Gray Kangal

Kangal Dog Breed

Other names:
Turkish Kangal Dog

The Kangal Dog is a Turkish livestock guardian dog that until the late 20th century remained relatively unknown outside the central region of Turkey — and then burst onto the canine scene with a controversy that continues to this day. This purebred is a huge dog with a unique demeanor that allows it to remain calm in the face of huge predators. They are remarkably loyal, very good with children and great family dogs, but they need very early training and socialization as well as a significant area to roam freely on a daily basis.

Kangal Dog Breed Details

The Kangal Dog, part of the Working breed group, has for centuries been utilized as a livestock herder and as a guardian of both animals and property. These massive dogs are good for those needing a dog to serve as a livestock shepherd and/or a watch- or guard dog; while Kangals are very good as family pets, they will need a good bit of socialization and training, and a great deal of space to exercise.


  • Great with children, if socialized with them
  • Very rarely feel threatened
  • Excellent herding abilities
  • Loyal and affectionate to human family members
  • Little grooming required
  • Fantastic guard dog abilities
  • Relatively long lifespan (12-15 years)
  • Protective, but generally non-aggressive


  • Requires a great deal of exercise
  • Domineering with other pets, especially other dogs
  • Immense size makes apartment living virtually impossible
  • A Kangal attack can be devastating
  • Great size and menacing appearance may frighten neighbors
12 - 15 yrs.
28 - 34 in.
85 - 150 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Kangal Dog Breed Description

Your Kangal Dog will be huge once mature — not big, not large, but huge. While they can be as "small" as 85 pounds, they tend to be much larger, and it is not unusual for them to be 150 pounds or more. They stand tall, too, and average about 28 to 34 inches in height.

Kangal Dogs are very good with children, a bit wary of strangers and must be watched with other pets. They are not predatory, but they are very protective. They are not aggressive (if they are, there is something wrong), and they will calmly stand their ground unless actually attacked. Early training and socialization is the best for them.

The double-coat of the Kangal Dog does not shed much — unless it's shedding season. When that time occurs, daily brushing will be required. When it comes to exercise, however, there is no season; a lot of exercise in the way of very long walks or moderately lengthy runs are required every day, as is a great amount of fenced outdoor space in which they can run freely.

Kangal Dog Breed History

The Kangal Dog, known in Turkish as coban Kopekleri, is a mastiff-styled dog that is from the high rolling plains that best describe central Turkey, and in particular from the Sivas Province where it is believed to have originated sometime around the 7th century A.D. (According to a 2005 book by Wageningen Academic Publications titled Animal Production And Natural Resources Utilisation In The Mediterranean Mountain Areas, there is also a theory that a related regional native dog may have been present as far back as 7,000 B.C. and that such dogs were used by the Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites, among other peoples.) There is Assyrian art from the 800s A.D. that depict the Kangal or a similar dog. Although it is believed to have been first known by the nobility of the time, the Kangal Dog was also known to have been relatively quickly adopted by the region's common people who used them for herding and guarding flocks. Kangals — which are termed livestock guardian dogs — were expected to stave off wolves, lions, bears and tigers.

There is one family that is said to have been long associated with the Kangal Dog: the Aga of Kangal, a large family comprised of landholders and rulers. Although the power of this family has diminished over time, it was for a few centuries — from the 16th until the 19th — that the Aga was one of the more powerful ones.

Ironically, the Kangal Dog is rarely found in homes in Turkey, apparently because much of the country is Muslim and the religion forbids animals to live in the house. (When not herding and guarding livestock, the dogs live in low barns with their charges.) If you want to find a Kangal Dog in its natural habitat, you will most likely have to find a sheep or goat herder. It is because of this relative isolation that the Kangal Dog has remained essentially free of cross-breeding as well as maintained a basic uniformity in its appearance and temperament. The breed is considered by many to be the national dog, and both government and academic institutions have maintained kennels where the the dog's pedigree has been kept largely intact. The Kangal Dog remains a national treasure; no fewer than two Turkish stamps (and at least one Turkish coin) have featured the breed.

Kangal Dogs were not introduced to the United States until 1985, when a couple named David and Judith Nelson imported one after being residents of Turkey. According to the Web site for the Kangal Dog Club of America, David Nelson went on to become the first president of the then-newly established, North Carolina-based club, and Judith "became the first Western observer to report in international canine copyrighted literature the Kangal Dog name and to link this name with its status as an independent Turkish dog breed."

