Kangal Dog: The Fierce Protector

kangal standing in the wood
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Large dogs are beloved by a lot of people, but they tend to have their disadvantages. Generally speaking, they have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds; they are also often quite heavy-built and hard to manage. If you are looking for a large yet athletic and healthy dog, however, take a look at the Kangal dog breed.

In the Kangal dog, you can find a lot of characteristics that you typically can’t find in other giant dog breeds. Kangal dogs are related to other mastiff breeds, but they are much more athletic than them. They are also quite healthy, especially compared to other large dogs, and they have a relatively long lifespan.

Below, we’ll go over all of the important characteristics of the Kangal dog breed. We’ll take a look at their unique history, their unique coat and physique, as well as their fascinating temperament and behavior.

Breed Characteristics

Kangal Dog lying on grass

  • Adaptability: Moderate; not for apartment dwellers

  • Trainability: Good; but you must establish yourself as the alpha

  • Health and Grooming: Good

  • All Around Friendliness: Good

  • Exercise Needs: High Maintenance

Dog Breed GroupWorking Dogs
HeightMale: 30 - 32 inches (77 - 86 cm)
Female: 28 - 30 inches (72 - 77 cm)
WeightMale: 110 - 145 pounds (50 - 66 kg)
Female: 90 - 120 pounds (41 - 54 kg)
Lifespan12 – 15 years

As a natural purebred dog breed, Kangal dogs are also quite healthy, especially for their size. This gives them decent longevity compared to other large breeds.Kangal dogs are a Turkish flock guardian and shepherd dog breed. They are very large, but still quite athletic and energetic.

Being a giant breed, they are not well suited for apartment life and need a lot of outdoor time. They do well with children but are not recommended for life with other pets.

See Also: Best Dogs for Apartments

Main Highlights

Kangal Dog sitting in the field

  • Kangal dogs are a natural purebred dog breed that formed naturally in the geographically isolated Kangal region of central Turkey.

  • Kangal dogs are typical shepherd dogs, which makes them excellent guard and work dogs.

  • Being highly intelligent, Kangal dogs are easy to train, but also require quite a bit of training. To properly take care of a Kangal dog you’ll need to make sure that you establish yourself as the unconditional alpha of the household.

  • Kangal dogs are calm and full of warmth and affection for their families. This makes them a great pet for families with kids. However, other pets are usually not recommended, as Kangal dogs tend to be competitive with other dogs.

Breed History

Kangal Dog's head

The Kangal dog is a beloved Turkish dog breed with a very mixed and curious history. According to the Turkish breeders of this dog, the Kangal is an ancient flock-guarding shepherd dog of their people. It’s thought to be related to early mastiff-type dogs that are often seen depicted in ancient Assyrian art.

The Kangal breed bears its name from the Kangal District in the Sivas Province in central Turkey. The Sivas-Kangal region of the country is quite geographically isolated thanks to mountain ridges and rivers, which has protected the breed from accidentally crossbreeding with other dogs throughout the centuries.

Thanks to that, today we have a natural breed with uniformly appearance, disposition, and temperament—as if it were carefully and selectively bred.

Even though the breed has long been associated with the family of the Aga of Kangal (the landholders and chieftains of the Kangal region), the breed is largely taken care of and bred by villagers in the region who use the dogs as flock shepherds.

Over the centuries, the Kangal dogs have proven invaluable in protecting the people’s sheep and goat flocks from predators such as wolves, jackals, and bears.

Despite the Kangal dogs being concentrated mostly in that one region of Turkey, they are still viewed as a national treasure by the entire country. In the last century, Turkish governments and academics institutions have created many kennels where the breed is carefully selected and bred. The Kangal breed has also been featured in postal stamps and coins.

The Kangal breed didn’t reach Western Europe or the United States until after the middle of the 20th century. These dogs first came to England in 1965 and first crossed the Atlantic to the U.S. in 1985.

The first time the breed was even reported to exist to Western breeders was by David and Judith Nelson, who studied dogs while residing in Turkey. The dogs they imported to the U.S. were the baseline on which the American branch of the Kangal breed was created.

