Karakachan Dog Breed Facts and Information

The Karakachan is a livestock guardian dog that requires a great deal of physical and mental stimulation. However, let’s go more in-depth!

The Karakachan dog is an ancient breed that’s mostly found in Bulgaria and the USA. Historically, they were used to protect livestock, but today, they can also be seen as pets inside people’s homes. They’re strong, powerful dogs that require a balanced diet consisting of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

This article contains extensive details about the Karakachan. I will talk about their history and their origin. I will discuss their appearance and what it’s like to train them. You’ll also get to learn about their personality traits and other qualities that set them apart from other breeds of dogs. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be in love with the Karakachan just as much as I am!

The Origin of the Karakachan

The Karakachan’s exact origin is unclear, but what we do know is that they are native to Bulgaria, which is why they’re also called the Bulgarian Shepherd. They’re one of the most ancient dog breeds in Europe, with their ancestors dating back to the third millennium BC.

It is believed that they belong to a group of dogs that were owned by the Indo-European people Thracians. Still, there’s not enough evidence available to support this claim.

Etymology and Purpose in the Past

They are named after the shepherding people known as the Karakachani. These people are more commonly known as Sarakatsani, and they are native to Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Northern Macedonia. The Karakachan sheep and Karakachan horse are also named after these people.

Historically, the Karakachan dog roamed the local mountains of Bulgaria and made sure the livestock was kept safe from threats like wolves and bears, which is why they’re renowned for their courage and bravery.

They were used as patrol dogs along the Bulgarian border, and they make excellent watchdogs in people’s homes. These dogs were also used by the Bulgarian Army during World War 2, so if you’re planning to wage war soon, you should definitely consider getting the Karakachan.

On a more serious note, if you live outside of the US and Bulgaria, you’d be hard-pressed to find them.

Do They Make a Good Pet?

The Karakachan is known for being loyal and territorial, making it its duty to protect the flock in times of danger. They have a tendency to become aggressive if someone tries to remove an animal from the herd.

You might think that their aggressive and territorial qualities would make it difficult for people to keep them as pets without a fight breaking out every single day. Still, in Bulgaria, most people are aware of these traits, which is why they don’t disturb the flocks. Moreover, the Karakachan dog usually doesn’t show signs of aggressiveness when it is around people it’s familiar with. However, it might not take very kindly to strangers.

The Karakachan is a rare breed, and 50 years ago, they were mostly found in Bulgaria and its surrounding regions, but today, they can also be seen in the USA. While they’re primarily used to guard livestock, they also make for a wonderful companion if you just want to keep them as a pet. Still, you have to make sure you start training and socializing them from a young age.

They Almost Went Extinct

Yes, you read that right. In the late 50s, the Bulgarian government nationalized private livestock, which resulted in a great number of Karakachan dogs being let go from their flocks. Feeling useless and purposeless, these dogs walked around the mountains of Bulgaria without having anything to do.

An extermination campaign was launched against them. In the 90s, because their population was declining, shepherds started crossbreeding them with other mixed-breed dogs. Thanks to breeders and dog enthusiasts, there has been an increase in the numbers of the Karakachan, and many of them have found purpose in their lives again.

The Appearance of the Karakachan Dog

The Karakachan is a large dog with males being as tall as 75cm. The female Karakachan can be anywhere between 60 and 69cm. Males tend to weigh more, between 45 and 57kg, while females weigh between 40 and 52kg.

They are Molosser-type dogs that have small brown or hazel colored eyes. Their ears are also small and floppy that hang on the side of their heads. Their bodies are strong and thick, having backs that are broader than a typical bodybuilder’s and a chest that’s as strong as steel. I might be exaggerating here a little, but the bottom line is this: the Karakachan is big and powerful. That’s why they’re one of the best livestock guardian dogs (LGD).

Their tails are usually short and curled, but there are some Karakachan dogs that have long plumed tails. Some of these dogs come with shorthaired and some with longhaired coat, but they all have a thick undercoat. Their undercoat keeps them safe from extreme temperatures. The color of the coat can vary, but it’s usually white with black spots or black with white spots.

Considering how large and powerful they are, you might think that they’re not the perfect cuddling buddy, but hey, when has anything ever stopped a dog lover from snuggling up to their pooch? Plus, their thick coat makes cuddling with them irresistible, especially during winter!

Grooming the Karakachan Dog

Taking care of the Karakachan can be a bit exhausting because of their sheer size. To make sure they don’t get any debris or dirt stuck in their coat, you have to brush them multiple times a week. During summer, when they shed their hair, they require brushing almost every day so they can get rid of all the extra fur.