In the following years, the growing recognition of the Kangal Dog — one of the three native Turkish shepherd dog breeds later recognized by the 1996 International Symposium on Turkish Shepherd Dogs (the other two were the Akbash Dog of western Turkey and the Kars Dog of eastern Turkey) — prompted international outreach by symposium members to foreign entities interested in their country's breeds. David Nelson, the president of the Akbash Dog Association of America, Inc. (the ADAA, which he founded in 1978), was one of those who received a correspondence from a symposium attendee and the Dean of Selcuk University, Dr. Tekinsen, regarding the burgeoning controversy regarding Turkish canine breeds. In the letter, the primary argument seems to be that there are three and only three livestock guardian breeds and that the standards are to be set by Turkey and not by any entities elsewhere. (David Nelson also attended the symposium.) This letter, sent to a number of kennel clubs, prompted the United Kennel Club (UKC) to reach out to the ADAA in 1997 for the reason of recognizing the Akbash, which apparently opened the door to also recognizing the Kangal Dog, which the UKC recognized the following year, in 1998.

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog, which is, was and until recently remained at the heart of the controversy, was said to be the same as the Kangal. In USDA studies, Dr. Green addressed the problem directly: "The Kangal is often confused here with the Anatolian Shepherd. There is disagreement on both sides of what constitutes a Kangal or an Anatolian, and the debate has been going on for decades and probably will continue…" It should be noted that Dr. Green also attended the first symposium in 1996. The leading authority on Kangal Dogs appears to be the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Selcuk University in Konya, Turkey; a 2005 paper in which it was a primary participant, "Genetic Evidence for the Distinctness of Kangal Dogs," helped to advance this authority. The following year, 2006, the second International Kangal Dog Symposium was held and it was probably no coincidence that the Turkish Kennel Club (TKC) was also founded. By 2015, the TKC had become an associate member with Fédération Cynologique Internationale (CFI) and by December of the same year, the TKC was accepted into the AKC as well.

In recent years, a problem far worse than breed confusion has cropped up: fighting. Unscrupulous breeders have sought to channel the Kangal Dog's static energy (which is reserved for when physically attacked) into unbridled violence. The problem has been addressed formally by both the professional and scientific communities. In 2007, Orphan Yilmaz published the book, Turkish Kangal (Karabash) Shepherd Dog: History, description, breeding. It became a keystone in many subsequent abstracts published by universities and government agencies. In the above-mentioned abstract published by the Canadian Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences, Yilmaz alluded to the problem of exploiting the Kangal Dog for blood sport when he cited his earlier work: "If they are fed on excess meat, their character may be spoiled and they may develop an aggressive attitude." On the Web site for the Kangal Dog Club of America, the problem is addressed directly: "It is possible, of course, to encourage a Kangal Dog to be even more dog aggressive, and to suppress their nurturing behaviors through abuse and neglect." The essay from which this quote is taken goes on, at length, to discuss the ethical ramifications of such behavior.

Although the popularity of the Kangal Dog continues to grow alongside the problems, the clubs responsible for controlling the breeding — along with Turkey, which has apparently taken an active role in restraining the export of the breed — have tackled the problem head-on in a collective effort to prevent the exploitation of Kangal Dogs even as breeders in the U.S. are working to keep the breed as pure as possible.

The American Kennel Club has yet to recognize the Kangal Dog.

Kangal Dog Appearance

The Kangal Dog is a huge dog, and if kept healthy, should also be sleek — but still strong with a significant chest and long, powerful legs ending in huge paws. She will have a short- to medium-length double coat (although it tends to be short) with a large, wide head and folded ears that will appear small against it. The fully curled tail — carried proudly over her back — will impart a show-dog aspect that is not in line with its fearlessness, and dark muzzle will stand in contrast to her very light-colored coat. Although male and female are alike in many ways, the shape of their heads is not: the male's head is large whereas the female's is slimmer. The eyes will be dark, oval and seemingly sedate due to the droopy eyelids.

Kangal Dog Colors

The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Kangal Dogs.

