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(Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina)
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Form and Function

The Sarplaninac — pronounced Shar-pla-nee-natz — is an ancient breed substantially built to guard livestock in mountainous terrain. As such, the Sarplaninac looks bigger than he actually is due to the breed’s heavy boning and thick double coat with a body that’s slightly longer than it is tall. He bears exceptional strength, characterized by his large teeth and muscular build as a means to scare away potential predators. With drop v-shaped ears and a long tail carried like a saber, the Sarplaninac is commonly colored iron gray, though any solid color from white to dark brown to black are found in the breed.


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Breed Traits

Energy Level

3 out of 5

Exercise Requirements

4 out of 5


2 out of 5

Affection Level

1 out of 5

Friendliness To Dogs

1 out of 5

Friendliness To Other Pets

1 out of 5

Friendliness To Strangers

1 out of 5


5 out of 5

Ease of Training

2 out of 5

Grooming Requirements

3 out of 5

Heat Sensitivity

1 out of 5


2 out of 5

Breed Attributes




77 to 99 pounds (male), 66 to 88 pounds (female)


At least 24 inches (male), at least 22 ½ inches (female)


Guardian (UKC)

Area of Origin


Date of Origin


Other Names

Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina


The Sarplaninac is an ancient guardian breed hailing from the mountainous terrain of Yugoslavia, or Illyria as it was known in the Roman age. As such, the breed formerly was called the Illyrian Shepherd Dog when it was recognized by the FCI in 1939 but was changed to the Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Sharplanina, named after the Sharplanina Mountains where the breed was most commonly found, and finally, shortened to simply the Sarplaninac. The breed could not be exported from his homeland Yugoslavia until 1970 and even then had to be carried down from the mountains by mules before being exported to the United States. Today, the Sarplaninac remains a revered protector of flock and is gaining popularity among ranchers in the United States and Canada as a guardian of livestock. The United Kennel Club has recognized the Sarplaninac as a member of its Guardian Dog Group since 1995.


Calm, intelligent and independent, the Sarplaninac has a temperament similar to other guarding breeds. The breed is suspicious of strangers and courageous, quick to act to any threat toward his property or human family.


The Sarplaninac is a relatively healthy and hardy breed. His thick double coat sheds moderately heavy, so regular brushing and occasional bathing are a must, as is regular nail trimming, ear cleaning and teeth brushing. Because the Sarplaninac is accustomed to having plenty of room to roam on a farm or in rural areas, the breed requires lots of outdoor exercise, preferably in a large fenced yard. Plenty of daily physical exercise and mental stimulation will keep this independent breed from becoming destructive, as will proper training and socialization during puppyhood. Stubborn and endlessly devoted to his work, the Sarplaninac is not recommend for first-time dog owners.


Major Concerns: N/A

Minor Concerns: N/A

Occasionally Seen: Hip dysplasia, bloat

Suggested Tests: Hips

Lifespan: 11 to 13 years


Note: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

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