The Republic of Croatia is one of the Balkan States, but it is the only one that has its own indigenous sheepdog that is actively herding sheep today. The bulk of Croatia lies inland from the Adriatic Sea surrounded by Slovenia to the west, Hungary to the north, Serbia to the east, and Bosnia to the south. But the southwestern portion of Croatia runs along the Adriatic Sea. It also occupies the bulk of the Istrian Peninsula of which Slovenia and Italy own smaller portions in the north. Istria used to be a kingdom in its own right in antiquity, and is part of the very complicated history of Croatia itself and indeed, the entire Balkan area. Croatia gets its name from a group of Slavic nomadic tribes from the Eurasian Steppe, the Croats, who settled in the area in the early 7th century.

Agriculture only accounts for about 5% of Croatia's GDP, which includes the fishing industry and the production of wine and, as can be imagined with so much access to the Adriatic, the service industry (tourism) accounts for 66% of the GDP. However, there are 600,000 sheep in Croatia. Sixty percent are indigenous breeds. Many are raised on islands in the Adriatic. Croatia has over a thousand islands and islets, only 48 of which are regularly inhabited.

Croatian Sheepdog or Hrvatski Ovčar

Above, Alen Marekovic's Croatian Sheepdog "Cita".
(All of the photos in this article courtesy of Alen Marekovic.)

The Croatian Sheepdog was known as far back as the 1374 when it was mentioned in a document by Petar, Bishop of Đakovo, who said that the dog was brought by the Croats in the 7th century. He wrote "the dog is about 18 inches high with medium long black curly coat, the hair on the head is short, ears are pricked or semi-pricked and it is very good for keeping flocks of all farm animals." This description of the breed has not changed to this day.

Above, three Croatians Sheepdogs moving cattle (look closely--the herdsman is behind the cattle).

CroAlen3.jpgLeft, another of Alen Marekovic's Croation Sheepdogs.

According to Alen Marekovic, who breeds both Border Collies and Croatian Sheepdogs in Croatia, in an article written for Working Sheepdog News in 2000:

[The breed] "has been continually bred in Croatia, mostly in the fertile [Pannonian] plains of Slavonia [in the north]...A systematic...breeding programme was started...in 1935...by...veterinarian Dr. Stjepan Romac...[who is considered the]...'father of the breed'....After 34 years of work, [the] breed was finally recognized by [the] FCI in 1969.

"The Croatian Sheepdog...is master of its sheep, often running on their back in order to come as quickly as possible to the place needed for control. The breed also possesses an hereditary predisposition for working cattle. It is fearless in its approach...[while] obeying every order of the herdsman....

"It is both [a] driving and gathering dog...Its approach to the flock may be closer and harder than some other breeds, but it is very effective. It may grip but seldom causes any damage thereby....

"The breed is very intense and may bark a lot during the early stages of training, but with experience, it will usually only bark at the right time--mostly when working in [the] yards....Croatian Sheepdog[s] are mostly used to turn the stock in the required direction or to run stock out of a crop field, but they will also bring runaways and help in [the] yards with shedding and penning...

"Nowadays, [fewer and fewer] Croatian Sheepdogs earn their keep by working with stock in [their] native Slovonia, because many open plains are being replaced with crops and stock is [kept] in the barns. The future is not so bad, however, as the breed is settling into other parts of Croatia."

Below, a Croatian Sheepdog marshaling some cattle along a lane.

Special thanks to Alen Marekovic

Copyright © 2014 by Carole L. Presberg


Marekovic, Alen. "The Croatian Sheepdog", Working Sheepdog News, 2000.

Wikipedia. "Croatian Sheepdog" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatian_Sheepdog).

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Last modified: January 10, 2014