The pleasing appearance of the Kuvasz radiates strength, nobility and an intelligent, attentive character. The head, although not long, is as long again as the muzzle. The two make the Kuvasz unmistakeable. The top of the head is smoothly domed, the forehead is long and joins the rear of the muzzle in a gently curve. Seen from above the head is wedge-shaped; the optimal angle is 30°, otherwise the dog looks either too long or too snub in the muzzle. The ridge of the muzzle is straight and the tip black, as are the eyelids and the lips. The eyes are almond-shaped and oblique, which gives the dog a lively appearance, as if smiling; one can easily tell what is in its mind from its lively rapidly reacting expression. The V-shaped ear bends at the root, hanging down with the upper third away from the face and the flap touching. When walking the Kuvasz holds its neck at an angle of about 30°, which makes it look clumsy; it is much more imposing when concentrating on something, when the neck is raised to 50°. The chest is deep, long and moderately broad. The back slopes gently to the hips, where the curve is accentuated. The tail continues the downward line of the rump. The tip of the tail bends slightly upwards, but is never curled. The forelegs are like pillars, the rear legs set slightly backwards, the thighs strong. The coat forms fringes on the rear side of the limbs.
The colour of the coat is a uniform white, while an ivory tinge is acceptable. The hair should be neither excessively curly nor straight, but should be about 10-15 cm in length and have waves and swirls. In 1924 the official term was fluctuosus, 'wavy', which was replaced in 1935 by undulans, 'undulating'. It is interesting that beneath the coat the skin is slate grey, which is fully visible on the belly. One need not worry if the beautiful white Kuvasz runs about in slush or flounder through a marsh. Its hair will be completely dry within a couple of hours and can be brushed out. Unfortunately, Kuvasz do shed a lot of hair, moulting twice annually, which give the housewife cause for irritation.
The average height of a Kuvasz is 73 cm at the shoulder in dogs, 68 in bitches, the weight is about 50 Kg for dogs, 40 Kg for bitches. The body length roughly equals the height at the shoulder; Kuvasz should not be too long in the body. They have a curious, slouching gait. The way they swing their furry hips makes one smile. When they have to, however, they are capable of walking twenty or thirty kilometres a day, as they used to in escorting animals all over Europe. Their characteristic motion is, however, a smooth, ground-eating lope. The bark is deep and resonant, and is accompanied with serious bites if any unauthorised person comes too close.
The Kuvasz is a one-family dog, and within its family a one-man dog, becoming very attached to its 'pack-leader' owner. It will tolerate visitors but only reluctantly and will never make a fuss of them.
Anyone that thinks that the Kuvasz is an obedient, placid, disciplined German Shepherd is mistaken. The breed was not so fashioned by the shepherds—including Hungarian shepherds—as they selected the pups over thousands of years, but as a guard-dog, vigilant, to bark and watch house, yard and cattle, to be suspicious of people that it does not know, keep the stranger at a distance and not leap up at him in ecstasy. The Kuvasz is not what might be called a sociable dog, but an animal born for protection. It displays neither weakness of the nerves nor aggression when it growls and barks, but its natural tendencies. Anyone that wants a nice little lap-dog should buy exactly that. The Kuvasz does a serious job of work. It does not bite in shifty fashion, but attacks only with reason.
The ideal Kuvasz will bark at a stranger but will not fly into a rage. Only timid, weak-nerved dogs behave hysterically. The furious dog that snarls has been badly reared, repressed in its development or beaten, or has not been among people enough when young. It is therefore very important to accustom the puppy to people and other animals at an early age and to let it see what goes on in the world so that it is calmer and more confident, not frightened or taken aback by unexpected events. The breeding and rearing of psychologically healthy Kuvasz is just as important as showing good-looking ones. The balanced Kuvasz will keep guard, assert itself independently, indeed bark loudly and often, but in a different way from the uncouth and nervously ruined dog referred to above. The Kuvasz can tell the well-intentioned man from the menacing; it can be quite easily soothed and calms down quite quickly.
Kuvasz are fundamentally hard to train for anything that is not in the blood. Neither young dogs nor adults win prizes at training classes; obedience does not come naturally to them. Their true functions, however, of guarding and protecting are in the blood, and they perform them heart and soul in a responsible and thoroughgoing way. The Kuvasz is spreading in the world slowly but surely. Many are exported from Hungary, but foreign-bred Kuvasz too are beginning to compete successfully with natives. Clubs for the owners of Hungarian dogs have been formed in several countries.
The Kuvasz is considered to be an ancient Hungarian sheepdog and belongs to the family of big Eurasian mountain dogs. Shepherds on the Alföld and in the hills used it to guard their flocks and herds. An excellent, implacable guard-dog, it is like radar in the dark, hearing everything and seeing everything. Open and courageous, it is reserved towards strangers. Its nobility and good looks have steadily won over urban man and in recent times it has become a house-dog. In bygone days it escorted sheep and cattle to foreign countries or was sent by kings as a gift. Nowadays Kuvasz go by air and bring recognition to Hungary in all quarters of the globe.
In the civilised world, laws now require guard-dogs living in a yard not to bark hysterically and disturb the neighbours, and owners have to train them to react not to every little sound, but only in the event of an intruder. Then the owner must be able to quieten the dog with a signal.
On the one hand we have talked about how Hungarian sheepdogs used to live, what their basic characteristics were, what they were useful for. On the other hand, we have considered the life and expectations of today. We are living now, at the beginning of the third millennium, in a time of great change and development in society, which will not stop. Only a fraction of Kuvasz now work with sheep, and the remainder, like it or not, have to be transformed to the requirements of modern living. Some scientists and romantics have taken this hard, but nevertheless it is what the future holds. The only breeds to achieve lasting popularity will be those that are companionable to man in normal surroundings. Perhaps we are actually experiencing the situation in which the dog becomes, as the Hungarian poet Kosztolányi puts it, 'the gentle, white progeny of wolves'... It will be interesting to re-read this passage in fifty years' time!