Greek Shepherd - Hellinikos Pimenikos
Female in livestock, from breeder: Agrapha Mountain Guards
Other namesΕλληνικός Ποιμενικός
Greek Sheepdog
Height Males 66–75 cm (26–30 in)
Females 60–68 cm (24–27 in)
Weight Males 40–55 kg (88–121 lb)
Females 32–40 kg (71–88 lb)
Coat Dense double coat
Colour Black, brown, white and multi-coloured
Kennel club standards
Kennel Club of Greece standard
Dog (domestic dog)
Molossus of Epirus
Other namesΜολοσσός Ηπείρου
Height Males 66–75 cm (26–30 in)
Females 64–74 cm (25–29 in)
Colour Solid red, blonde, yellow, black, striped, wolf or deer colour; possible minimal patch of white on the chest
Kennel club standards
Kennel Club of Greece standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Greek Shepherd or Greek Sheepdog (Greek: Ελληνικός Ποιμενικός, Ellinikós Pimenikós) is a breed of livestock guardian dog from Greece. Thought to be ancient in origin, the Greek Shepherd is very closely related to livestock guardian dog breeds from neighbouring countries; it is believed that some dogs are simultaneously claimed to be other breeds as they migrate annually across national borders with the flocks they protect in search seasonal pastures.


It is believed livestock guardian dogs are one of the oldest distinct dog types, with evidence the type has remained largely unchanged since ancient times.[1] It is claimed the Greek Shepherd has been found in Greece since ancient times, Plato wrote of dogs of similar form and function being known in the region of Epirus as early as 800 BC.[2][3][4] The Greek Shepherd is known as the Ellinikós Pimenikós (Ελληνικός Ποιμενικός) in Greek, it has been called the Greek Shepherd Dog, the Greek Sheepdog and the Hellenic Shepherd Dog.[2] The breed is found throughout Greece, particularly in the north of the country; it is very closely related to other livestock guardian breeds found throughout the Balkans.[3][4]

Many Balkan shepherds and their flocks undertake an annual migration between Greece and the Šar Mountains to capitalise on summer mountain pastures but avoid the harsh snow-covered mountain winters when no feed is available, in 1977 it was estimated over 500,000 sheep made this annual migration.[1] Because these same dogs can be seen in multiple countries at different times of the years, some cynologists including Raymond Coppinger observe that many dogs claimed to be Greek Shepherd are in fact also claimed to be Šarplaninacs and other regional breeds; and that nationalistic kennel clubs have given separate identities and breed standards to the very same dogs, differing appearances being due to changing appearance of these dogs as they gain their heavier winter coats and shed them again for the heat of the summer.[1] Typically these shepherds winter their flocks in Greece where their Greek Shepherds protect the flocks from Greek wolves and jackals; then as the weather improves they walk with their flocks, accompanied by their dogs, over 480 kilometres (300 mi) through North Macedonia to their summer pastures in the Šar Mountains on the border of Albania and Kosovo where their Šarplaninacs protect their flocks from predators found there; then in the autumn they make the return journey to Greece where their dogs once again transform into Greek Shepherds.[1]


Male on the mountain


Male dog, from breeder: Agrapha Mountain Guards

The Greek Shepherd is a large breed of dog that closely resembles the Italian Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog, the Hungarian Kuvasz and the Polish Tatra Shepherd Dog; the breed displays the traits common to most livestock guardian dog breeds, including a thick weatherproof double-coat and a powerful build.[3][5] The Kennel Club of Greece's breed standard states dogs should stand over 66 centimetres (26 in) at the withers and that they can stand as much as 70 to 75 centimetres (28 to 30 in) tall; and that bitches should be over 60 centimetres (24 in) tall but can attain heights of 65 to 68 centimetres (26 to 27 in).[6] The breed standard states dogs should weigh between 40 and 55 kilograms (88 and 121 lb) and bitches between 32 and 40 kilograms (71 and 88 lb).[6]

The breed has a dense double-coat; it has never been bred for colour and can be found in a broad range of colours, including white, black, brown, light-brown or a combination of these, with spotted examples being common.[2][4] In some areas, only pure white examples are kept by local shepherds, with non-white puppies being culled because it is thought they bring bad luck.[3]

In former times, many Greek shepherds would crop the right ear of their dogs, believing doing so improved the dogs' hearing; this practice gave the dogs a curious, lopsided appearance.[3][7]


The breed is renowned for its ferocity when guarding flocks, with dogs sometimes taking it upon themselves to protect the whole countryside as opposed to their master's flocks; people walking in some rural areas, even shepherds, often needed to arm themselves with sticks and rocks to ward off shepherd dogs who could mistake them for thieves.[3][7] A heavy log is often tied to the collars of particularly aggressive animals, being believed the extra exertion curbs the animal's zealotry.[3][7]

Breed standard

FCI Group 2.

