Sardinian Shepherd Dog

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Sardinian Shepherd Dog
Fonni's Dog
Other names(Pastore) fonnesu
Cani sardu antigu
Cane de acapiu
Cani fonnesu antigu
'Ane de 'onne
OriginSardinia Sardinia (Italy)
Weight Male 29–40 kg (64–88 lb)
Female 25–32 kg (55–71 lb)
Height Male 56–60 cm (22–24 in) at the withers
Female 52–56 cm (20–22 in) at the withers
Coat long double coat with furnishings
Color black, ash or honey, with or without brindle markings
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Sardinian Shepherd Dog or Fonni's Dog (Sardinian: cane fonnesu or cani sardu antigu; Italian: pastore fonnese) is an ancient landrace breed of Sardinian dog used as a herding, catching, and livestock guardian dog.

Although there are depictions dating back to at least the mid-19th century, it has not yet been officially recognized as a breed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.[1] However, it was recognized by the Italian Kennel Club in 2013. The breed, which is endemic to the island, was founded with approximately 170 specimens gathered from rural parts of Sardinia. The breed is, therefore, a landrace. Because of the large number of founders and the breed's genetic variability, the breed should enjoy relative freedom from genetic inbreeding. Most of the dog breeds are derived by a very small number of founders (for example, nine dogs were used as founders of the Siberian Husky) and therefore inbreeding tends to be high, resulting in a high incidence of illness due to gene mutations.[2]


The dog has a rough coat, which can be grey, black, brindle, brown or white. Height at the withers is about 56 to 60 cm for males, while females are a couple of centimeters shorter. A typical characteristic of the breed is the fiery expression of the eyes, whose position, unlike other dog breeds, is totally frontal, giving the dog a unique "monkey-like" appearance.[3]

Variability observed between individuals is likely due to the lack of selective pressures. There are, however, consistently strong commonalities across dogs from different locations, including characteristics such as amber eye color and the characteristic "monkey-like face". The coat, irrespective of color, has a typical coarse outer layer, as well as a woolly and dense undercoat. The hair on the head and hindquarters is typically short, while the face has longer furnishings around the eyes and a beard-like length around the muzzle and chin. Male dogs have a longer and thicker coat around the neck forming a mane.[3]

Approximately 15% of individuals are short-coated, and this is generally selected against in favor of the long-coated variety. Approximately 30% of individuals have a natural bobtail.[3]


In 2016, a genomic study revealed that the ancestors of the Fonni's Dog were related to sighthounds from the Near and Middle East, like the Saluki, and large mastiff-like dogs from Hungary, like the Komondor. The genomic map of these dogs is able to mirror human migration; according to the study, Sardinians as an ethnic group seem to historically derive from today's Hungary and the Middle East.[1]

Written records from the mid-1800s indicate that thievery was part of their historical repertoire, being trained to sneak over to the neighbors' and bring items home.[1] For a long time, it has made a loyal companion of the Sardinian bandits that were hiding out in the woods, and was even employed to put up a stiff resistance against the Roman invaders.

In 1912, it was used by the Italian Army as a military working dog during the Libyan military campaign.


  1. ^ a b c Dreger, Dayna; Davis, Brian; Cocco, Raffaella; Sechi, Sara; Cerbo, Alessandro; Parker, Heidi; Polli, Michele; Marelli, Stefano; Crepaldi, Paola; Ostrander, Elaine (1 October 2016). "Commonalities in Development of Pure Breeds and Population Isolates Revealed in the Genome of the Sardinian Fonni's Dog". Genetics and Genomics. 204 (2): 737–55. doi:10.1534/genetics.116.192427. PMC 5068859. PMID 27519604.
  2. ^ "Purebred Dog Breeds into the Twenty-First Century". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Sechi, Sara; Polli, Michele; Marelli, Stefano; Talenti, Andrea; Crepaldi, Paola; Fiore, Filippo; Spissu, Nicoletta; Dreger, Dayna; Zedda, Marco; Dimauro, Corrado; Ostrander, Elaine; Cerbo, Alessandro; Cocco, Raffaella (5 September 2016). "Fonni's dog: morphological and genetic characteristics for a breed standard definition". Italian Journal of Animal Science. 16 (1): 22–30. doi:10.1080/1828051X.2016.1248867.


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