The Livestock Guarding Dog Program
The Cheetah Conservation Fund's Livestock Guarding Dog program is a successful, innovative program that has been helping to save the wild cheetah in Namibia since 1994.
Working with local farmers and their livestock, this program is one of several non-lethal predator management strategies that CCF has developed.
In addition to directly saving the cheetah from indiscriminate removal from the farmlands where they live, this program also fosters goodwill between CCF and the farmers, thus improving the cheetah's chances for survival.
SKY NEWS report "Cats and Dogs Work Together." To view, click here (will open the SKY NEWS video web site).
National Geographic's "Dog Save Cheetahs." To view, click here (opens the NatGeo web site)
The Cheetah's Story
Only about 10,000 cheetahs remain in the wild, of which 30% (about 3000 cheetahs) are in Namibia, the largest remaining population in the world. Over 95% of Namibia's cheetahs live on commercial and communal livestock farmland, due to pressures from other predators in preserves and protected areas. The removal of lions and leopards from the farmlands, in addition to plentiful natural prey animals and an abundance of water, have opened up a niche for the cheetah and have allowed it to exist on Namibian farms. Inevitably, this sharing of land and resources has led to conflict, with the cheetah on the losing end.
In the 1980's, Namibia was hit hard by drought. The cheetah's natural prey base died, or was killed by farmers to reduce grazing and watering pressures on their livestock. With little natural prey to hunt, some cheetahs were forced to take livestock. Many farmers consider the cheetah to be a major threat to their livestock.
In Namibia, cheetahs are a protected species. But when cheetahs come into conflict with humans and their livestock, farmers are allowed to "remove" the animal. Trapping and shooting cheetahs that are suspected of being a threat to livestock is permitted. Sometimes cheetahs are just passing through, but are immediately labeled as a "problem animal". CCF's goal is to help livestock farmers find ways to co-exist with cheetahs.
The Anatolian Shepherd
The Anatolian Shepherd is a guard dog of ancient lineage; probably originating from large hunting dogs in ancient Mesopotamia. The breed evolved over time to be able to travel great distances across the arid Anatolian Plateau region of Turkey and Asia Minor. This environment is very similar to Namibia, with very little rain, extreme heat in summer and cold in winter.
Used for guarding livestock, the dogs were expected to work in a vast open area without the presence of humans. Through selective breeding, a magnificent livestock guarding dog emerged.
The Anatolians possess a double coat, medium in length, often with dark facial shading. This functional coat insulates the dog against sun and extreme temperatures. They have a large and imposing stature, with mature males standing approximately 30 inches + at the shoulder and weighing 110-143 lbs. They have large heads and chests, with a tapering body. Their excellent eyesight, sharp hearing and strong dedication to their herd make them ideal for the job. (Photo: Susie Greenberg.)
The Kangal Dog
The Kangal Dog is a stock-guarding breed that has existed from ancient times in the small town of Kangal, south east of Sivas in Central Turkey (Central Anatolia). However, there is no doubt that the Kangal Dog is a descendant of ancient mastiff-type dogs. The relative isolation of the Sivas-Kangal region has kept the Kangal Dog free of cross-breeding and has resulted in a natural breed of remarkable uniformity in appearance, disposition, and behaviour.
Alert, territorial, and defensive of the domestic animals or the human family to which it has bonded, the Kangal has the strength, speed, and courage to intercept and confront threats to the flocks of sheep and goats that it guards. Kangal Dogs prefer to intimidate predators but will take a physical stand and even attack if necessary, a quality that makes them an ideal guard dog.
The Kangals possess a short double coat that allows them to withstand extreme temperatures. The coat is slightly longer on the neck, shoulders and tail; shorter on face, head and ears, and varies in colour from light dun to steel grey. The black mask is a characteristic that distinguishes this breed. They are powerful and muscular, with males standing at approximately 30-32 inches at the shoulder and weighing ~120 lbs.The Kangal Dog is the guardian par excellence. They assume guardianship over all their master's possessions. When they are raised with livestock, they learn that their responsibility is to protect those animals. However, the Kangal Dog combines this ability to bond with other species with a deep devotion to its human master(s).
The Dogs at Work
CCF started the Livestock Guarding Dog program in 1994, by capitalizing on the special characteristics of Anatolian Shepherds, and more recently, Kangal Dogs. Original from Turkey, where the dogs are used to protect livestock against wolves and bears, CCF saw the potential these dogs could have in CCF’s efforts to minimize conflict with predators on Namibian farmlands. The dogs’ natural instincts to protect the flock, paired to the cheetah’s natural flight vs. fight instinct, made these dogs the ideal choice...
