The Kangal and German Shepherd are two impressive working dog breeds that share some similarities but have key differences. If you’ve been wondering how they stack up, this comprehensive comparison has you covered.

To offer a quick comparison: Kangals are significantly larger and more powerful, with a stronger protective instinct, while German Shepherds tend to be more energetic, agile, trainable, and suited for more types of work.

Origins and History

Kangal History and Origins

The Kangal originates from the Sivas-Kangal district in Turkey. They have existed as livestock guardians and shepherd dogs in the Kangal region for hundreds of years. Some sources suggest references to the breed’s ancestors as early as the 14th century.

Through generations of selective breeding by Turkish shepherds, the modern Kangal emerged – big, loyal, protective livestock guardian dogs perfectly suited to their duties.

The isolation of the Sivas-Kangal region meant Kangals remained purebred for centuries. However, the breed faced near extinction in the mid-1900s due to crossbreeding programs attempting to introduce foreign breeds.

Kangal numbers dwindled dangerously until the 1960s-70s when Turkish breeders implemented initiatives to recognize the Kangal as a distinct breed and retain its purity. Their efforts succeeded – Kangal dogs as we know them today are the same loyal, impressive dogs bred expertly by generations of Turkish shepherds.

The Kangal received formal recognition from international kennel clubs from the 1990s onwards. Its status as a unique breed was cemented and Kangals began to be exported around the world – though they remain most populous in their native Turkey to this day.

German Shepherd History and Origins

In 1899, German cavalry officer Max von Stephanitz founded and registered the “Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde” – the first club devoted to the breed that would become known as the German Shepherd. Previously, herding dogs of central and northern European regions demonstrated traits Max believed could be honed into the ultimate working canine.

Max pioneered new breeding programs using different herding dogs to realize his vision for an intelligent, agile, multi-talented breed. The results were quickly successful – early 20th century German Shepherds demonstrated great aptitude as military dogs during World War I. Max’s meticulous and scientific approach to breeding had effectively created the ultimate German Shepherd – a canine as close to physically and mentally perfect for duties like herding, policing, and guard work as possible.

Popularity for German Shepherds skyrocketed globally. German immigrants brought Shepherds to North America from the 1900s where they were quickly employed by militaries, law enforcement, search and rescue teams, and the nascent Hollywood film industry.

Today, German Shepherds retain pole position as one of the world’s most beloved and reputable dog breeds.

Size, Appearance and Coat

Kangal Size and Appearance

The Kangal is a large, powerful dog originally bred to protect livestock from predators in Turkey. Males stand between 30-32 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 90-150 pounds. Females are a bit smaller, standing 28-30 inches tall and weighing 70-120 pounds.

Kangals have a thick double coat and a lion-like appearance. Their heads are large with black masks and drop ears. They have a broad chest, strong neck and heavily muscled hindquarters. Their tails curl up over their backs. Overall, they have a noble and confident presence.

German Shepherd Size and Appearance

The German Shepherd is a medium to a large-sized dog originally bred as a herding dog in Germany. Males stand 24-26 inches tall and weigh 65-90 pounds. Females stand 22-24 inches tall and weigh 50-70 pounds.

German Shepherds have a long rectangular body shape with a domed forehead. They have erect triangular ears, a long muzzle, and a bushy tail. Their gait is bold and energetic. Overall, they have an alert and intelligent expression.

Their coat colors include black and tan, black and red, all black and sable.

Coat Comparison

Both the Kangal and German Shepherd have a double coat consisting of a dense undercoat and longer guard hairs. However, there are some notable differences:

  • Kangal coats tend to be heavier and thicker overall.
  • Kangal coats only come in solid colors like tan, fawn, or gray whereas German Shepherds have two-tone black and tan coats.
  • The Kangal’s outer coat is coarser in texture than the German Shepherd’s.
  • German Shepherds require more frequent brushing and shedding maintenance.

Temperament and Personality

Kangal Temperament

The Kangal is an ancient livestock guardian dog from Turkey. These large, powerful dogs have a calm and steady temperament that makes them excellent guardians. Kangals are loyal, devoted, and protective of their families, including children.

However, their strong guarding instincts means early socialization is essential.

Well-socialized Kangals are remarkably gentle and patient. They tend to be aloof with strangers but should never be aggressive without cause. Kangals are independent thinkers capable of assessing threats. While protective, they are not prone to attacking without reason.