All this doesn’t exhaust the mixed history of these dogs, however. Other people claim that the breed was first developed in the west instead of in Turkey. Supposedly, Chairman Steele and other British breeders created the breed in the UK.

The first British-born litter happened in 1967, and the subsequent breed was called Anatolian (Karrabash) Shepherd Dog. Sometime later, a pinto dog was brought from Anatolia and created strife and division in the British breeding club, dividing the dogs into two breeds: Kangal (Karrabash) dogs and the Anatolian Shepherd Dogs.

Other people claim that all Turkish shepherd dogs are one breed: the Anatolian Shepherd. However, the Turkish breeders maintain that the Kangal dogs are a separate breed.

In recent decades, the import of Kangal dogs from their native Turkey has been strongly controlled and is almost entirely forbidden.

The American Kangal Dog Club is still tirelessly working to ease import restrictions and to bring more of these extraordinary dogs to the West. All this makes imported Kangal dogs extremely valuable because of their potential contribution to the genetic pool of the breed in the United States. Today, Kangal dogs are recognized by multiple organizations around the globe.


Kangal Dog standing on a leash

With an overall height of 28 – 32 inches (72 – 86 cm) and an average weight of 90 – 145 pounds (41 – 66 kg), Kangal dogs are considered to be a giant breed. There are slight differences to the Kangal’s size, from country to country, but all Kangal dogs generally fall under these parameters. Male dogs are slightly larger than females, but even the latter are still giants.

Despite its large size, the Kangal breed is not as heavy as other mastiff breeds. This gives the breed a greater speed and agility compared to other large dogs. Kangal dogs easily reach speeds of 30 miles per hour (50 km/h).

See Also: Miniature Dog Breeds

Personality and Character

Kangal Dog running

Kangal dogs are first and foremost guard dogs and shepherd dogs. As such, you can expect from them most of the personality and temperament of other such breeds.

They are very alert and territorial. They are also very defensive and protective of the people and the domestic animals they live with. These characteristics make the Kangal dogs excellent guardians not just “at work,” but at home as well.

They have the strength, speed, and the courage to intercept and confront threats faster and better than most other breeds—they have even been observed fighting off bears. Like other flock guardian dogs, Kangals will prefer to intimidate and scare off predators, but will readily enter a physical confrontation if necessary.

As guard dogs, Kangals have an instinctive wariness towards other canines but are not aggressive toward other people. They can still be reserved toward strangers, but have nothing but warmth and affection for their family. With the proper training and socialization, Kangal dogs can be taught to accept and welcome strangers into their home and even not to bark at people.

With all these in mind, the key thing to remember when owning and training a Kangal dog is achieving the “Pack Leader” status. This is typically true for all dogs, of course, but it’s especially important for such giant breeds with strong defensive instincts.

As long as you maintain your position as the “Alpha” of the house, your Kangal dog will be the perfect pet for both you and your family. From there, you mostly want to socialize your pet so that he or she also behaves around other people.

As most guard and shepherd dogs, the Kangal breed is highly intelligent and obedient. This makes training easier than it is for some other breeds.

Unlike other highly-intelligent breeds, the Kangal dogs are calm and self-controlled. They are independent and don’t typically exhibit destructive tendencies when left alone for a while.

Health and Potential Problems

kangal dog lying on ground

Kangal dogs are a relatively healthy breed. As naturally purebred dogs, they don’t suffer from as many breed-specific diseases as other overbred breeds out there. This gives them an impressive-for-their-size lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

Still, as with all other dogs, Kangals are not immune to health problems. Things such as benign tumors, entropion, or hip dysplasia are always a possibility, so good health maintenance is a must.

To further make sure that your future Kangal best friend is as healthy as possible, it’s always a good idea to only purchase Kangal pups from reputable dog breeders. Any such breeder should readily provide you with extensive health certification for the pup you’re buying, as well as health certificates for both of its parents.

See Also: Questions to Ask a Dog Breeder

Care Features

kangal walking on a leash

As a large breed, there are some breed-specific care features to the Kangal dogs. Being such a large breed, these dogs are generally not recommended for apartment life. They are relatively inactive indoors, so they need a lot of time outdoors to get good exercise and be in good fitness and health.

