13 Protective Guard Dogs for Livestock (With Pictures)

Throughout our long and storied history with dogs, countless breeds have been developed to suit our ever changing needs and lifestyles. For the past ten thousand years dogs have worked alongside humans in roles as diverse and wide ranging as hunting companions and emotional support animals. However, one of their earliest and most widespread uses has been as guard dogs for livestock.

Guard dogs have been prized in cultures across the globe, and their protection of  livestock is in part what allowed human societies to develop and grow. By safeguarding our food for us, these dogs gave us more time to focus on other tasks. This list will walk you through several breeds known for being excellent protectors of livestock.

13 Guard Dogs for Livestock

Many of the breeds on this list are ancient breeds with deep roots. Notably, two common features that most of them share are their large size and ability to live outdoors.

1. Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan mastiff
Tibetan mastiff | image by Andrea Arden via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 70-150 pounds
Coat: long, dense

A mastiff breed originating from central Asia, the Tibetan Mastiff is a majestic and large bodied dog. It is recognizable by its shaggy mane, which has often been compared to that of lions.

Originally bred to safeguard livestock and human settlements, the Tibetan Mastiff is protective of its owners and a vigilant watchdog capable of enduring harsh outdoor conditions for long periods of time.

Although its background is as a working dog, in recent years the Tibetan Mastiff has been adopted as a status symbol in China, and for this reason has been bred largely for its appearance.

2. Komondor

Komondor standing
Komondor standing | image by Ger Dekker via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 85-120 pounds
Coat: long, corded

Famous for its corded coat covering its face and eyes, the Komondor was originally developed in Hungary to help protect livestock from predators. Because of its unique coat, many people have affectionately referred to komondors as “mop-dogs.”

Well suited to inclement weather and life outside, this breed was first established in Hungary by nomadic peoples who used komondors to help direct and control livestock when traveling from place to place.

For those who want to get a Komondor, just keep in mind that of the guard dogs for livestock on this list, this breed in particular requires a good deal of maintenance and upkeep owing to its lengthy coat.

3. Great Pyrenees

Great pyrenees
Great pyrenees | image by Svenska Mässan via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 100-120 pounds
Coat: long, double coat

The Great Pyrenees is a guard dog originally developed in the mountainous regions of France where it was used to protect livestock. A thick coated breed with a determined and resolute attitude, this breed can live almost entirely outside, even in snowy conditions.

The Great Pyrenees is well known for being an effective and fearless guard dog against predators such as bears and wolves, and is willing and capable of taking on threats larger than itself.

4. Kangal

Kangal | image by Chris vT via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-13 years
Average Size: 80-110 pounds
Coat: medium, dense

The Kangal is a black and tan breed of sheepdog developed in Turkey that is known for its determination and physical prowess. One of this breed’s signature features is its tail which coils inwardly towards its spine.

Although referred to as a sheepdog, the Kangal is not actually a herding breed, but has the exclusive role of being a protector of livestock. In this traditional role, the Kangal lives full time among the herd it is meant to protect.

With a fearsome aspect, this breed is an effective guard dog and its appearance is enough to dissuade unwanted strangers and predators alike. Of all the guard dogs for livestock, the Kangal is known to have one of the most powerful bites.

5. Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian shepherd
Anatolian shepherd | image by Jon Mountjoy via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 90-150 pounds
Coat: medium, dense

The Anatolian Shepherd is a Turkish breed with roots parallel to the Kangal, which it very much resembles in appearance. Slightly larger than the Kangal, the breed presents a formidable guard dog.

Independent and resolved, the Anatolian Shepherd is a breed dedicated to its job. While these characteristics make it a terrific guard dog, they also mean that the Anatolian Shepherd is unsuited for family life and spending time with children.

One of the most ancient dog breeds, the Anatolian Shepherd is a surefooted athlete whose size and speed make it an effective deterrent.

6. Polish Tatra Sheepdog

polish tatra sheepdog | image by ZewKrwi via Wikipedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 100-130 pounds
Coat: long, dense

As the name suggests, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a herding breed originally from Poland where it was developed by nomadic peoples to protect livestock.

