An ancient breed once favored by Hungarian nobility, the kuvasz (pronounced KOO-vahz; plural kuvaszok, pronounced KOO-vah-sock) are giant, elegant dogs with a rich history. Sometimes called kuvs for short, the breed's name has origins in the Hungarian word kawasz, meaning an armed guard for nobility. and was likely misspelled as kuvasz when Ottoman-Turks conquered Hungary in the 1500s.
Bred initially as protectors of livestock and later serving as protectors of kings, modern kuvaszok continue to work as guard dogs in Hungary and are kept as beloved family pets.
If you're looking for a large, affectionate, protective dog to join your active family, you may want to consider a kuv companion. Read on to learn what you need to know about the kuvasz.
Characteristics of a Kuvasz
Kuvaszok are large, muscular dogs with an all-white double coat that can be wavy or straight. A kuvasz's head is widely considered the most beautiful part of this breed and is elongated and well-proportioned.
Kuvaszok are often mistaken for another large dog bred to protect livestock — the Great Pyrenees. While both breeds are large dogs with thick white double-coats, though, kuvaszok have a different head shape with a more apparent differentiation between forehead and snout.
The breeds also have different temperaments — kuvaszok are more independent and protective than Great Pyrenees.
Kuvaszok are large dogs, averaging 26 to 30 inches in height and 70 to 115 pounds. As with many breeds, kuv females are generally smaller than males.
The kuvasz is an intelligent, courageous dog that is loyal and devoted to their family. Kuvs can be wary of strangers but are generally polite and gentle despite their imposing size.
When threatened, the kuvasz is immensely courageous, and they will gladly stare down threats to protect their loved ones.
Common kuvasz characteristics include being:
Kuvaszok are intelligent, protective dogs who make excellent guard dogs. If necessary, many kuvs will sacrifice themselves to protect their owners and families. A kuvasz is an incredibly devoted and trustworthy protector — the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus was said to have trusted his kuvaszok more than his human guardsmen.
A kuvasz also has a strong instinct to protect children and their gentle nature can make them a good family dog. However, kuvaszok are large, strong dogs and should be supervised with small children at all times to prevent accidental injuries. Adults should teach children to handle themselves appropriately around a kuv.
Kuvs were bred as working dogs in rough terrain and can make good hiking and hunting companions for active owners.
Caring for a Kuvasz
The kuvasz has a double coat that's easy to care for — weekly brushing (and more whenever necessary to remove debris) is sufficient for kuvs.
You don't need to give kuvaszok baths more often than other dog breeds. A bath every 4 to 6 weeks is adequate for most kuvasz. Overbathing can be bad for double-coated dogs like the kuvasz, as too many baths can strip essential oils from their skin and coat.
Use a shampoo formulated for dogs when bathing your kuvasz. A dog shampoo formulated for shedding is a good choice for double-coated kuvs.
You shouldn't shave your kuvaszok. Some owners mistakenly believe that double-coated dogs like the kuvasz need shaving during the summer to prevent overheating, but their double coat actually helps keep kuvs cool. Your kuvasz's double coat also protects them from sunburn and bug bites. Shaving a double-coated dog like a kuvasz puts them at a higher risk for heat stroke, sunburn, and even skin cancer.
Kuvaszok "blow" or shed their undercoat once or twice a year. You can help keep shedding under control during shedding season, though, by brushing your kuvasz more frequently and using a dog shampoo formulated for shedding during bathtimes. A coat rake may be more effective than a slicker brush during shedding seasons. Move a coat rake in the same direction your kuvasz's hair grows, and be careful not to press too hard.
Check your kuvasz's coat and skin for fleas and ticks regularly. You can help prevent ticks and fleas by giving your kuv a regular tick and flea preventative. Tick and flea preventatives come in chewables, sprays, topical treatments, powders, and flea prevention collars and are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right flea and tick prevention for your kuvasz.
Like all dogs, kuvaszok need regular nail trims and dental care. You should trim your kuvasz's nails with a grinder or nail clipper before they click on the ground. Brush your kuvasz's teeth with a toothpaste formulated for dogs daily to help prevent tooth decay.
A kuvasz should do well on any high-quality dog food. You should only give homemade foods under your vet's supervision. Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about the best diet for your kuvasz.
As a large working dog, a kuvasz needs regular exercise to stay fit and healthy. A fenced yard is highly recommended.
Kuvasz can be difficult dogs to train and are best suited for experienced dog owners. Kuvaszok are very sensitive to praise and criticism and won't respond well to harsh training.
Kuvs are also intelligent, curious dogs that like to solve problems, so drilling and other repetitive training techniques aren't effective.
The Kuvasz matures slowly, so a patient, consistent hand is needed when training your kuv. Frequent early socialization and formal training classes are recommended for a kuvasz puppy.
Kuvasz Medical Care
Like all dogs, a kuvasz needs routine veterinarian visits every 3 to 4 weeks as a puppy and annually after one year of age. All kuvaszok need core vaccines.
Core vaccines include:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine hepatitis
Some kuvaszok will need non-core vaccines, which your veterinarian may recommend if your kuvasz has a higher risk of exposure. Your veterinarian will help you decide if your kuvasz needs any non-core vaccines.
Non-core vaccines include:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Borrelia burgdorferi
- Leptospira bacteria
Heartworm prevention is also standard medical care for all dog breeds, and kuvaszok are not exceptions. Heartworms are a potentially fatal parasitic infection spread through mosquito bites. Treating heartworms is difficult, but preventing them is easy with a once-a-month heartworm prevention medication.
Your veterinarian will start your kuvasz puppy on heartworm prevention medications no later than eight weeks. Heartworm prevention medication comes in oral or topical form and is available with a prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose which medicine is right for your kuvasz.
Kuvasz Health Problems
The average kuvasz lifespan is 10 to 12 years. Kuvaszok are typically a healthy breed with few breed-specific health issues.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)
Large breeds like the kuvasz are at higher risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), a potential complication of bloat. GDV is a potentially fatal condition that causes the stomach to rotate inside the dog's body after inflating, cutting off circulation. GDV sends the affected dog into shock, and untreated dogs will die.
GDV is a medical emergency. Do not wait to seek medical care if you suspect your kuvasz has bloat.
Bloat symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Retching without vomiting
- Signs of distress, such as excessive panting, lip-licking, or restlessness.
Dogs exclusively fed dry kibble are more likely to experience bloat, and dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to experience bloat as dogs fed two or more times a day. Consider using a mix of wet and dry food and providing multiple, smaller daily meals, if possible. Products designed to prevent gas and indigestion can also help prevent bloat, such as slow feeders and elevated bowls.
Dogs are more likely to experience bloat if they:
- Are fed dry kibble exclusively
- Are fed a large portion once a day.
- Have relatives that had GDV/bloat
- Eat food containing soybean meal
- Eat food that lists oils or fats in the first four ingredients.
Like most large dog breeds, the kuvasz can be prone to hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that occurs when the ball and socket of the hip joint don't fit together correctly, causing the joint to grind together instead of moving smoothly. Misalignment of the hip joint causes pain, deterioration, and, over time, loss of joint function.
- Lethargy or decreased activity
- Loss of thigh muscles
- A swaying or hopping gait
- Lameness in the hind legs
Let your veterinarian know if your kuvasz shows signs of hip dysplasia.
Kuvaszok are an ancient breed. While they're associated with the Carpathian Basin in Hungary, the kuvasz is originally from the Ural Mountains of Siberia. Magyar tribes brought the breed to Hungary in the late 800s, and the kuvasz has been a Hungarian breed ever since.
In the late 1400s, kuvaszok were so valued in Hungary that King Matthias Corvinus only allowed noble families to own a kuvasz and they became popular hunting and guard dogs for Hungarian royalty. King Matthias himself bred kuvaszok and is said to have kept two or more kuvaszok with him at all times.
The kuvasz almost became extinct during World War II. Letters from wartime suggest that Nazis hunted kuvaszok during the occupation of Hungary, likely because these dogs are so fiercely protective of their families and homes.
After the war, less than 30 kuvaszok survived in Hungary, but dedicated breeders were able to revive the breed.
Hungarian diplomat and athlete Count Miksa Esterházy was the first to show a kuvasz in a dog show, displaying two kuvaszok in Vienna in 1883.
The Kuvasz Club of America was established in 1966 and recognized as an official breed club by the American Kennel Club in 1993.