Different environments and needs determine which type of dog a region develops. In Hungary, there are three different types of dog breeds – livestock protectors, herding dogs, and hunting hounds.
HUNGARIAN DOG BREEDS – HERDING DOGS
The Puli is a small, herding dog with a long, corded coat. They have been described as a “mop on springs” due to their high energy level. This breed will need a lot of exercise, and will do best in a very active home.
Weighing no more than 35 pounds, the Puli looks to be much larger due to its weatherproof double coat. Lack of size doesn’t make it any less effective as a sheep herder – they’ve been known to jump on a sheep’s back to turn the flock.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1936, the most popular dog breeds rank Pulis at 160 out of 197 registered breeds. Due to their high grooming needs, and near constant need for activity, they are a difficult breed for new dog owners.
Although the Puli can trace his lineage back to ancient Iraq, the foundation of today’s Puli breed lies in Hungary. Bred to herd sheep, they were often used in conjunction with another of Hungary’s native breeds, the Komondor. The Puli herded, the Komondor protected the sheep from predators.
The long, corded coat protected the animals from the harsh Hungarian winters. Pulis were purposefully bred to be black so as to be able to quickly distinguish them from the sheep.
In more modern times, the need for sheep dogs was on the wane. Because of this, the Puli was often interbred with other dogs, and the breed almost died out. In 1912, however, a professor of Veterinary Medicine made it his mission to save the Puli from extinction. With the help of the director of the Budapest Zoo, they were successful in saving the breed. Nowadays, almost all Pulis are descended from the original dogs used in this effort.
The Puli is nothing if not a herding dog. She will herd sheep, or, in their absence, other dogs, children, and even you, if you let her. She’ll need some firm boundaries where this is concerned. Daily exercise is imperative with this breed.
They love to bark and will warn you of approaching strangers. Since they are great family dogs, but suspicious of other humans, they’re fantastic watchdogs.
Intelligent, agile, and a bit stubborn, Pulis thrive in an active environment. They’ll enjoy training as a challenge. Pulis should never be left without something to occupy their time – toys with hidden compartments for treats are a great idea for these guys.
Although generally healthy, Pulis, like all purebred dogs, are prone to certain genetic problems. The most serious of these include:
- Hip Dysplasia – An inherited condition which can lead to lameness in one or both hind legs. Many dogs who suffer from this condition will go on to develop arthritis as they age.
- Degenerative Myelopathy – This tends to show up in dogs from the age of 7 onward. It is a progressive disease which has no known cure.
- Eye Disorders – From cataracts to deterioration of the retina, Pulis are pre-disposed to diseases of the eye. If your Puli is not herding animals, he should be able to adjust to a gradual loss of vision without too much difficulty.
Pulis are a relatively uncommon breed, and I was unable to find any rescues devoted to the Puli. If you want to adopt, and are not looking for a puppy, breeders may sometimes have a dog of theirs returned and will place her up for adoption. (Yes, an ethical breeder will ALWAYS take back an animal that they have sold).
This fuzzy looking goofball is a sheep dog, known for its herding ability as well as its intelligence. Like many of the other herding breeds, it needs a job to keep it out of trouble. Lots of playtime or agility training is a must for this breed.
Pumis are considered a hypo-allergenic breed. Combing once every month or so should suffice for their grooming needs.
Late to the game, the Pumi was finally recognized by the AKC in 2016. Fairly rare, these dogs rank 151st out of 197 breeds in popularity in the United States.
The Pumi are referred to in history in the 17th and 18th centuries, and seem to be a product of interbreeding among the Puli, the Spitz, and the Briard. Considered part herding dog, and part terrier, they have become the most popular herding dog in Finland.
Having a Pumi is like having an inquisitive, hyperactive, intelligent toddler. They are easy to train, but can get into all kinds of mischief if not adequately exercised and challenged. A herding dog, care must be taken that they don’t automatically herd the family children, and often, the adults as well.
They’re naturally vocal, so may not make a great pet for those who live in close proximity to their neighbors. Pumis (Pumik) are usually good with other animals and children and can make great family pets in households that have the time and energy for them. Please don’t try these active little dogs in an apartment – they need to run.
Like many purebreds, Pumi are prone to hip dysplasia and patella luxation (knee issues). They live to between 12 and 14 years, and are generally a healthy breed.
Because they are so rare, it is close to impossible to find a member of this breed to rescue. If you’ve decided this is the breed for you, try contacting the Hungarian Pumi Club of America, which occasionally has a dog or two for rescue.
This spirited breed is all but unknown outside of Hungary. A herding dog, there are estimated to be only a few thousand of these dogs in existence.
To be fully recognized by the AKC for the 2022 season, the Mudi is thought to be a mix of the Pumi, the Puli, and the Spitz. No popularity score for this breed is available.