Pale Yellow
Pale Yellow


Debate has long raged over whether the Kangal Dog is simply one variant of a generic breed of Turkish shepherd dogs (the Kars Dog, the Akbash Dog, and the Anatolian Shepherd are the other variants). Contrary to the beliefs of some, though, the Kangal has emerged as a genetically distinct breed. All these breeds are extremely similar in both appearance and temperament, but Turkish scientists have noticed slight genetic differences among them. The confusion seems to stem from abroad: while many Turkish people recognize these as four separate breeds, in some other countries they are all classified as Anatolian Shepherds. In the U.S., for example, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Anatolian in 1996, but has not done so for the Kangal, the Kars, or the Akbash dogs.

Kangal Dogs have limited coat varieties; they are short to medium length, and are yellow, gray or tan in color, often with white and black markings. (Akbash Dogs, meanwhile, are always white, and Kars Dogs exist in a variety of colors; both these breeds can have short, medium, or long-length coats.)

All these breeds of Turkish shepherd dogs are large-sized; their sizes normally range from "fairly large" (28 inches in height, 85 pounds in weight) to "huge" (34 inches, 150 pounds). The biggest Kangal Dogs, in fact, can reach over 40 inches in height and weigh over 200 pounds! Fun fact: the biggest Kangal dog in the world weighed around 220 pounds.

Kangal Dog Temperament

The seemingly unique characteristic about the Kangal Dog is his ability to appear calm in the face of imminent danger, a factor that helps to prevent incidents that with most guard dogs could end in injury. The defensive nature of the Kangal Dog is impressive: even when head-butted by rambunctious sheep and goats, or operating among obnoxious lambs and kids, or faced with a cheetah seeking to eat, the Kangol will stand down or stand her ground as needed. They are alpha dogs, however, and will dominate any other dogs; as such, they must be trained and socialized early as well as be made aware of the human alpha. They will be wary of strangers, highly protective of family members and remarkably reserved unless actually attacked.

Due to their shepherding background, Kangal Dogs need a lot of frequent and regular exercise. A daily walk to the park is only the beginning; a lot of room to roam, and several weekly outdoor runs are also a minimal requirement. They are by no means an apartment dog, and even in a large house, they need a large outdoor space with high fences; they can easily leap over the typical five- to six-foot-high fence.

Kangal Dog Maintenance

Kangal Dogs are very low-maintenance when it comes to grooming but extremely high-maintenance when it comes to exercise. They shed very little outside their shedding seasons (twice annually) and need a great amount of daily and vigorous exercise: be prepared to take your Kangal Dog on very long daily walks every day, or moderate-length jogs/runs as well as to have ample space for them to run in a very secure area with high fences.

Grooming Requirements

Kangal Dogs are seasonal shedders; otherwise they are very low-maintenance. When they do shed, however, they must be brushed daily as they will "blow out" their coats. They should be bathed as necessary and, like all other breeds, their nails, ears, and teeth should be cared for on a regular schedule to ensure optimal health.

Exercise Requirements

Be prepared to be get in shape if you plan on adopting a Kangal Dog. They require very long daily walks or fairly long daily jogs/runs as well as a great amount of highly-fenced, supremely secured outdoor space in which to run and play. It must be noted that Kangal Dogs were for centuries — perhaps millennia — a breed accustomed to long and constant activity, day and night. While they know how to reserve their energy, they need to release it occasionally as well. Unless your neighborhood is riven with wolves against which your Kangal Dog can protect you, make sure she gets several daily hours of activity. Of couse, if you live on a farm or out in the country your pet may not need a fenced area.

Living Requirements

Kangal Dogs are not indoor dogs, and they are not at all meant to be cooped up in apartments. If you wish to adopt a Kangal Dog, you must have a large home and huge, secure yard where he can run to his huge heart's content. He does very well in cold climates, thanks to his double-coat, and while he will be fine in hotter areas, he will shed a lot more and heavily so when the heat kicks in.

Unlike most large dogs, Kangals do not have a predatory nature and will most likely not chase small animals, but if you live in a place where predatory animals are present, you should be keenly aware of the your Kangal Dog's temperament.

Kangal Dog Health

Most large dogs don't have long life spans, but Kangal Dogs are different. They tend to live approximately 15 years, and often longer. (It should also be noted that the lower end of their life's spectrum can be about 12 years.) Although they are relatively healthy dogs, they are known for having benign fatty tumors as well as eye problems due to their somewhat heavy skin folds. Like many very large breeds, they also have joint problems. Although Kangals are hearty dogs, regular trips to the veterinarian will help to prevent or alleviate health problems.

Kangal Dog Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Kangal Dogs.

Fatty tumors

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:March 21, 2017