|Basque Shepherd Dog|
|Origin||Basque Country (Spain)|
|Dog (domestic dog)|
The Basque Shepherd Dog, Basque: Euskal Artzain Txakurra, Spanish: Perro de Pastor Vasco, is a traditional Spanish breed of sheepdog originating in the historic Basque Country.: 535 It is believed that they originated from Central European herding dogs.
It is one of five Basque breeds of dog – the others being the Erbi Txakur, the Pachón de Vitoria, the Villano de Las Encartaciones and the Villanuco de Las Encartaciones – and one of fourteen animal breeds native to the País Vasco.
The Euskal Artzain Txakurra is a traditional breed of the Basque people, and dogs of this type appear in Basque mythology.: 536 Similar dogs appear in frescoes in churches and monasteries of the Basque country from the sixteenth century onwards, and later also in the drawings and paintings of artists such as Luis Paret y Alcázar, Gustave Doré and Adolfo Guiard.: 536
The breed was recognised by the Real Sociedad Canina de España in January 1996 in two varieties, Iletsua and Gorbeiakoa;: 440 the Gorbeiakoa originates from the region of Gorbea, and Iletsua means "hairy" or "shaggy" in Basque. It was officially recognised – and the breed standard published – by the national government of Spain in 2001, initially only in the Gorbeiakoa type;: 21179 the Iletsua variant was recognised in the following year.: 15116 Also in 2001, the breed in both its variants was included in the official list of autochthonous Basque breeds published by the government of the Basque Autonomous Community;: 1087 specific legislation regulating breeding and registration was published in 2003.
In 2009 the total number of both subtypes of the breed was estimated to be 500.: 536 Although the Gorbeiakoa is historically linked to the municipios of the Parque Natural del Gorbeia, both it and the Iletsua are distributed throughout the historical Basque region.: 536
In the 1950s some Basque people took sheepdogs with them when they travelled to the United States to work as shepherds.
The two varieties have many features in common. The body is strong and rectangular in outline, usually some 10–20% longer than it is high. The eyes are oval and may be brown or amber, the ears are of medium size, triangular and either pendent or folded.: 537
The Gorbeiakoa has a soft smooth coat of moderate length, shorter on the face and on the front of the legs, and somewhat longer on the back of them. It may be either fire-red or fawn; if it is red, some darkening of the muzzle is common. Dogs stand some 47 to 61 cm at the withers and usually weigh 18 to 36 kg; bitches are slightly smaller, with weights in the range 17 to 29 kg.
The coat of the Iletsua variety is a rougher and wirier than that of the Gorbeiakoa. It is moderately long, rather shorter on the front of the legs. It my be either cinnamon-coloured or fawn. Dogs stand 47–63 cm and weigh 18 to 33 kg, bitches 46–58 cm with weights up to 30 kg.
The Euskal Artzain Txakurra has for centuries been used by shepherds of the Basque Country to guard and herd flocks of sheep. It has also been used in the management of flocks of goats and of herds of cattle or horses, and to guard farmhouses.: 535
It is the dog most commonly used in txakur probak, traditional Basque sheepdog trials.: 294 It has also been successful in sheepdog trials at international level, including those held since 1950 at Oñati, in south-western Gipuzkoa.: 535