There is much debate in the canine kingdom about the Anatolian Shepherd and the Kangal and whether they are the same breed or not. We’ve sifted through all of the conflicting canine information to find the most recent and reliable facts. We look at what the professionals say and the key differences between the breeds, resolving this controversy once and for all.
Suppose you’re here because you’re looking for your next family dog, or you’re venturing into the world of giant pups. In that case, neither of these canines is the best choice. Both are hardworking, protective shepherd dogs who are not suited to the average family. But if you’re searching for a protective shepherd dog for your ranch, they don’t come much better than these two.
So, let’s get down to the doggy details and discover the truth about these valiant Turkish beasts.
If you are not certain of your dog’s genetic makeup, you can use an at-home DNA test kit to find out.
27.5 – 32 inches
88 – 143 Pounds
Independent, loyal, reserved
Better than Average
$1,000 and Up
Alert, territorial, affectionate
Better than average
$1,500 and Up
The breed’s history should be one of the first things that you look at. Not only does it tell you a lot about them and their original purpose. But it can also give you a fantastic insight into what to expect from them in the family home. These breeds have very similar histories that are intertwined with one another. So, let’s take a look.
Many believe that these two breeds both descended from Molosser ancestors dating back to 2,000 B.C. The British Museum houses Assyrian bas-relief carvings, which show large dogs that resemble Turkish Shepherd dogs. For a long time, many people and registries considered these dog breeds to be the same breed.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) considers them the same breed and consolidates them under the Anatolian Shepherd name. The other principal registry in America, the United Kennel Club (UKC), recognizes the Anatolian Shepherd and the Kangal Dog as separate breeds. They recognized Anatolian Shepherds in 1993 and Kangals in 1998. On the contrary, in 2018, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (the combined registry for mainland Europe) deemed that the two breeds are so similar that they should be considered the same. And they are now both recognized as the Kangal Shepherd Dog.
These dog breeds originate from Turkey. They were bred to protect their master’s livestock without little or no human supervision. They are capable of fighting wolves, bears, jackals and sourcing their food. Anatolia was the name given for the central part of Turkey, hence the name Anatolian Shepherds. The name Kangal derives from a specific area in Turkey, the Kangal District of Sivas Province, where the Kangal breed is mainly found. The Kangal is a national treasure, and they are the official breed of Turkey. Kangal dogs are sometimes referred to as Karabash as well.
According to the AKC, a pair of Anatolian Shepherds were imported into America just before World War II to participate in the top-secret “Sheepdog Project.” This mission aimed to discover which breeds were best suited to the needs of American pasturelands and ranchers. American farmers began importing Anatolians from Turkey in the 1950s. Lieutenant Robert Ballard is the individual credited with breeding the foundation of all Anatolian Shepherds today.
The welcoming of Anatolian Shepherds into America coincided with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This required ranchers to regulate the population of predatory wolves without killing them. It is the nature of all Turkish Shepherd dogs to intimidate predators rather than fight them, making them the ideal option for ranchers across America.
Those that believe that Kangals are a separate breed state that Kangals are still, to this day, a closely guarded secret of Turkey. And the exportation of purebred Kangals is forbidden. Sure, there are a few differences between the two species when comparing their different breed standards. But there is no clear-cut answer as to whether they are officially distinct breeds or not.
They are both large to giant-sized dog breeds that require lots of room in the home. With their long legs holding up a bulky, robust frame, it is clear to see how powerful they could be against ferocious predators. But equally, they aren’t formidable in appearance compared to some other dog breeds. Instead, they have a fairly gentle face with a soft yet alert gaze.
According to the UKC breed standards, Kangals are the slightly larger pup of the two, but only by two pounds. Anatolian Shepherds can also be shorter by half an inch. Both of their tails curl, getting tighter as they become increasingly alert to something.
They both have a double coat that shields them from Turkey’s harsh elements and climates– freezing, cold winters, and scorching, dry summers. However, it is their coat length and coloring that enables many to tell the two breeds apart. Anatolian Shepherds have a short or semi-long coat, and it is much denser around the neck, shoulders, and thighs. All colors are acceptable in the Anatolian breed.
Kangals typically have a shorter coat. The outer jacket is slightly harsher to the touch compared to the Anatolian Shepherds. And the cashmere-like undercoat is soft and dense. They also have slightly longer hair around the neck, shoulders, and tail. Another telltale sign that many Kangals have is a flatter strip of hair running along their topline.
For Kangals, there are additional coloring rules because it is such a vital characteristic. In Turkey, any deviation indicates that the dog in question is not a purebred Kangal. A true Kangal always sports a solid color that ranges from a light dun to a dull gold or a steel gray. They should also wear a black mask that covers the muzzle and sometimes extends over their head. Ears should always be black. The tail is usually black-tipped, and often a black spot in the middle of the tail is present.
Both of these dogs are natural guarders, and they protect their flock or family to the death if they need to. They are not brutes looking for a fight. Instead, they stand their ground, barking and growling until their opponent backs off. So, if you’re a cowboy looking for an independent canine colleague to protect and herd your flock, both tick all the boxes.
