'Na Góralsko Nute' would like to thank Ms. Ewa Bukład for the permission to publish her work.

The Tatra sheepdog is a big, strong, impressive shepherd dog with rather long, white, rough to the touch and rather straight fur coat - resistant to climatic conditions. This dog is given special intelligence and instinct, it is watchful but not noisy. It has a rather low stimulation threshold, though in extreme conditions is it fearless. It is distrustful of strangers, but faithful and completely devoted to the master and his family, caring and good for children.

The dog's usefulness can be proven by the examples quoted below: Baca (a senior shepherd in the Tatra mountains) Józef Kusper after his evening comeback from the grazing field to the shelter noticed that his Tatra sheepdog called Harnaś, a faithful helper at sheep grazing, was nowhere around. He found the dog after a long search. Harnaś was pushing with his nose and carefully pulling the neck of a wet, beaten and badly limping lamb, which must have had fallen off the rock. The dog was moving very slowly with the wounded lamb towards the shelter He was so absorbed that he did not even react to his master's calls.

Another dog, Dunaj, a wonderful shepherd and protector of Baca Jan Staszel Furtek Starszy during a grazing of sheep in the Bieszczady mountains, in a thunderstorm and heavy rain saved at least 600 sheep from drowning in an overflowing river. Being respected by the sheep, Dunaj with its aggressive posture and loud barking managed to turn the sheep back from the river, which neither the baca nor the junior shepherds had been able to do. It ended in a tragedy, because the twelve year old Wojtek, the shepherd's son, drowned in the river. In Bieszczady Dunaj survived many storms, and wearing a collar with metal spikes, survived numerous meeting with wolves, only to be poisoned by a bad man when he finally retired.

Many years ago, a Polish scientific expedition to Spitzbergen took a couple of Tatra sheepdogs - Dolina and Szałas - with them. According to Doctor Jaworowski, a member of this expedition, especially the male - Szałas was a fine guide in the impassable snows and ice cracks of the Arctic during the research in the far North. The dog always found the right way. The puppies of this couple born on the Spitzbergen adapted to that environment very well and started eating seals' meat.

Two years ago a couple of Tatra sheepdogs were bought. They were chosen from a herd which had contact with wolves during grazing of sheep in Bieszczady near Dukla. The dogs were sold to work at grazing of sheep in the northern Norway. They especially wanted dogs for protection against wolves. This couple, as Dereziński has been informed, is doing very well, and the female has recently given birth to 11 robust puppies. According to my colleague, Andrzej Woźniakowski, who is an international judge of working tests - Tatra sheepdogs learn fast and willingly, and with a quiet and gentle treatment they can be finely shaped both as a companion dog, a guard dog and a rescue dog. They are very even-tempered, quiet and brave, and with their strong build they can be both guard dogs as well as rescue dogs. However, I would like to add some remarks to the above mentioned virtues, on the basis of my long observation as a judge of this dog breed, numerous talks to breeders and direct experience of a five year period of owning a Tatra sheepdog.

The Tatra sheepdog is a "proud" dog - "a gazda in its own farmyard". It is a little stubborn, hates compulsion shown in shouting or scolding by corporal punishment. It is then literally offended and pretends to be blind and deaf. Dealing with its behaviour requires consistency and determination in enforcing the desired behaviour. It is not gluttonous, ale jest greedy for all praises and rewards. Just like any social animal it needs constant contact with its master and with people. I beg you - do not associate the Tatra sheepdog with a constantly yapping dog, pulling at a short chain at the doghouse. Those are miserable creatures, kept "short" by bad people or, to put it mildly, ignorant people, who are not aware of what they possess. A Tatra sheepdog raised at house, in a garden, on a farm or on a grazing field with sheep, but always in the contact with people, is an invaluable companion and friend and may play many important, useful roles, for which it is undoubtedly predisposed.
Moving on to the anatomy of the Tatra sheepdog, we should bear in mind the dog's functional qualities and interpret the breed norm from that angle, without violating the norm's requirements.

It is a harmoniously built dog, big but not overgrown. Exceeding the height limit by ca. 5 % is not a fault, provided that the overall proportions remain the same, the skeleton would follow the height. It should not be a high-legged dog with light bones. The compact build is important.

The head cannot resemble the head of Saint Bernard dog, with its too large stop and the protruding braincase, or the Caucasian shepherd dog's bear-shaped head. Its shape is completely different. The close adherence of lips to the lower jaw is rather rarely seen. The pigmentation of eyelids and eyes is also important. Lightening of the pigment is strongly hereditary. It has however nothing to do with the seasonal (especially during winter) lightening of the colour of the nose to light brown, which is natural for this dog breed in the lack of sunlight. The malocclusion is also met and whereas the alternating occlusion is definitely not a value, today it is tolerated, though anterior crossbite and posterior crossbite are disqualifying faults, just like a serious lack of some teeth. By the serious lack of teeth one should mean a congenital lack of incisors , the lack of two or more premolars, and even the lack of one premolar P-4. Examinations of eyes of Tatra sheepdogs done recently especially in the light of commonly present conjunctivitis and brown leakage from eye corners, have proven that some breeding lines pass on the susceptibility for the ectropium that is the turning out the lower eyelid and for eye diseases. The exclusion of some getters from the breeding on the Club's recommendation, helped to eliminate this fault.

A slight pulling back of the front edge of ears from the cheeks, which can be sometimes seen, is rather a minor shortcoming, and does not influence the mark.
The medium long neck should not be carried too high ("the deer neck"), but also not too low, which would destroy the proud posture of the Tatra sheepdog. On the total, the neck should be muscular, rather dry, which must be checked by touch because of the rich ruff.

The statement found in the breed norm saying that the body should be long and massive may arouse some misunderstandings when confronted with the statement that the back, should be straight and the loins should be wide and well bounded. We can see a lot of dogs with not well bounded backs, lymphatic, with the sunken top line. When we think that the Tatra sheepdog should be a working dog, a shepherd dog, able to walk large distances in a difficult terrain, we have to assume that the dog's back is compact and muscular. Only this will give us a straight spine line consistent with the breed norm and good functionality. A soft, sunken back is certainly a worse fault than the oversized rump, mentioned in the norm.

The breed norm requires a deep chest, without giving detailed requirements for its width or for the forechest, in contrast to the previous, original version of the norm stating that "the chest should be muscular, wide and deep". With regard to the depth of the ribcage, it is assumed that for its good capacity, which influences the dog's usefulness, it should not be too and should be a good support for the fore legs with well adhering elbows.

With a slightly sloping rump it is normal for the tail to be set not very high, and be carried below the spine line. However the breed norm clearly indicates that the tail may be raised above the spine though not curved, but only when the dog is agitated, and carrying the tail constantly over the back is a fault, in reality this fault is unfortunately very common, not only in Poland. We can also observe a shortening of the tail, which is seen in some Tatra sheepdogs, and is also present e.g. in collie dogs.

The build of fore legs is clearly defined in the breed norm. However, there is no clear definition of the angle at which the shoulder blade is placed in relation to the brachial bone and the forearm bone. In practice though these relations seem to be correct, and the Tatra sheepdog's step meets the requirements.

It is worse with the build of hind legs. The norm's statement that hind legs should be "moderately angled" is neither precise nor correct, I think. Rather, steep angulation is not conducive to the efficiency of the Tatra sheepdog's trot as it limits the advance of hind legs and makes the dog move its hind legs in a stiff manner, which was probably not what the authors of the breed norm meant. Fortunately we have many Tatra sheepdogs with good angulation of hind legs, thus good in motion. The above mentioned fault is clearly seen during the judging of dogs in motion. Judging of this breed, just like many other breeds, only in the standing posture is a serious mistake. Of course, I do not mean here any kind of racing, which many owners of German shepherd dogs dream of, but paying attention to the leg action of the evaluated specimens in their natural position. Talking about judging, I think that one should pay attention to the setting of fore legs and especially hind legs in motion - the cow-like manner of hind legs is, in my opinion, a serious fault.

And finally the question of the fur coat. The breed norm gives detailed requirements for the fur coat. Only in the issue of colour I would like to stress the fact that some Tatra sheepdogs (especially the ones which are bred outdoor) may have at the first sight a little cream colour of hair. The true colour of hair should be examined near the skin, and this is decisive.

In my, out of necessity, non-exhaustive article, I wanted to pay attention to the short historical outline and some physical and psychical characteristics of this beautiful Polish dog breed, unfortunately, there has not been any extensive monograph so far. Doctor Henryk Dereziński tried to compensate for that fact in his very interesting study published in 1997, which is unfortunately very hard to find. The complete monograph written by this wonderful enthusiast of Tatra sheepdogs will be published in the USA, because there are no editors willing to do so in Poland - I wonder why?

Moreover, in the issues of the "Mój Pies" magazine from 1937 and 1938 and "Pies" from 1949-94 you can find some articles which have been the basis of this study to a large extent.

an international judge of the 1st and 2nd FCI classes and working tests
Ewa Bukład  


Polish Tatra
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