Basque Shepherd Dog
A young dog, Gorbeiakoa type
Other names
  • Basque: Euskal Artzain Txakurra
  • Spanish: Perro de Pastor Vasco
  • Basque Sheepdog
  • Basque Herder
OriginBasque Country (Spain)
Height Males
  • Gorbeiakoa: 47–61 cm (19–24 in)
  • Iletsua: 47–63 cm (19–25 in)
  • Gorbeiakoa: 46–59 cm (18–23 in)
  • Iletsua: 46–58 cm (18–23 in)
Weight Males
  • Gorbeiakoa: 18–36 kg (40–79 lb)
  • Iletsua: 18–33 kg (40–73 lb)
  • Gorbeiakoa: 17–29 kg (37–64 lb)
  • Iletsua: 17–30 kg (37–66 lb)
  • moderately long
  • Gorbeiakoa: smooth, soft
  • Iletsua: rough, coarse
  • Gorbeiakoa: red, fawn
  • Iletsua: cinnamon, fawn
Kennel club standards
Real Sociedad Canina de España Iletsua standard
RSCFRCE Gorbeiakoa standard
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.[1]: 535  It is believed that they originated from Central European herding dogs.[citation needed]

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[2][3] – and one of fourteen animal breeds native to the País Vasco.[4]


The Euskal Artzain Txakurra is a traditional breed of the Basque people, and dogs of this type appear in Basque mythology.[1]: 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.[1]: 536 

The breed was recognised by the Real Sociedad Canina de España in January 1996 in two varieties, Iletsua and Gorbeiakoa;[5]: 440  the Gorbeiakoa originates from the region of Gorbea,[6] and Iletsua means "hairy" or "shaggy" in Basque.[citation needed] It was officially recognised – and the breed standard published – by the national government of Spain in 2001, initially only in the Gorbeiakoa type;[7]: 21179  the Iletsua variant was recognised in the following year.[8]: 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;[9]: 1087  specific legislation regulating breeding and registration was published in 2003.[10]

In 2009 the total number of both subtypes of the breed was estimated to be 500.[1]: 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.[1]: 536 

In the 1950s some Basque people took sheepdogs with them when they travelled to the United States to work as shepherds.[11]


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.[1]: 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.[6]

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.[12]


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.[1]: 535 

It is the dog most commonly used in txakur probak, traditional Basque sheepdog trials.[13]: 294  It has also been successful in sheepdog trials at international level, including those held since 1950 at Oñati, in south-western Gipuzkoa.[1]: 535 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Miguel Fernández Rodríguez, Mariano Gómez Fernández, Juan Vicente Delgado Bermejo, Silvia Adán Belmonte, Miguel Jiménez Cabras (editors) (2009). Guía de campo de las razas autóctonas españolas (in Spanish). Madrid: Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino. ISBN 9788449109461.
  2. ^ Mariano Gómez Fernández (2002). Las razas de ganado autóctonas vascas en el pastoreo vasco (in Spanish). Annals del Centre d'Estudis Comarcals del Ripollès. 2002: 279–290.
  3. ^ Mariano Gómez, I. Amezaga (2003). Conservation of livestock genetic resources in Euskadi (Basque Country). Animal Genetic Resources/Resources génétiques animales/Recursos genéticos animales 33: 41–55. ISSN 1014-2339.
  4. ^ [s.n.] (11 January 2010). Programa de Desarrollo Rural del País Vasco 2007–2013 (in Spanish). Eusko Jaurlaritza/Gobierno Vasco. Nekazaritza, Arrantza eta Elikagai Saila/Departamento de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación. Accessed July 2020.
  5. ^ W.J. Avila, M. Gómez, E. González Txabarri (1998). Variabilidad de células sanguíneas mediante lectinas fluorescentes en la raza canina Euskal Artzain Txacurra (in Spanish). Archivos de zootecnia 47 (178–179): 439–443. ISSN 0004-0592.
  6. ^ a b Perro de Pastor Vasco (Euskal Artzain Txakurra (variety Gorbeiakoa or from Gorbea). Real Sociedad Canina de España. Archived 23 October 2018.
  7. ^ [Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación] (25 May 2001). Real Decreto 558/2001, de 25 de mayo, por el que se regula el reconocimiento oficial de las organizaciones o asociaciones de criadores de perros de raza pura (in Spanish). Boletín Oficial del Estado 142 (14 June 2001): 21156–21182. Reference: BOE-A-2001-11347.
  8. ^ [Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación] (17 April 2002). Orden APA/880/2002, de 17 de abril, por la que se actualiza el anexo del Real Decreto 558/2001, de 25 de mayo, por el que se regula el reconocimiento oficial de las organizaciones o asociaciones de criadores de perros de raza pura (in Spanish). Boletín Oficial del Estado 98 (24 April 2002): 15116–15117. Reference: BOE-A-2002-7770.
  9. ^ Juan José Ibarretxe Markuartu (26 December 2001). N°-429: Decreto 373/2001, de 26 de diciembre, sobre razas animales autóctonas vascas y entidades dedicadas a su fomento (in Basque and Spanish). Euskal Herriko Agintaritzaren Aldizkaria/Boletín Oficial del País Vasco 14: 1080–1087.
  10. ^ Gonzalo Sáenz de Samaniego Berganzo. (9 December 2003). N°-201: Orden de 9 de diciembre de 2003, del Consejero de Agricultura y Pesca, por la que se aprueba la reglamentación específica de la raza canina Euskal Artzain Txakurra. (in Basque and Spanish). Euskal Herriko Agintaritzaren Aldizkaria/Boletín Oficial del País Vasco 9 (15 January 2004): 741–750.
  11. ^ Ernest Hartnagle and Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor (2007). Vanished Trials and Faded Memories of Australian Shepherd History. The American Kennel Club. Archived 30 April 2020.
  12. ^ Perro de Pastor Vasco (Euskal Artzain Txakurra) (variety Iletsua). Real Sociedad Canina de España. Archived 23 October 2018.
  13. ^ Ramón Zallo, Armand Mattelart (2007). Basques, Today: Culture, History and Society in the Age of Diversity and Knowledge. Irun: Alberdania. ISBN 9788496643598.