Karakachan

65-100 lbs
24-27"
Bulgaria
Ovcharsko Kuche, Thracian Mollos

You won’t see many Karakachans around, but you’ll certainly know when you’ve seen one — this is an unmistakably enormous breed of dog. Among the many things we’ll tell you in this handy guide to this hefty and handsome doggo are:

  • The main health complaints to look out for are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and bloat
  • Vladimir Putin owns a Karakachan
  • The Karakachan temperament is so independent that it can be a tricky dog to train


Karakachan breed overview

For centuries, the Karakachan dog has been helping European shepherds keep their flocks safe. In recent years the breed — also known as a Thracian Mollos or an Ovcharsko Kuche — has become a fixture in people’s homes. This is a pet that needs a confident owner with a lot of space. If you’re able to offer both those things, you’ll have a lot of fun with a Karakachan in your life.




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purpose Purpose
Livestock Guardian
history Date of Origin
Ancient Times
ancestry Ancestry
Unknown

Karakachan Health

Average Size
Male Karakachan size stats
Height: 25-29 inches Weight: 85-120 lbs
Female Karakachan size stats
Height: 24-27 inches Weight: 65-100 lbs
Major Concerns
  • Usually A Very Healthy Breed
Minor Concerns
  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat
Occasional Diagnoses
  • None Known
Occasional Tests
  • X-rays or other radiographic imaging
  • Blood Panel

Karakachan Breed History

Its alias of ‘Bulgarian Shepherd Dog’ gives away this breed’s origins. That’s right — this dog hails from Bulgaria. Its history isn’t entirely straightforward, though. The Karakachan is multiple centuries old and is believed to have come from herding dogs in central Asia.

We don’t know exactly when the first Karakachan reared its head but it will be long before the 19th century, when it was regularly mentioned in print. The majority of historians think the Karakachan originated in Thracia, an ancient imperial province in the southeast Balkans. It wasn’t until 2004 that the breed came to the US, after the sheep in Bulgaria were relocated to communal farms and the dog was considered superfluous.

Karakachan Breed Appearance

The one thing we can say with absolute certainty about the Karakachan dog breed is that it’s colossal. Standing proudly more than two feet tall, this is a dog that can’t help taking up space. They’re far from the largest dogs in the world but you certainly won’t want to fall out with one: they were made to protect sheep from some of the largest predators around, including wolves and even bears. 

Their eyes are petite and brown in color, while their ears are small and in the shape of V, lying flat as hunting dogs’ often do in order to protect them from being tugged at by anyone they tangle with. Their undercoat is thick and covered by a top coat with fur of a range of lengths.

Eye Color Possibilities
hazel Karakachan eyes
Hazel
brown Karakachan eyes
Brown
Nose Color Possibilities
black Karakachan nose
Black
Coat Color Possibilities
pied Karakachan coat
Pied
black Karakachan coat
Black
brown Karakachan coat
Brown
sable Karakachan coat
Sable
brindle Karakachan coat
Brindle
Coat Length
coat
Short Medium Long
Coat Density
coat density
pin
Sparse Normal Dense
Coat Texture
coat texture
Karakachan straight coat texture
Straight Wiry Wavy Curly Corded

Karakachan Breed Maintenance

Two of the Karakachan’s characteristics — massive in size and active — mean that this isn’t a great dog to have in a small space. If you live in a tiny apartment, you’re probably not the greatest candidate to buy some Karakachan puppies; before you know it they’ll be Karakachan adults and they’ll be rather unhappy with their limited space. It’s not fair but this is a dog that favors people who have a property large enough to give it room to roam.

This won’t be a shock to you but the Karakachan is a dog that needs a great deal of exercise to be satisfied. You may not be able to offer it your own flock of sheep but the dog’s DNA will be begging you to provide it with a comparable lifestyle. It has to be walked for a couple of miles a day. Don’t skimp on this. A Karakachan that doesn’t get enough exercise becomes unhappy. Go jogging with it, go hiking with it, go cycling with it. This dog will love the physical and mental stimulation of being outside.