Like the Kangal, the Polish Tatra is suited for life among the flock/herd that it is meant to protect. It is important to train this breed to distinguish between what it is protecting and what it is protecting against, as untrained individuals may have high prey drives that lead to the loss of livestock.

Bright white in appearance, this breed stands out against the horizon, making the animal visible from a long distance.

7. Pyrenean Mastiff

pyre mastiff | image by Canarian via Wikipedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 8-12 years
Average Size: 150-180 pounds
Coat: long, dene

Originating in Spain, the Pyrenean Mastiff is an exceptionally large breed whose coat and aptitude make it well suited to harsh living conditions.

Bearing the signature large head and droopy jowls of its mastiff heritage, this breed was developed to protect against wolves. For this purpose, Spanish keepers of the breed outfitted the Pyrenean Mastiff with a wolf collar–a metal collar with outward protruding spikes for extra protection.

A rare breed that has been diminishing in numbers over the past 80 years, only a few breeders still remain in Europe, where it is no longer used for its original purpose, but as a show animal.

8. Akbash

Akbash dog
Akbash dog | image by Jerry Kirkhart via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 90-140 pounds
Coat: medium

Another of the Turkish breeds on this list of guard dogs for livestock, the Akbash is a tall breed, although leaner and less muscular than the Kangal and Anatolian Shepherd.  Despite being leaner than its Turkish counterparts, the Akbash is still known for its relative strength and for being a capable and dedicated guard dog.

Notably, this breed has extra skin around its neck which protects vital organs and arteries from bites and helps the animal maneuver when tussling with a predator.

9. Karakachan

Karakachan | image by Izvora Wikipedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Average Size: 70-120 pounds
Coat: medium-long

The Karakachan is a large breed of guard dog originally from Bulgaria. Its body shape more closely resembles traditional shepherd breeds than others on this list. An ancient dog breed thought to trace back to the Thracians, the Karakachan possesses a proud and domineering demeanor and is especially wary of strangers and intruders.

Although developed as a livestock guardian, this breed has been used as an army dog in its native country.

10. Caucasian Shepherd Dog

caucasian shepherd dog | image by: RebaSpike

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 110-120 pounds
Coat: long, dense

Although the breed has ancient roots, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog as it is now known was only recently developed in the Soviet Union when breeders collected dogs with favorable traits from across the Caucasus to create a more perfect guard dog.

Large in size and fierce, this breed is most often used by herders to protect their herds from bears, wolves, and jackals. Although its original use was for the protection of livestock, the breed is also used in Russia as a prison guard dog.

11. Kuvasz

Kuvasz | image by Svenska Mässan via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 80-110 pounds
Coat: long

Another Hungarian breed, the bright white Kuvasz was bred to help protect and serve herdsmen by repelling threats to their flocks.

Used to protect Hungarian royalty, the breed almost disappeared after WWII. As the dogs were known to be fierce protectors of their families, the invading German soldiers often targeted them out of fear to avoid being attacked themselves.

Having been brought back from near extinction, the breed is now growing in popularity as a family dog and is actively sought out by many owners for being a loyal companion.

12. Maremma Sheepdog

Maremma sheepdog in the street
Maremma sheepdog in the street | image by Simone via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Average Lifespan: 10-13 years
Average Size: 75-100 pounds
Coat: long, dense

The only dog on this list from Italy, the Maremma hails from the central region of the country where it is employed to guard and herd livestock.

Smaller than the other guard dogs for livestock, the Maremma is still a relatively large and muscular breed. Known for its ability to tolerate harsh weather, the Maremma will often live full time with the herd it is meant to protect.

One of the unique characteristics of the breed is their willingness and ability to work in pairs or larger groups to defend against predators. While popular as a guard dog and (recently) as a household companion, the breed remains rare outside of Italy.

13. Spanish Mastiff

spanish mastiff | image by Canarian via Wikipedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 8-11 years
Average Size: 120-220 pounds
Coat: medium-long

As the name implies, the Spanish Mastiff originated in Spain where it was bred specifically to protect and live among sheep.

Known for being intelligent and vigilant, the breed is a powerful guard dog that must be properly socialized and trained at an early age to acclimate it to people, so as to prevent unwanted aggression.

Perhaps the largest breed on this list, the Spanish Mastiff unfortunately has a shortened lifespan due its size and size related health issues.