Kangals have a high tolerance for pain and will defend their flock or family fiercely when necessary.

Kangals need consistent, positive training from an early age. Their large size and strength require an experienced owner able to establish themselves as pack leader. With proper care, Kangals make calm, reliable companions and guardians.

German Shepherd Temperament

The German Shepherd is an intelligent, confident breed developed originally for herding sheep. Their devotion to their families along with their strength and courage saw them become popular police and military dogs. However, German Shepherds also make wonderful pets and companions.

German Shepherds form extremely close bonds with their families. They aim to please their owners and enjoy having a job to do, whether it’s training for dog sports or performing important tasks around the home. German Shepherds thrive when given plenty of mental and physical exercise.

A well-socialized and trained German Shepherd is confident yet calm and adaptable to any environment. They are naturally protective so early socialization and obedience training is vital. With proper care, German Shepherds make loyal pets and steadfast guardians.

Exercise Needs and Living Conditions

Kangal Exercise Needs

The Kangal, as a giant working dog bred to guard livestock, has high exercise requirements. They need ample space to roam and require long daily walks or jogs of up to 10 miles. Without enough activity, Kangals can become restless and engage in destructive behavior.

Ideally, Kangals should have large yards or acreage to patrol. Short walks on leash are not enough. Kangals that don’t get adequate exercise are more likely to display aggression or dominance issues.

As working dogs bred for endurance, Kangals need about 60-90 minutes per day of hard exercise. This energetic, powerful breed thrives best with jobs to do like weight pulling, hiking, running beside a bicycle, trekking, or participating in canine sports.

Kangals especially excel at protection sports due to their quick reflexes and strong defensive drive. Kangals who receive appropriate physical and mental stimulation are calm and steady companions in the home.

German Shepherd Exercise Needs

German Shepherds were developed as adaptable working dogs prized for intelligence and athleticism. They require 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise daily such as running, hiking with a weighted backpack, playing fetch, or engaging in a dog sport like agility, nose work, or Schutzhund.

German Shepherds enjoy having a job to do. Without adequate activity, they may exhibit destructive behaviors or aggression.

Daily mental stimulation through obedience training or interactive toys is also essential for the bright German Shepherd to prevent boredom and hyperactivity. Well-exercised German Shepherds with enough mental enrichment are usually calm and well-mannered companions indoors.

Ensure your German Shepherd gets both physical and mental workouts to be a happy, stable dog.

Housing Considerations

Due to their large size and exercise requirements, neither Kangals nor German Shepherds are ideal dogs for small homes or apartments. Both breeds need access to large, securely fenced outdoor spaces. German Shepherds can adapt to any climate but may not tolerate heat as well as Kangals bred to work in Turkey’s hotsummers.

Breed Indoor Housing Size Outdoor Space Needed
Kangal 1,500+ sq ft with room to move Large, securely fenced yard or acreage
German Shepherd 1,000+ sq ft Safely fenced yard

Kangals may be kept successfully indoors but prefer being outdoors as much as possible. Having a dog door allowing access to a securely fenced yard works well. German Shepherds adapt readily to indoor living but still require time outside daily.

Ensure your home and yard provide the space needed for exercise, play, and training to keep your Kangal or German Shepherd healthy and happy.

Trainability and Intelligence

How Easy is the Kangal to Train?

The Kangal is an intelligent and alert dog, but they can be stubborn and independent thinkers. Early socialization and positive reinforcement training is important to teach them boundaries. Kangals respond best to firm, patient, and consistent training.

Once a Kangal accepts you as the leader, they can be trained for various purposes like guarding livestock, personal protection, search and rescue, etc. However, their independent nature makes them less eager to please than some other breeds.

German Shepherd Trainability

The German Shepherd is widely considered to be one of the easiest dog breeds to train. They are intelligent, eager to please, and highly driven to work with their owner. German Shepherds thrive when given a job to do.

With positive reinforcement and consistency, they can learn commands and tasks very quickly. German Shepherds are often used as police dogs, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, and more owing to their trainability and versatility.

Intelligence Comparison

Both the Kangal and German Shepherd are intelligent breeds, but the ways they showcase their intelligence differs. Kangals score around average among dog breeds for intelligence, while German Shepherds tend to score very high, even outperforming some humans on certain cognitive tests!

