History of the Hungarian Kuvasz
- Asia, Europe & Sweden
Below is an extract from The Swedish Kuvasz Club's (SvKK's) summary of the breed's status, RAS 2012, written in 2012/2013. The document is an action plan for breeding that every breed that is registered with The Swedish Kennel Club needs to assemble. Both the original Swedish version and the translation to English are written by Ariana Carlén. All references in the text below can be found in the original document.
Note: Section 1.4 regarding The Swedish Club for Hungarian Breeds (Svk FUR) is incorrect. The latest details are that Svk FUR is a so called "special club" (a club responsible for one or more breeds, positioned under The Swedish Kennel Club's General Committee on the organisation tree) and that SvKK therefor do have the possibility to join it.
Kuvasz is an old herding dog whose origin is not fully known, but in RAS 2005 (Hermelin, 2005) it is described as follows:
”Some sources state that it came with The Magyar Tribes, groups of war hungry riders, that traveled from the east out of the large areas on the Asian steppes and settled in the Carpathian Basin by the end of the 9th century. Later, on two occasions, have dogs resembling Kuvasz entered Europe from Asia. First with The Cumans during the 13th century, and later during The Turkish Occupation, 1526 - 1688, a period when large parts of the country was abandoned and depopulated. Later on came the up-rise against The Habsburgs (1703 - 1711).”
Country of origin: Hungary
Breed group (FCI): Group 1 (sheepdogs and cattle dogs), section 1 (sheepdogs).
Utilisation: Mainly guarding but also hunting on a small scale.
Behaviour: Brave, fearless and loyal. Loves its family and protects it with its life if needed. Somewhat reserved towards strangers.
General appearance: Shall be harmonic as well as radiating nobility and strength.
Movements: Light footed, ground covering and tireless.
Fur: White to ivory in colour, wavy and of average length (4 - 12 cm). Weatherproof with a soft under coat.
Weight: Dogs 48 - 62 kg. Bitches 37 - 50 kg.
Height at withers: Dogs 71 - 76 cm. Bitches 66 - 70 cm.
A newer version, also this one with imprecise sources, is that Kuvasz, along with Komondor and Puli, lived with Sumerian shepherds as far back as 7000 - 8000 years ago (Balla, 2012). According to this source, the Hungarian-born cynologist Sandor Palfalvy (member of Alabama Academy of Science) did research on Sumerian, Greek and Latin literature, among others, and took part in archaeological excavations in the Euphrates-Tigris Valley, wherein he concluded that Kuvasz had been part of these societies. The dogs would have followed the shepherds from Mesopotamia to what is now Hungary, according to him.
It has earlier been stated that the word kuvasz comes from a Turkish word meaning "guardian of safety". The newer version instead says that the word would originate from the Sumerian word for dog "kudda" and that one would then only have used the first two letters "ku", and that the second part of the word would have come of the word "assa" which in Sumerian means horse. "Ku-assa" would then have the meaning of a dog that guarded and ran alongside horses and equestrians.
The Swedish Kuvasz Club's Breeding Committee has unfortunately not been able to access any English research papers written by Palfalvy and the newer version of the story has therefor not been able to be confirmed.
Anyhow, one needed strong and courageous dogs as protection of lives and property as robbery flourished at times. Wild animals, mainly wolves and wild boares, also added to the uncertainty.
Tough living conditions made a thick fur which can resist both cold and heat, dirt and dust. A lot of exercising and the feeding practices of the day gave the Kuvasz a solid bone structure and strong muscles. The dogs were mostly fed meat. One tied pieces of meat high up so that the puppies could develop strong neck and jaw muscles as well as giving them strong teeth. The shepherd wanted his dog white since it was easier to distinguish a white dog from the wild animals if ever the dog would need help.
1.1 Hungary and the Rest of Europe
The Kuvasz lived in Hungary as early as in medieval times, according to RAS 2005. It lived with shepherds all over the area but mostly in the mountain regions. One can assume that it was possible to discern different types of Kuvasz at an early stage - the mountain type with a vigorous stop and a smoother fur and the lowland type with a wedge shaped head and a more wavy fur, the latter of which today's Kuvasz population in Hungary has descended from.
Documents from the 15th century show that Kuvasz was the first breed out of the Hungarian breeds to follow its masters into the towns and further into the homes, away from the endless plains. King Matthias enthusiasm for the breed opened the doors for it to the aristocracy. He trusted his dogs more than his life guards in this time of intrigues and ambushes. Not surprisingly was a Kuvasz a very valuable gift. It was also used for big game hunting during a period of time.
The Hungarian organisation for breeders of mountain dogs, whose first publications were published during the early 1920's, sees the dogs working abilities as its most important feature. The organisation's first president, Dr Emilrol Raitsits, who also took part in founding The Hungarian Kennel Club (MEOE) in 1912, gathered information about the inner and outer attributes of the dogs. In 1921 he revised the existing breed standard from 1905, which translated to English should have the following rough name Standard Description of the Hungarian Sheepdogs, and adjusted it to contain the preferences of the current era (Sárkány, 1977).
The 20th century saw more civilized and intensified farming along with animal husbandry. The Kuvasz lost its original work and moved to more populated areas and became guard dogs at farms and industries and in homes and houses.
Around 1939 The Kuvasz became fashionable as a breed among the big breeding enthusiasts in Hungary and Western Europe, but the success was slowed down by the Second World War. Lack of food and other necessities made the kennels reduce their dogs to a minimum. One was forced to give away ones most valuable animals for military purposes and hundreds of faithful watchdogs were killed, firstly by German troops and secondly by Russian troops.
At the end of the war the breeding was in a poor state. It took years to measure the scale of the losses. The Russian occupants and the new regime saw dog breeding as a luxurious hobby for the aristocracy and treated it as such. In the postwar era the breeders and breed enthusiasts of the time met in secret to conduct new rules to follow and to gather the few dogs that remained, in aim to start breeding anew. Breeders such as Ferenc Majda and Straskaba along with professor Csaba Anghi were a few. The first puppies were sold for cigarettes, food etc. The feed shortages led to Kuvasz, along other large breeds, loosing popularity.
Antál Kovacs, who was an expert within the wool industry, founded the most famous kennel from this time. Guyapjus Kennel started 1951 with eight Kuvasz which he and his colleagues had bought during his travels around Hungary. It was the biggest Kuvasz kennel in Europe with as many as 50 Kuvasz and its operation lasted for more than 20 years and helped to restore the breed tremendously. After the revolution in Hungary 1956 the living conditions were improved and eventually the Kuvasz regained the popularity that it had before the war.
The legendary Fogas vom Schwabensee and Kuvasz from Guyapjus Kennel are dogs that you meet in pretty much every pedigree of Swedish Kuvasz. It is 43 years between Fogas and litters born 2012 in Sweden. (The father of one of the Swedish breeders foundation bitches was a grandson of Fogasd vom Schwabensee.)
1.2 Kuvasz in Sweden
The first registred Kuvasz in Sweden was imported 1969 by the Hungarian born Dr. Tibor Buzády. It was a male dog, Betyartelepi Bicsak Csigo (S 09234/69) from Hungary. Many more imports followed and Dr. Buzády became the first breeder of Kuvasz.
With the help of Dr. Tibor Buzády, a man called T. Björnsson from Hundstallet (a dog shelter and dog protection association) of that time, brought in a pregnant bitch, Harosi Ani, from Hungary in 1970, who delivered her ten puppies in quarantine but who herself unfortunately died a few weeks after the whelping. One of the males in this litter, Arro (Hd without remarks and awarded with CAC and CACIB at dog shows) was bred, whilst one of the bitches, Aszti, got as old as 14 years of age.
Other early imports from Hungary were:
Gyapjus Rokolya, female (e. Gyapjus Morcos, u. Gyapjus Nora)
(INTUCH NORDUCH) Pecelói Bojtár Csipke, female (e. Gyapjus Morcos, u. Kunvári Anikó Ajnar), Hd-x-rayed at 9 years of age with HD 1-1, lived until 11 years of age.
Pecelói Cinka, female (e. Fogas sonen Petröczi Atti, u. Fenyvesvölgyi Csilla Bundas), lived until 9.5 years of age.
(FINUCH INTUCH) Budagyöngye Bihar, male (e. Fogas vom Schwabensee, u. Ipoly Betty), died past 10 years of age.
(INTUCH NORDUCH) Sokorópátkai Andul, male (e. Fogas sonen Petröczi Atti, u. Gerecsehegyi Alice), died in a gas accident with his family 7 years old.
Gyöngyhazi Adonis, male (e. Budagyöngye Bihar, u. Fenyvesvölgyi Andrea Tisza) came to Sweden with a Hungarian couple, was x-rayed with a normal Hd score and was bred twice (Trevnadens and Wulcanos litters), after which the owners emigrated to Australia and took the dog with them.
1.3 A Historical Letter
A letter with Bromma 4 September 1973 as postmark from Dr. Tibor Buzády to all known owners of dogs of Hungarian breeds became a piece of history. The writer wanted to know if there might be interest in a gathering at the dog show the 3rd of November in Stockholm. The reason was to potentially create an organisation. The total amount of Hungarian breed dogs this year were 120 split over the following breeds: Kuvasz, Puli and Viszla. This letter led to the founding of The Association for Hungarian Breeds (Föreningen för Ungerska Rashundar (FUR)) 1973, with Dr. Tibor Buzády as president.
Dr. Tibor Buzády was pretty much the only breeder until 1974 when he left the country with his Bihar and settled in München and later in Budapest. He has also written a book about the Hungarian breeds in Hungarian, English and German.
1.4 The Swedish Kuvasz Club
FUR had the responsibility for all Hungarian breeds in Sweden until 1995. The breed club for Kuvasz was founded 10 May 1992 in Linköping and after a period of interim the club got official status 26 January 1995. The Swedish Kuvasz Club (SvKK) is the solely responsible for Kuvasz in Sweden and is governed under "the special club" The Swedish Mountain and Herding Dog Club (SBHK).
It has been discussed within SvKK that the club should once again belong to FUR (today called Svk FUR) but it was said that this wasn't possible if SvKK wants to continue to exist as a breed club as SvK FUR itself is a breed club and not a special club. Some kind of cooperation is being discussed between the two clubs after Svk FUR's initiative.
During 2010 SvKK was awarded an honour diploma from Hungary (see appendix 1). It was the Hungarian Kennel Club (MEOE) via András Korózs (president), Tibor Buzády (founder of FUR) and Imre Gèczi (Hungarian Judiciary) who expressed there gratitude for the work that has been done for The Kuvasz in Sweden. This is something that SvKK along with its breeders is very proud of.
Pictures of the pompous Matthias fountain (Mátyás kútja) at the Buda Castle (Budai Vár). King Matthias (also called Matthias Corvinus) is positioned at the top of the fountain. To the bottom left is the Italian chronicler Galeotto Marzio who lived at the court. The dog that rests by Marzio's feet seems to be an athletic and elegant Kuvasz (this has not been confirmed). The fountain was erected around 1900 by Alajos Stróbl. It has later been restored some after being damaged during The Second World War. Info gathered from Wikipedia. Photo: Ariana Carlén.