Excellence) title. There is another Kuvasz out of Brantwood Kennels that has been employed as a sled dog. Still, most Kuvaszok in the USA and Canada are harnessed as LGDs.
Confident and self-assured guardians
Guarding instinct is always present in a Kuvasz. K2 displayed none of it till he was 6 months old. But then he hardly looked anything like a grown up Kuvasz back then. Then he began to show his passive guardian instinct. Although he is very friendly with people and other dogs he meets in the neighbourhood every day, his barking reverberates in the air throughout a mile radius of our home when he does not like someone on the driveway or the front lawn.
However, K2, like other Kuvaszok, is not as frequent and a nuisance barker as, reportedly, Great Pyrenees or Maremmas are. Much of K2's behaviour can be attributed to the early socialization exercise undertaken at Olga and Jan Schmidt's Brantwood Kuvasz, where he was born and from where we acquired him.
Kuvaszok, like any other LGD breed, have a low prey drive. Steve Hounsell writes “They are expected to be calm around livestock and only become excited when there is a potential threat. They are courageous in the sense that they will stand up to any foe, animal or human, in the defense of their extended family and territory. They are not, or should not be, indiscriminately aggressive.”
In my opinion, this makes them generally different from German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Malinois, Giant Schnauzers, Dogo Argentinos, etc. Dogs of these later breeds have a high prey drive and are therefore, trained to be used as attack dogs as well. Generally a Kuvasz will rely on creating ‘fear factor’ only.
Kuvaszok make great guardian dogs that will stand up to any adversity. The dogs on King Royal Farm in southern Ontario protect sheep from coyotes on a regular basis. Steve Hounsell reports a story of a Kuvasz in Northern Manitoba who engaged a wolf pack, while protecting the flock. The dog was injured in the fight, but did recover. No animals were lost and the wolves moved on to new hunting grounds, possibly frustrated by the encounter.
Another example is Kelly Murray of Barriere, British Columbia. Her kuvasz dogs incessantly barked and acted extra protective when Kelly was out in her fields and continued barking from inside the home throughout the night. Kelly discovered the next morning that a cougar had spent a major time of the previous day and the whole night hidden in the bushes nearby.
Size: They will outgrow everything quickly
We bought K2 home in our arms when he was 8 weeks old. As soon as he arrived, children in the neighbourhood nicknamed him ‘Polar Bear Cub’. By 3 months of age, he outgrew his large size crate – so much for the crate training. By 6 months, he weighed 60 pounds and stood 24 inches at the withers. Now he is 5-1/2 years old and is 29 inches tall, weighs 110 pounds and has a girth of 36 inches.
He grew fast and did not realize it. Till he was a year old, he liked to play with children as he used to when he was a three month old puppy, and in the process, knocked them down unintentionally. For this very reason, my son Rayyan, nephew Ammar and I had to supervise things very closely when children were around. Not only outside, he had to be supervised inside also. There was no table, counter or a shelf high enough to be out of reach with just a stretched neck. However, he settled down by age 2. He loves toddlers, but behaves in a clam fashion.
Kuvasz as a companion
K2 has turned out to be a great hiking partner, especially for fall, winter and spring weather. His big body carries his own backpack with his own supplies weighing about 25 pounds. It was one of those routine hikes in extreme weather that turned out to be classical for both of us.
I believe K2 understood me when I did not follow him to the frozen creek. He dashed back to my side sensing some danger. With his big body against mine and him constantly scanning the surroundings for any threat, I had a great feeling of comfort. We were out alone on the trail. I knew there were coyotes around. There could have been some street urchins that make inveterate brawlers fooling around on the trail, as we had found to our chagrin during a summer hiking session. But as long as we were by each other's side, I knew that anybody would think twice before trying to play dirty with us.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on December 11, 2018:
Yes, Bill, he is big. My family does not notice his bigness, but when other people tell us then we know LOL.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 11, 2018:
Beautiful dog, but look at the size of that monster! LOL I would need a second job to pay for his food. :)
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on January 04, 2016:
Thank you very much for adding your experience with respect to Kuvasz dog breed. I have learned a lot from your personal experience. Btw, a family friend who is a dog trainer who visited us said that K2 was a very friendly dog, which is not the hallmark of the breed. Yes, K2 in general is a very good guard dog, but with strangers in the house in our company, he is overly affectionate.