USE: PROTECTION of herds and property

The Greek Sheepdog belongs to the Mastiff-type group of sheepdogs; Group 2; Section 2.2; of the Federation Cynologique Internationale.


A sturdy dog of strong and well muscled construction. Capable of constant herd guarding and protection work under diverse weather conditions, at rough terrain and with little food requirements. Equally capable of either chasing away or fighting with the herd threatening wild animals.

Typical movement is the normal trot. Movement must be free and steady when trotting, changing effortlessly to gallop with turning ability. Head carriage is low during trot.

The Greek Shepherd dog lives harmoniously with the herd and protects it fiercely when threatened.

It is a slow maturing breed, with good health, longevity and of strong sexual dimorphism, especially in body substance between male and female specimens.

Females are more social and show strong maternal instinct.

The breed descends from the ancient Greek Molosser type shepherds, developed through the centuries with the use of other shepherd type dogs living on Greek territory.

Today the breed is regarded as a primitive mountain type shepherd, of mainly guarding use.


The head is voluminous. Muzzle - skull ratio 2:3. Stop not too pronounced. The skull is slightly domed. The width of the skull is almost equal to its length. The superciliary arches are prominent. The occipital protuberance is well defined.

The muzzle is wide and deep, especially near the skull, tapering gradually to the nose, but never pointed. Nose is black with wide nostrils. The cheeks are flat and deep. Zygomatic arches well defined.


Complete dentition, strong teeth with developed canines. Scissor or level bite. Lips covering teeth are thick and slightly loose.


Of medium size, triangular, heart shaped, set at the level of the outer corner of the eyes. Placed flat over cheeks or slightly out, revealing their inner side. The ear skin is thick and covered by thick coat. When the dog is alert, ears are slightly raised forward, thus enhancing expression. Ear cropping is not allowed and cropped dogs are not allowed to be shown at dog shows.


Of medium size, oval shaped, symmetrically placed, well apart. Seen from the side they are placed approximately at the level of the stop. Of chestnut colour, darker shades preferred. Eyelids tight, not showing haw. The expression is serious, calm and penetrating.


Strong, wide, well muscled, of medium length. Neck skin is loose, forming a small dewlap.


Shoulders muscular and well attached. Shoulder blades oblique. Scapula-humerus angle is medium. Forearm straight, heavily boned and well muscled. Elbows placed parallel to chest, allowing for free chest movement. Pasterns strong and elastic.


Chest wide and deep, reaching the elbows. Ribs well sprung and arched - not excessively - offering enough space for heart and lungs. The back is level, broad, of medium length and well muscled. Underline with slight tuck up, but still strong and deep in loin area.

Loin is wide, short, well muscled and slightly arched. Croup is wide and moderately sloping. Hip bones strong and prominent.


Upper thigh long, broad and very muscular. Stifle and hock joints are strong and of medium angulation, seen from the side. Second thigh of medium length. Hocks low set. Metatarsus is short, robust and vertical, when standing. Hindquarters must be strong boned and vertical, seen from behind. The presence or absence of dewclaws is not important and of no genetic value.


Feet are oval in shape, tight with hard and harsh nails, of big size. The medial membrane is well developed and the toes are long and curved.


The tail is thick at its base, set high and reaches the hock forming a curve and a small reversal at its extremity. When the dog is alert and moves the tail rises and forms a semi-circle over the croup. The tail is covered with abundant hair and has a rich feathering. There might be some dogs with natural short tail or natural stumpy tail that are equally acceptable and breeding with the dogs with long tails is desirable to establish the breed as long as this is not genetically related with health problems.


Dense and rich with thick hair and double coat. The undercoat is soft and dense and the top coat is longer with straight or slightly wavy hair.

Curly coat is not desirable. Coat is more at the back of the thighs. There are two coat variations acceptable, the short hair and the long hair. Male dogs have a mane. Female dogs can have a shorter coat. .

