With their distinct corded hairstyle, komondors are one of the most recognizable dog breeds on the planet. These large, highly intelligent dogs—also sometimes referred to as Hungarian komondors or komondor mop dogs because of their white cords—were developed in Hungary to protect sheep, cattle, and herdsmen.
These loyal, instinctual overseers are independent and still task themselves with looking after their home and family, but they're also affectionate and loving to anyone in their inner circle. Though you may occasionally spot a komondor dog on a farm or a ranch, this dog breed is rare as a family pet. But they do remain popular in rural parts of Hungary.
Komondors are unmistakable dogs, thanks to their unique coats. Instead of traditional fur, komondors are covered in long, white, tassel-like cords. These cords are made of hair and form naturally as komondor puppies begin to age—younger dogs have shorter cords, while older dogs have longer cords.
The cords form when a komondor's coarse outer coat begins to trap the dog's softer undercoat, similar to some dreadlock hairstyles worn by humans. These cords cover a komondor's entire body, including his head and tail.
Underneath that dense, mop-like coat, komondors have muscular bodies. The komondor's size is impressive—they typically weigh between 80–100 pounds and stand 25–27 inches tall. Although their faces can look like a mess of cords, these dogs have large heads, almond-shaped eyes, and triangular ears that hang down on either side of their face.
Originally developed to guard livestock in Hungary, the komondor temperament is independent and watchful when it comes to looking after their animal (and human!) flocks. But when they're with their people, they're extremely loving and affectionate.
Because of their breeding history, komondors may take a while to warm up to strangers. If a new person arrives at your house for the first time, introduce them to your komondor slowly and calmly. But once a komondor adopts a new person or animal into his flock—whether that's a family cat or a new human sibling—he's a devoted friend for life. Some people say that komondors never forget someone they perceive to be part of their family and will recognize them immediately, even if a lot of time has passed.
And though you may be smitten with their mop-like locks, these dogs are really the best fit for more experienced dog owners.
"These highly intelligent, athletic, and fearless dogs are wonderful and showy dogs for experienced and committed dog owners, but they can be difficult for the novice dog owner," says Jen Jones, a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist who runs Your Dog Advisor.
Komondors tend to adapt their energy levels to whatever situation they're in. Some enjoy swimming and running, but each dog is different. Though they can handle a fair amount of alone time, these devoted dogs need regular attention, affection, playtime, and exercise with their humans to be happiest.
Komondors thrive on large properties with plenty of open space, such as farms and ranches—they don't make the best apartment dogs. They're happiest when they can do what they were bred to do, which they consider to be "their job"—that is, overseeing herds or flocks of animals including sheep, goats, alpacas, and cattle.
"Working dogs are bred to have a job, frequently working out in fields for hours and hours," says Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA and pet lifestyle expert with Rover. "Those traits don't go away just by bringing a dog into a home—they are genetic—and you must ensure you meet your dog's mental and physical daily needs or it can lead to issues and frustration."
They're generally friendly to other dogs, particularly those they share a home with, but may not do as well in a dog park-like setting with lots of unfamiliar pups around. To be happy and healthy, these athletic dogs need regular exercise including walks, running around in the yard, and playing with their four-legged brothers and sisters or human companions.
Komondors are good with children, especially kids in their family, though parents should always supervise interactions between dogs and kids and make a point of teaching their children how to be kind, gentle, and respectful of all dogs, including komondors. Komondors are also typically gentle with cats they live with.
Because of their working history, komondors enjoy spending long periods of time outdoors and don't mind a little inclement weather. They're also just as happy to come inside, where they're known for following their owners from room to room.
This breed's unique corded hairstyle requires some special care and attention, but the komondor's grooming needs aren't overly complicated or difficult.
"The cords of a komondor's coat grow naturally but require care to maintain its beauty," Louviere says. "Mature cords cannot be brushed, but the occasional bath still provides benefits."
Though komondor haircuts aren't frequent—their cords are meant to grow long—regular bathing will keep them from getting smelly and dirty. It's important to fully rinse all of the dog shampoo out of their cords, which can require a little extra care and time.
When drying a corded komondor after a bath, it's best to squeeze the cords with a towel to remove excess water, rather than rub the towel up and down their bodies. To keep the komondor's cords clean and fresh, it's also important to set up a fan to help them dry off more quickly (many komondors love nothing more than laying on their backs in front of a fan!).
With proper upkeep, a komondor's cords are clean, beautiful, and bright white; as he gets dirty again, his locks may start to appear off-white. Though it's uncommon to see a komondor shaved, some owners shear off their cords every spring and let them regrow through the fall and winter.
If you're caring for a komondor puppy, Louviere says you may want to gently help organize their burgeoning cords so they grow into long, beautiful, mature tassels over time.
"Puppies initially have soft, curly coats that grow into a dense, woolly undercoat and tassel-like corded outer coat, giving them a distinct mop-like appearance," Louviere says. "As puppies mature, their coats will start to clump. And separating those clumps into quarter-sized sections helps ensure the cords will grow more evenly in appearance."
Komondors don't shed the same way other dogs do, as the their hair doesn't flow freely. Occasionally, a komondor may shed an entire cord, but this isn't very common.
Like other large dogs, komondors may suffer from a serious and life-threatening condition called bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus. Veterinarians still don't know exactly what causes bloat, but owners can take some steps to lower their dog's risk. These include encouraging your dog to eat more slowly with a special slow-feed bowl, lowering causes of stress and anxiety, and feeding them smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Talk to your veterinarian about how you can reduce your pup's risk.
One of the most well-known Hungarian dog breeds, komondors have a long history dating back to at least the 16th century, if not earlier, according to the Komondor Club of America (KCA).
This ancient breed is likely a descendent of the Russian ovcharka breed, transported to Hungary by the Magyar peoples. For centuries, komondors protected herds of cattle and flocks of sheep in Hungary, where they are considered to be the chief or king of the herdsman's dogs.
The American Kennel Club recognized the komondor in 1937, but the dogs almost went extinct after World War II. According to the KCA, only a few dozen were left before the breed was slowly rebuilt in Hungary and exported worldwide.
- Wondering why a komondor's cords are white? Some people believe the white color allows the dogs to blend in with sheep, which are often their charges. The white coat also makes komondors easy for their human owners to see at night.
- Color aside, a komondor's coat also serves as protection from severe weather, including super-hot and very cold temperatures—the coat can both insulate and cool the komondor. It may also protect against the bite of an attacking animal.
- Komondors are sometimes mistaken for a puli, another Hungarian livestock guarding dog with a similar corded coat. The main differences between the two are their coat colors and sizes. Komondors are much larger than the puli, and while there's no such thing as a black komondor, there are black pulik (the plural of "puli"). In fact, an adult puli often looks like a black komondor puppy.