Oriana on January 04, 2016:
I recently adopted two female Kuvasz. One is 5 and the other is 2. The 5 yr. old was in a kennel her whole life. She is very sweet but strangers make her quite nervous, especially men. In line with their general personality, it was a slow transition from a shy, nervous dog to one who now romps and plays and runs and loves. The 2 yr. old had been both a general family dog and had a short stint as a working dog (not sure how well she did with that!) - she is an attention hog and is particularly overly friendly with strangers.
As a result of their personalities, if someone comes on my property, the 5 yr. old barks and hides, and the 2 yr. old just wants attention and pets. So as far as guarding me against people, they both fail miserably. However have yet to encounter a threatening situation - in that case they may show a different side.
I had never owned a dog before. While the Kuvasz can be quite stubborn, overall mine are really lovely, sweet, sensitive, good natured dogs and have adjusted very well to their new home. It is very true that they do not respond well to harsh discipline - not that I've ever administered that, but the odd time I've raised my voice I can see the hurt look on their faces. Love them, treat them with respect, talk to them as an equal and just be firm.
The dogs have 3.5 acres to run on and keep away unwanted predators (I don't have livestock, just other pets). I can go out at night and feel safe, and at the very least they may deter human intrusion by their very presence. And they do not bark incessantly, like other LGDs. Good choice you made and thanks for sharing :).
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on April 03, 2015:
Thank you very much. That quote from Mr. Spock made my day :-)
eamon on April 03, 2015:
An interesting and warm hub about a fine and beautiful relationship between a man and his faithful dog......k9 is a magnificent animal and loyal friend...hope you have many more adventures together... and as the guy with the pointy ears would say....live long and prosper.......
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on April 17, 2014:
A big congratulations is in order here. I hope you have an enjoyable company for many years.
K2 has turned out to be exactly what I wanted to be keeping my lifestyle in mind. Btw, I now realize I should have gotten two puppies. They were available, but I got a bit intimidated by the sizes they can grow into.
Thanks for visiting my article and leaving a great comment.
Liana on April 17, 2014:
Finally found someone who actually have a Kuvasz!! People talk so much about it...but no one actually have it. That bothers me sooo much!! People say it's aggressive it's this or that just by hearsay or just because of one dog someone met... I just got 2 of them, they'll arrive by August and I'm soooo anxious!! Can't wait to have my puppies hehehe Your article confirmed how I must've made the right choice =)
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on July 24, 2013:
My wife and I call Chihuahuas as tigers in dog clothing. They are fierce protectors of their humans and homes. We have a few in our neighbourhood and none of them is friendly towards K2. Just be careful for they may attack a bear LOL.
Thank you for liking my article on Kuvasz dog breed.
moonlake from America on July 23, 2013:
I love your dog he is so pretty.
We just adopted a little Chihuahua. He is very funny because he is very fierce. I took him for a walk on our property today and of course he can smell the wild animals that are around. He started kicking his back legs and growling and acting like he was going to attack something even if it was big. He couldn’t attack anything because I had him on a leash.
I would love a dog like yours but we have decided we are going to small dogs now.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on June 02, 2013:
Thanks Alicia fir visiting my hub while I was hiking with K2 in a conservation work.
They are a slow learning breed when kept as pets and companions, because I think they are hard wired for protecting livestock. K2 has just been a fine companion, always eager to go to long distance hikes. Summer however, is his rest time lol.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 01, 2013:
Thank you for a very enjoyable and informative hub, Suhail. K2 is a beautiful dog. I've never heard of his breed before. I loved learning about K2 and Kuvaszok!
