Maremma-Abruzzese Sheepdog
Other names
  • Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese;
  • Maremmano
  • Pastore Abruzzese
  • Pastore Maremmano
  • Abruzzese Mastiff
  • Mastino Abruzzese
  • Abruzzo Sheepdog
  • Abruzzese Sheepdog
  • Cane da Pastore Abruzzese
  • Maremma Sheepdog
  • Maremmano Sheepdog
  • Abruzzese Shepherd
Height Males 65–73 cm (26–29 in)[1]
Females 60–68 cm (24–27 in)[1]
Weight Males 35–45 kg (77–99 lb)[1]
Females 30–40 kg (66–88 lb)[1]
Coat long, thick
Colour white[1]
Kennel club standards
Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia Italiana standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog (Italian: Cane da pastore maremmano-abruzzese), also known as the Maremmano, Maremma Sheepdog, or Abruzzese Sheepdog (Italian: pastore abruzzese), among other names, is an Italian breed of livestock guardian dog. It is indigenous to Central Italy, especially to the Maremma region of Tuscany and Lazio, and to northern areas of Southern Italy, particularly to Abruzzo. It has been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to guard sheep from wolves. The "Maremmano" name derives from that of the Maremma marshlands where, until recently, shepherds, dogs and hundreds of thousands of sheep over-wintered,[2]: 33  and where the dogs are still abundant although sheep-farming has decreased substantially. However, the breed is still widely employed in and closely culturally associated with the nearby region of Abruzzo, where sheep herding remains vital to the rural economy and the wolf (specifically the Apennine wolf) remains an active and protected predator.

It may share a common ancestor with other breeds of similar appearance including the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the Kuvasz of Hungary, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog, the Slovenský Cuvac of Slovakia, the Šarplaninac (although that is not white),[3][4] and to the Akbash of Turkey.[citation needed]


Ancient history and iconography

Descriptions of white flock guardian dogs are found in ancient Roman literature, in works such as those of Columella, Varro and Palladius. Similar dogs are depicted in numerous sculptures and paintings from Roman times to the present. Among the earliest is the series of large statues (two in Rome, one in Florence, one – the Duncombe Dog – in England) copied from a Hellenistic bronze from Pergamon.[5]

Iconographic sources identified as relevant to the history of the Maremmano include:[5]

Recent history

A working dog on the Gran Sasso of Abruzzo

The first registration of the Maremmano in the Libro delle Origini Italiano of the Kennel Club Italiano, as it was then called, was of four dogs in 1898. There were no further registrations for many years. In 1940 there were 17 dogs registered. The first standard for the breed was drawn up in 1924 by Luigi Groppi and Giuseppe Solaro.[12]

Until 1958 the Pastore Maremmano, or shepherd dog of the Maremma, and the Pastore Abruzzese, or shepherd dog of the Abruzzi, were regarded as separate breeds. A breeder's society for the Pastore Abruzzese was formed in 1950, and one for the Maremmano in 1953. On 1 January 1958 the breeds were unified by the ENCI, the Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia Italiano, the national dog association of Italy. The explanation given is that a "natural fusion" of the two types had occurred as a result of movement of the dogs due to transhumance of sheep flocks from one region to another, particularly after the unification of Italy.[1] Until 1860, the mountains of the Abruzzo and the plains of the Maremma lay in different countries. While some older publications refer to the Maremmano and Abruzzese as independent breeds combined to create the Maremmano-Abruzzese, it has been noted that the shorter-haired Maremmano was only ever observed during the winter months, when flocks were grazed on their winter pastures on the milder coastal Tuscany, whilst the supposedly longer-bodied Abruzzese was only observed in the summer months, when flocks were grazed in the Abruzzi mountains.[13]: 124 [14]: 42 

The nose, lips and eye surrounds are black.

