By Langley Cornwell
The Puli, an ancient sheepdog from Hungary, has been helping Hungarian Shepherds herd flocks for over 1,000 years. Interbreeding almost extinguished the Puli breed in the 17th century; fortunately, the breed began a revival in 1912 and the first Puli standard was established in 1915.
Once accepted in four different sizes, the medium size Puli became the most popular and is the size that is now accepted as the AKC standard.
About the Puli
These dogs are solid, energetic and alert. Sometimes called Hungarian Water Dogs, the Puli is a strong, tough herding dog – able to perform its duties across any terrain. Their trademark wavy or curly coat naturally clumps together into what resembles dreadlocks. It’s these wooly ‘dreads’ that protects Pulik (plural) from unforgiving climates.
The dogs are vigorous athletes with a high level of confidence and intelligence. Pulik do extremely well both as herding dogs and as family pets. Today, the Puli is often seen in the show ring as well as in the herding, obedience, agility, tracking and therapy dog arenas.
The Puli is a well-proportioned, compact, medium-sized dog. His head is average sized and looks in balance with his body. The tail is unaltered. His deep-set, almond shaped eyes display a high level of confidence.
His distinguished, weather resistant coat is plush and abundant all over his body. The dense outer coat is wavy or curly with a soft undercoat. The coat clumps together to form the aforementioned ‘cords’ or ‘dreads’ as the dog reaches adulthood. The dog has been described as an animated string mop.
The Puli makes a striking impression with his intelligent eyes, long, shaggy coat and animated, light-footed stride.
Males stand approximately 17-inches tall at the shoulder and females stand 16-inches tall. The average weight of this medium-boned dog breed is between 20-35 pounds.
Coat colors include black, charcoal and white. Black is the predominate color.
This rare dog breed’s average lifespan is roughly 13 years. With the advancement of veterinary medicine, however, some Pulik have lived up to 20 years or more.
These dogs are generally healthy and robust with few health concerns. They are subject to hip dysplasia and sometimes get eye infections due to hair getting trapped beneath their eyelids.
The Puli has very specific grooming needs. Their unique coat must be completely dry after a bath and the cords (or dreads) must be separated to avoid matting and mildew. On the upside, they do not shed.
Due to their high energy level, a Puli requires active daily exercise. This intelligent dog breed is happiest when they are busy and challenged, both mentally and physically. Therefore, the Puli excels in herding, obedience, agility, tracking and treibball. Additionally, they can become outstanding therapy dogs.
Pulik are faithful, cheerful and obedient dogs. Known for their intelligence, this dog breed has an exceptional sense of humor and maintains their youthful exuberance throughout adulthood. A loyal and affectionate family dog, the Puli is protective and can be apprehensive of strangers.
While this rare dog breed can thrive in a variety of circumstances, they would not be an appropriate pet for an apartment or condo dweller. Moreover, a frequent traveler would not be a suitable Puli owner. They fit well with a family that has older children. The best scenario for this unique dog breed is a family that has a yard to play in, has time to exercise and groom the dog, and has plenty of love and attention to give.
To see a fun video of Pulik in action, check out this Dogs 101 clip on the Animal Planet Website.
Top photo by Anita Ritenour
Bottom photo by Steve Jurvetson
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell