The Puli has been a Hungarian sheep-herding dog for over 1,000 years. However, its exact origin is unclear. Some authors think that the Puli migrated with the nomadic Magyar invaders from Siberia and India, while others believe that the breed developed in western China, near Tibet. There is a striking resemblance between Pulik and Tibetan Terriers, which may share a common ancestry. Pulik were used as drovers to move flocks of sheep and were highly valued by their Hungarian owners as guard and watch dogs, as well. The shepherds of Hungary used two breeds: a large white dog (either a Kuvasz or a Komondor) to guard their flocks at night from wild predators and thieves, and a smaller, faster dark dog (a Puli) to work the sheep by day.
During the 16th century, Turkish invaders almost wiped out the Puli breed. Eventually, herdsmen from western Europe repopulated the area, bringing with them French and German herding dogs. This led to various cross-breedings, and ultimately the Pumi and Mudi Hungarian herding breeds were developed. During the late 1800s, the names Pumi and Puli were used almost interchangeably, although they were different breeds. In the early 1900s, a professor at Hungary’s veterinary college named Dr. Emil Raitsitz dedicated himself to classifying all of the native Hungarian breeds, and particularly to preserving the Puli. The first breed standard was written in 1915 and accepted by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1924. Initially, the standard included four distinct sizes of Pulik: the large police Puli (19 inches), the medium or working (16 to 19 inches), the small (12 to 16 inches) and the toy or dwarf (11 inches). The breed did not develop sufficient popularity to warrant these size distinctions, and ultimately the medium-sized Puli was retained.
The first Pulik came to America in 1935, where they were used for a project undertaken by the United States Department of Agriculture to evaluate sheepherding dogs. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1936. The Puli Club of America was formed in 1951 and is the parent club for the breed in this country. Today, the Puli is competitive in the show ring and excels as a family companion. He also participates in herding, agility, obedience and therapy dog disciplines, in addition to still being used in many countries for herding work. This keenly intelligent breed has also been used successfully for police work.
The average life span of the Puli is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include elbow and hip dysplasia, diabetes mellitus, cataracts, patellar luxation, progressive retinal atrophy and von Willebrand disease.