It’s a good idea to brush your Karakachan’s hair everyday if you can, but there’s no need to bathe it all that often; indeed, bathing dogs too frequently can take away all-important oils in their fur. Because Karakachans have floppy ears, make sure you regularly check 

them for any signs of infection. Bad smells, fluid or sensitivity in the air are signs that something might be wrong.


Karakachan health risks

Good health pending, you should have around 13 fulfilling years with your Karakachan but there will inevitably be the odd concern. The Karakachan size means it can be vulnerable to the type of health issues that trouble other large dog breeds, including:

Hip dysplasia

The genetic disease hip dysplasia is an issue that’s often diagnosed more frequently in larger dogs. It’s a term that means the ball and socket of both hip joints are malformed in some way, causing the head of the dog’s femur to grind in the socket of the joint rather than gliding smoothly. It can be caused by malnutrition, injury or weight gain (though you 

should also be careful not to over-feed your pup, as this may exacerbate it as well) and will be noticeable as a result of your dog not moving smoothly, not jumping, or experiencing lameness in the hind legs. You should be aware, however, that the signs of hip dysplasia often don’t rear their head until dogs are a little older, so it’s less obvious to identify in Karakachan puppies. 

As hip dysplasia worsens, it will progress to osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease as the dog’s body tries to stabilize the hip joint. Your dog may need surgery — a femoral head/neck ostectomy is a common procedure — and may even need its hip replaced in the worst-case scenario.

Elbow dysplasia

You may not even have realized that dogs have elbows but they do, and they can suffer dysplasia in them. If your Karakachan is limping, has swollen joints or appears stiff, it may have this affliction. 

When the elbow’s three bones — the radius, the humerus and the ulna — aren’t formed properly, a vet may diagnose elbow dysplasia. They may perform surgery or prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, after which point your dog’s recovery has a good chance of being positive. It may need physical therapy, however, and in particularly serious cases will require lifelong care from a vet. 

Bloat

Large dogs can often be afflicted by bloat, a condition that can be serious enough to be life-threatening. (One in five dogs weighing more than 100 lbs will experience bloat.)

We don’t yet know exactly what causes bloat but it occurs when a pup’s stomach fills with gas. Canines with anxiety are a little more vulnerable to the condition, and doing exercise after a large amount of water or food can be a trigger. 

When a dog has bloat, its distended stomach pushes its rib cage, then the diaphragm, and the bigger blood vessels in the abdomen. A dog in this condition is vulnerable to systemic shock. 

It may seem a little surprising but bloat — otherwise known as gastric dilatation and volvulus — is extremely bad news for a dog and needs to be treated within a few hours in order to save the animal’s life. Knowing about it in advance may help you rescue your Karakachan. A vet will need to reduce the pressure on your pup’s internal organs and stomach wall.

As you can see, pet health has the potential to get complex and expensive. Wondering what kind of pet insurance you might need to help you if any of these conditions arise in your furry friend? Check out quotes from all the best companies here and browse wellness plans here.



Feeding a Karakachan — what’s the best diet?

Needless to say, the big body of a Karakachan needs a lot of fuel to keep it going. Experts recommend feeding this adult breed twice a day. (Having only one meal a day can increase a dog’s risk of bloat.) In total, around 2.5 cups a day is right. Make sure the food is nutrient-rich and contains enough protein for the high amount of exercise the Karakachan needs every day. Try as best you can to avoid giving your Karakachan ‘human’ foods.

If you want comprehensive information about the best dog foods available, check out our friends at Dog Food Advisor — they have everything you need to know, and more.


Brushes for Karakachan
Pin Brush
Pin Brush
Comb
Comb
Deshedder
Deshedder
Nail Clipper
Nail Clipper
Brushing Frequency
fur daily fur weekly fur monthly
Karakachan requires daily brushing
Daily Weekly Monthly

Karakachan Temperament

The Karakachan temperament is a delightful mix of characteristics. It’s an intelligent and independent dog that should be a joy to have around if it’s given love, attention and discipline. It can be the perfect dog for anyone from a young girl to Vladimir Putin. (Putin has a caramel and white one called Buffy.)

