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The Tornjak is a large to giant purebred from Bosnis and Croatia to be a mountain sheep dog. It would herd and guard livestock as well as guard the farm and its family. It has a life span of 12 to 14 years and other names include Bosnian Shepherd Dog, Bosnian and Herzegovinian Shepherd Dog, Croatian Mountain Dog, Kanis Montanus, Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Shepherd Dog. As well as being hard working and brave it is also a steady and friendly companion.
|The Tornjak at a Glance|
|Other names||Bosnian Shepherd Dog, Bosnian and Herzegovinian Shepherd Dog, Croatian Mountain Dog, Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Shepherd Dog, Kanis Montanus|
|Origin||Bosnia, Herzegovina Croatia|
|Average size||Large to giant|
|Average weight||60 to 110 pounds|
|Average height||23 to 27 inches|
|Life span||12 to 14 years|
|Coat type||Wooly, heavy double coat, thick undercoat, long, coarse, straight topcoat|
|Color||White, grey, yellow, brown, red, and black patterns|
|Popularity||Not recognized by the AKC fully, part of FSS|
|Tolerance to heat||Poor to moderate – exercise in cooler times of the day|
|Tolerance to cold||Very good to excellent|
|Shedding||Average – will be some hair around the home to clean up|
|Drooling||Average to above average|
|Obesity||Moderate – measure its food and make sure it gets enough exercise|
|Grooming/brushing||Above average – brush every other day or even daily|
|Exercise needs||Moderately active|
|Trainability||Easy to moderate|
|Friendliness||Very good with socialization|
|Good first dog||Good to very good|
|Good family pet||Very good but requires socialization|
|Good with children||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Very good to excellent with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good to very good with socialization|
|Good with strangers||Good but wary – requires socialization|
|Good apartment dog||No – need space and a yard|
|Handles alone time well||Moderate|
|Health issues||Quite healthy but some issues include Hip/elbow dysplasia, coat problems and ear infections|
|Medical expenses||$485 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$260 a year for a good quality dry food and treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$675 a year for license, grooming, toys, basic training and miscellaneous items|
|Average annual expenses||$1420 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$800|
|Rescue organizations||None breed specific check local shelters and rescues|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Tornjak’s Beginnings
The Tornjak developed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and has been around for thousands of years. The name Tornjak was what locals called it, the word means an enclosure for cattle and sheep. It is believed it is related to the Tibetan Mastiff. References to the Bosanski Ovcar and Hrvatski pas planinac can be found in records from various periods including the 800s, 1000s and 1300s. It may have also been used in war and to fight in arenas by the Romans.
It was developed to be intelligent and later became a dog that was not aggressive unless it had to be. It was also developed so that it could work without needing to eat a lot, and needed little shelter and acted as a guard dog and watch dog. However around the 1970s as nomadic sheep herding became less common the need and demand for the Tornjak started to decline. The dog was facing potential extinction.
New Lease on Life
That was when around 1972 efforts were made by local dog experts to save the breed. The last remaining dogs were gathered together and a breeding program was started leading to an improvement in their numbers in the late 1970s. In 1981 it was registered under the name Bosnian-Herzegovinian sheepdog or Tornjak. It is recognized by the UKC in 2011 and by the UK Kennel Club but is still in Foundation Stock Service for the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
The Tornjak is a large to giant breed weighing 60 to 110 pounds and standing 23 to 27 inches tall. It has a muscular and strong build, in proportion, agile and also powerful. Its shape is almost squared with strong rear quarters and a shaggy tail that is held up flag like. It has almond shaped eyes with shorter hair in the face and dense and thicker hair fur around the neck creating a mane. The coat is thick, dense and long, the under coat especially and then the outer coat is hard and straight. It does shed some of that thick coat in warm summer months. Typical colors are grey, red, black, yellow, white, brown with common patterns being Irish spotting or piebald. The coat is also shorter on its legs and feet.
The Inner Tornjak
This is a confident and even tempered dog when raised well and in the right home. It is friendly and social but is also a great guard dog and watch dog. It will bark to let you know if there is an intruder or a stranger on your property or land. It will also act to defend you and its family and its territory if it needs to. It is a brave dog, determined and trustworthy. It is also intelligent, hard working and devoted to its owner and family forming strong bonds. It prefers to be close to them and while it can handle moderate time periods alone it prefers your company.
The Tornjak is calm and affectionate and when bred and raised well should never be aggressive, too shy or overly demanding. With strangers it is wary at first to assess them but with time to adjust and proper introductions when necessary it will accept them. It is a hardy breed and needs space and does not like a lot of unpleasant noise. If it is cramped or exposed to such problems, or if it is not getting its needs met it can become destructive, loud and hard to live with, as is the case for any dog.
Living with a Tornjak
What will training look like?
While this is an intelligent breed and it can be trained for various purposes it does need firm handling and it does go better when it is done by someone with experience. It tends to know its own mind so can be stubborn and will try to do things its own way if it thinks you are too meek and it can get away with it. Be consistent with it, start training from a young age along with socialization so it learns how to deal with different people, places, situations, animals and other dogs. In the right circumstance the Tornjak learns quickly and remembers everything – but if it learns bad habits that means those are going to be hard to break. Make sure socialization also includes dealing with different noises.
How active is the Tornjak?
The Tornjak is not a terribly active breed though being large and also being as it is used to outdoor space, it does need at least a couple of moderate walks, or one long walk a day plus some play. This is not an apartment appropriate dog, it needs room and a yard. It is best in a rural setting, or semi rural at least, certainly not ideal as a city dog. It is not a dog happy to lay around and do nothing all the time, it likes to have a job or role to play. It really enjoys spending time with other dogs so take it to a dog park or canine training and let it have that opportunity. Take care it does not over do it when it is a puppy and still growing as it can be prone to joint and skeletal injuries.
Caring for the Tornjak
Tornjaks are fairly high maintenance in terms of their grooming and care so owners need to have the time for that. It is average shedding so expect some hair around the home to clean up, but then it also has seasonal blow outs where it is even heavier. The coat is long and thick though and needs regular brushing to help prevent tangles and matting. You should brush at least every other day but that would go up to daily during seasonal shedding times. It might also need combing more often if it is out in the woods daily picking up burs and such. It is not a hypoallergenic breed. Try not to bathe too often much as that can damage oils it needs as can using any shampoo other than a dog shampoo. Some owners opt to have a professional groomer take care of it on a regular basis.
Its nails will need to be trimmed by a vet or groomer, or you can cut them yourself with the right tools and some education. Do not cut too low as there are nerves and blood vessels and cutting them can hurt the dog and cause bleeding. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week with a proper dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Talk to your vet if you do not know what to use. Its ears need to be checked weekly to make sure there is no infection, and also wiped clean. Do not insert anything into them.
The Tornjak will eat between 4 to 7 cups of a good quality dry dog food daily, split into at least two meals. Amounts vary as it really depends on how big the dog is exactly and then things like its level of activity, health, age and metabolism. Always make sure it has water access and that it is changed regularly for fresh.
How is the Tornjak with other animals and children?
This dog can be good with children with socialization when it is young, and it does help when it is raised alongside them. It should be gentle and affectionate towards them and will certainly be protective of them too. It will play with them but young children should be supervised especially when the Tornjak is young and rambunctious as they can get knocked over accidentally. It is also good with other animals with socialization and loves to spend time with other dogs. If it lives as part of a pack it is not one to start a fight though should a rival dog challenge it, it will defend itself.
What Might Go Wrong?
The Tornjak is a fairly healthy dog but there are some things to be aware of. It does not do well with too much protein in its diet so check with a vet or your breeder about what to feed it. It can also have coat problems, joint problems when it is young, hip dysplasia and ear infections. It has a life span of 12 to 14 years.
When reading through reports of dogs attacking people in North America that have caused bodily harm over a period of three and a half decades, there has been no mention of the Tornjak. It is not a people aggressive canine, but it is protective and it can handle itself. If a situation arose where it felt aggressive action was needed it could do damage. While there are no guarantees with any dog breed, good owners make sure their pets have at least basic obedience training and good socialization. It is also important the dog is being taken care of, given the attention it and exercise it needs and mental stimulation too.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
The Tornjak is not a common breed in the US. You can expect a pet quality puppy from a breeder that has a good reputation to cost about $800. That would double or even triple for a show breeder and when dealing with such breeders you can expect to be placed on a waiting list. There are more options but some really should be avoided, pet stores, backyard breeders, random ads you might see online, puppy mills are not places you should be giving your money to. Some are just ignorant but too many are cruel and neglectful. If your new dog is to be a companion not a show dog you might consider looking at local shelters or rescues for an adoption fee of $50 to $400. There are a lot of worthy mixed dogs that have a great deal of love and companionship to offer.
Wherever you get your new companion from, once you have that settled and it is ready to come home, there are some initial costs deal with. There are items your Tornjak will need like a collar and leash, crate, bedding and bowls and such that will cost about $200. There are also going to be initial health concerns to deal with as it will need to be taken to a vet and have blood tests done, deworming, shots, micro chipping, a physical and spaying or neutering. These will cost at least another $290.
Another aspect of owning that Tornjak is the cost of taking proper care of it. Annually you can expect to spend about $1420. That should just about cover $485 a year for medical savings or insurance and basic health care like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups. $675 a year is then for miscellaneous costs like grooming, license, toys, miscellaneous items and basic training. Then you will need about $260 a year to feed it, so dog treats and a good quality dry dog food.
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The Tornjak is a breed best suited to people who live in rural settings and ones who live in a larger home with space and a good sized yard. It also needs people who have the time to commit to daily or every other day grooming, and an owner not bothered by shedding. It prefers to have a role to play so still does well as a farm dog but it is also a good and loyal family dog. It will defend you and its home when needed but is also affectionate, devoted, social and steady.
Featured Image Credit: Simun Ascic,, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Tornjak’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Tornjak
- Living with a Tornjak
- Caring for the Tornjak
- How is the Tornjak with other animals and children?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag