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2) Original Czech dog breeds: The Bohemian Shepherd

Bohemian Shepherd

The Bohemian Shepherd Dog, along with the Prague Ratter, is one of the oldest Czech dog breeds. It was originally used as a guard dog and a herding dog. Today it is mainly kept as a family pet, due to its friendly and gentle nature. Ruth Fraňková has more in today’s edition of our mini-series dedicated to original Czech dog breeds.

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa

The history of the Bohemian Shepherd Dog dates all the way back to the 1300s. The breed originated in the west Bohemian region of Chodsko, hence its Czech name Chodský pes, but it is also known as Bohemian Herder, Czech Sheepdog or Chodenhund.

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa

Bohemian Shepherds were used by local frontiersmen – the Chods – to guard the southwestern border of the Bohemian kingdom, but they were also kept at homes to herd sheep and protect people’s dwellings.

The Bohemian Shepherd is a medium-sized dog, with long, thick fur and a rich undercoat, which allows it to survive in harsh weather conditions. It has a compact and well-proportioned body with high set, pointed ears, and a long, elegant neckline.

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa

Bohemian Shepherds are classified as a working sheepdog breed, but thanks to their friendly nature and high intelligence, they are used for various purposes today: as service animals, therapy dogs, as well as for search and rescue and scent tracking, says breeder Vladimíra Tichá.

“A lay person might mistake the Bohemian Shepherd Dog for a German Shepherd, but it is smaller and has a straighter back and longer, black coat.”

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa

“It is an absolutely wonderful breed for service training.  You can use it for agility, but it can also accompany you on a skiing trip to the mountains and run along by your bike.”

According to Tichá, they are also an ideal breed for agility training and are especially affectionate with children:

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa

“If you have a teenage child, a 10-year-old to 12-year-old, and they want a dog that they can handle, that they can train easily, a Bohemian Shepherd Dog will be just right for them.

“It really is a wonderful breed. It can be in the apartment or outside, it doesn't fight with other dogs and it is well behaved.”

Although they love children, breeders warn that the Bohemian Shepherds may sometimes nip at their heels in an effort to herd them together!

The Bohemian Shepherd has become part of Czech consciousness thanks to the novel Psohlavci, or The Dogheads, written by the National Revival author Alois Jirásek. It was depicted in drawings by the famous Czech painter Mikoláš Aleš and has since been used as a symbol on the badges of Czech Scouts.

Karel Peroutka | Photo: archive of Karel Peroutka

After the war, Bohemian Shepherd numbers started to dwindle and the breed almost disappeared. It was only in 1984 that the breeding programme was restored, says Karel Peroutka, head of the Bohemian Shepherd Dog Breeders Club:

“We have been mainly involved in breeding, to make sure it is a really strong and healthy breed that continues to develop. We do shows promoting the breed all over Europe. In 2019 it was provisionally recognised as a breed by the International Canine Federation.”

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa

The Bohemian Shepherd Breed is still most common in the Czech Republic, but it is increasingly popular elsewhere in Europe, namely in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

Since 1991, there is also a Bohemian Shepherd Lovers’ Club, which aims to promote the ancient Czech dog breed.

Photo: Klub přátel chodského psa