Did you know that one of the oldest and most beloved breeds of dogs in Catalonia is the Catalan sheepdog (also known as Catalan stop dog or Catalan shepherd)? These furry and faithful companions have amazing skills as both a shepherd and a companion dog. In this article, we’ll explore their origin, history, unique characteristics, and skills and discover how many of these wonderful dogs exist today. So, let’s jump right in!
Where does the Catalan sheepdog come from?
The origin of the Catalan stop dog is uncertain, but it is believed that it descended from dogs brought by the Roman conquerors to the Iberian Peninsula around 150 BC. These dogs crossed with the local dogs of the region and gave rise to different European breeds. In the Catalan Pyrenees, the type of dog that gave rise to the Catalan stop dog would have predominated.
The history of the Catalan sheepdog
For centuries, the Catalan sheepdog enjoyed much popularity in Catalonia thanks to its great virtues as a shepherd dog and guardian. It was the typical dog of Catalan shepherds, who used it to drive and protect sheep, goats, and cows. It was also the dog of the farmhouses, where it watched and defended the territory and the family.
However, after World War II, the breed lost much of its admirers, reaching the brink of extinction. Fortunately, in the 1970s, a group of breeders began a program to recover the breed. Today, this is a rare dog in most of the world, but the population of Catalan shepherds is increasing slowly but gradually.
The characteristics of the Catalan sheepdog
This dog’s body is slightly longer than tall, in a length ratio: height on the cross of 9:8. It is also strong and muscular, but not heavy. The general impression it gives is that of strength and agility. The legs are strong and muscular, suitable for trotting long distances.
The head is broad and slightly convex, with the skull and nose of the same length. The eyes are small, oval-shaped, and dark brown. The ears are triangular and medium-sized and have fallen or semi-erect covers. The tail is medium length, rolled on the back or hanging like a hook.
The hair is long, smooth, hard and thick, with an inner layer of fine and soft hair. The color can be fawn, gray, black, brown, or orange, with or without white marks. The hair forms a beard, a moustache, and eyebrows that partially cover the eyes, giving it a characteristic look.
Its cross height is 45 to 55 cm in males and 40 to 50 cm in females. Its weight is about 20 kg in males and about 15 kg in females2.
The skills of the Catalan sheepdog
The Catalan sheepdogis a work dog. The Catalan shepherds selected it based on their ability to work, which has made it an active dog that likes to please its owners. As a shepherd’s dog, it has an excellent instinct for herd protection and great intelligence to solve problems. It also has a good sense of orientation and great physical resistance.
As a pet dog, it has a stable and faithful character. It is endearing with family members, caring for children while distrusting strangers. It is a dog that adapts well to different environments, whether in a farmhouse or a flat in a large city. To be happy, it needs daily exercise, attention, and estimation.
As a helpful dog, it has great skills for other tasks, such as canotherapy, rescue, or agility. It is a dog that learns fast and enjoys physical and mental activity.
How many examples of Catalan sheepdogs are there today?
There is no official data on the number of Catalan sheepdogs. Still, it is estimated that there are around 10,000 registered in the Spanish Origins Book (LOE) and about 5,000 registered in the Catalan Origins Book (LOC). In addition, many other specimens are not officially registered but are recognized as Catalan shepherds by their owners and breeders.
The Catalan shepherd is such an incredible breed that deserves more recognition for its beauty, history, and impressive skills. If you’re an active person or a nature lover searching for an excellent companion, a Catalan shepherd dog could be a perfect match. However, before adopting one, it’s crucial to educate yourself on their care, health, and training requirements. To get started, we suggest reaching out to the Club del Gos d’Atura Català (Catalan Shepherd dog Club), where you’ll find all the information about the breed and exciting club activities.