However, Kangals should not be underestimated. Though they have an independent streak, with proper socialization and firm leadership, Kangals can still excel at various mentally and physically demanding jobs. At the end of the day, both breeds are smarter than the average dog.

Guarding Instinct and Protection Abilities

Kangal Guarding and Protection

The Kangal is an ancient livestock guardian dog breed originating from the Sivas province in Turkey. They have been bred for centuries to protect sheep and livestock from predators like wolves, jackals, and bears.

Kangals have incredibly strong guarding and protection instincts that make them ideal guard dogs.

Some key facts about the Kangal’s guarding abilities:

  • Kangals are very territorial and protective of their home and family. They will confront any intruder or perceived threat fearlessly.
  • They have a natural suspicion towards strangers and will alert owners to any unusual activity.
  • Kangals use intimidation to ward off predators. Their massive size and loud bark is usually enough to deter would-be attackers.
  • If intimidation doesn’t work, Kangals will vigorously defend their charges. They have tremendously powerful jaws that can exert over 740 pounds of bite force.
  • Kangals are agile and fast despite their size. They can reach speeds up to 30 mph to pursue predators if needed.
  • Their thick coat provides protection from bites should they engage in combat with predators.

With proper socialization and training, the Kangal’s protective instincts can be refined. Kangals bond very closely with their owners and children. They make for outstanding guardians that will keep their family and home safe.

German Shepherd Protection Instincts

German Shepherds are renowned for being intelligent, loyal guard dogs. Originally bred for herding, German Shepherds exhibit strong protection instincts that make them excellent guardians.

Here are some key facts about the German Shepherd’s protection abilities:

  • German Shepherds are bold and fearless. They will confront any potential intruder or threat to their family.
  • They have an intuitive ability to distinguish between friend and foe. German Shepherds are wary of strangers yet remain loving and gentle with family members and children.
  • They use body posturing like erect ears, raised hackles, and exposed teeth to appear more threatening to deter intruders.
  • German Shepherds have a loud, deep bark they use to warn off predators and alert owners of danger.
  • They possess strong jaws and a very powerful bite. German Shepherds can exert bite forces up to 750 pounds.
  • Their high intelligence and trainability make them ideal for police, military, and guard dog roles. With proper handling they can learn to attack on command to neutralize threats.

While German Shepherds are not as large or physically imposing as some breeds, their intelligence and devotion make them excellent guardians. With proper training and socialization, they utilize their protective instincts constructively to keep their family safe from harm.

Health Issues

Kangal Health Concerns

The Kangal is generally a robust and healthy breed with relatively few genetic issues. However, like all large dog breeds, they can be prone to some health problems such as:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – this is a common skeletal disorder where the joints don’t form properly, leading to arthritis and lameness. Kangals should be screened for dysplasia before breeding.
  • Bloat – Kangals’ deep chests put them at risk for this life-threatening condition where the stomach dilates and twists. Feeding smaller meals more frequently can help prevent bloat.
  • Ectropion – a conformational issue where the eyelids droop outward, leaving the eyes prone to injury and infection. Mild cases may not require treatment.
  • Allergies – Kangals can suffer from environmental or food allergies. Symptoms like itchy skin, ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues can often be managed through diet.

With proper nutrition, exercise, veterinary care, and responsible breeding, the typical lifespan for a Kangal is 10-12 years.

Common German Shepherd Health Problems

As a larger breed dog that is prone to joint issues, German Shepherds are at risk for several health conditions:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – German Shepherds should be screened for this inherited skeletal disorder. Moderate to severe cases often require surgery.
  • Degenerative myelopathy – a progressive disease of the spinal cord that typically occurs in older German Shepherds. There is no cure, only supportive care.
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency – improper digestion due to inadequate pancreatic enzymes. Managed through supplementation and diet.
  • Allergies – German Shepherds tend to be prone to skin allergies, which are treated by identifying and avoiding triggers.
  • Bloat – deep-chested German Shepherds are at risk for this life-threatening gastric condition. Preventive measures should be taken.

With attentive care from responsible breeders and owners, the average lifespan for a German Shepherd is 10-14 years.


Both the Kangal and German Shepherd are wonderful working dog breeds with admirable traits, but key differences give them unique strengths.

Ultimately, the larger and more independent Kangal excels most as a livestock guardian and home protector, while the highly trainable German Shepherd thrives across environments in many types of jobs.

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