Hovawart is a medium size, strong utility dog originating from Germany (hova = der Hof; wart = der Wächter), the name meaning literally “guardian of the yard”. The earliest descriptions of Hovawarts date back to the Middle Ages. Since then the breed disappeared temporarily but was recreated in the 1920s. They used dogs of similar type still found on farms by crossbreeding German Shepherd, Kuvasz, Newfoundland and Leonberger, among others. Thanks to strict selection in the early breeding, the original Hovawart was re-established.
Today’s Hovawart is an ideal working dog, also appreciated for its beauty. It exists in three colours: black and gold (~55%), blond (~35%) and black (~10%). The males are 63 – 70 cm in height and females 58 – 65 cm. The biggest Hovawart population is in Germany where there are some 1000 puppies born each year. In Finland 150 – 200 and in Sweden 100 – 140 puppies are born every year. From a couple of litters up to 100 puppies a year can be found in the majority of the rest of the Central European countries, in the USA and Canada. In all, it is estimated that the total living Hovawart population is some 20 000 dogs.
Character of a Hovawart can be described as intelligent, affectionate and sportive. It has strong instincts for guarding, a tendency to dominate and is often reserved towards strangers. A Hovawart grows exceptionally attached to its owners. Due to the tight bond it forms with its master, it is not a breed to be left in a kennel!
A Hovawart is a family dog, it wants to be part of the day-to-day family life. However, it needs a clear hierarchy, where his place is last in the family, from the very first day. A Hovawart is good with children, but both need to learn, and respect, the rules of the game. As adults, it remains our responsibility to make sure that the environment is safe for everyone.
Hovawarts love to work and can be trained for different disciplines. They have proven success in obedience, tracking and defence, as sniffer-dogs and in rescue work, both on land and in water! More and more Hovawarts are also competing in agility. In France, some Hovawarts are working as guide dogs for the blind and in Finland, Hovawarts have been employed by the Border Control to guard the long and woody border between Russia and Finland.
Hovawarts stay puppy-like for a relatively long time. It is not exceptional for a male to mature only around the age of 3 years. This should not be forgotten when training a Hovawart. Short sessions with high motivation are the real keys to the trade secrets!
In the following pages you will discover some examples of how owners and their 4-legged-friends enjoy life together to the full. People who are active with their Hovawarts tell us what they do, how they do it and what they have achieved with their magnificent companions. The line between sport and work is not always clear - working dogs compete in their specialities; today’s sport may have been yesterday’s work tasks, like Nordic Messenger Dog trials; or a hobby is transformed into work when a catastrophe strikes.
When I started this small-scale research, I was astonished at how many Hovawarts are in fact active in different areas. As a working breed, the Hovawart is beginning to attract the interest it deserves. In 2002, the Swedish Army alone had already some 143 Hovawarts (as Home Guard, Air Force and Search & Rescue Dogs) in their registry. It seems that most of the working Hovawarts can be found in the field of Search & Rescue. Some Hovawarts are working as assistance dogs in France and on Frontier Patrol in Finland. In the past, the Danish Police Force have had a Hovawart in their service.
If you are one of those active owners and your discipline is not presented here - please contact us!
Last but not least, thanks to my dear friends for the translations!