Nature abhors extremes!
There is a subtle, insidious danger, in being 'tempted' to claim relationship with
Mastiffs of any description. Their sheer bulk is imposing, at first, but the very real
dangers of 'bulk worship' are only discovered when it is too late. Every genetic student
is told about the disastrous experiment conducted by a rich landowner in the last Century
in England. He wanted to 'create' huge dogs - a new breed. So he crossed Great Danes
(still then called German Dogo presumably), and the already becoming extreme St. Bernards.
One selected for height, the other for bulk.
Each puppy was different, none viable, some unable to even stand and walk about. Why?
Because two sets of very damaging genes were present, one per breed. St Bernards suffer
from Agnathism , which in humans causes monstrous heavy bones and heads, but they have a
set of genes which control it sufficiently for life to be possible. Likewise the Great
Danes their long bones go on elongating to an abnormal degree (stage before Agnathism) -
its called 'Giantism' in humans. They too have a set of 'modifying' genes. By crossing the
two, the controlling genes become separated from the lethal ones - disasters! As it
happens, this sad example was exposed to me three times on different occasions, in
different departments, during lectures at Cambridge University, allowing me to remember it
The very sad 'mis-noma' which has befallen the Flock Guard of Tibet needs considering
next. As exposed in the UK Kennel Gazette in 1985/6 at length. What excellent photographs
of WORKING Shepherd Dogs in Tibet today, which are indistinguishable from 'run of the
mill' Anatolian Shepherd Dogs today. One can only tell; from the 'cut' of the felt cloaks
of the shepherds in what region the photographs were taken. Tibetan Monks do not have a
prejudice against BLACK coat (as in Muslim countries) and seem to have favoured or rescued
from the shepherds (?) Or been given (?) Predominantly dark coated dogs. A heavy coat for
sitting around on stones in the biting wind, outside Monasteries, was an obvious
advantage. So the 'Monastery Guards' slowly became heavier, darker, and thicker (but not
longer) coated, that their normal working cousins upon the hillside
came a Victorian Lady and on seeing 'something big' - is surely - a Mastiff? In common
So much for the 'mystery of Tibet' - (like all greyhound type dogs are fascinated by
Mastiffs and all the bull breeds were originally bred to GRAB and HOLD their victims,
unruly bulls by the nose, till they dropped dead from lack of oxygen, if they did not
submit to slaughter beforehand.
The Romans created the ancestors of Rotweilers - on these lines! Even today these
tendencies are deeply embedded in these breeds. A charming millionaire of Istanbul (owner
of many mines) recently crossed a fine Anatolian male with an English Mastiff female. The
bulk of the pups were 'most pleasing'
and he kept the most prominent male pup. When
it grew up, it proceeded to strangle all his other dogs, whereupon it was put down, in
horror, or so I am told.
In England today an ugly fault has surfaced in UK born, so-called 'karabash' which has
never been seen in Anatolia. It is called a Hygroma, or leaking of the sinovial (joint)
fluid, and causes big soft lumps on elbows. Well known in 'heavy' breeds, such as Gt.
Danes and Mastiffs!!! What is going on? All apparently from the same kennel - descended
from one dog! Dangerous aggression towards people!! At shows, also reported.
Now let us consider these fabled 'kings and princes'. How many of them would it take to
support one humble shepherd upon the Steppe? Or could it possibly be the other way round?
This ignorant fascination with 'Kings and Places' again shows a very basic
misconception. Palaces were Fortresses (often smelly crowded places) which ruled the
surrounding countryside with a fist of iron. True: King Midas of Gordium already had piped
water and bathtubs in his apartments, which drained! - While Queen Victoria did not - yet.
Kings and whole civilizations - come and go - and always have done so, in the Middle
East, it make one giddy to consider them all. Little boys will offer you a strange coin -
for a cigarette. It may well be impossible to determine to which 'kingdom' or
'civilization' it belongs. Same goes for many rock carvings and other artifacts, about the
place. Some incorporated into later buildings, only to be abandoned in their turn.
Alphabets, languages, whole nations have arisen and vanished. The Kaukazus alone has
several hundred such, experts claim, with 'writings' as yet undeciphered.
Amusing references have been made, in turn, to Assyrians, Babylonians, the even earlier
Sumerians, not forgetting Lydians, Minoans, Hittities. All those highly sophisticated
civilizations were rich settled ones! And managed to exploit, temporarily extremely
fertile mud-flats, till 'disaster' swept them off the face of the earth. But man and his
dog go back much further, when all these peoples were still in their infancy. The Climate
of the high dry Steppes has endured, with a massive explosion of GRASSES after the last
Glaciation. Followed by a massive explosion of: Herbivores. THAT is what gave 'man and his
dog' their chance! To break with the 'hunter - gatherer' mode of life, as some Aborigines
in Australia and the Pigmies in the Kalahari Desert - still live to this day! So, once man
almost exterminated the herbivores (including horses) and started actually caring for his
'meat on the hoof' - some 10,000 years ago, his hunting partner - the dog - adapted
likewise. Long long before the Romans, the earlier Etruscans, Greeks, Mecedonians etc, had
ever been heard of, as in Europe - lumbering heavy Neandertals were still crouching in
caves, waving clubs, and beating off the giant Cave Bears, for countless ages.