The good thing about having a Karakachan dog is that you won’t have to give them a bath as frequently. Giving them a bath on a regular basis would remove the natural, protective oils from their fur. This is a relief because I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to bathe a dog as large as the Karakachan every single day, and I’m sure you can’t, either.

You have to clean their ears regularly as dogs with floppy ears are susceptible to developing ear infections, but we’ll talk about this in more detail later. You also have to get their nails clipped from a professional, so you don’t end up damaging them. To prevent tooth decay and other dental problems, take your dog to a vet for an oral exam at least once a year.

When and What to Feed the Karakachan Dogs

When they’re aged between 8 and 12 weeks, they require four meals a day, and when they reach the age between 3 and 6 months, you can cut down their meals from four to three a day and then to two when they get older than six months.

When they reach the age of 1 year, you can start feeding them once a day. Some dogs have different eating habits and may require two smaller meals in a day.

As for what you should feed them, the Karakachan dog needs a balanced amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats so they can remain the strong and powerful livestock guardian dog that they are. You can mix their food with broth, water, or canned food, and they also like fruits, vegetables, cottage cheese, and cooked eggs. These add-ons should only make up 10% of their meals.

It’s very easy for the Karakachan to become obese; that’s why it’s important to keep an eye on their diet, so you don’t end up overfeeding them. It’s always best to talk to your vet about this so you can get more specific information about your dog’s eating habits.

Here are some things that you should never give your Karakachan dog:

  • Alcohol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions and garlic
  • Salty food
  • Tomato leaves and unripe fruits
  • Dough
  • Spoiled food

What’s It Like to Train a Karakachan Dog?

It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. They’re intelligent, yes, but the Karakachan dogs didn’t work closely with humans in the past, and they were mostly used to protect livestock, which means getting them to do what you want them to do is going to be a little challenging.

Positive Reinforcement Is the Way to Go

The problem with training the Karakachan is that they have always been independent dogs who aren’t used to being told what to do. They’re free creatures that require an experienced trainer who can train them with confidence. Positive reinforcement is the best way to teach them. If they refuse to listen to you and you yell at them, training them is only going to become harder.

One of the most important commands you can teach them is “no” because the Karakachan is essentially a livestock guardian dog. They’re going to be on alert if you have a lot of visitors or other animals.

You should begin training and socializing them from a very early age as that will help them develop a more amiable personality. Put a leash on them when they reach the age of 15 weeks so you can quickly pull them away from an undesirable place or situation.

How Easy Is it for Karakachan Dogs to Get Along With Humans?

Not as easy as it is for them to get along with other animals because that’s what they’re used to – protecting other animals. If you have other animals like goats and sheep, you’ll never have to worry about constantly checking on them to see if they’re doing okay. If anything goes wrong, your Karakachan will alert you with their barks or guttural growls. The Karakachan is incredibly affectionate towards other animals.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t let them be around other people. If a stranger enters your house, your dog will bark at them, but they’re friendly towards people they’re used to being around.

Traits of the Karakachan Dog

As mentioned above, the Karakachan is a livestock guardian dog, which means they’re territorial, and their main purpose is to protect livestock. They’re friendly towards other animals, but don’t expect them to behave in the same affable manner around humans, especially ones they’ve never met before.

They might even end up biting strangers if they perceive them as a threat, so if you want to keep them as a pet, it’s probably a good idea to always keep them on a leash when you have visitors at home.

Due to their territorial nature, they make excellent guard dogs. They’re loyal to their owners, and they will do whatever they can to protect their house. If you have other pets in your home, the Karakachan might try to display dominant behavior since it’s pretty much in its genes to protect other animals around it, so make sure you socialize them properly with other pets in the house.

Can You Keep Them in a Small Apartment?

The Karakachan is the happiest in open areas where they can move around freely. Living in small apartments can be difficult for them since they thrive in rural areas. In a small apartment, they might not be able to fulfill their exercising demands, and they’ll get bored easily.

What Are Their Exercising Demands?

They’re highly energetic, and they need a lot of physical activity in order to burn calories and stay physically fit and healthy. If they don’t have anything to do, they can get bored, which can lead to aggressive behavior. These dogs require much more than just a daily walk around the neighborhood and 15 minutes of fetch in the backyard.

