The goal of this project is to restore the traditon of using guarding dogs to prevent depredation of livestock from wild predators in Bulgaria.
During communist times all the farms were collectivized so only large herds of livestock existed which were permanently watched over by shepherds and were kept securely locked up in state farms at night. This made the role of the Karakachan as a guard dog redundant and the breed came close to extinction.
The Karakachan is a traditional Bulgarian breed of guarding dogs
But since the fall of communism farming practices have dramatically changed throughout Bulgaria and now sheep are usually kept in small co-operative flocks with the owners rotating as to who looks after the sheep on the pastures. The flocks often end up being poorly watched over during the day and on a night the sheep are usually stored in poorly maintained barns which offer little protection from predator attacks and consequently these small owners suffer heavy losses to predators.
There is now a real need for livestock guarding dogs like the Karakachan that can provide 24 hour protection for herds no matter where they are. If Karakachans are properly trained an used in an effective team (single dogs wont do) then they can provide near-perfect protection for livestock reducing livestock kills to almost nil. They also reduce the need for someone to watch over the herd permanently (although this is still preferable) which is liked very much by the owners.
Karakachans make incredibly effective guarding dogs, they can deter every predator but the mighty bear
Despite the benefits of Karakachan dogs they are still rarely used because of the lack of animals and the high cost (as high as a months wages for the average Bulgarian) of the animals.
FWFF sees the restoration of Karakachan dogs as a huge priority for the conservation of predatory and scavenging species such as Bears and Vultures. By having Karakachans predator attacks on livestock massively decrease reducing the man/predator conflict which will hopefully result in the decrease in the use of illegal poison baits which has such a negative impact on predatory and scavenging species.
To achieve this goal FWFF has been working with dog breeders to have the breed officially registered so that the gene pool of these fierce and powerful dogs can be protected. FWFF also works with breeders to make more dogs available for livestock owners.
But even if more dogs become available the price is still too high for many livestock owners so FWFF has started a project to donate Karakachan dogs to Shepherds most badly affected by predator attacks. So far this is being done as part of the compensation programme in SW Bulgaria but it is hoped that it can be extended all over the country. By always giving a male and a female dog we aim for the animals to start breeding which will make more dogs become cheaply available for rest of the local community.
As the use of Karakachans has fallen out of practice it is necessary for FWFF to provide the essential training to the livestock owners so that they can train their dogs to become as effective as possible. Badly trained dogs are near useless so FWFF continually follows up the progress of the dogs to ensure they are being cared for and trained appropriately and that the offspring are being properly distributed.
If the use of Karakachan dogs becomes universal it will be a very important tool for the conservation of many of Bulgaria’s top predators.
FWFF is donating Karakachans to farmers most effected by predators to try and restore the Karakachan as a standard tool for deterring predators