The Balkan country of Bulgaria, stretching from the shores of the Black Sea inland to the Balkan mountains, is still a country surrounded by an air of mystery and the unknown. After being an ex-pat in Bulgaria for the past three years, there is still a wealth of new things I am constantly finding out, such as the Bulgarian dog breeds I had no idea existed until recently such as the Karakachan Dog.
Bulgarian dog breeds have found their way into the hands of world leaders from George W. Bush to Vladimir Putin. In this article, we’re going to look at Bulgaria’s three dog breeds from the scenthound to the Karakachan Dog.
3. The Bulgarian Hound – Barak
The first of the Bulgarian dog breeds on the list is that of the Bulgarian Hound. This breed goes back centuries and has served a useful purpose amongst the communities of rural Bulgaria due to its unique scent tracking skills. This dog breed is also known as the Bulgarian Barak.
The exact origins of the Bulgarian Barak, due to the lack of records from its origins thousands of years ago, are still relatively obscure. However, many Bulgarians I’ve asked about the breed told me that the Bulgarian Hound was brought to country across Asia by the Mongols when they invaded Europe. After all, the work Barak means “Shaggy” in Turkish and refers to the shaggy fur coat of the Bulgarian hound.
Others told me that the dog was a result of breeding by the Thracians, an ancient people who once inhabited large parts of Eastern and Southeastern Europe thousands of years ago. What is known is that the currents breed of the dog comes from cross-breeding between international hunting dog breeds and local Bulgarian breeds.
“Though Bulgaria has a large population of over 7 million people, the number of Bulgarian dog breeds that originate there is small.”– Dog Breeds FAQ
As well as tracking, Bulgarian hounds are renowned for their skills of attack. During conversations with Bulgarian hunters, they told me that this breed is capable of bringing down lethal game such as wild boar. In the mountains of Bulgaria, these dogs fill a role similar to a scout. They work alone and ahead of the hunter. When they have tracked prey, they bark to signal the hunter to spring into action.
2. The Bulgarian Scenthound
Arguably one of the most stubborn, independent, and loner breeds of the list is the Bulgarian scenthound. Despite often having a strong bond with its owner, this Bulgarian breed is fiercely independent. This is a result of how it operates. Similar to the Bulgarian hound previously mentioned, the Bulgarian scenthound operates well ahead of the hunter to locate prey during the hunt.
Despite a phenomenal ability for hunting, this breed is difficult to train due to its stubbornness and lack of attention when it comes to listening to its owner. Thus they are reserved for Bulgarian hunters in the Bulgarian countryside with a strong personality and leadership skills rather than a new pet owner living downtown in one of the Bulgarian cities.
The Bulgarian scenthound is not the most sociable of animals and is not good around other dogs. Its hunting instinct, ingrained for centuries, means it struggles to tell the difference between prey and a household cat for example. When around other dogs, any wise Bulgarian will keep it on a leash.
1. Karakachan Dog – The Bulgarian Shepherd Dog
Not too dissimilar to the Kangal shepherd dog, the Anatolian shepherd, or the caucasian shepherd dog, the Karakachan is an iconic native of the Bulgarian nation despite only being officially recognized as a native breed of Bulgaria in 2005. Sometimes called the Karakachan bear dog, they have been used in the past to protect the Bulgarian border but today they are traditionally seen as a Bulgarian shepherd dog.
The name of this Bulgarian shepherd dog comes from the word Karakachans. This is an ancient word that was used to describe the ethnic Greek nomadic shepherds who used to roam these lands and use Karakachans to protect their flocks. The breed originated in Bulgaria and thanks to a very conservative attitude towards breeding Karakachans, their breed has been preserved to such an extent that it is recognized as one of the oldest breeds of domestic animals in all of Europe.
The name of the karakachan dog is believed to come from the Turkish words kara meaning ‘black’ and kaçan meaning ‘the one that got away’.– Wikipedia
The dogs that are of the true Karakachan bloodline are all registered in the International Karakachan Database in Bulgaria. These days, the biggest populations of the dog outside of Bulgaria are in the United States which has a large population of Karakachan dogs guarding livestock in various states.
As my new home, Bulgaria is a country I’ve covered a lot. From the Black Sea islands off the Bulgarian coast to the ethnically-Russian populated fishing village I have come to know as the Bulgarian Mevagissey.