If they’re not protecting the flock and are being raised as pets, you should keep them busy with other strenuous activities. Here are some fun activities that you can do with your Karakachan dog:

  • Tetherball – This game is a favorite of dogs that are active. You can easily set it up in your backyard. All you need is a pole, a rope, and a ball. Just make sure that the rope doesn’t break while the dog is playing with the ball.
  • Puzzle toys – The goal of puzzle toys is to figure out the contraption so that the dog can get the treat that’s inside it. Puzzle toys are a great way of keeping dogs from getting bored and anxious. As fun as this activity can be for Karakachan dogs, don’t give them multiple puzzles at the same time as that can be overwhelming for them, and keep adding new treats, so they don’t get bored.
  • Running – If you have a lot of empty space in your yard, use that to run with your dog! If the only activity you do with your dog is walking, then that means they’re not getting adequate mental or physical stimulation, and they might end up gaining weight. Running is an excellent alternative for Karakachan dogs.
  • Soccer – This one is very simple, but it’ll keep your Karakachan dog busy and happy! The only thing you need to get started is a ball that will not be easily punctured by your dog. Show them what to do with the ball, and they’ll start following your lead.

You should take your Karakachan dog to the vet on a regular basis and get a heartworm blood test every year to make sure they’re safe and healthy. You also have to keep in mind that they are not hypoallergenic. Here are some other things you need to be aware of if you’re planning on getting a Karakachan.

Dental Health

Halitosis or bad breath could indicate that the dog might have plaque on their teeth. Plaque should only be removed by a professional, so you should take your dog to the dentist at the first sign of halitosis.

Once their teeth have been cleaned, you would have to feed your dog a special diet to improve their dental health. Your vet will also let you know other methods you can use to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.

The Karakachan is susceptible to periodontal disease, an infection between the gums and the teeth. This infection can damage the teeth and even spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Make sure you brush your dog’s teeth with dog toothpaste and a soft toothbrush twice a week.

Foul breath can also be a sign of liver or intestinal diseases, and if the dog has a sweet smell, it usually means that they have diabetes. If you notice signs of depression, weight loss, excessive urinating in your dog, and they have halitosis, you should immediately take them to the vet.

Heartworms, Fleas, and Tapeworms

Karakachan dogs are also susceptible to heartworms. Heartworms are carried through mosquitoes, and they can prove to be fatal if they go untreated. You should take your dog to the vet for a heartworm blood test at least once a year.

You should give your Karakachan dog heartworm medication once a month. However, you should talk to your vet about any medication you give to your dog first. Don’t let your dog come anywhere near medications your vet hasn’t prescribed. During the summer, use a flea comb to get rid of fleas and ticks.

Karakachan dogs can become infected with roundworms through an already infected dog’s stool. To get rid of roundworms, it’s important to get a diagnosis as early as possible so that they can be removed without any complication.


Bloat is common in deep-chested dogs like the Karakachan. It can cause the dog to become restless and start salivating, and the abdominal region will become swollen and tight. In more serious cases, bloat can cause a great amount of pain in dogs and can even kill them in just a few hours.

If you notice your dog experiencing signs of bloating, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Orthopedic Problems

Large dog breeds are at a risk of developing orthopedic problems like elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, etc. These are usually genetic, so breeding parents should be screened before they give birth to make sure that they don’t pass their defective genes to their offsprings.

Ear Infections

Dogs that have floppy ears can easily trap moisture in them, which can lead to ear infections. The best way to avoid them is to clean the ears regularly. Make sure no water remains in the ears after you give them a bath.

Don’t clean the ears yourself with Q-Tip swabs, as they can damage the eardrums. If you notice your dog pawing at the ears and they’re in pain, then take them to the vet immediately.

Final Thoughts

The Karakachan is a rare and ancient dog breed that’s mostly found in Bulgaria and the USA. They are named after the Karakachani people, native to Bulgaria and other surrounding regions. In the past, they were used to protect livestock from threats such as bears and wolves, but today, they are also kept as pets.

The Karakachan is a large and powerful dog that requires a lot of exercise and physical activities. You probably shouldn’t keep them in a small apartment because they tend to get bored quickly if they don’t have anything to do. Keep them on a leash if you have visitors as they’re not friendly towards people they don’t know.

Since they’re a large dog breed, they can develop orthopedic problems. They can also get ear infections because of their floppy ears that trap moisture. Pay a visit to the vet at least once or twice a year to make sure your dog’s health isn’t deteriorating. In my opinion, you should only get the Karakachan if you have livestock that needs protection because that’s what they’ve done for the past hundreds of years. However, if you believe you can give them the attention and physical and mental stimulation they require, you should definitely get one, even if you don’t have other animals that need protection!