They both become bored with average family life, so they’re not suitable for most dog owners. And they protect their home at night with their booming bark, annoying neighbors several streets over. Anyone living near noise-sensitive neighbors should think twice about these breeds. They are aloof with strangers, and visitors should not attempt to fuss them.
If you’re looking for a family Fido to play fetch in the park with, these are not the breed for you. They haven’t got much time for playing as they are serious dogs. They are surprisingly affectionate with their master. They occasionally enjoy sitting in front of the fire surrounded by their human pack. However, you’ll mostly find them guarding their perimeter outdoors or sleeping by the window with one eye open. Some say that a Kangal is more affectionate.
They are active dog breeds who are always on the go in the form of protecting their home. As such, they don’t need to be walked outside of the house like other dog breeds. Instead, they are self-exercising. They get enough exercise every day while patrolling their homes and yards. If you do not have access to vast private and secure land, neither is a good match.
They have active minds, but guarding their homes is enough to keep them occupied. Historically, they patrolled the mountains alone for months on end, with nothing to do but watch their flock for entertainment. As a result, many families mistakenly assume they can sit idly in their homes, but this is not the case. If they are not satisfied with their lifestyle, they become destructive and unmanageable.
They are not interested in giving a paw or spinning for a treat. Essentially, they do what they want, which is to patrol and protect the family. They are headstrong, dominant personalities that always think they are correct. This makes them unsuitable to inexperienced dog owners or average families because they are a challenge to train.
Instead, they need a very experienced dog owner who can work with them and treat them as they want to be treated – independent, four-legged employees. Their owner needs to be a firm pack leader who can show them the ropes and establish the rules should they get out of hand.
Although they are not what you would consider being family pets, they still need to be socialized from a young age. Mix them with as many dogs as possible, and invite plenty of visitors to your home. This way, they learn the difference between a friendly stranger and a potential danger that they need to watch.
If you want them to live peacefully with other family pets, they need to be raised alongside them from a puppy. Their protectiveness can sometimes translate into aggression, and they might see new or outside animals as a threat. Socialization goes a long way in shaping their personality. Both of these breeds can and do live with children, and they’ll see them as younger members of the flock that needs to be protected.
The Kangal often lives a few years longer than the Anatolian Shepherd. Anatolians and Kangals are both sensitive to anesthesia, sometimes making treatments difficult. Because they are rare dogs, you should always remind your vet of this just in case they are not aware.
Although it does not appear frequently, these breeds’ most common health concern is hip and elbow dysplasia. It occurs as a result of abnormal formation of the joint. Responsible breeders screen their breeding dogs for these concerns. Parents should have their hips scored as fair or above by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, PennHip, or equivalent bodies.
They both eat the same on average, usually between three to four cups a day. They both need to eat a kibble explicitly designed for large breed dogs. This is especially true during puppyhood as it can also help reduce the chances of developing skeletal problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
They’ll both need their coats brushing two to three times a week because they are very thick. Without regular grooming, they’ll become disheveled-looking. Frequent grooming helps to stimulate blood circulation in their skin, promoting a healthier coat.
They shed heavily during the shedding seasons, particularly from their winter to summer coats. You should brush them most days if you don’t want hair hurricanes in your home. And you’ll need a de-shedding tool to tackle their shedding. Neither of these breeds is prone to becoming dirty or bathing in mud, so a bath once every two to three months should suffice.
The price of an Anatolian Shepherd puppy is usually a little lower than the much rarer Kangal. This is because the exportation of Kangals from Turkey is reasonably limited. The average starting price of an Anatolian Shepherd puppy is $1,000, compared to $1,500 for a Kangal. The cost of adopting either breed is much lower, but there are few Anatolians and Kangals in rescue homes.
Your wait might be much longer for a Kangal compared to an Anatolian, considering the limited number of Kangal breeders. But it’ll be worth its weight in gold to find a reputable breeder. These protective and potentially aggressive dogs need the best start to life to transform into polite dogs. And irresponsible breeders and puppy mills don’t socialize or care for their puppies as they should.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America lists reputable breeders who have signed their code of ethics, as does the Kangal Dog Club of America. So be sure to check these sites out when starting your journey to buying either an Anatolian or Kangal puppy.
Remember that there are additional costs to consider when buying a puppy on top of the initial puppy price. The Kangal might be the more expensive of the two regarding the initial puppy price. Still, after this, they cost relatively the same considering their similar size and lifestyle.
There is heated debate about whether Anatolian Shepherds and Kangals are the same dog breed. From the comparison above, it’s easy to see why many people and canine registries believe they are the same breed. They look almost identical, originate from the same location, and share the exact breed purpose. They have very similar personalities too.
The main difference falls in their respective breed standards. Kangals are sometimes taller and can weigh up to two pounds more on average. The Kangal also has a shorter coat, with a solid coat color complemented by a black facial mask. In comparison, any color is acceptable for an Anatolian Shepherd. It is these slight differences that set the two apart.
Whichever breed you choose, know that you need to offer them what they need, which is effectively the same thing. They both require a large home with access to vast private and secure land. If you are highly experienced with dominant dog breeds, you will be more successful with these two pups. But don’t expect them to be the typical canine chum. They offer you, your family, and ranch animals maximum protection and companionship in exchange for your hard work.