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Other namesBosnian and Herzegovinian - Croatian Shepherd Dog (FCI)
OriginBosnia and Herzegovina
Classification / standards
FCI Group 2, Section 2.2 Molossian: Mountain type #355 standard
The AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS) is an optional recording service for purebred dogs that are not yet eligible for AKC registration.
UKC Guardian Dog standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Tornjak (pronunciation is "tornyak"; official original name), also known as Bosnian Shepherd dog (official English name),[1] is a mountain sheep dog native to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. It is considered that 11th and 14th-century documents mention the breed. It became almost extinct, but the salvation started in the early 1970s with pure blood breeding since 1978.[2] FCI accepted it on a provisional basis in 2007, and on definitive basis with official valid standard on 7 November 2017, placed in "Group 2, Section 2 : Molossoid Breeds", with "Nr. 355" in "Section 2.2" dedicated to the Mountain Types.[1]


Tornjaks belong to the rare livestock protection breeds and share many characteristics with other Mountain dogs. The Tornjak is an old breed first mentioned in the 11th then 14th century. Descriptions of the Tornjak were found in the writings of Peter Horvat, bishop of Đakovo, Croatia, which date back to the year 1374, those descriptions were also found in the writings of Peter Lukić, Canon of the Đakovo diocese, which were written in 1752. The term 'Tornjak' evolved from the Bosnian/Croatian word "tor", which means an enclosed area where the sheep live in. To this day, these dogs are called Toraši (Torashi) in the surroundings of the city of Sinj and on the Kamešnica mountain, whereas the shepherds of the Dinara-mountains call them Dinarci. Descriptions of Tornjaks from these documents are the very same as they are today, except for the name of the breed, which was Bosanski Ovčar, meaning Bosnian Shepherd Dog.[3] It was also called the Hrvatski pas planinac, meaning Croatian mountain dog. The dogs in these documents were described entirely equal (in respect to their function and their appearance) as they are today: a protective guarding dog which keeps and watches all that their owners ask them, but is highly intelligent and selectively bred to be without excessive aggression. They are also pleasant toward strangers that they meet outside of their domain.

It is considered that the dogs of the Tornjak's type have existed in the area around and in Dinarides (Dinaric Alps), especially in the region around Vlašić (close to the city of Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina) as a central area of the region since the Roman times. The Romans used their dogs for war and as guardian dogs, as well as for fighting in the arena. Although the Tornjak is a very old breed, with the vanishing of nomadic sheep herding, the Tornjak also gradually vanished. In the early 1970s, a group of local cynologists began to collect the remaining dogs which best corresponded to the old writings about the breed.[4] Tornjaks were first imported to the UK in 2013 with intentions of working towards UK Kennel Club Recognition.


A Croatian female participating in the European Winner Show 2008 in Budapest, Hungary.

Tornjaks are large and powerful dogs, with well proportioned, almost square-bodied features and agile movements. The dog's bones are not light, but nevertheless not heavy nor coarse. They have a long and thick double coat with a thick undercoat. The bodies of these dogs are strong and well built, with harmonious and dignified movements. The dogs have long and thick hair and this adequately protects them against poor weather conditions. The dogs typically possess shaggy tails, kept high like a flag. Tornjaks have a clear, self-confident, serious and calm disposition. In general the Tornjak is a long-coated dog with short hair over the face and legs. The topcoat is long, thick, coarse and straight. It is especially long on the upper part of the croup; over the shoulders and the back it can be slightly wavy. On the muzzle and the forehead, up to the imaginary line connecting the ears, over the ears. On the front parts of the legs and feet it is short. It is especially abundant around the neck (mane), dense and long over the upper thighs (breeches). It forms feathers along the forearms. With well-coated dogs it is also especially abundant on the rear of hind pasterns.

Tornjaks can be either solid colored or parti-colored, usually the color white predominates. The color of Tornjaks is unrestricted, all colors are accepted. It ranges from nearly completely white to almost black with yellow, red, brown and not-quite-desired gray in between. There are two main types: piebald and Irish spotting. Originally, the goal was to breed varying colors and patterns so shepherds could distinguish their dogs easily from a distance. Breeders also strive towards distinction compared to other breeds.

Lupine, wedge-shaped and elongated. Due to the heavy coat it sometimes looks too small. Powerful and long jaws, teeth complete, scissor bite. The back of the muzzle is straight. The zygomatic arches above the eyes may be slightly noticeable. Back of skull is elongated but not narrow, straight from zygomatic arches to occiput. The top of the muzzle is straight, proportional, never pointed or excessively fleshy, lips fitted tightly to the jaws. Almond shaped eyes, eyelids close to the skull. Large ears, that are single turned downwards, set high up nearer to the vertex than in other sheepdogs breeds.
Long, carried low, set at 45 degrees when alert. Neck muscles firm and taut. Skin thick especially at the nape of the neck and adheres to the inner tissue not only on the upper but also on the lower side of the neck. Covered with a rich crop of long hair (ruff).
an example of shorter coat in the Summer.
The coat is shorter in the Summer.
Relatively short, firm, moderately wide and level.
Long, can be saber-shaped, annular or hooked (slight upward turn at the tip), set medium high. Highly mobile, at rest hanging downwards. When in motion - trotting - or when alert or excited, always carried above the back.
Very broad, conically deep, wide and rounded, but ribs not heavy. The breast is well-proportioned and forms a firmly connected unit between shoulder joint and chest. As a rule, the sternum (breast bone) tip is a little below the shoulder joint.
Firm muscles, continuous lower line, moderately tucked-up from the back end of sternum to the inside of loins.
As a rule, long-coated with short hair on face and front part of legs. Top coat is long, hard-textured (similar to goats) and straight. On the front part of shoulders and backside of rump it can be slightly wavy. Particularly well developed on the neck and also very rich and long below the tail, forming trousers. Feathering on the forearm and very rich feathering on the tail. Upper hair is especially long on the upper rump just before tail set. Firmly closed and not able to be opened in parting.


Young shepherd from Đakovo, Croatia, with his tornjak.

Tornjak has a calm temperament. A typical adult Tornjak is very calm, peaceful, at first sight an indifferent animal, but when the situation demands it, it is a vigilant and very alert watchdog. The character is equal to the temperament; they are not nervous nor aggressive. In general, they are very tough, not too demanding, sturdy dogs. With their human family they are very emotional. When living in a pack they are highly social animals, without fighting between the pack members. Towards strangers or other animals, as a rule, Tornjak is not overly aggressive. But when the situation calls upon it, Tornjak is quite decisive and it can without any consideration attack even much stronger rivals. Shepherds used to say that a Tornjak that guards the flock is a fair match to two wolves, and that a couple of Tornjaks will confront and chase away a bear without any undue respect. In these situations, Tornjaks can be very tenacious.


Tornjak's exercise levels are usually not demanding, especially in the first 9–12 months (during the last intensive growth period). After that they can exercise as much as possible. They prefer long walks without a leash and a lot of playing with other dogs. They will also be just as satisfied with only a 20 minute walk if its owner is in a hurry. Tornjaks learn quickly and do not forget easily; they happily perform tasks and are therefore easy to train. Strong and hardy, during the snowy winter nights, these dogs lie on the ground and often get covered with snow without freezing due to their thick coats or as the locals would say it 'MRAZ PO NJEM PADA'. They are primarily used for herding and protection of livestock.


Tornjak is not recommended for apartment life. They need space and will do best with at least a large yard. Because its thick coat protects it so well it can happily cope with living outdoors provided it has proper shelter. This breed is best suited to a family with lots of space surrounding the home where it can attend to its own exercise needs.

Tornjak is a very healthy breed, but because they were very poorly fed in their past, they now do not need much protein in their food. For feeding Tornjaks a low protein diet is suitable. A high protein diet can lead to the development of coat problems. Climbing up and down stairs the first six months can ruin hock joints or lead to hip dysplasia (canine).

Tornjak needs early socialization. Early experiences (before 9 months of age) has a very significant effect throughout the dog's life. They need to be confronted with all potentially fearful stimuli as early as possible in order to avoid later fear reactions. Traffic noise, big trucks and buses will provoke fear reactions in adulthood if the Tornjak has not previously faced these situations as a puppy. In this early age all Tornjak puppies have to meet as many unknown people as possible, and also other animals, dogs, and pets especially, for developing a good and stable behavior as an adult.


The dog is banned in Denmark.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Tornjak". FCI. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  2. ^ Tornjak (Bosnian and Herzegovinian – Croatian Shepherd dog) (PDF). FCI. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  3. ^ "TORNJAK - Bosnian shepherd dog". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Tornjak - A Breed Resurrected - Dogs and dog breeds and dog pictures". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Danish Legislation on Dogs". Retrieved 15 February 2019.

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