The independence in its character does mean, however, that many things are on the pup’s terms; don’t expect this dog to lie over and just be told what to do. When it comes to training, it may decide that it simply doesn’t wish to do something. It will take an extremely experienced and confident trainer to convince it otherwise.

Karakachans can be nervous of newcomers and are famous for being fiercely protective of their human parents. Because it’s so large, a Karakachan losing its temper can be intimidating — and, because of its history, it isn’t afraid to lose its temper. 

Are Karakachans aggressive? They may be more likely to display their aggressive tendencies than the average dog, but they’ll only do so when they think you’re in danger. It’s not hugely different in this respect to plenty of other dogs: if it’s to be a domestic pet, it needs to be socialized properly. The dog being raised alongside the kids of the house will mean you don’t need to worry about interactions between the two groups but you shouldn’t leave a small child alone with a Karakachan; there’s always a risk of such a large dog accidentally sitting on a little person.

Activity Level
low activity medium activity high activity
Low Medium High
Rec. Walk Mileage Per Week
14 miles
walk mileage
Minutes of Activity Per Day
60 minutes
activity minutes

Karakachan Food Consumption

Cups Per Day
2.5 cups
cup per day cost cup per day cost
Daily Cost
$1.20 - $1.40
food bowls daily cost
Monthly Cost
$34.00 - $45.00
food bag monthly cost

Karakachan Height & Weight

6 Months
Male Karakachan size stats at six months
Height: 21.5 inches Weight: 61.5 lbs
Female Karakachan size stats at six months
Height: 20.0 inches Weight: 49.5 lbs
12 Months
Male Karakachan size stats at 12 months
Height: 23.5 inches Weight: 87.0 lbs
Female Karakachan size stats at 12 months
Height: 22.0 inches Weight: 70.0 lbs
18 Months
Male Karakachan size stats at 18 months
Height: 26.0 inches Weight: 92.5 lbs
Female Karakachan size stats at 18 months
Height: 24.5 inches Weight: 74.5 lbs

