Richard and Therese Heaney, for the Komondor Club of
America, Inc. Copyright 1995. Distributed with permission
of the Komondor Club of America. This article may be reproduced in its
entirety with credit given to the Komondor Club of America. Copyright 1995
by the Komondor Club of America.
The Komondor is believed to be a very ancient breed, although historical
references to the dog only go back several centuries. It is probable that
the Komondor moved to the Danube Basin (present day Hungary) with the
nomadic tribes which settled there in the ninth century. These early
Komondors were used to guard herds of sheep, goats and cattle from
predators, which included wolves, bears and humans. The dogs lived out in
the open with their charges, and often had to make their own decisions in
the absence of a shepherd to guide them. Thus they developed into a very
intelligent, independent and strong-willed breed. A few Komondors were
imported to the United States in the 1930s, at which time the breed was
recognized by the AKC. During World War II, Komondors were used to guard
military installations and a great number of them were killed. The hardships
suffered by both the people and dogs of Hungary also took their toll, and
after the war, the dogs were extremely rare. Dedicated individuals who loved
the breed searched out remaining Komondors, which for the most part still
lived as flock guardians in remote rural parts of Hungary, and started
breeding them again. Once the Iron Curtain separated Hungary from the
western world it became quite difficult to export the dogs, and very few
made it to the U.S. However, enough dogs made it through, mostly via the
efforts of Hungarians living in the West, that the breed had become fairly
well established in the U.S. by the late 1960s. The Komondor is still a very
rare breed, and most people have never seen one. The largest populations of
Komondors today are in Hungary and in the United States, with numbers of
animals in each country probably in the two to three thousand range. The
total number of Komondors worldwide is far less than ten thousand.
A correct Komondor should give an impression of imposing strength, courage,
dignity and pleasing conformation. The Komondor is a large, medium-boned,
muscular dog with an unusual white (never colored or black) coat which
consists of tassels of hair which are called cords. (The coat is hard to
imagine, if you have never seen it, but it is somewhat similar to the
dreadlocks worn by Rastafarians.) In ancient Hungary, working Komondors were
out on the plains during most of the year with their flocks, and the
Komondor coat developed to give the dogs protection against both predators
and extremes of weather. The coat is also very similar in appearance to that
of the Hungarian Racka sheep, which allowed the dog to blend in with his
flock. Unlike the herding breeds, the Komondor is a flock guardian. When
with his charges in the fields, a mature, experienced Komondor tends to stay
with the flock, keeping predators away, but not allowing himself to be drawn
away in a chase. In the United States, many Komondors are employed as
livestock guardians (with sheep, goats, cattle, exotic birds, etc.), with
some success. However, the majority of them are kept as companions and house
guards. For these dogs, the family, including both humans and other animals,
becomes the flock. Komondors living in households will be reserved with
strangers, but demonstrative with those they love. They are selflessly
devoted to their families, and will protect them against perceived threats
from any quarter. Their devotion to those in their care and their sense of
responsibility towards them, produces a courageous, vigilant and faithful
The Komondor was developed to be an independent, intelligent and sensitive
dog capable of making decisions on his own. This makes him a terrific family
guardian, but also makes him unsuitable for some types of homes. The adult
Komondor is a large, territorial dog, and prospective owners must understand
that a Komondor puppy must be well-socialized and taught to behave in a
manner acceptable to the owner. Because Komondors traditionally cared for
their charges without a human to tell them what to do, they do not
automatically look to people for direction the way herding and sporting
breeds do. They are very smart dogs, and learn quickly, but a Komondor owner
must make it clear from puppyhood (and continuing throughout the dog's life)
that no means no, and must consistently correct the dog for behavior that is
not acceptable. Having said that, the Komondor is also an extremely loving
dog. He loves his family absolutely, and hates to have any of them out of
his sight. The typical Komondor will follow his people from room to room,
and actively seeks out physical contact with those he loves. The Komondor is
a wonderful guardian of home and property, but must have an owner who will
see to it that the character traits that made the Komondor valuable as a
livestock guardian will not become a liability in the modern world.
The most striking and unusual aspect of the Komondor is the coat, and
because it is so unusual Komondor owners seem to have more problems with
coat care than anything else. The Komondor's puppy coat is fluffy and curly,
with a tendency to fall into curly ringlets. At about 8 or 10 months of age,
the coat begins to shed and mat. This matting is the beginning of the
cording process. The larger mats must be torn apart into smaller mats (the
cords), which is a simple procedure, although it can be physically demanding
and time consuming if the mats are really tight and large. Once formed, the
cords will lengthen with age, eventually reaching the ground if not cut. The
Komondor sheds his undercoat twice a year like all dogs do, and the softer
undercoat binds together with the long, strong outer coat, lengthening the
cords from the skin out. The cords will have to be separated again each time
the coat goes through this stage, as they will tend to mat together near the
skin. This is not difficult once the cords are established, requiring a few
hours of work each year. To many people the cords resemble the strings of a
mop or spaghetti, and many Koms have names which play on this resemblance
(Mop or Pasta, for example). Other than separating the cords twice a year
and bathing the dog, there is not much special grooming required. The hair
must be plucked from the ear canal, as with all long-haired breeds, and the
hair kept trimmed from the bottoms of the feet. Many pet Komondor owners
keep the cords trimmed to a length of 8 or 10 inches. This looks nice and is
easier to care for than a floor length coat. The dogs also may be sheared 2
or 3 times a year, if desired. Either way, the Komondor should be a
handsome, well-cared-for looking dog.
How do I find out if this breed is really the best for me?
We strongly suggest that anyone who is thinking of getting a
Komondor should make every effort to see some adult Komondors in
their homes before making a final decision. The Komondor Club of
America (KCA) or Middle Atlantic States Komondor Club (MASKC) will
assist you in locating owners of Komondors in your part of the
country (or in other countries in many cases). Many Komondor
owners are willing to let you visit with their dogs and will
explain what it is like living with this unusual breed. The reason
that we feel this is so important is that Komondor puppies, with
their fluffy coats and playful natures, are extremely appealing,
but they are not necessarily like the adult that you will
eventually own for many years. It is in the best interest of both
you and your Komondor that you understand what an adult Komondor
is like, so that when the puppy days are over, you won't be
dismayed at what that fluffy puppy has turned into. Unfortunately
this happens over and over, and not just with Komondors. We
believe that people who obtain a dog are making a commitment that
lasts the life of the dog, and we encourage people to make that
commitment with full knowledge of what it entails.
Where can I find a Komondor if I decide to buy one?
The Komondor Club of America can furnish you with a list of
breeders, including information as to who has puppies or older
dogs available. Breeders listed with the KCA have agreed to abide
by the Club's Code of Ethics which specifies responsible practices
to be followed by breeders to ensure the health of the puppies and
the satisfaction of purchasers. Komondors are often available
through the KCA Rescue Program. These are dogs which have been
given up by previous owners for various reasons. Occasionally
Komondors are offered for sale by pet stores, but the chances of
getting a sound, healthy puppy from this source are not good.
Puppies are also sometimes available from breeders who supply
working dogs. Whatever the source of the puppy, the parents should
have been X-rayed and certified clear of hip dysplasia, and every
effort should be made to ensure that the puppy is healthy and has
been well cared for.
How big are Komondors when fully grown?
The Hungarians are very clear on this subject: if it isn't big and
impressive, even if it has cords, it isn't a Komondor. The
Komondor should be large enough to command instant respect. The
actual size of Komondors in the United States ranges quite a bit,
but on average males are 27 1/2 inches or taller at the shoulder
and bitches are 25 1/2 inches or taller. Males usually weigh 100
pounds on up and bitches 80 pounds or more. These are good average
sizes, but many dogs are bigger and some are smaller. There are a
lot of breeds which are more massive, are taller, or heavier. But
with his thick coat and large size there are few that are as
impressive as the Komondor.
Will I have to worry about friends or acquaintances coming into the house or
yard with my Komondor?
The Komondor is a large territorial dog that is used for flock and
home guarding, and the Komondor owner must always anticipate his
dog's behavior based on this fact. The Komondor will make up his
own mind about who is or is not welcome on his property if he's
not taught by you how to behave when strangers come to the house.
It is important that Komondor puppies be socialized from the
beginning. Kindergarten Puppy Training classes are excellent for
Komondor puppies, as they expose the puppy to lots of people and
dogs at an early age. These classes can usually be found through
obedience class instructors or clubs in your area. Komondors learn
very quickly which people are welcome in your house, and will
greet them happily, but as a responsible owner, you must be sure
the dog is under control (either through strict obedience training
or physical restraint) when strangers are introduced to him.
Are Komondors noisy? How would they do in an apartment?
As a guarding dog, part of a Komondor's job is to alert people
when a potentially threatening situation exists. He does this by
barking, and a Komondor's bark is meant to, and will, get your
attention. As we have mentioned, the Komondor's nature is to
decide for himself what constitutes a threat, and they definitely
tend to err on the side of caution. Thus some Komondors are
constantly barking because they hear a strange noise, or see
someone passing by on "their" road, or because a strange car pulls
into the neighbor's driveway. Obviously this sort of situation can
be worse if you live in close proximity to others and have lots of
strange people and strange cars coming and going. Having said
this, however, there are people who have successfully had several
Komondors living with them in an apartment. Komondors generally
are quite adaptable and can adjust their behavior to fit the
situation. If they are constantly perceiving threats (in their own
mind) however, they will be noisy, and the situation could become
very uncomfortable for both the owner and the dog.
How much exercise does a Komondor need?
Komondor puppies are as playful and energetic as any other puppy.
Adult Komondors are generally quite inactive, and require very
little exercise. They take their job of guardian seriously, and
will usually position themselves in a location where they can keep
an eye on their family, rather than running around checking things
out. Often the most exercise adult Komondors get is accompanying
you as you move about the house. If the dog doesn't have access to
a fenced yard or large run, however, he should be walked two or
three times a day.
Do Komondors have any particular health problems that I should know about?
There are no known health problems which are peculiar to
Komondors. As with all dogs there is a certain amount of hip
dysplasia in the breed. Responsible breeders have all their
breeding stock certified as being free of dysplasia by the
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
Also as with many large breeds, there is some incidence of bloat,
or gastric torsion, in Komondors. The causes of bloat are still
largely unknown, but when it occurs, the stomach becomes enlarged
and filled with gas, eventually rotating inside the chest cavity
and killing the dog if not corrected in time. Anyone with a large
dog should talk to a veterinarian in order to learn to recognize
the symptoms of bloat and should know what to do if it occurs.
How much will a Komondor puppy cost?
Prices vary from breeder to breeder, but current prices for pet
quality puppies are in the $600 to $800 dollar range, and
show/breeding quality puppies are somewhat higher in price.
Reputable breeders will usually sell pet quality puppies with
limited registrations or spay/neuter guarantees, the object of
these provisions being to prevent breeding of puppies sold as
List of Resources
Unfortunately, due to the rarity of the breed, finding information on the
Komondor can be difficult. We would suggest that you contact the KCA or
MASKC for a list of available resources:
- Komondor Club of America, Inc.
- Linda Patrick, Corresponding Secretary
4695 Peckins Rd.,
Chelsea, Mi 48118
Ph. (313) 433-0417;
For breeders list, breed information, livestock guardian
information, grooming information, club membership applications,
information about rescue dogs.
- Middle Atlantic States Komondor Club, Inc.
- Joy Levy, Corresponding Secretary
102 Russell Road,
Princeton, NJ 08540;
For breed information, newsletter subscription information.
- Komondor Komments
- Quarterly publication of the Komondor Club of America
Wynne Vaught, Editor
151 Grace Lane, Liberty, SC 29657
(864) 306-0110; firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard and Therese Heaney