Illustrated CKC Kuvasz Standard
Introduction and Purpose
Although I am a strong proponent of preserving the livestock guardian heritage and working ability of Kuvaszok, I am also a strong advocate of correct conformation and type. There seems to be a misconception that if a breeder focuses on working ability that somehow, they are (or should) neglect confirmation and correct type. On the contrary, I believe understanding, conforming, and breeding to the correct (FCI/Hungarian/Canadian) standard will yield even better and more capable working dogs. I also believe the standard was designed with purpose in mind and very much encompasses the idea of form = function. I will try to break down the CKC standard by each relevant section and/or subsection and try to include as many illustrations (good and bad examples) as possible to make them easier to interpret. The purpose of this document is to serve as an educational tool, especially to our breeder members and will likely evolve to aid in the planned CKC judge’s education program.
Please Note: The standard is like a blueprint to what the ideal specimen of a given breed should look like. In reality, no dog is without flaws and even the positive examples utilized to illustrate various features of the standard are not flawless specimens. Moreover, the same dog might be utilized more than once and can potentially illustrate a positive as well as a negative feature (i.e., a dog might have a very nice or correct coat, but inadequate head).
PART I: GENERAL APPEARANCE
The dogs of this breed are strong and large and carry a dense, wavy, white coat. Their pleasing appearance radiates nobility and strength. The individual body parts fit together harmoniously, the limbs being neither too short nor too long and neither lanky nor cobby. The bone structure is strong but not coarse. The strong muscles are lean, the tight joints show clear outlines, without wrinkles. Seen from the side, the body forms a rectangle, almost a square. Well-muscled, he shows a strong build, a lively temperament and great agility. His appearance embodies a tireless working ability.
Below is an overall Kuvasz illustration with key points from the standard describing relevant body parts.
In simple terms, general appearance means how does the dog look overall and what image does it portray at first glance? Other words, when you first look at the dog, does it clearly and unmistakably look like a Kuvasz? Are the basic characteristics that would identify the dog as a Kuvasz present or lacking? Is the phenotype (exterior look/type of the dog) correct in accordance with the standard? Unfortunately, correct phenotype is lacking in many North American Kuvaszok (even some that are considered top winning show dogs).
Important key takeaways are:
Dense, WAVY white coat (straight coat is atypical and unacceptable for a Kuvasz)
At first glance it should appear that this is a large, strong, muscular, confident, and formidable working dog.
One should ask itself, could this dog work in the field all day? The answer must be YES!
If the dog appears thin, lanky, overly refined, and lacks overall substance, it will most likely not be an adequate working dog. Other words, a Kuvasz should not resemble a sighthound in any shape or form.
Also, a Kuvasz cannot appear heavy, lazy, lethargic or have low energy, as it too is unacceptable for a working livestock guardian dog.
The analogy I would use is that a Kuvasz should be like a well-chiselled heavyweight boxer (i.e., Mike Tyson in his prime).
Careful attention must be given to ensure phenotype is correct and dogs that resemble related breeds such as the Great Pyrenees, Slovakian Chuvach or Maremma must be eliminated.
Lastly, when it comes to general appearance (although not specifically mentioned in the section), we must not forget about sexual dimorphism, which means that a male can and should be clearly and easily distinguishable from a female without having to look underneath the dogs.
Describing correct Kuvasz type is not easy and truly understanding it is even harder; however, once someone finally gets it, then they can readily recognize it and can actively select for it in their breeding program.
Examples of Correct Type:
Desired head, flat and wide top of skull, correct ear set, dark, almond shaped eyes, round nose with large nostrils, strong and wide jaw, desired pigmentation. Clearly a male.
Another example of a desired male Kuvasz head. Very wide skull, correct ear set (position in relation to skull), dark, almond shaped eyes, large round nose with well-developed nostrils, wide and powerful jaw, strong bone, desired pigmentation. Illustrating desired substance.
*A much more thorough and detailed breakdown of the features of a correct Kuvasz head will be discussed in the subsequent “Head” section of the standard.
Two exemplary male specimens illustrating correct type and substance. Strong bone, nicely developed chest, tight topline and bottom line, good angulations, desired coat and typical Kuvasz head. The dog on the left is the grandfather of the one on the right and I do not think such type and substance is merely coincidence, rather likely to do with genetic.
Examples of Masculinity and Substance
“Their pleasing appearance radiates strength and nobility”. These two males illustrate undoubtable masculinity, with very strong, yet correct heads with powerful and wide jaws and strong bone and wide chests. Take a closer look at the dog on the right and see how it compares or contrasts its owner behind it (a full grown man), as it exemplifies size and substance.
Examples of Correct Females
A very beautiful female from the 1970’s, illustrating correct head type, strong bone and an impressive chest. Has ample substance, but clearly a female.
A young female illustrating correct type, structure, and substance. Tight topline, correct underbelly, good angles and typical Kuvasz smile. Also notice that even though these two females are of completely different bloodlines and from a different era, they have very similar heads, illustrating that correct type is/should be consistently maintained.
Example of Sexual Dimorphism
Even though these two dogs are from completely different bloodlines, they both illustrate correct type, such as the flat and wide top of skull, correct ear set, almond shaped eyes, wide chests, etc., but what is also clearly obvious is that the dog on the left is a male and one on the right is a female. This is clear without having to look underneath them.
Examples of Correct Type from Puppy to Adult
Those who understand correct type and substance can also easily recognize it even in puppies. I can tell you from personal experience that a standout puppy is easily recognizable, as it innately inherits correct type at the time of birth and will likely maintain it through life. On the contrary, a puppy that exhibits weak type, will likely never get better.
As you can see, this is a Kuvasz of exceptional type and substance, which is easily recognizable from puppyhood and is maintained as the dog grows and matures.
As you can see from this female puppy example and even more detailed timeline breakdown, even as early as 5 weeks old the puppy is of standout quality, illustrating strong bone, strong head with a wide muzzle, promising angulation, and strong shoulders. The same strong bone and substance was maintained as the puppy grew.
Examples of Incorrect Type: Overly Refined and Lacking Substance
Unfortunately, nowadays we see a growing trend whereby Kuvaszok are becoming more refined and many lack the necessary substance expected by the Hungarian/FCI/Canadian standard. All one needs to do is type in “Kuvasz” in Google Images and the majority of the pictures that will appear are of refined, foxy-like or narrow headed dogs that lack chest, bone, overall substance and many have uncharacteristic or short hair. Of course, Google is skewed, as most of the search results displayed are from the U.S. and such refined dogs are the trend or perhaps even the expectation there, as even some of the top winning show dogs lack many of the desired or typical Kuvasz features. However, even in Hungary over the past decade or so we see a trend towards uncharacteristic narrow heads, large ears, inadequate coat, bad angulation, and overall refined look.