Karakachan Owner Experiences

Pepper
1 Year
6 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Cuddles
Walk
I got Pepper when she was around 7 months. I got her from a breeder of another type of dog I don't remember but her and her sisters were an accidental conception. Her other siblings went to a sheep farm but the guy said she was with goats and chickens thought it was weird she wasn't with the other dogs but I was okay with it because we have chickens and needed a dog that was good with them. When I first met her she was insanely timid was bucking off the leash trying to get away from the breeder wouldn't let him touch her or feed her, I knew something was wrong I knew she needed a better home. She didn't eat or go potty for the first week, she didn't feel comfortable to walk for a month I had to carry her down the stairs to the yard and then she would just lay under the picnic table scared. Don't worry the story has a happy ending. I have now had her for 10 months and she's a completely different dog. She is so happy tail always wagging she is very energetic I call it "Puppy mode" because she will just run around jumping and twirling and doing zoomies. She lovesss toys and playing fetch. She is very protective of me and our space and sometimes doesn't know if my family is a threat which at first wasn't good but she's calmed down more now and knows they are also part of the pack. She loves dogs and children. She doesn't trust men at all but she's warmed up to my dad a lot and enjoys playing with him as long as her isn't carrying anything she deems as a threat she won't bark at him. She is a big barker like the rest of her breed. She is scared of things still but she pulls through and will face it instead of hiding now. I love this dog with all of my heart she truly is my soulmate in an animal. I am so thankful everyday that I got her.
1 year ago
holly berry
5 Years
4 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
she doesn't like to walk, she sleeps often , she will not share food and when the cat screams at her she is initially scared but when food involved will retaliate. if no other dogs involved other than our other dog; she is very friendly and cuddly. overall c tier dog. she is very interested in the TV and will watch it however, when other animals appear will bark at it.
2 years ago
Waylon
2 Years
3 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Waylon is very lovable and the mascot of our acreage. Everyone that drives by loves to watch him do his spins and runs along the fence with vehicles that drive by.
2 years, 5 months ago
Mecho
7 Months
1 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Great dog, funny character. Gets on well with my other dog (Malinois) but guards food from him. Quite difficult to train, only works when he feels like it, but he is learning. Can do sit, down, sit from a down, speak, recalls OK but occasionally ignores it! He doesn't seem to see the point in doing heel work lol but does walk to heel when outside our large plot of land. Ok with my rabbits but would chase if left unsupervised. Gets on well with the cat who likes to sleep on top of him. A stunning looking dog.
5 years, 7 months ago
Trinity
3 Years
2 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Trinity came to me as a foster. She was basically feral; she reads other dogs' body language very well, but is unable to read human body language. She is sweet with me, but aloof with others. She has quite the bark when she feels something is a threat. She is extremely smart, but, true to the nature of the breed, an independent thinker. She is a true guardian; I always feel safe when she's with me. She has her sill side, but she takes her "job" very seriously.
5 years, 3 months ago
Chance
5 Years
5 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Walk
Play
Run
Explore the woods
Off-leash
We got Chance to protect our other animals (chickens, cats, and dogs) from the coyotes on our 22 acre property. When he was you he was very quick to bite and not very good at controlling the intensity of his bites. After about a year he finally learned that biting is no good. Very protective of our family and will bark at and investigate strangers. We had to geta new well drilled and he kept on trying to pull the well guy away by the seat of his pants. He's also a giant sweetheart and very smart.
4 years, 3 months ago
Dusty
20 Months
2 People
House
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Chase
Play
Had him from pup and socialised him well he is very gentle
4 years ago
Tohbi
5 Months
4 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Walking
Tohbi has been an awesome fit for our family. He is big but usually very calm for a 5 month pup. He is extremely affectionate and let's the kids climb all over him. He has been great to train, learning commands in just a few attempts, always wanting to please us.
3 years, 8 months ago
Willow
2 Years
6 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Walks
Docile in nature, great with other dogs, smart but will command when SHE wants to, everyone's favorite of our 4 dogs. We live in rural Iowa so she has plenty of guarding to do with deer, raccoons, horses and birds. She is a lover, will greet you by laying all 80lbs of her at your feet to rub her belly.
3 years, 8 months ago
Deva Lexi
2 Years
2 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Most excellent with family. Very little and sweet...if you are a stranger, ir perceived as treat.
3 years, 8 months ago
Lola
1 Year
2 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
playing with ball
Playing in the snow
Running
Go on late night walks
She’s the best dog I could of ever gotten x
3 years, 6 months ago
Bella
2 Months
3 People
House & Yard
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Play
Run
Playing with toys
She is a realy smart and friendly dog. She loves playing with her toy and running with the kids
3 years, 6 months ago
Princess Nemo
4 Years
2 People
House
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Run
Walk
Gtooming
Playing in the snow
Rescued at 2 years. Already had 2 lots of puppies. Was found abandoned,skinny with broken leg and bewildered roaming village in 😪 in Bulgaria. We LOVE her. Hard going, could see in eyes HEARTBROKEN. I did her training and caring on my own, one on one was best, she was traumatised. Mummy and Nemo madei it after a long year struggle. I live in England, house, good long garden, woods behind me and beaches 10mns away and taken down some fence so she can play with next door neighbours 2 small rescue dogs. P.N. Loves walking with pack. Stomach, leg injury, bad ear infection all good, mentally definitely on the UP. Aware that she will always have Past Memories come back at times. If I could afford it I would take P.Nemo back to Bulgaria and live on the hilltop/mountainside. I think she would be so much happier with us and a few Herd of Sheep and company of extra dogs. My family love our new addition, from daughters/son and 3 Grandchildren ages 10, 9, 3. And other members Of family, next door neighbours etc. She is a RASCAL, I can read her like a book. We have similar personalities. Hubby plays with Nemo every night on the floor, Hubby has to work hard, She plays hard to get. Great guard-dog,So strong and intelligent.walk/run every morning for one and half hour through woods and fields then sleeps most of day, food morning and evening. Food finally sorted. I think she stays awake at night for a few hours. She sleeps in her bed downstairs beside me.🥳🥰😇🤗😴😤😊😏🤩⭐️
2 years, 10 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd