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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.
Komondor Origins and History
The Komondor is believed to be a very ancient breed, although historical references to the dog only go back several centuries.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 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 guardian.
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 the 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 companions.