Rare Breed Spotlight: Mudi
A Hungarian breed that’s rare even in its homeland, this rustic herding dog has a devoted following in the United States.
The shepherds called them driver dogs. Although the appearance of these Hungarian herding dogs was described in documents dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, they didn’t have a name of their own. Some accounts called them Puli or Pumi dogs, but the spitz-like breed looked nothing at all like either of those breeds. The interchangeable nature of the names created confusion when historians tried to determine which of the Hungarian herding breeds had been around for the longest time.
Although some authorities were willing to believe the so-called driver dogs were a mixture of Puli and some spitz breeds, it seems more likely they were a natural occurring breed and that their appearance was related to their work. Coincidentally, the breed it most closely resembled was the Croatian Sheepdog, which dates back to the 15th century.
The name Mudi was finally given to the breed by Dr. Dezsö Fényes, director of the Museum of Balassagyarmat in Hungary. A dog expert, Fényes was intrigued by traditional folk habits and relics. On his travels around the country in search of artifacts for the museum, he saw many driver dogs and realized they were sufficiently similar to constitute a breed.
Formalizing the breed
Fényes began to acquire the best examples of the driver dogs he could find and began breeding them, noting they bred true to type with the pups exhibiting the distinctive features of their parents. That convinced him they were indeed a breed. One of the finest dogs he had obtained was named Mudi, and he named the breed after it. Fényes’ efforts were rewarded when the breed was officially recognized by the Hungarian Kennel Club in 1936. World War II wreaked havoc on all Hungarian breeds, but in the 1960s and ’70s, a few kennels worked to restore the Mudi.
Even in its homeland, the Mudi is not a popular breed, but those who know it claim that its herding and driving talents are unequalled. It is both a driving and gathering herder that handles sheep, cattle and pigs. Although small to medium in size, the Mudi is big on courage and has a reputation for effectively controlling large and unruly livestock. When not busy herding, the Mudi has also been employed as a hunter, guardian, tracking dog and rodent exterminator.
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