Yes - the 'Wolf Theory' is the only possible one. Just throw in a bit of 'neoteny' -
the drop ears are the best-known example, and little more needs to be changed. Size has to
increase greatly - of course, as the Anatolian wolf is on average 78lbs, so about half the
weight of a well grown, bred and fed Anatolian male! (But giant wolves do occur, as the
famous one which infested the surroundings of Bursa, and whose huge pelt graced a Mosque
there, till recently - 20 years ago certainly).
There is nothing magic about the Romans. True they did build the only straight roads in
Britain, and also Hadrians Wall, to keep the northern barbarians out of the part he
occupied. Hadrians Palace (whats left of it) is a very graceful pink marble 'lacy' thing
in Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. The Romans also grabbed hold of a few big dogs and
used them for their barbarous sport in the 'circuses' but it was the crafty Phoenicians
who supplied them and the ancient Britains too, with big dogs - as barter (for silver in
Wales, now worked out). And took 'blond' children for sale in Rome, from Britain. Angels -
Anglos (soon died of sunstroke probably, adding to their mysteriousness).
The Roman Lucullus - undoubtedly transported cherry trees from Carisas on the Black Sea
Coast - to Rome. Others later - to Britain, for which we must be grateful. Climate has
changed though, edible sorts do not thrive anymore and the sterile Japanese sort now
dominate, purely ornamental, but the rest of Europe enjoys the various cherries - in
And now? The admirable, uncanny, ancient, steady, unique Anatolian Shepherd Dogs -
Coban Kopegi - are again in danger, in their land of origin - from: Greedy puppy farmers
on the one hand, and mongrelisation on the other.
Under VARIABILITY we must consider two things: Quality and Type.
Quality first. Turkish people are easygoing and very merciful (in direct contradiction
to Europeans ideas about them). So they tolerate a motley assortment of dogs - if times
and economics permit.
What endangers quality most? Hunger and mongrelisation. Gun dogs are fed superbly
during the hunting season. Often fend for themselves the rest of the time. Cross breeding
is rife. All along the sea cost in European Turkey, gangs of cross-breds proliferate.
Every town dump is also inhabited by mobs of cross-breds. THESE ARE NOT repeat NOT Coban
Kopegi - even if fawn! In Istanbul the street dogs got so numerous, they were all banished
to the 'Island of Dogs' once, in semi-recent historical times. Returning 'gast arbeiters'
from Germany, on holiday etc, bring with them mongrels and sometimes even pure breds of
various breeds. These are often killed on arrival, but alas survive and cross sometimes.
Very nasty tempers, shapes and faults get introduced this way. Instead of banning exports
- the authorities should ban Imports; they do so much harm! Finally remember the proverb:
many cows - no decent dogs! as cows graze in the daytime, spend nights in barns, the
opposite to sheep, so need for the true Working Coban Kopegi disappears.
Only in areas where the population depend on flocks alone, where it is too high and too
dry, or growing season too short - can one be sure to find the superb Anatolian Shepherd
Dogs - and even then they may be hidden away from strangers, as too precious to be exposed
Having said all that - Variability is a precious gift, once lost (as in popular breeds
of ANY animal, in the West), degeneration follows! We should treasure the variability we
still posses, which is still available to us -long may it continue! So say geneticists and
rare breed specialists of all sorts, as especially people fighting to delay extinction of
endangered species. For they are already looking into the abyss..........
However 'different' a WORKING ANATOLIAN may appear to our Western eyes, accustomed as
we are to our boring uniformity - it is still UNIQUE and unmistakably an Anatolian - and
nothing else! It is itself, first and foremost, in shape and gait, in reactions,
ISOLATION - another myth!
Based on suburban notions, in tiny Europe. There are no secret isolated valley in
Turkey, where populations live self sufficient - for hundreds of years! It is a fairy
tale! The opposite is true. The population is surprisingly mobile, and for many reasons.
Everyone, not only reads, but writes and receives letters, even in remote tiny hamlets.
Even full time nomads living in tents have cousins in Australia and visit them in hired
taxis, keep in touch. I have had the privilege of assisting in such family reunions and
celebrations. Colour TV and generator functions just as well in a cave in the mountains,
alongside sheep, as it does in a tower block. Together we laughed at the morning lesson in
aerobics. Not only do villagers undertake huge travels by bus, on foot, etc, but
traditionally 'The Flocks' of the nomads visit fields after harvest, for grazing in the
mountains. As their dogs are superb, any female in season can and often will 'benefit'
from their attentions. To the joy of the owner! In this way- the whole of Anatolia - as
far as the dogs are concerned, is like a huge piece of dough, being continuously worked
and re-worked. Isolation? Only in the minds of David Nelson and such, who hope to benefit
Rather - the appearance of Superb Examples of the breed - is CYCLICAL, depending on
predator pressure. First a plague of 'gophers' (like prairie dogs in the USA). Then
predators, then shortage of gophers, so sheep are on the menu. THEN sudden heroic efforts
are made - and the quality of the Anatolians rise astoundingly. I have seen it - again and