The Breed History
The breed traces back perhaps five thousand years, and through much of this time, this dog was a favorite of the ruling class. The breed name derives from the Turkish word kawasz, which translates as "armed guard of nobility", or perhaps Arabic kawwasz, meaning archer. Breed ancestors were larger, and likely came from Tibet. The Komondor is likely related to this breed, and less well documented are possible ties to the Maremma Sheepdog and Akbash dog. Hungarian fanciers were responsible for much of the breed evolution and standardization. AKC recognition occured in 1931.
Breeding for Function
In early times, he was a valued guard dog. Later, once the nobility lost exclusive ownership, they were adapted for herding tasks as guards of the flock or herd. Now they are often kept for companionship.
Height at Withers: female 26-28" (66-71 cm), male 28-30" (71-76.2 cm)
Weight: females 70-90 lb (32-41 kg), males 100-115 lb (45.5-52.5 kg).
Coat: The thick double coat is always white. The outer coat is coarse and straight to wavy, while the undercoat is fine and short. Coat length varies with the season. Skin is darkly pigmented.
Longevity: 8-12 years.
Points of Conformation: Strong build with medium bone, head is elongated, stop is defined, the muzzle is somewhat tapering, lips are pigmented black and fit close. The inside of the mouth is preferred black. The eyes are wide set and almond shaped, colored dark brown and the nictitans should not show. The nose is black and pointed. Ears are triangular with slight rounding at the tips, thick leathered, and folded. The neck is medium in length, well muscled and arched. For topline, the scapulae sit above the back, and the topline is straight until it slopes at the croup. Thorax is deep, while the fore-chest is prominent and ribs are well sprung. The abdomen is well tucked up. The tail reaches the tarsus, limbs are straight and dewclaws are left on in front, but removed behind, nails preferred dark. The feet are compact and round, though the rear feet may be longer. The gait is elastic and smooth, agile, low and long.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
They are noted to be sensitive, devoted, protective, wary with strangers, courageous, intelligent, and possessing a gentle temperament when not guarding. They also go through seasonal shedding, are slow to mature, need early socialization and obedience training if adopted as a family dog with children and other pets, are independent minded, and some are aggressive. These dogs are not best for owners that have not handled dogs before. They also need regular exercise and games, and lots of human contact or they will develop boredom vices. They have average to high grooming needs.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. Reported 10.2x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 18.4% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 6.7% affected.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Autosomal recessive progressive rod cone degeneration (prcd) form. Age of onset between 4-7 years, eventually causing blindness. CERF does not recommend breeding any Kuvaszok with PRA. A genetic test is available, showing a high frequency of carrier and affected dogs in the breed.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 0.8% affected.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 15.1% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 6.20% of Kuvaszok CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 4.65% of Kuvaszok CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Humeral Osteochondritis Dissecans: Polygenically inherited cartilage defect of the humeral head. Causes shoulder joint pain and lameness in young growing dogs. Mild cases can resolve with rest, while more severe cases require surgery. There is a 2.24:1 male to female ratio. 75% of all cases are unilateral. Reported 29.1x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 2.96% in the Kuvasz.
Corneal Dystrophy: The epithelial/stromal and endothelial forms occur in the breed, causing a bilateral, white to gray, non-inflammatory corneal opacity. Identified in 2.83% of Kuvaszok CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding Kuvaszok with corneal dystrophy.
Cataracts: Posterior cortical punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 2.33% of Kuvaszok CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Kuvaszok with a cataract.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD): Puppies generally show swollen, painful ends of long bones and may have a fever as well as loss of appetite. If these puppies are not diagnosed early permanent damage may necessitate euthanasia. Research with Great Danes (the breed showing a relatively high incidence of H.O.D.) shows that a high energy, high protein diet or excess supplementation may predispose puppies to H.O.D. Treatment consists of putting the affected animal onto a high quality but more moderate diet as well as using analgesics to encourage the puppy to eat and stay mobile. The typical age of onset 12-20 weeks. Seen at a low frequency in the breed. (See KCA website)
Deafness: Congenital deafness occurs in the breed. Can be unilateral or bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Affected dogs show an insidious onset of upper motor neuron (UMN) paraparesis at an average age of 11.4 years. The disease eventually progresses to severe tetraparesis with lower motor neuron signs. Affected dogs have normal results on myelography, MRI, and CSF analysis. Necropsy confirms the condition. Unknown mode of inheritance. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available. All affected dogs are homozygous for the gene, however, only a small percentage of homozygous dogs develop DM. The gene is present at a frequency of 22% in the breed.
Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis, Cruciate Ligament Rupture, Dermatomyositis, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, Prognathism, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Degenerative Encephalomyelopathy: Seven Kuvasz puppies from 2 same-parentage litters developed weakness and ataxia. Six necropsied dogs had lesions in caudate nucleus, cerebellar nuclei and folia, and spinal cord. Lesions seen were felt to be either familial or due to the effects of an amprolium-induced thiamine deficiency on the developing brains of these puppies.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for prcd-PRA is available from Optigen. Direct test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available from OFA.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. Optional recommended tests include patella examination, CERF eye examination, congenital cardiac evaluation, and genetic test for prcd PRA.
- Breed name synonyms: Hungarian Kuvasz, Kuvaszok (pl)
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 135 (145 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Kuvasz Club of America: www.kuvasz.com
Kuvasz Club of Canada: www.kuvaszclubofcanada.org
Kuvasz Fanciers of America Inc.: http://hbalaw.com/KFA/index.htm
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