The skin is hard but elastic.


The basic colours are black, fawn, white and multicolour. In black dogs there are sometimes brown highlights and white markings in chest, neck, end of muzzle and extremities. Also there can be red or brindle areas on the cheeks, chest, over the eyes and on the legs. In fawns the colour varies from shades of light to dark fawn and brindle. In light fawn dogs and brindles it is possible to have black on the muzzle or presence of white on the muzzle or extremities. In multicolour dogs the white is dominant and we can see big or small patches or markings of fawn, brindle or black colour. If there are spots on the head it’s preferable to be symmetric. Another accepted colour is the blue. All colours are equally accepted.


Independent, brave, decisive, loyal with high sense of his duty and high instinct of protection towards the flock and his environment. A sensitive dog that cannot tolerate violent behaviour. In packs he can fight to establish hierarchy. Capable of acting on his own. Reserved and distant with strangers. Highly active at nights. He fights off predators from the flock. Highly trainable, needs early socialization so he can live harmoniously with people and other animals.


Height at withers     males:     66-75cm

                               females:     60-68cm

Weight always in proportion with the height males:     40-55Kgr

                                                                    females:     32-40Kgr


•    A pointed and long muzzle

•    Discoloration of the nose

•    Tight lips-

•    Light colored eyes

•    Entropion or loose eyelids

•    Too small or too big ears placed too high on the head

    Cropped ears

•    Undershot or overshoAbsence of teeth when not accounted for by damage of old age

•    Narrow and long scull

•    Cow hocked or bow legged

•    Weak and small feet

•    Weak pasterns and hocks

•    Narrow skeleton and light construction of the body

•    Weak and long back that shows an intense curve from the withers to the hip bones

•    Lymphatic body appearance

•    Thin tail

•    Lack of coat

•    Curly coat

•    Brown colour

•    Body size that is below the standard height and weight in mature dogs over two years of age

•    Dogs that are nervous or excessively aggressive

Note: Males must have two well developed normal testicles well placed in the scrotum.[8]

Molossus of Epirus

Not to be confused with Molossus (dog).

The Kennel Club of Greece recognises a second breed of Greek livestock guardian dog, the Molossus of Epirus, from the region of Epirus.[9] The kennel club's breed standard for the Molossus of Epirus describes a breed with very similar characteristics as the Greek Shepherd; the principle differences are in colour, it stating the Molossus of Epirus should be solid red, blonde, yellow or black, striped and wolf or deer colour with a minimal patch of white on the chest.[9] Additionally, it states bitches are only slightly smaller than dogs, standing between 64 and 74 centimetres (25 and 29 in).[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Coppinger, Raymond; Coppinger, Lorna (2001). Dogs: a startling new understanding of canine origin, behavior & evolution. New York: Scribner. pp. 102 & 127–128. ISBN 0-684-85530-5.
  2. ^ a b c Fogle, Bruce (2009). The encyclopedia of the dog. New York: DK Publishing. p. 356. ISBN 978-0-7566-6004-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Morris, Desmond (2001). Dogs: the ultimate dictionary of over 1,000 dog breeds. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square Publishing. pp. 392–393. ISBN 1-57076-219-8.
  4. ^ a b c Yılmaz, Orhan; Ertürk, Yakup Erdal; Coșkun, Füsun; Ertuğrul, Mehmet (2015). "Using livestock guardian dogs in Balkans" (PDF). Agriculture & Forestry. 61 (1): 164–165. doi:10.17707/AgricultForest.61.1.21. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  5. ^ Hancock, David (2014). Dogs of the shepherds: a review of the pastoral breeds. Ramsbury, Wiltshire: The Crowood Press Ltd. pp. 31–32. ISBN 978-1-84797-808-0.
  6. ^ a b "Ελληνικός Ποιμενικός" [Greek Shepherd]. Kennel Club of Greece (in Greek). 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Wilcox, Bonnie; Walkowicz, Chris (1995). Atlas of dog breeds of the world. Neptune City, N.J.: TFH Publications. p. 470.
  8. ^ Karioti, Anna. "GREEK SHEEPDOG (HELLINIKOS PIMENIKOS)". (in Greek). Retrieved 2023-09-08.
  9. ^ a b c "Μολοσσός Ηπείρου" [Molossus of Epirus]. Kennel Club of Greece (in Greek). 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2021.