This Web page was created by Ivana Marinkovic dec 1999 <--------------------------------------------> Tornjak
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Introduction: (by Zdenko Cerin):
Do you know Tornjak ?
     I had an unrepeatable luck to be present in 1990 at the autumn dog show in Zagreb, with a definitive goal to buy a puppy for my thirteen year old daughter Maja, to satisfy her nearly unnatural wish. Not that we never had a dog, but those were always friend-originated giveaways, with barely recognizable "purebred ckaracteristics", and unfortunately due to illnesses, theft, road accidents and such, no breed took roots.
     It was our first dog show ever and of course in the meleé of infinite number of dogs, breeds, sounds it was not an easy matter to choose between a small Dobe, a Rottie, Bernese dog. At the same time a witty bearded man kept announcing througt the official loudspeakers about "two nice Tornjak pups in the hallway". Never heard of the word Tornjak, much less of a dog of that kind. And man, say something about others, not only those Tornjaks.
     However when a certain message gets repeated a considerable number of times it has to get through to the brain and I brought my crew to see those Tornjaks. Anyway I do think that there is not a dog that is not beautiful, and about the pups there isn'any question ever. Over these two youngsters their mother, black with rich white collar and a glorious tail, hovered like a hawh. It was great to see the mother together with the pups. The owner recited a dozen or so sentences about the breed, said the small, blackish, sleepy thing will be a fantasy, and Bonita opened a new chapter in our family.
Life with a Tornjak
     It is nearly unbelievable how a Dog can get close to a man. She was the most clever pup that we had ever met. In every moment of her life she knew what she wanted and how to get it. When she wanted to play she used to bring repeatedly up to twenty times a bicycle tyre or remnants of a ball untill she pulled us into the game; when she wanted food (for that she as if had swallowed an alarm clock) she would paw the doorknob of the house door to open it untill she got her meal, when she wanted out she would fetch the leash, when she wanted gentleness she would lean her head on my lap and wait. It was and stayed the gratest expression of welcome and love towards the members of the family. For me it was the most fascinating that my Bonita, my Tornjak, had such particular expression of personality, had her own Ego. Each of my commands she first considered, evaluated it's relevance and then executed it with clearly showing what she thinks about it. In our mutual relationship both she and I learned exceptionally quickly. I had learned how to esteem her ways, understand when it is drill time, when time to rest, to sense when an order is executed only because it was given by me, and when she genuinely enjoys doing it.
     We went to shows pretty early. With just over 9 months in Slavonski Brod she won her first BOB over her mother and five other males. After that 16 times CAC and 16 BOB with a club show win or two thrown in here and there. With Bonita, with Tornjak, we enjoyed living. Of course that in a whorlpool of all events I tried to find any, even the least, opportunity to find out more about the Tornjak. First, it was necessary to graduate in the
History of the breed
     It is supposed that today's Tornjak its ultimate origins draws from variations of Tibetan Mastiff with occasional spontneous inclusions of some types of spitz, possibly also, in certain circumstances, the wolf. The Croatian word Tornjak is derived from the word "tor" = enclosed space for sheep, a pen - becau these dogs were always, night and day, with the stock - and implies a livestock guardian dog and an invaluable help to the shepherd. The oldest written document describing a mountain dog (that is, Tornjak) in Croatia is from year 1062 from bishop's archives in Djakovo, and the same description is to be repeated in 1374 (Djakovo's bishop Peter), and 1752 (Djakovo's Canonicus Petar Lukić). They all describe dogs that inhibit mostly hill country under the ordnance of bishop of Djakovo. At that time all those lands were parts of the Kingdom of Croatia and Dalmatia. In recent times the descendants of these dogs were described by prof. dr. Stjepan Romić (best known for his work on Croatian Shepherd), dr Ivan Lovrenčić, mr. Ratimir Orban, Šandor Hotvath and fra Stjepan Krasić. The fact is that the greatest population of Tornjaks survived in mountain regions of central Bosnia and west Hercegovina (mostly among the Croatian population), but also existed on Grobnik fieldplain, in Lika, around Knin and Sinj, wherever extensive sheep farming was practiced, and transhumancy, as in winter months the sheep used to be driven to lowlands of Posavina, Slavonia and central Dalmatia. Recently in books by Šandor Horvath, and another by prof. Mario Bauer, Tornjaks are quoted among the Croatian indigenous and autochtonous breeds.
