9 Fuzzy Facts About the Komondor
Is that a dog or a mop? Learn more about this dog in sheep’s clothing.
1. THEY COME FROM HUNGARY.
There are a lot of arguments about where these shaggy dogs came from, but many suggest the dogs migrated to Hungary with the Cumans—nomadic Turkic people of the steppes—who were fleeing a Mongolian invasion in 1246. Skeletons resembling the Komondor have been found in Cuman graves. Others suggest that it was the Huns that introduced the dog after coming across the breed while traveling through Russia. The earliest written mentions of the dogs don't pop up until the 16th century, in a Hungarian codex.
2. THEY’RE DIRECT DESCENDANTS OF A RUSSIAN HERDING DOG.
The Komondor is said to be a direct descendant of the Aftscharka, or Russian herdsman's dog. Aftscharka were used in southern Russia as guard dogs and to watch herds. They came in all different colors and had thick curly coats.
3. THE PLURAL OF KOMONDOR IS KOMONDOROK.
In the Hungarian language, the letter k acts a lot like English's letter s. For example, ember (person) becomes emberek (people).
4. THEIR COAT IS USED AS CAMOUFLAGE.
Believe it or not, this dog was not bred to clean your floors. The mop-like coat is actually used as a clever form of camouflage. When keeping watch over a flock of sheep, it’s easy for Komondorok to blend in thanks to their wooly fur. This works to their advantage when an unsuspecting wolf comes over to snack on the sheep: The guard dogs can surprise the predator and keep it from gobbling up the livestock.
5. THEY MAKE GREAT GUARD DOGS.
Thanks to their pedigree as herd dogs, Komondorok are excellent protectors. But because of this, they tend to be wary of strangers and don’t get along very well with pets outside of the family. It’s important to socialize a Komondor early to prevent any future conflicts with neighbors (or neighbors' pooches).
6. THIS BELOVED ALBUM COVER FEATURES ONE.
The cover for Beck’s 1996 album, Odelay, features a shaggy Komondor mid-air. In the years since its release, the image has become one of the most recognizable covers of all time. But the choice to use the photograph was actually a last minute decision: According to the book 100 Greatest Album Covers, Beck arbitrarily picked it so that the record could come out on time. His girlfriend, Leigh Limon, found the picture in a book of dog breeds; well-respected photographer Joan Ludwig had taken the photograph, and Beck’s co-art director Robert Fisher added the text. As Fisher explained to 100 Greatest Album Covers:
Once we had found the picture of the dog I set out to see if we could obtain the original transparency…. [Ludwig] happened to live just a few blocks from the office. She was in her late ’70s, I think, and was enthusiastic to have someone come visit her. Her garage was filled with boxes of dog pictures and after hours of searching I couldn’t find it so I ended up scanning the image directly from the book. The quality wasn’t so great but it did give the cover a certain look that I liked.
7. THE BREED STANDARD REQUIRES CORDS. LOTS OF THEM.
According to the American Kennel Club, any Komondor that doesn’t develop the breed's signature cords will be disqualified in competition. It usually takes about two years for the dog’s coat to get to that point—before that, they have fuzzy, curly hair. On average, a Komondor can have as many as 2000 cords, and their coats can weigh around 15 pounds.
8. THOSE COATS NEED A LOT OF CARE.
Ger Dekker, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Since their coats naturally form dreadlocks, Komondorok don’t need to be brushed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean their grooming routine will be easy. Owners have to be vigilant about keeping their dog’s cords separated. Their coats are also magnets for dirt so the dogs need frequent baths. Baths are time-consuming and the cords take a long time to dry off. Owners are also urged to trim around the muzzle to keep food from their staining their fur. If not properly cared for, their massive coats can start to smell like mildew.
9. HUNGARY CONSIDERS THEM A NATIONAL TREASURE
Hungary’s largest dog is also, arguably, its favorite. Hungarians consider the breed a national treasure and fiercely protect the breeding standard from modification.