The German Shepherd might be the most prominent German dog breed, but before the German Shepherd took the world by storm, there was the Hovawart.
Fairly active families with time to address grooming needs
Intelligent, Alert, Faithful
The Hovawart was one of the most distinguished dog breeds in Germany before the German Shepherd pushed these beautiful dogs to the edge of extinction. Thankfully, a resurgence of interest in the 20th century brought this breed back from the brink of its demise. Since then, the loyal and attentive Hovawart has become a trendy dog in Germany and Scandinavia.
When it comes to finding Hovawarts, the price of the dog is likely not the most expensive portion. Hovawarts remain rare outside of Germany and Scandinavia. The breed has been recognized by the AKC for just over a decade now. Hovawart fans will likely have to look into shipping a dog from another state or even country to obtain one, and dog shipping isn’t cheap.
Origin & History of the Hovawart
Once a noble breed of German dogs initially bred to guard estates and farms, the Hovawart’s popularity waned following the breeding of other herding and protection dogs like the German Shepherd. As the German Shepherd’s popularity surged, interest in and breeding the Hovawart decreased to the point where it seemed the Hovawart would disappear from history with the English Cur.
The Hovawart breed was on the brink of extinction by the beginning of the twentieth century before Zoologist Karl König resurrected the fame of the once-beloved breed. Using careful consideration of the breed standards, König cross-bred the remaining Hovawart stock with similar species such as the Leonberger and Kuvasz to repopulate the breed according to the breed standard.
The German Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1937, but the reconstruction effort suffered in the wake of World War II. Breed enthusiasts rallied behind the remaining Hovawarts once more, forming the German Hovawart Club. Though the breed remains rare in other parts of the world, they are a popular working breed in Germany and Scandinavia.
The Hovawart was first documented in England in 1980, and in 2010 the American Kennel Club also formally recognized this breed.
Temperament & Intelligence of Hovawarts
As the name implies, Hovawarts were bred primarily as guard dogs. As such, these dogs are vigilantly protective of their family members. Within their family, they are lovable goofs that want to play and snuggle but may be standoffish with strangers. They’re brilliant and trainable but can be stubborn.
As working breeds often do, the Hovawart is happiest when it has a job to do. If not given one, it may get creative to find its own job, and the job they find isn’t always as palatable as one given to them. In the modern-day, Hovawarts have excelled performing Search and Rescue, Therapy work, Service work, Obedience trials, and Agility trials.
These dogs require a significant time investment from their owners and aren’t recommended for first-time dog owners. If appropriately integrated, these dogs will need to bond with their families to be happy and develop a ‘pack’ mentality. If an owner has the means and is willing to expend the time and effort, they will be rewarded with a faithful and loyal companion.
Things to Know When Owning a Hovawart
Food and Diet Requirements 🦴
Hovawarts can be fed using a standard large-breed diet. Outside of reputable dog food recommendations, it is possible to include some fish and chicken to their diet as an occasional treat. Human food should be given sparingly, but cheese, vegetables, and fruits may be given occasionally.
As a working breed, the Hovawart was bred for rigorous task performance. A Hovawart will require plenty of daily exercises to keep up with its energetic personality. They make great partners for jogging, hiking, and other active outdoor sports. It can also be fun to have them off-leash in an appropriate and secured setting.
Hovawarts have excelled in modern-day agility training, search and rescue training and flyball. They don’t need to be competing; throwing a ball around or taking them for a run with some homemade hurdles gives them both physical and mental stimulation that they need to be happy.
Hovawarts tend to be relatively trainable but can frustrate inexperienced owners with their stubborn natures. Proper training and socialization are imperative for this breed, as they are vigilantly protective of their pack and may be suspicious of strangers if improperly socialized.
The breed has excelled in modern-day obedience trials when trained by experienced and thorough trainers and in Search and Rescue teams. Tracking and protection training provides mental stimulation and an outlet for the protective guardian instincts bred into this breed.
The Hovawart is a medium-to-large-sized dog with long fur and a double coat. However, the Hovawarts undercoat isn’t very thick, so they don’t need to be groomed as often as many double-coated dogs. Their fur is longer on the chest, belly, back of the legs, and tail.
The Hovawart will need regular brushing to keep their coat in good shape. Brushing them at least twice a week is a good starting point, and they will need to be brushed more frequently during shedding seasons. An active dog will probably need to be brushed daily to remove anything caught in the fur. Baths can be given as needed.
Their nails grow very fast and must be trimmed regularly to keep them from cracking or splitting. Overgrown nails may impede the dog’s movement and cause pain.
They have long ears as well, making them more prone to ear infections. Owners should be sure to check and clean out the dog’s ears regularly as a preventative measure against ear infections.
Health Conditions 🏥
For many reasons, primarily the excellent care Karl König and the German Hovawart Club took during the reconstruction efforts for the breed, the Hovawart is a very healthy breed. There are no major genetic health problems associated with the Hovawart breed, and Hip Dysplasia is only seen in around 5% of Hovawarts, an exceptionally low number.
With that said, there are a few health issues that one may want to look out for with the Hovawart. The Hovawart’s physiology means they’ve got a tendency towards some minor health problems like ear infections or ingrown nails; the Hovawart is a highly healthy dog breed. An involved and proactive owner will likely stay ahead of most of these issues without any difficulty.
Male vs Female
Male Hovawarts will generally be taller and heavier than female Hovawarts, but there are no notable differences between the two sexes.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Hovawart
1. “Hovawart” means “Court Watchman.”
The word “Hovawart” comes from the Middle High German words “Hova,” meaning “court,” “farm,” or “yard,” and “Wart,” meaning “Watchman.”
2. A Hovawart saved young Eike of Repgow.
Future German administrator Eike of Repgow was in a besieged castle in 1210. At the time, Eike, still a child, was dragged to the safety of another castle by an injured Hovawart who had been protecting the castle that had been captured.
3. Hovawarts had explicit value in the Sachsenspiegel.
Eike of Repgow respected and appreciated the Hovawart, perhaps feeling that he owed his own life to one. His most influential contribution was the Sachsenspiegel, a law code. Under this legal code, the Hovawart was a highly valued creature. Should a person’s Hovawart be killed or stolen, the dog would need to be replaced, or restitution would be paid to remedy the situation.
The Hovawart is a beautiful breed. We may have “lost” some of the original Hovawart traits due to the breed’s near extinction, but the careful reconstruction effort has retained the breed’s aesthetic and identity. The breed’s popularity in Germany and Scandinavia has surged. Their recognition by the American Kennel Club and other governing bodies is a good sign that they will continue to see growth. Introducing other dog clubs is a good sign that these beautiful dogs will see continued resurgence worldwide.
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Featured Image Credit: Christine Klassen, Pixabay