History & Overview
In Mongolia, any shepherd dog is called “khonchnokhoy,” or “sheepdog.” All of the five national Mongolian dogs (bankhar, uzemchi, taiga-nokhoy, borz-nokhoy, sharaid) are suitable for livestock guarding. Still, when it comes to reliability and independent thinking, the Bankhar is without doubt number one.
The unique markings on their heads are unmistakable: instead of so-called “four eyes” (reddish spots under the eyes) they have “eyeglasses.” The “four-eyed” dogs were believed to see evil spirits even when they slept.
Some Bankhars may freeze with their eyes. This unusual behavior is attributed to the fact that Bankhars can “communicate” with Dzhuu god and are held as sacred dogs. As for the “eyeglasses,” they act as sun reflectors. About 300 thousand years ago, the sun was much brighter, and the radiation stronger.
Mongolian shepherd say, one Bankhar can do the job of two shepherd and two guards. Using guard dogs also helps saving big on transportation costs to move flocks around. In Mongolia, Bankhars are strictly working dogs and are never kept as pets.
They are large, from 60 up to 80 cm height at the shoulder dog with a strong and potent, but not rough skeleton. The Bankhar has a large head with a little bit smoothed transition, massive, but not a short muzzle.
Pendulous ears are rather highly set. Small eyes put deeply enough are colored from amber up to dark-brown. However, there are yellow-eyed dogs, and that is not a fault. A distinctive feature: sometimes yellow-eyed 4-month pups turn dark-eyed by one year of age.
The wool is rough and long; there may be also mediate wool specimen. The coloring of the vast majority is black-singe or black. However, there are also many red or reddish dogs, as well as pale-yellow with a black mask. One can seldom meet “zonary-gray-singe” dogs. Pups may frequently change their coloring in such an unpredictable manner that it is impossible to predict their coloring in the pup map. It can cardinally change from brown into red or sable by 10 months of age.
Mongolian shepherd dogs are dependable and ferocious guard dogs. Strangers should approach a flock of sheep at their own risks since these wolf crashers would not hesitate to attack what they consider their property. Although these large, fearless dogs can hunt independently, they never kill livestock animals and can do their herding job without human supervision.
This job includes moving sheep from one place to another, taking them to water, keep one flock from mixing with another, protect it from predators and bring the sheep back home safely. When confronting wolves, Bankhars follow the “kill or be killed” rule.
Bankhars who have killed wolves on their record are called “Garzh,” “Khasar,” or “Bosar,” meaning “wolf crasher.”
Besides wolves, Bankhars have to protect their flocks from bobcats, manuls, coyotes and raptors, although as a rule, territories guarded by Bankhors are avoided by those predators.
The Bankhar’s characteristic gait is low, creeping trot which may turn into a gallop at high speed. The dog can change direction instantly, move around without losing speed, causing the prey to flounce about and eventually end up with being caught.
Since 2000, considerable efforts have been made to save this beautiful dog breed from extinction as more and more Mongolian shepherd use these ultimate ancient livestock guardians. If you would like to know more, please visit the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project page.