The Komondor is a large, rare, and very unique breed. It is easily distinguished by its breath-taking corded coat- which if left to grow could eventually reach the ground in length, this coat is the heaviest coat in the canine world once it has fully developed which can take as long as eight years to do. They were originally bred in Hungary as Livestock Guardians, as a breed who would be able to live and blend in with the native sheep of Hungary - the Racka. The Komondors ancestors are believed to have travelled with the Cuman and Magyar tribes from The East to Hungary in 896ac, which is where they got their name from the Koman-Dog, yet when you translate it becomes Cuman Dog. The Komondor is believed to have similar ancestors to the Russian Ovcharka, despite that they are two entirely different breeds who today share very few similar qualities.
The idea of the corded coat was that it would protect them from the predators such as wolves, coyotes, or even bears while also keeping them warm and secure in Hungary's often harsh weather. The corded coat give them a unique advantage on the predators, where they would be able to hide between the flock, waiting until the predator became close enough to be taken by surprise as the Komondor attacked. The element of surprise topped with the thick, powerful coat which had the dual purpose of protecting the dog from the fangs of others proved them to be very successful in their assigned job.
World War II unfortunately had a huge impact upon this breed, as many were killed by the Germans when they invaded in 1944. Their fierce, no nonsense nature when it came to their flocks and people made it impossible for people to cross through their fields or farms without injury and so the only way to raid the farm was to first kill the dog. Many Komondorok were also left to guard Military bases or equipment in this time which caused further damage to the one time thriving working dog.
Some believe there were as few as twenty to thirty Komondors left in Hungary after the war, most of which were located in the rural farms of Hungary by the breed enthusiasts who worked hard to try and bring the numbers back up. After the war, once the 'Iron Curtain' had been built it made exporting or importing the breed very difficult, despite this a few still managed to make their way to the U.S - who had recognised the breed in 1937- and by the mid 1960's the breed was relatively well established with dedicated breeders breeding them both for their guarding ability and for exhibition.
Many Komondor are still employed for their original purpose of being Lifestock Guardians, particularly in Hungary and the U.S where they are needed most. They are still considered a rare breed where worldwide there is thought to be less than nine thousand of them remaining. Compared to many other breeds this is a relatively small gene pull to work with once the general pets and neutered/spayed dogs have been taken into account, which can prove difficult for breeders to find dogs not related to their own when it comes down to breeding and harder yet if they are breeding specifically for Exhibition, or even for a Working Dog.. Today, many of the show dogs will still contain working dogs even in a five-generation pedigree, and it works much the same way that a working dog could have show dogs in its line.
Due to the Komondors original purpose they are not a breed who are going to listen to just anyone, they are not handler dependent as a result of their centuries of being expected to stay with and guard their flock without the guidance of a Shepherd to tell them what to do. They are a breed who are at their happiest when they have you in sight, but don't expect them to make an effort to please you! Komondors can become challenging, especially in their adolescence stage and they are known to challenge their owners in decisions which would otherwise be easy with another dog, if it has not begun earlier often at this stage the dog will want to be able to patrol the property it counts as its own throughout the night as it sees fit, and being unable to do so could lead to excessive barking or even howling.
Many of the working and showing Komondors are still interbred today in order to keep the lines from inbreeding, however there are a few differences between the two. The following are some points worth noting if you are thinking of adding this breed to your family.
The working dog’s personality is as expected much more full on. Some work line dogs adopted into homes where they are not having the opportunity to express themselves become destructive and unruly adults. Of course, this could happen with a show line one, but it must not be forgotten that genes play a huge part in who a dog will become as an adult. Dogs bred to show tend to have a more aloof personality to allow strange judges to go over them, no matter the case intense socialisation is an absolute must with this breed, with severe consequences if enough is not done to ensure the puppy meets as many other dogs and more importantly people as possible.
The coat can also vary. A dog which has been bred for work will have a thicker coat, with the entire body clumping together to form strong bonds to keep the dog both safe and warm while the harsher outer coat develops. It can take a working bred dog longer to cord for this reason, as often it is found to be more work in splitting the coat into sections then splitting the sections further to try and grow the cords. A Showing coat will not be quite so thick, often causing thinner dreadlocks, but these will be easier to grow out without the stress of splitting the coat in the right places.