Tornjak – what’s that?

When today I find myself in the middle of a human and dog crowd on some of our dog exhibitions, I can’t stop asking myself how everything started:

Tornjak, once far upon a time almost completely an unknown breed, not only to me, entered my life at the same way like all important things and events enter our lives – by accident. One October early morning, so many years ago on my TV set, I suddenly say something beautiful and fluffy. It was also characterized: as very old dog breed and as native Croatian. It was love at first sight. Later through Tv show I discovered that it was Tornjaks …

That’s how it started – after looong (almost whole year) searching we succeed to acquire first one dog, then after some time another one, and another one. Then we had our first litter, then our second litter …But we have to return to the beginning, what is Tornjak?

Some people still (even though significantly less) ask the same question when they see this beautiful dogs. What kind of a dog is that?Tornjaks are large, long haired beautiful dogs in different colors; they are high inteligent and high protective dogs, exceptionally gentle and careful with children. Like almost all other shepherd dogs (LGD) they are devoted to their family (their human pack), distrustful and reserved towards unfamiliar.Where do these nice and smart dogs come from, you’ll ask me? A canon from Đakovo who was the manager of the bishop’s estate in Đakovo, Petar Lukić, wrote in his reports from 1752. about a Croatian mountain dog 4 to 5 palms tall (60 to 75 cm), with different colors that could be black, grey, yellow, brown and red or combined with white. Some even have three colors. The ears hang down and the tail is cover with thick hair. The Tornjak is mainly used for defending livestock, but also people from wild beasts, particularly wolves. This dog is mostly bred in the mountain parts of Croatia, which is the reason why they are sometimes called “Canis montanis”, or mountain dog.Description of this breed are mentioned repetedly since 1067. in records of the Bosnian Catholic Church and in the 1374. in records of the Đakovo bishop Petar.

These descriptions are identical to the above mentioned description, which brings to a conclusion that the breed hasn’t changed in the last one thousand years and that the “Croatian Mountain Dog” is bred in Croatia since the ninth century, even earlier. The name Tornjak came later, because dogs lived close to sheep folds (the word TOR means a sheep fold in the Croatian language). As a consequence of reduced level of extensive sheep breeding throughout Croatia the number of Tornjaks was also reduced. At the beginningof this century the last Tornjaks could only been found in the secluded mountain parts of western Bosnia, some in Lika (Sirac surroundings), and in the Sinj and Knin area.

The breed Tornjak almost extinct. In the 20. century this breed was promoted by prof. dr. Stjepan Romić, dr. Ivan Lovrenčić, mr. Ratomir Orban, prof. Šandor Horvat, fra. Stjepan Petar Krasić and prof. Mario Bauer. It seems like their efforts gave good results, because 20 – 25 years ago hardly anybody knew about this breed and there was less than 100 in both countries (Croatia and Bosnia).Today on all Croatian National (CAC) and IDS (CACIB) exhibitions Tornjaks are the most representative breed (with 40 – 50 registered dogs). In Croatia Register the number of Tornjaks had a long time ago reached the number of 1000, which was one of the conditions that must be met so the breed would be internationaly fully acknowledged and recognized, after 2006. when it was recognized by FCI on provisional base.

Tornjaks are dogs with well-defined working attributes, even dominant they are pleasant for company and remarkably adaptable in new living conditions, including changed climatic conditions (they easily bear low and high temperatures). Besides all this, they look very nice, which resulted in a increased interest at the beginning of the 70’s between dog breeders, while many of them started with systematic breeding in Croatia which is bred in Croatia for centuries.When considering their morphological and exterior characteristics, Tornjaks are one of fifty existing shepherd dog breeds, which originally lived in the mountain areas of Eurasia continent and in the valleys where extensive sheep breeding existed. The main duty for shepherd dogs, including the Tornjak, was to guard flocks and property of cattle breeders from vaerious predators (including the ones with two legs). The use of these dogs expanded to different guarding duties (when the railway was built on the Majevica mountain where they guarded the railway builders) to their present role as a decorative dog and pet, who guards their owners on the way.


"Sentinel the Croat", Louis Gallait, 1854. - Museum Hermitage