As sheep farming developed into an annual trek or transhumance from mountain grasslands of Abruzzo and Molise (and other parts of central Italy) south to lower pasture land in Puglia, where sheep were over-wintered[citation needed], the dogs came to play a central role in the centuries-old migration, an annual event vital to Abruzzese culture. Maremmano dogs continue to be widely used by Italian sheep farmers in areas where predation is common, such as the Apennines of central Italy and the open range land of national parks in Abruzzo. The dogs have also been used to guard animals in Australia, Israel and the United States.[15]: 24 


The Maremmano has a solid, muscular build, a thick white coat, a large head and a black nose. Dogs weigh some 35–45 kg and stand 65–73 cm at the shoulder, while bitches weigh 30–40 kg and stand 60–68 cm. Some dogs may be considerably larger. The coat is long and thick; it is rough to the touch, and forms a thick collar around the neck. It should be solid white; some minor yellowing may be tolerated.[16] The nose, the lips and the skin round the eyes are black.[15]: 24 

The median age at death has been reported as 7.5 years, compared to a median of 10 years for all dogs in Italy.[17]


The traditional use of the Maremmano is as a guardian for the protection of sheep flocks against wolves. Columella, writing in the first century AD, recommends white dogs for this purpose, as the shepherd can easily distinguish them from the wolf, while Varro suggests that white dogs have a "lion-like aspect" in the dark.[18] The dogs work in groups; three or four dogs are an adequate defense against wolves and stray dogs. Their function is mostly one of dissuasion, actual physical combat with the predator being relatively rare.[19] Nevertheless, working dogs may be fitted with a roccale (or vreccale), a spiked iron collar which protects the neck in combat.[19] Until cropping became illegal in Italy, the ears of working dogs were normally cropped.[5]: 139 

A roccale of a different type

The roccale or vreccale, a spiked iron collar

Dogs used for flock protection are placed among the sheep as young puppies – no more than 40 days old – so that they bond with them; human contact is kept to the indispensable minimum.[20] If there are already guardian dogs in the flock, the puppy imitates and learns from their behaviour.[20] The traditional use of the Maremmano is with sheep, but the dogs can form a similar bond with cattle and have been used to protect them.[21] A small number have been used since 2006 on Middle Island, off Warrnambool, in Victoria, Australia, to protect a small population of the Australian little penguin (Eudyptula novaehollandiae) against invasive foxes.[22][23] In Patagonia they have been used to protect sheep from pumas.[24]