Use, nature and character of the Tornjak
     Shepherds use to say that a Tornjak who guards the flock is a fair match to two wolves, and a couple will encouner and chase away a bear without any undue respect. I of course have myself never been able to testify to these claims, but having lived 7 years with Tornjaks, raising about 30 in my kennel and witnessing the behaviour and life of Tornjak both as an individual and in a small pack (my own three adults) I completely comply with the following:
     Tornjaks are very carefully-minded dogs, dogs that think, never search for a fight, but driven to the wall they are ready to accept the amtch for life and death. Self-consciousness makes them apparently not interested in their surroundings, but they are very much wide awake, not jumpy but with sharpened senses, and exceptionally stubborn in insisting on realization of their instincts or decisions. Their loyalty for their "flock" (their family are their flock too) is not pushy, but it's beyond questioning, while somewhat wary of strangers. In contact with people and other animals they show no agression outside their "pen", while they resist vehemently any intrusion into their teritory. From my own experience I must point to the difference in behaviour between an individual and the pack. All thre of my Tornjaks are very similar in character, dear, noble, serious animals, ready next to talk to me. I had observed each individually when meeting a strange dog. While the other dog would run towards him, a Tornjak would wait silently, somewhat tensely, interested in evaluating the other's intentions. No barking, growling, or hair-rising, just tense attention. In 90% of instances the strange dog stops at 2-3 meters, turns and leaves. A pack reacts differently, much faster and much more endangering. With pack there is no waiting, they go into action immediately, synchronized, with inborn strategy and in events like that the owner got to have strong authoritarian power in order to stop that machine. I can't imagine and don't wish for better guardians. In relation to family members there is no difference in behaviour between individual and whole pack, except a cute competition in claiming attention can be noticed.
Short description of exterior
     We are dealing with a dog of powerful albeit not too heavy built (but I myself like a stronger type) well balanced and tending to be square in proportions. Limbs well connected and gait noble and powerful. Strong, scissors bite, cone-shaped mostly lupoid muzzle, not pointy, folded medium lenght ears and soft dark almond shaped eyes form powerfull head proportional to body size. The height is about 70cm for dogs, 60-65cm for bitches. Weight of adult male between 45 and 55 kilos, females around 35 kilos. Special characteristic of this breed is the coat, very long and dense, and particularly goudy in collar, fringes and tail which is in action held high as if a banner.
     The colour of Tornjaks is in fact unrestricted. 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. The goal is multicolourdness and distinction regarding towards other breeds. Derived from the colour and coat type there exist common dog names: Whitie, Blackie, Painty, Curly. All in all Tornjak is imposing, beautiful and pleasant companion, and also very useful dog, wonderfully adaptive towards it's surroundings and life's challenges.
The perspective
     Tornjak is as yet not internationally recognized. In 1993 there were 10 registered individuals in Zagreb and an unknown number in war-torn parts of Croatia and neighboring Bosna and Hercegovina. In 1997 there were already more than 200 registered Tornjaks, with pedigrees - not just unknown ancestry, as it was at the beginning, and there are some excellent individuals among them. However this is a breed that is still under reconstruction, so it's homogenity is not perfect. The interest for Tornjaks in the country is ever growing, at big shows there can be up to 30 in competition, in autumn 1997 they were judged by a german judge Uwe Fisher who took to like them very much. Other than shows, conscious of the fact that concentrating the population of the breed in urban communities we could influence the essential characteristic, we have gladly accepted to support the project of wolf protection in Croatia by reintroducing (also protected) dogs, which would have their ancient duty to avert wolves from herds and thus prevent the extinction of both. Towards that goal, eight pups from Zagreb were placed in the mountain region of Unešić. The Kennel Club Tornjak-Zagreb was formed in february 1997 with primary goals to forward the international recognition of the breed, and, by reintroducing the Tornjak into it's natural habitat, preserve the original life conditions for part of the population.

Zdenko Cerin

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translated from Croatian by Ivana Marinkovic
last revised: dec 1999