The Bulgarian Shepherd—also referred to as Karakachan—originated in Bulgaria as guardians for mountain livestock. Although they can be reserved with strangers, they are devoted and loyal to their families.
Bulgarian Shepherd dogs may have descended from ancient Balkan domestic dogs, possibly even from the time of Thracians. They are also known as Karakachan, after the Balkan Greek nomadic shepherds who used the breed as border dogs and livestock or property guard dogs.
After World War II, wolves were close to extinction and were no longer threatening livestock. Because of this, the need for livestock guards dwindled. The Communist government had a large number of sheepdogs—including the Bulgarian Shepherd—put down, leaving only shepherd dogs on government-owned farms and in hidden, remote areas.
Luckily, the Bulgarian Shepherd survived, and today, Bulgarians celebrate the dog. In 2005, the country declared the Bulgarian Shepherd as an old native breed.
This strong and sturdy breed is a large dog with a thick, short coat or a long coat and V-shaped, folded ears. They are an imposing dog that can weigh more than 100 pounds when fully grown.
The Bulgarian Shepherd has a short (sometimes referred to as medium) or long, straight, dense coat that’s typically predominantly white with black markings. However, other variations like brindle, sable, and pied exist in Bulgarian Shepherds.
The Bulgarian Shepherd is a large and imposing breed, typically weighing over 100 pounds when fully grown. They have broad, deep chests, massive heads, and low-set tails. Their eyes are small and brown, and their V-shaped ears lay flat against their head.
Though the Bulgarian Shepherd is loyal and loving to their family, they came about as watchdogs who kept an eye over their land and flock. As such, they have a strong protective instinct, and they may be aggressive towards strangers.
Early training and socialization is important, although training may be difficult with this breed because they are independent.
These dogs have an imposing bark and stature. Although they can be loving with children when they are properly socialized, make sure to always keep a watchful eye around small children, in particular, because of their imposing size.
As with most active breeds, the Bulgarian Shepherd does best with high-quality dog food that’s suited to their particular age and any additional health concerns.
It’s important to monitor the amount of food and treats that you give your Bulgarian Shepherd, especially since some dogs may be prone to gaining weight as they age. Your veterinarian is always a good source to help provide you with appropriate nutrition and feeding guidelines.
Although the Bulgarian Shepherd’s coat is weatherproof, they usually need to be brushed several times a week to prevent mats and to remove loose fur any dirt. During shedding season, however, they may require daily grooming.
All dogs require regular dental care, including at-home teeth brushing and professional dental cleanings, and the Bulgarian Shepherd is no exception. Maintaining good dental hygiene is important for their overall long-term health.
The Bulgarian Shepherd is a working dog at heart, and they require a lot of daily exercise to stay healthy and happy.
If your Bulgarian Shepherd is not working as a livestock guardian, plan for at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity with your Bulgarian Shepherd every day to keep them from getting bored and becoming overweight.
Like most shepherds, you should plan to always keep this breed on a leash or in a secure area when they are outside.
The Bulgarian Shepherd has a tendency to be independent, and they can be stubborn at times, so training often requires a firm hand.
Proper training is essential since they can be wary of strangers, and they are very protective.
Reviewed July 26, 2020 by Cindy Elston, DVM, MPH