Akbash in Turkish means "white head". In contrast, there is also Karabash dog, which means "black head". The Akbash Dog is found in rural country serving as a livestock protection dog in Turkey for millennia. The lifestyles of Turkish rural villagers has not been influenced by modernization. The villagers still need to dig wells, herd their sheep, protect the flock from wolves and bears, remove wool with hand-held and non-electrical shears, bake bread in an open hearth, and so on. In many ways, the style and pace of life are similar to what must have taken place hundreds or even thousands of years ago. The dogs in this rural setting have many of the ideal characteristics of a typical Akbash; they are usually calm, with a keen protective instinct for flock and property. However, Akbash Dogs in Turkey are never allowed in the house as pets.
Eastern Turkey, where many Kangal or Karabash dogs can be found, is quite dry. The Anatolian Plateau has alternating areas of abundant water and arid. Therefore today in Turkey you can find some villages with Karabash dogs, and other villages with all white Akbash dogs.
There is more than color separates Akbash Dogs from Karabash dogs. Akbash Dogs tend to be smaller, and more variable in size. The sight hound side of their ancestry shows more readily. Karabash dogs have more of the mastiff influence, and hence are usually larger.
The physical and temperamental attributes of the Akbash Dog reflect both mastiff and gazehound origins. They have the size, power and protective nature of Karabash or Kangal. Great care should be taken that the breed standard not be used to develop any extreme. The Akbash Dog is the result of centuries of natural selection as a guardian of livestock. In addition to its numerous physical attributes and stable temperament, the breed displays an exceptionally well developed maternal instinct.
The Akbash Dog is completely dedicated and devoted to its owners and any animals in its charge. These dogs possess intelligence and courage, making them natural guardians. Their independent nature allows them to respond swiftly and without guidance in an emergency. Their loyalty and protective instinct make them ideal home and estate guardians in addition to their more traditional role of guarding livestock.
Due to their strong maternal instinct, Akbash Dogs begin to bond to other living creatures at a very early age. They have been known to form strong attachments to sheep, goats, cattle, horses and other livestock, to poultry or exotic birds, and other animals, and of course to people. Once bonded, even without specialized training, the dogs will not hesitate to come to the rescue of their charges if they think they are in danger, even at the risk of their own lives. Protected animals often show great trust and loyalty to their canine guardians.
The body is muscular, long-legged and slightly longer than tall. They are capable of running at great speed, and have acute senses of sight and hearing. A typical Akbash Dog does not have a high activity level and is not overly playful as an adult. Coat color is all over white. Males have more massive heads than females. Ears are set high, V-shaped, tips slightly rounded. Eye color varies from light golden brown to very dark brown. A long chest extends in depth to the elbows. Feet are strong and large. Tail is long, reaching to the hocks. Tails may have a hook at the end, a moderate to tight curl, or a double curl. A double coat is formed by coarse guard hairs and a fine undercoat. Thickness of the undercoat will vary with the climate and exposure of the dog to the weather.