Keeping Up with the Karakachans – Episode I
Six years ago, I picked up a goat at a local farm. I walked into a large open pole barn full of goats when the farmer, who I now call a friend, mentioned a rare breed of livestock guardian dog he had just gotten, the Karakachan. I had no idea what a livestock guardian dog was, but I certainly knew I loved dogs. I was immediately intrigued. He loudly called for the dogs across the farm fields. A few minutes later a massive brown dog, I literally thought was a lion, came bounding into the barn. I’m very comfortable around dogs but when you hear the word “guardian” and then see a lion-like dog . . . you keep your distance. I didn’t know at the time, the “lion dog” was also Boris’ father.
I took my goat home and that night told my husband about the massive livestock guardian dog. We had just moved to our new farm and began adding more animals. But as fast as we were adding animals, they were just as quickly vanishing. So, I did what every new farmer does, and asked farming Facebook groups for recommendations. I tried a bigger rooster, donkeys, I locked all my animals up and I let our Great Pyrenees, Huppy, at the barn more often. But, Huppy was raised in our house and considered us his family to protect, so he always followed us back to the house.
The losses continued, despite all the extra measures I was taking to protect the animals. The thought of not being able to keep animals on our new farm left me feeling defeated and sad for all those we’d lost. I spoke with many farmers who all said I needed a livestock guardian dog. I thought, the lion dog!? No way, that thing is a monster! And then the thought of having dogs living outside seemed so cruel to me (at the time). You see we already had five indoor dogs and had spent many years in animal rescue. I felt my job was to save animals and keep them safe inside, not keep them outside. It took some time for me to process the idea, so I researched as much as possible on livestock guardian dogs. I mean, technically, we already had one, Huppy. How hard could it be, right?
So I did it, I picked up a “baby lion” and named him Boris.
Boris was a fluffy dream of a puppy. He was sweet, cuddly and all ours. Boris was born in a barn, surrounded by goats and other livestock guardian dogs. Even after countless hours of research, nothing prepared me for leaving this puppy in the barn alone at night. That said, I knew this is what he was bred to do. In Boris’ mind the goats were his family. Karakachans are still considered rare in the United States, being only recently imported from Bulgaria. I reminded myself his genetics were strong and he was meant to grow up into a working dog.
Boris spent every moment with the goats and enjoyed frequent visits from Uncle Huppy. And although he loved Huppy, I still struggled with Boris being alone at night. Clearly, something had to be done…. so, along came Petra.
I wanted a female/male pair because it would give me the best odds the new dynamic duo would get along well. Petra came to me from a veterinarian in Virginia who was the first to import the breed into the country. Petra was a bit older and shy at first. She came from a very large working farm with not as much human contact. When Petra arrived, she was scared of me and immediately went running to the goats!
So, I had a little lion and he had a companion. Now what? Episode II coming soon!