Rare Breed Spotlight: Aidi

For thousands of years, this hearty scenthound has tracked prey and guarded livestock of Moroccan nomads.

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When is a sheepdog not a sheepdog? The answer: When it’s the Atlas Sheepdog, a breed that has never been employed to herd sheep. Now known as the Aidi, this rugged guardian breed is native to Morocco and is believed to have originated in the Sahara region. For approximately 5,000 years, the muscular Aidi resided in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, Algeria and Libya where its duties included protecting the tents and property of the semi-nomadic tribes of the area.

Although never used to herd sheep, the Aidi protected flocks from predators, such as wildcats, wolves, jackals, bears and other wild animals. But even then, the dogs weren’t employed in the traditional flock guardian mode of roaming loose among the sheep and goats. Instead, several alert and aggressive Aidis were staked around the perimeter of the camp at night, forming an effective living fence.

Breed recognition
The Aidi has been known by a variety of names including the Atlas Mountain Dog, Atlas Shepherd Dog, Chien de Montagne de l’Atlas, Atlas Sheepdog, Kabyle and Shawia. Because it often accompanied the Berber tribes, the breed was also dubbed the Berber Dog. When the Moroccan breed standard was first set in 1963, it was named the Atlas Sheepdog, an error that was corrected three years later. When the breed was accepted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 2003, it became listed as the Atlas Mountain Dog (Aidi) to cover all bases.

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