Both the Kangal and the Anatolian Shepherd are bred to be working dogs, and thus are very attentive to their herds. The goal of CCF's Livestock Guarding Dog (LSGD) program is to raise the young pups with the herd, so that they bond with the livestock, instead of humans, and thus assume the role of protectors. This program is an extension of a livestock management practice already used by Namibian farmers. Some farmers have used other breeds of smaller dogs to protect their livestock, so introducing these breeds was a logical extension of the practices already utilized by Namibian farmers of the region.CCF's LSGD program involves selective breeding of dogs, careful selection of recipient farmers, training for the new owner to train his/her dog for a successful guarding career, as well as follow-up to make sure the dog is doing well. The picture above shows Zanta, with a new litter of puppies on the CCF farm.
The puppies are weaned from their mother and placed with their new herds at 7 to 8 weeks old. It was found that this is the critical age where the puppy can successfully bond with the livestock. The young dog goes out with the herder and the livestock right away, to habituate it with the behaviour of the livestock and wild animals. Human interactions are kept to a minimum, to avoid bonding with people, which would decrease the dog's attentiveness to the herd. However, the puppies must be carefully supervised and introduced slowly to their job and the dangers of the African bush (snakes, predators, tick-borne diseases, getting lost, etc.). Herders must be careful to check their dog for ticks, illness or injury each day. A well-trained, well-cared-for Anatolian Shepherd is an imposing barrier against the predation of its livestock herd.
The livestock guarding dog lives with the herd, eats and sleeps with the livestock and travels with them. The dog is always on alert, and must defend its herd against a variety of threats. The CCF's Livestock Guarding Dogs have defended their herds against baboons, jackals, caracals, cheetahs, leopards and even humans. The dog is not trained to chase or attack its job is to bark and posture to scare the predator away. But occasionally the dog is forced to physically defend its herd, and its size and strength make it a formidable obstacle. Cheetahs are not normally aggressive, and are quick to retreat from a barking dog. The barking of the dog is normally enough to scare away a predator, and also alerts any nearby humans to the threat.
CCF's Livestock Guarding Dogs
The dogs used in CCF's LSGD program are all carefully bred on CCF's Research and Education Centre and demonstration farm in Namibia. CCF maintains a registry to track the breeding histories of each dog, and to document the placement and work of the dogs.
The original 10 "livestock guarding dogs" for the program were Anatolian Shepherds imported from the United States to Namibia, a donation from Louise Emmanuel of Birinci Anatolians and the Livestock Guarding Dog Association, through the direction of Dr. Ray Coppinger, Livestock Guarding Dog specialist. From those first dogs, many litters have been born and successfully placed with livestock herds. Currently, about 150 CCF dogs are protecting livestock herds on Namibian farms. In order to diversify the Anatolian bloodlines currently at CCF, CCF imported dog semen from an unrelated Anatolian male. CCF wishes to thank Lynn Kenny and Mark Griffith of Rare Breeds Ranch and Bridgett Higginbotham, RVT of ICSB Grass Valley for their generous support.
In memory of some of CCF’s first dogs
Boots, one of the first Anatolians in the program, enjoyed her retirement on CCF's farm until her death in April 2004 at age 15. Two other dogs, Caesar and Zanta worked as guarding dogs at CCF's farm where they protected CCF's own goat herd for many years, and were are also involved in the breeding program. Sadly, Caesar, our main breeding male for over 10 years, had to be put down in August 2007 at age 14. A year later, Zanta had to be euthanized to relieve her from her suffering, as her degenerative arthritis could not be controlled with painkillers anymore. Finally, Koya, Zanta’s sister that had been assigned the duty of companion to Chewbaaka (photo), CCF's ambassador cheetah on the farm, also died at age 13 in December 2008.
In 2008, the first Kangal puppies, Spots and Cazgir, arrived at CCF Namibia through the generous donation of CCF’s friends Abdullah and Mustafa. Spots was named after the SPOTS Foundation in Holland to acknowledge their generous support. Cazgir was named after the Turkish word meaning bold ( photo). In addition, and thanks to the generous help of Mike and Tamara Taylor of Turkmen Kangal Dogs (www.kangaldogs.com) and Once Frozen Canine services (www.oncefrozen.com), it was possible for CCF to obtain semen from three Kangal males that will be the basis of the CCF Kangal breeding program, Additionally Mark and Tamara have donated Hediye, a female Kangal puppy that arrived at CCF end of May 2009 (photo). In September 2010, they were joined by Aleya, donated by German breeder Sivas Guardian Angels, and by Firat (male) and Feliz (female) donated by French breeder Bonnie Blue Flag. These Kangals provide new bloodlines for our successful Livestock Guarding Dog program.
Supporting CCF's Dog Program:
As one of CCF's most intensive activities, the LSGD program costs over $40,000 per year to breed and care for the dogs, as well as educate the farmers (costs increase yearly as the number of dogs increases). As a CCF supporter, your generous donations help to support this life-saving program for the wild cheetah.
There are many ways to support this program: you can sponsor a Livestock Guarding Dog through our Sponsorship program, and or you can let friends and family know about our work with Anatolians, and more recently, with Kangals.
Learn more about these magnificent breeds
Visit the United Kennel Club (UKC) web site to learn more about these livestock guarding dog breeds.