The Mudi goes back to at least the 19th century although not much is known about its actual history. Mudis are used as tracking dogs, rescue dogs, agility champions, and herding sheep. The breed is particularly popular for sheep herding, not only in Hungary, but also in Sweden and Finland.
Described as having a pleasant personality, the Mudik (plural) are highly intelligent and can learn as much as a Border Collie. Loving and gentle with the family, they do well with children and other pets. Like many of the herding dogs, Mudik can be barkers, but they’re easy to train out of this behavior. Give a Mudi a job, if you don’t want it to choose a job for itself!
The Mudi is well-suited for agility or obedience training, and maybe competition. These would provide the mental stimulation that this breed needs to be happy. They love any sort of play – anything to keep body and mind occupied!
Likely due to the fact that these guys aren’t particularly popular, they are an overall healthy breed. They can suffer from hip dysplasia, and have occasional eye issues, but for the most part, you don’t need to worry excessively about the health of your Mudi.
These pups are on the small side, weighing no more than 29 pounds. Their average life span is 12 to 13 years.
An extremely rare breed, it is unusual to have one come into rescue. If you have your heart set on one of these sweethearts, check with the Mudi Club of America which sometimes has dogs available for rehoming.
HUNGARIAN DOG BREEDS – GUARDIAN DOGS
The Komondor is, in appearance at least, the cousin of the Puli, but about twice the size and weight. They have the corded, double coat like the Puli, but, unlike the Puli a purebred Komondor is white.
They weigh in at about 80 pounds, and function as a livestock guardian rather than a herding dog. Pulis and Komondors complement each other, both in function and looks.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937, a year after the Puli, they are fairly rare with a popularity of 173 out of the 197 breeds. Still, a sheep rancher would find that the Komondor gives wonderful protection to livestock.
With predecessors from Russia, the Komondor is regarded as a definitive Hungarian breed. Some even say that they are responsible for the extinction of the wolf in Hungary. Because their coats are so similar to the sheep they guard, they are able to easily surprise any predators.
During World War II, the breed was heavily reduced. Thanks to the timely efforts of a few breeders, however, the Komondor was saved.
Komondors can be difficult for the casual dog owner. They’re bred to be guardians and will guard the family, the family cats, as well as any livestock. Therefore, they are very suspicious of strangers. You will need to be very aware of people coming onto your property or into your home, to avoid a nasty incident.
With their people, however, the Komondor is loving, calm and gentle, and you couldn’t ask for a better companion. Noisy, and prone to wandering if not securely fenced, care must be taken to choose the right environment for this breed.
Komondors live to 10 to 12 years old. Because they are large and deep chested, they are prone to a condition called bloat. Bloat is fatal if surgery is not performed immediately. Still, feeding small meals two or three times a day should significantly lessen the chances of bloat.
Other possible issues are hip dysplasia, and, like the Puli, certain eye conditions.
There are a few Komondor rescues around. Because of their distinct temperaments, people may find that the breed is too much for them, or they don’t have the right kind of environment. So, they opt to put them up for adoption. Here are the rescues I have found:
Komondor Club of America. This is a nationwide club which also helps find purebred Komondors new homes if necessary.
Another of the Hungarian guardian dogs, the Kuvasz is similar in appearance to the Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog if you’re in the UK), and the Maremmano from Italy.
The Kuvasz is not petite – as adults, they weigh between 70 and 115 pounds. Since most of this breed is no longer working as livestock guardians, they need to be exercised daily. Left without exercise or a defined job, they may become bored and destructive.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1931, the Kuvasz is relatively rare in the United States. It ranks 163rd out of 197 breeds in popularity.
The Kuvasz can trace its lineage to Turkey and Tibet, but it came into prominence as a definitive breed in Hungary in the Middle Ages.
Like many of the other European breeds, the Kuvasz suffered greatly during World War II with the result that the breed was almost gone by the time the war ended. Dedicated breeders saved this gorgeous dog from extinction.
Like the Komondor, the Kuvasz guards its flock. Doesn’t matter to them whether their “flock” is two-legged, or four-legged, the Kuvasz was bred to protect.
The Kuvasz will be gentle with the family children, but take care when your kids interact with other children. Normal rough-housing may be construed as aggression by your pet with unhappy results. It’s smart to contain your pup when there are children not of your family present.
Not particularly known to be friendly towards other dogs, the Kuvasz will usually get along fine with the family cat and any livestock you may have. Loyal and dependable, they are not lap dogs, and prefer to maintain a somewhat independent mien.
The Kuvasz breed is prone to hip dysplasia like many of the other large breeds. A slobberer, expect copious amounts of drool. The Kuvasz is not a hypo-allergenic breed, and will do best in a cooler climate.
Because the Kuvasz is not a common Hungarian dog breed, there are not many opportunities to adopt one. However, the Kuvasz Fanciers of America will occasionally have a dog or two available for rehoming.