Theoretically, a Kangal dog can be taken care of in an apartment, but the apartment needs to be big enough to accommodate both the dog and the people inside. Additionally, you’ll need to spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog every day—just two short “toilet walks” outside won’t be enough.

Ideally, Kangal dogs should be taken care of in houses with big yards. This way they can easily spend a lot of time outside, running, jumping, and playing. However, keep in mind that they are also a very social breed and should not be left alone outside for long periods of time. Kangal dogs require plenty of human interaction and games.

Additionally, Kangal dogs don’t really recognize land boundaries, so when left to their own devices in a yard, they tend to escape, enter other people’s properties, get in fights with other dogs, and so on.

If you manage to meet the perfect balance of outdoor time, exercise, protection from escaping, and socialization, you will successfully be taking care of your Kangal pet.

Aside from getting proper exercise and outdoor time, Kangal dogs don’t have many other breed-specific care features. You will, of course, need to take good care of your dog’s overall health.

You’ll need to regularly check your Kangal’s eyes and ears for infections and clean them with a damp cloth when necessary. Taking good care of your dog’s nails by regularly trimming them is also advisory.

Additionally, one thing a lot of dog owners ignore is maintaining good dental hygiene. A lot of people ignore taking care of their dogs’ teeth, believing that “they’ll be fine,” but that’s as wrong for dogs as it is for people.

The confusion often comes from the fact that dogs tend to keep their toothaches to themselves. If you don’t clean your dog’s teeth at least once per week (preferably once per day), you can expect a lot of teeth and gum problems to develop in just several years.

See Also: Brushing Dog’s Teeth

Feeding Schedule

Kangal Dog wearing a collar

As a large breed, Kangal dogs eat quite a bit. However, as long as you provide them with enough exercise, you should easily manage their food needs in such a way that they don’t become overweight.

Still, to meet your dog’s needs, you’ll need to feed him or her with high-quality dog food that’s designed for large breeds. If you’re using your Kangal dog for work, you should also consider dog food designed for active dogs.

Aside from that, the feeding schedule of your Kangal dog should be frequent and well-balanced as is the case for all other dogs. More than two meals per day is preferable—dividing your dog’s food into 3 or 4 meals reaps the same benefits that we enjoy when we eat multiple times per day.

By eating smaller but more frequent portions, dogs don’t get so hungry throughout the day, they eat slower, and they are more satisfied. If a 3-meals per day 8/8/8-hour schedule is too hard for your work schedule, you can consider a more uneven three meals per day schedule—something like 10/7/7-hour or an 11/7/6-hour schedule will also do just nicely.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Kangal dogs have a short, dense coat that doesn’t require too much grooming. Simply bathe them when they start to smell. You shouldn’t need to brush them too often—three times per week should be enough.

Their coat is usually fawn or tan, and their facial color is black with black shading on their ears. They can also have white markings on their chests, chins, and toes, but it’s not necessary. Spots, brindled, or broken patterns of their coats are not permitted.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Kangal Dog with a child

As a calm and affectionate breed, Kangal dogs are well-suited for families with children—especially older children that love to play outside.

As far as other pets are concerned, Kangal dogs need quite a bit of socialization to do well with other dogs or with cats, rabbits, birds, and other house pets.

Kangal dogs tend to be competitive around other dogs, especially when the homeowner isn’t around, so only consider getting a Kangal dog together with other pets if you are well-prepared to raise and train them together in a proper manner.

Wrap Up

kangal puppy

Kangal dogs are quite a unique giant dog breed with a very interesting history. They are both large and athletic, making them great work dogs, but amazing yard dogs as well.

They are generally not well-suited for apartment life. They also don’t do too well with other pets, but they are a great dog for families with kids. They are intelligent, obedient, independent, and they are loving and affectionate toward their family.

Do you think you have what it takes to care for a Kangal dog? Or perhaps you’re already living with a Kangal dog? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! If you will be adopting a Kangal dog and you need a name for him/her, our article on big dog names should be able to lend some assistance.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

Share On