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  • Norfolk Farms

Tornjaks – A New Option in Guardian Dogs for Livestock

Updated: May 10, 2023

The Tornjak breed of dog developed in the countries of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as a livestock protection dog. It is an ancient breed, with written references dating back as far as the 9th century. The dogs of that time were essentially the same as those seen today. The name of the breed comes from the Croatian word tor, meaning an enclosure where sheep or goats are kept.

Kisa, an eight month old Tornjak puppy from Croatia is learning to guard sheep and goats in Ontario.

The breed is highly intelligent, courageous and protective of its charges. They tend to be friendly with people, but can be suspicious of strangers, especially when at work with a flock or herd. Unlike many other guardian breeds, Tornjaks come in a variety of colours and patterns, ranging from mostly white with small patches to dogs that are heavily coloured in black, sable, brown or tricolour with white markings. The coat is long and luxurious, giving the dogs ample protection from severe weather conditions.

Tornjaks are not large as guardian breeds go, but they are certainly not small dogs. The range for the breed is 60 to 110 pounds, with heights ranging from 23 to 28 inches. Females tend to be smaller than males. Life expectancy is 12 to 14 years.

Like many other breeds, the Tornjak was almost lost due to the ravages of the World Wars and the vanishing of the nomadic sheepherding lifestyle. Starting in the late seventies, enthusiasts from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovinia searched out remaining dogs to rebuild the breed, with a breeding commission established in Croatia under the supervision of the Croatian Kennel Club. Today Tornjaks are well established and gaining popularity in many countries, including North America.

There are currently not many Tornjaks in Ontario, yet several have been imported in the last few years. Some of these are working on farms, others are companion dogs. In time perhaps this will be a well known breed here. 

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