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on November 30, 2012:
Thank you and a gentle giant he is, except when guarding his home territory hahaha. These days, he has been hiking with us all over the Greater Toronto Area.
Michelle Liew from Singapore on November 29, 2012:
Awesome!! He is a beauty, Suhail and I'd like to see more of him!! And looks very much like a gentle giant too. Thanks for sharing!!
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on October 23, 2012:
Thanks for the comments.
Kuvaszok are a healthy breed of working dogs. Their average life span is 14 years.
Their coat is self-cleaning, but burrs give me nightmares.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 13, 2012:
Like others have already written, this is a breed of dog of which I was unfamiliar. Your K2 is a beautiful pet! Amazing to think that you never have to give a Kuvasz a bath because their coats are self cleaning! I would imagine that their average lifespan is similar to other larger breeds. Thanks for telling us about K2 and showing us your photos and the video. As an animal lover I enjoyed reading this.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on August 24, 2012:
Thank you dahoglund.
I wanted to describe this dog breed, as well as livestock guardian dogs generally, through my personal experience with them.
Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on August 24, 2012:
This is a breed I never heard of. You did a great job of describing your experience with your dog. voted up and interesting.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on July 20, 2012:
Thanks CyberShelley for leaving encouraging comments on my hub,
Shelley Watson on July 19, 2012:
Suhail and my dog. You have enlightened quite a number of people here about the Kuvaszok including me. What a magnificent dog, thank you. up, interesting and useful!
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on July 11, 2012:
This is a wonderful hub! I have never heard of this breed, but it sounds like a very good cold weather guard dog. You have included such great information. Voted up and interesting!
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on June 28, 2012:
Thank you, dahoglund, for liking my hub.
Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on June 27, 2012:
This is a breed I had not been familiar with. You have written an informative hub about your dog as well as the breed. Dogs bred for cold weather are often influenced by the group of people that created the breed and their particular needs. voted and shared
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on May 20, 2012:
Thank you for commenting. K2 is on Orijen large breed puppy food, mixed with some Orijen 6 pack fish. Kuvaszok are considered large breed but are smaller than Saint Bernard in both size (Kuvaszok's 28 - 29 inches max versus SBs' 27.5 inches to up to 35 inches at their withers) and weight (Kuvaszok's max of 120 Lbs versus SBs' 120 to over 200 lbs). But Kuvaszok are lithe and agile, capable of great speeds.
I have routinely seen Leonburgers and my K2 is their height but considerably light set.
wetnosedogs from Alabama on May 19, 2012:
Awesome. I have never heard of this breed. K2 must have a healthy appetite. Is K2 as big as a St. Bernard? K2 sure looks huge in that one picture. I love big dogs.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on May 08, 2012:
I considered Kuvasz a cold weather breed. K2 is already panting and asking for more and more water during mid-distance hikes in spring.
Elizabeth on May 07, 2012:
I enjoyed reading about K2. I've owned Kuvasz for a decade now. I don't often get to read about Kuvasz in cold climates; I live in the extreme southeast U.S.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on May 02, 2012:
On all accounts, sure thing :-)
Suelynn from Manitoba, Canada on May 02, 2012:
Hi Suhail - give K2 a big scritchy from me! I am rather curious about Manitoba and would LOVE to go and see polar bears on Tundra Buggies (thank you for the intro. had not heard of those!)
I hope that K2 finds a comfortable solution to the heat. The Pyrs in South Africa did have an air-conditioned room they could retreat to. I think it was a necessity.
I so appreciate your fan mail - thank you so much. I look forward to staying in touch.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on May 01, 2012:
Thank you for the comments and welcome to Manitoba, Canada. Admittedly, Manitoba is not a province an average immigrant to Canada would opt to setlle :-) On the other hand, you may find it easier to visit Churchill and observe polar bears on Tundra Buggies, an activity high on my wish list :-)
I can already tell you that my K2 (and therefore Kuvaszok) will struggle in extreme summers of southern Ontario. I saw him last summer when he used to hyperventillate and he is already showing signs of discomfort at decreasing temperatures. It really does get very humid and warm here. So probably the Pyrs back in South Africa also suffered a bit.
Once again, thank you for reading my hub, leaving an encouraging comment and welcome to Canada. Please stay in touch.
Suelynn from Manitoba, Canada on May 01, 2012:
Suhail and K2: I am a newcomer to HubPages and I so enjoyed reading about you and your dog! I am an animal lover and knew many dog breeds but had never heard of the Kuvasz, Italian Maremmas, Polish Tatra Shepherd Dogs, Turkish Akbash, Slovak Cuvac breeds. I have never been to Europe, much as I am pining to see that part of the world. I see that you live in Canada and I have never been there either, but as I have accepted a job position in the province of Manitoba, I expect to be there in a couple of months! Back home (South Africa), a nearby neighbor did have two Pyrenean Mountain Dogs which always fascinated me. As Johannesburg weather does not get nearly as cold or snowing as Ontario, I wondered how comfortable those dogs were in the much warmer climate. I am more familiar with German Shepherds as friends of mine used to breed and work those dogs. A dog is a faithful companion and protector. I am indebted to the animal world - I feel they are a gift to humankind. I look forward to reading more of your writing. Love the video and photos! Voted up and awesome!
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on April 18, 2012:
Thank you xstatic for your encouraging comments on my writing and on my dog. That is what I do - go hiking with my dog, read, listen to music and read hubs lol.
A writer once advised me that my writing style resembled Rudyard Kipling's. Now I am sure he was exagerrating just to lift my spirit, I considered it a great honour. I am reading Kipling since my childhood. Hence, my quoting him on your hub.
Jim Higgins from Eugene, Oregon on April 18, 2012:
Great Hub about a breed I never heard of. Our 15 lb. Papillion is fun, and alerts us to strangers, but would not be much of a threat to anyone. I enjoyed the film clip as well. Good writing and beautiful dog.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on April 17, 2012:
Thank you, Suzie, for liking the hub and my dog and for becoming a fan. I visited your profile page couple of days ago and found that many of those were to my taste. I will be all over them shortly :-)
suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on April 15, 2012:
Beautiful dog - great Hub - I'm a fan.
Fuzail on April 01, 2012:
The Dobermann we had as a pet tells me there is at least one breed of dogs that challenges the owner's leadership. Isn't that almost true?
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on March 09, 2012:
They don't question your leadership role ever :-)
seoendra from India on March 08, 2012:
The dogs are real friends you know.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on March 08, 2012:
They certainly are uncommon as companion dogs. People of Hungarian origin usually recognize them and give you lot of respect if you have a them :-)
Adrienne Farricelli on March 08, 2012:
I do not see many of these dogs, but had the pleasure to help an owner train a Kuvasz last fall, beautiful dogs!
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on February 25, 2012:
Thank you for registering. Next time we meet, we will discuss about all less known shepherd dogs :-)
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent (author) from Mississauga, ON on February 25, 2012:
Thank you very much indeed for liking my hub on this dog breed and voting it up. Reportedly and also in my opinion, Kuvaszok fare better in cold weather than in warm. They are popular in Hungary. In the USA and Canada, they are almost always kept for flock guardian duty.
Ammar Zubaid from Waterloo, Canada on February 24, 2012:
Your description has increased my interest in shepherd dogs particularly Kuvasz. I am interested to know, what type of clownish activities does he pursue
Mary Craig from New York on February 24, 2012:
I'm in love with this dog I never heard of! He sounds like a great breed and a great pet, and of course a great dog. I really enjoyed reading about him and your pictures are terrific. He is a good looking dog. I would imagine he is more common in colder climates? Voted up and interesting. Thanks for SHARING.