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The Kuvasz is a large, white, herding dog native to Hungary. A one-family dog, they are protective of their people and distrustful of strangers. Dogs of this breed think for themselves and can be challenging to train. The plural of Kuvasz is Kuvaszok in Hungarian.
The Kuvasz is perhaps the oldest of Hungary's three ancient dog breeds, the other two being the Puli and the Komondor. It is possible that they came with the Magyar tribes that invaded Hungary about 1,200 years ago, and one Hungarian dog historian states that they were there many centuries earlier.
The name Kuvasz is thought to be a corruption of the Turkish word kawasz, which means bodyguard. Another theory suggests that it comes from a Sumerian word, ku assa, referring to a dog that guarded horses and riders and walked beside them.
Wherever they came from, in the 15th century Kuvaszok were highly prized as guard dogs in Hungary, especially by King Matthias. Matthias was crowned on March 29, 1464 when he was only 15 years old. Despite his youth, Matthias was a shrewd and wise military leader. He built a large army of mercenaries that was able to defeat the Ottomans and expand the possessions of the Kingdom of Hungary. As would be expected in such turbulent times, intrigue within the palace was rampant. Conspiracies and assassinations were the order of the day. It was a time when a King could not trust even his own family, but Matthias felt safe as long as his Kuvaszok were around. It is said that he took a few Kuvaszok with him everywhere, even to his sleeping quarters.
Matthias built huge kennels and housed hundreds of Kuvaszok on his estate in Siebenbuergen. In addition to protecting the King, these dogs were used to guard the estate's livestock and sometimes to hunt big game, such as bears and wolves. The Kuvaszok were highly prized, and sometimes King Matthias would give a puppy to a visiting nobleman. Because they were associated with royalty, Kuvaszok became very popular.
One nobleman who received such a gift was Vlad Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia. Vlad (also known as Vlad the Impaler, after his favorite method of torture) was at various times a vassal of King Matthias. At one point, King Matthias held Vlad captive in a royal tower for years. Vlad worked his way back into the King's grace, and after his release, he reportedly married a member of the royal family - probably a cousin of King Matthias. As a wedding gift, the King reportedly gave Vlad Dracula and his bride two Kuvaszok.
After the death of King Matthias, the breed's popularity declined among royal and noble families, but it continued to fulfill its traditional role as protector of livestock for farmers and horsemen. At the end of the 19th century, breeders began to take an interest in standardizing the breed. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Kuvasz became the most fashionable large dog in Hungary and Western Europe.
The Kuvasz is a spirited dog with keen intelligence, determination, courage and curiosity, sensitive to praise and blame. They are dedicated to protecting their family, especially children, and are suspicious of strangers. If a family member appears to be in danger, they act on their own initiative. Adult Kuvaszok are gentle and patient with children, but puppies can be too rambunctious for young children.