Hovawart is derived from the German word “Hotwart” which means guardian of property or caretaker of the homestead. This name was given to a breed of German dog that was developed in the Middle Ages. The name alone specifies the most important function the breed was developed for. These ancient breed of working dogs are found in the European and Mediterranean countries guarding large farms. A dog that has to guard the master’s family and the property has to be smart, loyal and strong. And most importantly, the dog has to have a strong sense of discrimination to be able to tell good people from the bad. A Hovawart is all these and more.
The bravery of this breed is legendary. Written records showed how this breed had tracked robbers and bad elements of the society. The Hovawart was described by Heinrich Mynsinger in 1947 as one of the “Five Noble Breeds”. Modern day Hovawart lived up to the repute created by its ancestors. Aside from having a constitution that already serves as a deterrent to any miscreant a Hovawart has a natural protective instinct. Guarding training is not necessary for this breed as guarding is what these dogs were bred for. A Hovawart trained to be a guard dog would be more aggressive and would really be dangerous. This dog will protect the family passionately. It is wary and suspicious of strangers although the dog will accept people allowed by the master to enter the property. A Hovie, as the dog is affectionately called is an independent minded breed, one that can prove to be a handful for an inexperienced dog owner. The devotion and loyalty of this breed to its master can not be questioned but it also has the tendency to be stubborn and headstrong. A first time dog owner would best opt for a female Hovawart as they are less determined than males to challenge the master for the position in the family hierarchy. It is important that from puppyhood, the Hovawart should be made aware that the master is the alpha male, the leader of the pack.
The Hovawart is an intelligent breed. This dog can be trained to do various tasks. Present day Hovawarts are utilized in tracking, in search and rescue operations. This dog also excelled in agility and obedience competitions.
A Hovawart’s coat comes in three varieties - black, blond and the black and blond. This breed has a tightly fitting skin that appears to be bluish in black and in black and blond coated dogs and pink sheen on blond coated dogs. The under coat is not so dense but the top coat is quite long, slightly wavy and lying close. The hair on the chest, on the belly, rear side of the forelegs and thighs as well as the tail is longer than the hair on the head and at the front of the face and hind legs. The black variety has an entirely shiny black coat. The blond variety has a medium blond shiny coat that gets lighter towards the belly and the legs. This variety may have some white spots on the chest. The black and gold variety has the most striking coat color. These dogs would have a shiny black coat with medium blond markings. Above the eyes are point shaped markings. Blond markings on the head extend to the corner of the mouth and into the marking on the throat. The chest, the forelegs, the hind legs as well as the tail have blond markings. All varieties have black pigmented eyelids, lips and foot pads.
A Hovawart is a large sized dog with a robust body. The longer than tall body has a slightly sloping croup, a straight firm back, a strong loin and a broad deep chest. The tail that reaches the hock is bushy. It may be carried hanging down or curved over the back. The dog has a powerful head. The rounded forehead is broad. Noses of black coated dogs are black and the blond variety has the “snow nose”. The oval shaped eyes can be dark to medium brown in color. Triangular drop ears are set on high.
A Hovie is an excellent protector. Present day dogs have lived up to the tradition of its ancestors of being a perfect family companion. A Hovawart’s stable temperament is considered to be its most important asset. This breed has a dignified manner, never nervous and easily excited. Energetic outdoors, these dogs are known to be calm at home. This breed matures slowly. A Hovie retains its puppyhood for about two years and even if the dog has matured it would still manifest a puppy like exuberance and lively temperament. As such the dog will forever be the affectionate companion and playmate of the children. This breed loves children and would never get tired of playing with the kids. Always the protector, a Hovie hard at play would still be aware of what is going on around the house, would still run to the gate to bar the entrance of strangers. These intelligent dogs always show an eagerness to please the family especially the person it is most attached to. Because of its intelligence it would not be uncommon for this dog to have a stubborn streak. However, training will not be a problem if it is conducted in a positive manner. Praises and the occasional treat would do best for this breed instead of rough treatment. Hovawarts are generally tolerant of other dogs especially if they were raised from puppyhood. Some individuals though can show aggressive tendencies. This unwanted behavior can be curbed with spaying or neutering that is best done when the dog is about one year old.
Hovawarts would not do well in an apartment. This breed prefers cool climates. A doghouse in the yard would be a most suitable living arrangement for this breed. An average sized yard will provide the dog the chance to run and play off lead. Moreover, being in the yard, the dog will be provided the chance to do its prime function … to guard and protect its human family.
The Hovawart is an average shedder. This breed’s coat is easy to groom. Regular brushing and combing will remove dead hair, prevent tangles from forming as well as maintain the good condition of the coat and the skin. Frequent bathing should be avoided so as not to remove the natural oils of the coat. Dry shampooing is an alternative if the dog has become smelly.
A Hovawart is a popular dog in Germany although it is relatively unknown in United States and in other parts of the world. This is a very ancient breed, believed to have existed during the Bronze Age. This existence was verified and well documented. In 1210, when Ordensritterburg, a German castle was besieged by Slavic invaders, the inhabitants as well as the lord were slaughtered. The only survivor was the infant son who was saved by a wounded Hovawart. The dog carried and dragged the boy to the neighboring castle. The infant son saved by a Hovie was Eike von Repkow who grew up to be a legendary and acclaimed personality in the history of German Law. He was the publisher of the Sachsenspiegel, the code of law from medieval Germany from where the law text Schwanbenspiegel was based. As expected, the Hovvawart was highly praised in the code and it was stipulated that if ever the dog was killed the killer would either have to pay restitution or replace the dog. In 1473, the Hovawart was described by Henrich Mynsinger as one of “The five Noble Breed” as apart from being an outstanding family dog it was also utilized to track robbers and criminals. This only verifies the fact that the breed is held in high esteem by the Germans.
The name Hovawart actually means guardian of farmstead. These dogs are valued in much the same way hunting dogs are appreciated. The emergence of new breeds caused the popularity of the Hovawart to decline. By the beginning of the 20th century the breed has almost disappeared. Present day Hovawart is an example of the diligence of German breeders. Dedicated breeders have formed a group to recreate the outstanding estate guard dog. This group was spearheaded by Kurt Friedrich Konig, a zoologist. He started a breeding program by searching for dogs in the farms of Black forest and Hartz mountain regions. The dogs were crossed with Kuvaaszok, GSDs, Newfoundland and Leonbergers. The hard work paid off. In 1922 the first reconstructed Hovawart litter was entered in the German Breeding Registry.
In 1937 the breed was officially recognized by the German Kennel Club. The breeding program has another setback with the outbreak of the Second World War. A lot of Hovawarts perished during the war years as the dogs were used in the German war endeavor. Very few specimens remained. In 1947, breed enthusiast formed a club to redevelop the Hovawart. In 1964, the breed was recognized by the German Kennel Club as the country’s 7th working breed. In the 1980s, the breed was imported to Britain. Not long after, the Hovawart has gained the interest of dog lovers in other countries.