A study led by researchers at the University of Tasmania, Zoos Victoria, and the University of Melbourne determined that the effect of Maremmanos as Livestock Guardian Dogs could allow wild predators to coexist with farming. The presence of Maremmanos created a landscape of fear on foxes similar to what would be imposed by large wild predators naturally, deterring them from attacking the livestock. [25]The study also suggested that the use of Maremmanos could potentially benefit other small species of native wildlife in the area.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Standard del cane da pastore maremmano abruzzese (in Italian). Ente Nazionale dell Cinofilia Italiana. Archived 22 June 2016.
  2. ^ Graeme Barker, Tom Rasmussen (2000). The Etruscans. Wiley-Blackwell.
  3. ^ Ancona, George (1985). Sheep Dog (1st ed.). New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. ISBN 9780688041199.
  4. ^ Le Origini del cane Pastore - Maremmano Abruzzese (in Italian). Circolo del Pastore Maremmano - Abruzzese. Archived 25 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Paolo Breber (1983). Il Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese, second edition (in Italian). Firenze: Olimpia.
  6. ^ Max von Stephanitz (1901) Der deutsche Schäferhund in Wort und Bild: Herausgegeben im Auftrage des Vereins für deutsche Schäferhunde (in German) Augsburg: Lampart
  7. ^ V[illot], F[rédéric] (1855) Guide through the galleries of paintings of the Imperial museum of the Louvre Paris: De Soye and Bouchet, p. 620, entry 387
  8. ^ Alphonse Gobin (1869) Traité pratique du chien; histoire, races, emploi, hygiène et maladies Paris: Mme Ve. Bouchard-Huzard (in French) "Practical treatise of the dog; history, races, use, health and illness"; cited by Breber (1983), p. 27
  9. ^ Vincenzo Dandolo (1804). Del governo delle pecore spagnuole e italiane e dei vantaggi che ne derivano (in Italian). Milano: L. Veladini; cited by Breber (1983), pp. 173–175
  10. ^ Charles Knight (editor) (1833). Penny magazine of the Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge Volume 2 London: Charles Knight p. 200
  11. ^ Charles Coleman (1850). A Series of Subjects peculiar to the Campagna of Rome and Pontine Marshes, designed from nature and etched by C. Coleman. Rome: [s.n.]
  12. ^ Franco Simoni (1987). "Storia ed etimologia" (in Italian), in: Fiorenzo Fiorone (1987). I pastori italiani: il maremmano-abruzzese e il bergamasco. Milano: De Vecchi Editore. ISBN 978-88-412-2316-1.
  13. ^ Raymond Coppinger, Lorna Coppinger (2002). Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226115631
  14. ^ David Hancock (2014). Dogs of the Shepherds: a Review of the Pastoral Breeds. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire: The Crowood Press Ltd. ISBN 9781847978080.
  15. ^ a b Robin Rigg (2001). Livestock guarding dogs: their current use world wide. IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group Occasional Paper No. 1. Tubney, Oxford: IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. Archived 30 June 2007.
  16. ^ Cane da pastore Maremmano Abruzzese - Lo Standard (in Italian). Circolo del Pastore Maremmano - Abruzzese. Archived 31 October 2017.
  17. ^ Mariana Roccaro, Romolo Salini, Marco Pietra, Micaela Sgorbini, Eleonora Gori, Maurizio Dondi, Paolo E. Crisi, Annamaria Conte, Paolo Dalla Villa, Michele Podaliri, Paolo Ciaramella, Cristina Di Palma, Annamaria Passantino, Francesco Porciello, Paola Gianella, Carlo Guglielmini, Giovanni L. Alborali, Sara Rota Nodari, Sonia Sabatelli, Angelo Peli (2024). Factors related to longevity and mortality of dogs in Italy. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 225: 106155. ISSN 0167-5877. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2024.106155. Open access icon
  18. ^ cited in: Raymond Coppinger, Lorna Coppinger (2002). Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226115631, page 120.
  19. ^ a b Caratteristiche del Cane da difesa del gregge (in Italian). Circolo del Pastore Maremmano–Abruzzese. Archived 5 November 2013.
  20. ^ a b L'Allevamento del Cane da difesa del gregge (in Italian). Circolo del Pastore Maremmano–Abruzzese. Archived 5 November 2013.
  21. ^ Raymond Coppinger, Lorna Coppinger. (1995). Interaction between livestock guarding dogs and wolves. In: Ludwig N. Carbyn, Steven H. Fritts, Dale R. Seip (editors) (1995). Ecology and Conservation of Wolves in a Changing World. Edmonton, Alberta: Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta. ISBN 9780919058927, pages 523–526.
  22. ^ Penguin numbers up after world-first maremma trial - 13/12/2006. Warrnambool City Council. Archived 27 September 2007.
  23. ^ [Rural Reporters from Canberra 2600] (25 June 2010). National Landcare Winners 2010. ABC Rural. Archived 28 June 2010.
  24. ^ Liam Miller (3 July 2021). Lights, dogs, action! Patagonia project to keep pumas from preying on sheep. The Guardian. Accessed July 2021.
  25. ^ van Bommel, Linda; Magrath, Michael; Coulson, Graeme; Johnson, Chris N. (January 2024). "Livestock guardian dogs establish a landscape of fear for wild predators: Implications for the role of guardian dogs in reducing human–wildlife conflict and supporting biodiversity conservation". Ecological Solutions and Evidence. 5 (1). doi:10.1002/2688-8319.12299. ISSN 2688-8319.