Today’s Kuvasz, smaller than its giant ancestors, was largely developed in Hungary. The Kuvasz was a constant in the European kingdoms and empires that flourished five to eight hundred years ago, although the breed is thousands of years old and probably was brought to Hungary by nomadic Magyar tribes who traveled between Asia and Europe. The Kuvasz is related to the Komondor, according to von Stephanitz, a renowned German authority on Central European breeds. He speculates that the Kavasz or Kawwasz was crossed with native Hungarian country dogs to produce the Kuvasz of today. In the 14th and 15th centuries, only royalty and those favored in royal circles were allowed go own a Kuvasz. In the latter half of the 15th century, the Kuvasz was revered far and wide, often trained for hunting big game and protecting the huge estates of that time. King Matthias Corvinus I, who reigned in Hungary from 1458 to 1490, reportedly had at least a brace (two) of Kuvasz with him at all times, even during travel, with many more roaming his palace and surrounding grounds. Those were tumultuous times in Hungary, and he is said to have trusted and relied on his Kuvaszok (plural) more than any of his family or household guards. Matthias developed a large hunting pack of Kuvasz, and his kennels were among the finest in all of Europe. The gift of a Kuvasz from the King was a high honor. Legend has it that King Matthias honored Count Dracula with a puppy from the Royal Kennels upon his release from prison and marriage to the King’s daughter.
Eventually, long after the time of Matthias I, commoners and peasants acquired these dogs and found them highly adept at guarding their flocks, cattle and farms. The breed name became corrupted to “Kuvasz” during this time, which unfortunately means “mongrel.” The first dog show at which Kuvaszok were entered was in Vienna in 1883. The first Hungarian breed standard was written in 1885, and the first Hungarian breed registry was founded in 1905. The chaos of World War II almost destroyed the breed, but a few specimens survived. Interest in the breed resurfaced after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. A revised breed standard was written in 1960, and the breed was accepted by the FCI in 1963.
The Kuvasz came to America in the 1920s and became particularly popular with western ranchers, where he is still prized as a patrol dog and livestock guardian. The first Kuvasz was entered in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1931. The Kuvasz Club of America, founded in 1966, was granted status as the breed’s official parent club in 1993. The American Kennel Club afforded the Kuvasz full registration in the Working Group 1974.
The Kuvasz is a tough breed – bold, wary, protective, suspicious of strangers and very discriminating in its friends. This is not a dog for everyone.
The average life span of the Kuvasz is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include congenital deafness, entropion, cataracts, cruciate ligament injuries (CCL or ACL), hip dysplasia, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, hypothyroidism, osteochondritis dissecans and progressive retinal atrophy.