HUNGARIAN DOG BREEDS – HUNTING DOGS
The Vizsla is a sporting dog used as a pointer and retriever in the field. However, they also make great family pets and are perfect companions for people who enjoy outdoor activities.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1960, Vizslas rank 31st out of 197 breeds in popularity in the United States. This makes the breed the most popular of those created in Hungary.
Brought into what is now Hungary by the Magyar people, the ancestors of the Vizsla were bred for speed and stamina. Refined by the Hungarians throughout the centuries, the Vizsla is known as an excellent hunting dog, as well as a friendly and loyal pet. It is also called the Hungarian Pointer.
Long and lean, the Vizsla, unlike the livestock guardian dogs of Hungary, are friendly with strangers, and love to play. They will get along well with other dogs, however you will need to watch them closely for a while around cats and smaller animals, since they are a hunting dog at heart.
These guys are athletic and need plenty of exercise, so they’re a good choice for hikers or joggers, but an active family with children who will play with him will suit just as well.
Affectionate, they’re known as “Velcro dogs”, so expect your Vizsla to be with you from the time you get up in the morning, until the time you go to bed. Easily trainable, you must pay attention to curb excessive barking before it becomes a bad habit.
With their smooth coat, and no undercoat, grooming is simply a matter of an occasional brushing to remove dander and loose hairs. Like many larger dog breeds, they may suffer from hip dysplasia, or thyroid issues. Regular veterinary check-ups should keep any health concerns at bay.
With popularity comes plenty of dogs available for adoption. The following represent just a few of the organizations which help to rehome Vizslas:
Midwest Vizsla Rescue – Covering Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas, they network adoptable dogs as well as adopting out Vizslas directly.
New Hope Vizsla Rescue – Based in Pennsylvania, they serve PA, NJ, DE, and MD.
Because these rescues are limited to just Vizslas, they will not always have one available – keep checking back if you’ve decided this breed is for you.
MAGYAR AGAR (HUNGARIAN GREYHOUND)
Although the Magyar Agar is commonly called the Hungarian Greyhound, they were not originally related to Greyhounds at all. However, in the 1800s, they were interbred with Greyhounds to produce a faster dog. Sighthounds bred for hunting; the Magyar Agar is a relatively rare breed.
Not recognized as a distinct breed by the AKC, they are, however recognized by the UKC (the United Kennel Club – an international registration). Because of this, there is no popularity score for these gorgeous hounds, but they are becoming more popular as family companion dogs.
Although there is no written history of the breed extending that far back, the Agar probably came into Hungary in the 10th century. These dogs have remained the same from the first references in the Middle Ages until the present day. Prized by the nobility, only they were allowed to own the full-sized Magyar Agars. Peasants were restricted to owning a smaller hound.
Magyar Agar’s make affectionate, loyal family pets. Although, like Greyhounds, they love to snuggle on the couch, these dogs need plenty of exercise. They generally don’t enjoy fetching, but will happily run alongside a bicycle, or join you for a daily jog.
Although this breed can co-exist with other family pets, careful introductions must be made with smaller animals. Remember, hounds have a natural prey-drive, and you don’t want your new pet to hunt your cat.
Like the other big dogs in this article, these hounds are subject to hip dysplasia, and gastric torsion. They may also suffer from hypothyroidism, but this is an inexpensive condition to treat. Magyar Agar’s are a healthy breed by and large, and have an average life span of 12 to 14 years.
The only rescue I could locate for this breed is the North American Magyar Agar Association, which occasionally has dogs for adoption.
Not yet fully recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Transylvanian Hound (Kopo) has been accepted into their Foundation Stock Service. This is often the first step to full acceptance.
The favorite hunting dog of the nobility, they were originally used for hunting big game. Buffalo, bears, and wild boars were among their prey. As the countryside evolved towards more farms and less open areas, the hounds became less popular. By the 20th century, the breed was in startling decline and it wasn’t until 1968 that a determined effort was made to preserve the breed.
Kopos are still extremely rare, but populations are becoming more widespread with time.
By all accounts, the Transylvanian Hound make fantastic family pets, great with children and other household dogs. They love their families with complete loyalty, but are a bit suspicious of strangers. Because of this, they make great watchdogs.
Energetic and intelligent, be prepared to give your Transylvanian Hound plenty of exercise and playtime. They’re easy to train and eager to please. Never let your hound off-leash outside of a confined area. They were bred to chase, and will happily take off after a squirrel or other prey animal without a backward glance.
These hounds are healthy and relative long-lived at 10 to 12 years.
I could not locate any rescues for these pups – those families who are lucky enough to own one tend to keep them.
HUNGARIAN DOG BREEDS – A SUMMARY
You’ll notice that none of these breeds were developed as lap dogs – all are working dogs in some fashion or another. From the livestock guardians, to the herding dogs, to the hounds, all were created for a job. As the need for those jobs declined, many were taken into people’s homes as family pets where they have thrived.