While travelling in Abruzzo you will certainly see Abruzzo sheepdogs (pastore abruzzese) that over many centuries of sheep farming have become part of the traditional life in the region. Large white dogs are part of the Abruzzo scenery and are still used by local shepherds to guard their flocks from wolves, although many use them as house guard dogs in small mountain villages.
The first mentions of white dogs helping shepherds go back to the ancient Rome times. They were praised for their fearsome devotion to the job of guarding the flock. If you talk to country people in Abruzzo they will insist that each area has a different variety of the breed. In the Marsican area the sheepdogs are heavy and robust, with a lion-like head. The dogs in and around the village of Pescocastanzo are smaller and fiercely territorial. The dogs of the Majella mountain area have thick skin folds around the neck with a bear-like head. Officially the breed experts don’t really recognize these variations but try to tell the shepherds about it! And, ignoring the official denomination, they beg to differ the Maremma sheepdog from the Abruzzo one!!
Despite the fluffy cuddly appearance, the sheepdog of Abruzzo is not that eager on hugs. They are good at their job for a reason: aggressiveness towards strangers be they humans or animals is in their blood. The sheepdogs bark a lot letting everyone know where their territory lies.
So when you see a magnificent large white pastore abruzzese, remember that he is in charge here and admire him from a distance. However, if you are lucky to come across their puppies with no mommy in sight, squash, squeeze and cuddle them as much as you can. When these bundles of white fluff become formidable guards of the Abruzzo land, custodians of the ancient traditions, they will have no time for such nonsense.
Photos by Green Holiday Italy©