MAREMMA SHEEPDOG (in Italian : CANE de PASTORE MAREMMANO – ABRUZZESE), also nicknamed MAREMMA, is a breed of livestock guardian dogs indigenous to Central Italy, particularly to ABRUZZO and the MAREMMA region of Tuscany and Lazio.
The literal English of the breed derives from that of the MAREMMA and ABRUZZO region. The English name of the breed derives from that of the MAREMMA marshlands, where, until recently, shepherds, dogs and 100s of 1000s of sheep wintered, and where the breed is today abundant although sheep-farming has decreased substantially. The breed is widely employed in ABRUZZO, where sheep-herding remains vital to the rural economy and the wolf remains an active predator. Similar breeds include the PYRENEAN Mountain Dog, the KUVASZ of Hungary, the TATRA of Poland, the CUVAC of Slovakia and the SARPLANINAC (although not white), with all of which it may share a common ancestor, and the AKBASH Dog of Turkey.
The MAREMMA sheepdog has a solid muscular build, a thick white coat, a large head and a black nose. According to the breed standard, males should weigh 35 to 45kg and stand 26 to 29inches at the shoulders, while females weigh 30 to 40kg. The coat is long and thick, it is rough to the touch, and forms a thick collar around the neck. It should be solid white, some minor yellowing may be tolerated.
Descriptions of white sheep defence dogs are found in ancient Roman literature in works such as those of Columella, Varro an Palladius. Similar dogs are depicted in numerous sculptures and paintings from Roman times to the present. Among the earliest, is the series of large statues (2 in Rome, 1 in Florence, 1, the DUNCOMBE DOG —– in England) copied from a Hellenistic Bronze from PERGAMON.
The first registration of the MAREMMA in the LIBRO del ORIGINI Italiano of the Kennel Club Italiano, as it was then called, was of four dogs in 1898. The traditional use of the MAREMMA is as a guardian for the protection of sheep flocks against wolves. The dogs work in groups ——- 3 to 4 dogs are an adequate defence against wolves. Their function is mostly “dissuasion”, actual physical combat, with the predator, being comparatively rare. Nevertheless, working dogs may be fitted with a ROCCALE ( or VRECCALE), a “spiked iron collar” which protects the neck in combat. The ears of working dogs are normally “cropped”.
MAREMMA, used as livestock guardian dogs, are introduced to sheep flocks as puppies, so they bond to the sheep ( puppies as young as 7 – 8weeks old). Although it is easiest to bond MAREMMA to sheep and goats, cattle ranchers have found that the dogs bond with cows too, and so they are used to protect range cattle. Some ranchers have found success training MAREMMA to protect chickens from predation from both ground threats such as coyotes, stray dogs and foxes, as well as aerial threats such as raptors (hawks, eagles and owls)
In WARRNABOOL, Australia, the world’s first trial utilized a MAREMMA to guard the dwindling “little penguins” also called “fairy penguins” (penguins standing at 30 – 40cm tall).