Ciobanesc Romanesc de Bucovina

Brief History of the Romanian Shepherd of Bucovina

The Romanian Shepherd of Bucovina is considered a variety of a Balkan breed, on the grounds of its similarity with Karakatcean, Tornjak or Hrvatski Planinski Pas. It is the descendant of dogs used by Dacians and Romans in the provinces Dacia and Moesia, which explains their similarity with Balkan breeds.

Since ancient times, as is attested by documents of the time, the Dacians were using dog breeds specialised in shepherding and hunting. This state of facts survived the failure of the Dacian State. During the Roman rule in Dacia, Latin-speaking colonists as Eutropius stated, probably brought with them dogs that derived from Cani Molossi, the ancestors of the Romanian "Zăvod" that the current Bucovina Romanian Shepherd derives from.

All Roman and Greek representations of the time show a large, muscular dog, with a massive head and mane. This image is a quite faithful description of the Bucovina Shepherd. The old type of dog used by the Romans, Dacian-Romans and later, by Romanians, and for guarding sheep and households, is the ancestor of the Bucovina Romanian Shepherd. For instance, in the 4th and 5th centuries, in some settlements south of the Carpathians, the dog was used to guard flocks and for hunting.

In the Romanian area, cynological preoccupations are old and, happily, constant. In the Middle ages, dogs of good breed were raised and intensely used, and they were famous all over Europe. At the beginning of the 18th century, there were dog breeders in the Romanian territories. At the princely court of the Martyr-Ruler Constantin Brâncoveanu there were two types of people specialised in this trade, each receiving half a "taler" (old Romanian currency) as a tip on Saint Basil’s day. They were especially dealing with hunting dogs (hounds and greyhounds), but also with large shepherd dogs used to guard the princely court. Even before that, Mathew Corvin, king of Hungary, offered a Kuvasz to Vlad the Impaler, from the royal kennel, which shows that the rulers of the Romanian Principalities had their own kennels and the necessary knowledge to appreciate such a gift. Also, the strongest and most refined European suzerains (such as Louis XV), were buying dogs selected and bred by Romanians for their kennels.

If strictly specialised breeds, especially those used for hunting, which had always been the privilege of the wealthy, disappeared or decreased in number following the deterioration of the social, economical and political situation, breeds of Romanian Shepherd dogs that were widely spread and multiply used, managed to survive. Their selection was continued especially by rich cattle breeders, due to the efficiency that they had proven in fighting wild animals. We know that peasants, when going hunting, used dogs that mostly had black spots against a white background, for large game (especially for wild boars and bears).

The skills, courage and physical force that the Romanian peasants showed in fighting large predators, with the help of Shepherd dogs, amazed all foreigners that had the occasion to witness this scene.

The careful selection of Romanian Shepherds Dogs was essential under the circumstances when, most times, the damages caused to cattle breeders by predators had to be paid by the shepherd who had been entrusted the respective herd. Damages made by wolves in particular were significant. The only truly effective method to limit damages was to increase and bring to perfection the breeds of autochthonous shepherds.

At the beginning of the 20th century, F. von Stepanitz identified the Romanian Shepherd as an autochthonous breed, and in the years 1930s, it caught the attention of cynologists. So, the first cynological approaches started to be made in the interwar period, when the Shepherd Dog that is specific to Romanian was identified and its scientific selection was initiated.

In 1934, Dr. G.Radulescu-Calafat published in "Revista stiintelor veterinare" (Veterinary Sciences Magazine) the first standard of the Carpathian Romanian Shepherd, insisting that it is a wolf-like dog, widely spread over the Romanian territory. Inter-war specialists did not omit the Romanian Shepherd dog of the molossoid type, called "Zavod" or "Dulau", but the latter was considered too little spread over the Romanian territory to try to homologate it.

This is how it was described in 1937 by Mihai Mosandrei: " ... the Carpathian sheep dog mustn’t be mistaken, judging by the exaggerated size established by the attempted standardization and other unclear stigmata, with the Romanian Zăvod, which also lives in some mountain peaks... The latter is a molossoid. The Zavod, as we could meet it these days, quite rarely and of Wallachian origin, distinguishes itself by its huge size, almost flabby ears and snub nose, strong, hollow, lion-like barking, and yet similar to the Shepherd(sic).... With some shepherds from Dobrudja who are nicknamed Albanians I have seen these large and very heavy Zavozi..."

We specify that the Romanian Zavod is the current Romanian Shepherd of Bucovina.

Preoccupations to standardise autochthonous breeds were interrupted by WWII and then, for decades, by the Communist regime established in Romania. Resumed in the 8th decade of the 20th century, they seemed almost to confirm Dr. G.Moldoveanu' words, who, in 1937, wrote: "...we have neglected our worthy Dulău that others have cultivated and brought to perfection ..."

Following the engagement taken in Bistrita in March 2002, the management team of the Romanian Cynological Association wrote out the standards of three breeds: Carpathian Romanian Shepherd, Romanian Shepherd of Bucovina and Mioritic Romanian Shepherd.

In March 2003, the technical files to standardise the three breeds were submitted to the International Cynological Federation to be analysed by the Standard Commission and the Scientific Commission of this international organisation.

On 6 July 2005, in Buenos Aires, the General Committee of the FCI approved and acknowledged the two Romanian Shepherd breeds, the Carpathian Romanian Shepherd and the Mioritic Romanian Shepherd.

As far as the Romanian Shepherd of Bucovina is concerned, the FCI General Committee decided resuming discussions after solving the Balkan Shepherd’s file. Despite this, the FCI General Committee assured the management of the Romanian Cynological Association that this breed/variety is acknowledged as Romanian and irrespective of how this file will be solved, the Romanian Shepherd of Bucovina will enjoy recognition as a Romanian breed or variety, and it is possible that it will obtain the C.A.C.I.B. title.

(This brief history was written by adapting information from the site – author of the breed history: Laurenţiu Florin Puicin, from the Romanian Cynological Association Activity Report for the years 2000-2003,, and from the Announcement published on the site

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