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Friday, January 3, 2020

Our Maremmas

Snowy

Snowy

I have always posted pictures of our amazing livestock guardian dogs over the years, but have not really talked about how and why we have them on our farm.

Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) are dogs that have been bred over the years to be working dogs that help protect animals and birds from predators. They are not herding dogs. They tend to just patrol fence lines, bark at potential threats (including people) that may have come onto the property that they are protecting and will physically attack such animals as bear, cougar, wild dogs, coyote, hawks, etc. that are preying on their 'flock'. Maremma Sheepdogs are in this group. They originated in Italy and the region surrounding Italy. Other LGDs include the Great Pyrenees, Mastiff, Anatolian Shepherd, Komondor, Kuvasz, and Akbash.

We started our journey with alpacas in 2002 and adopted our first LGD a few months later. Sheba was a Great Pyrenees and loved her 2 alpacas. However, she developed bone cancer at the age of 4 and we lost her. After that terrible time, I did a lot of research on LGDs and found that the Great Pyrenees had been bred over the years to become bigger and brawnier in order to compete in dog shows. Breeding in this way has caused the breed to have some genetic issues with bone structure and cancer. I decided that I could not go through that awful experience again and decided that the Maremma Sheepdog would be a good fit for us. Smaller that the Great Pyrenees and not on the 'show' circuit, these dogs were touted to be very independent, ferocious and intelligent. Finding a Maremma in this country proved to be a challenge, however. I finally found a breeder in Colorado who flew our first Maremma up to us. This was 12 years ago. Snowy is still on the farm, but has decided to retire and give her duties over to our 4 year old Sassie. Snowy had a mild form of hip dysplasia that is now affecting her ability to get around. Because of her hip problems, we never bred her so as not to pass this gene on to her offspring.

We have been very fortunate that we have not had any issues with predators attacking our alpaca herd. We have coyote, bear and the occasional cougar sighting around our property. Our dogs do bark a lot, but we know that our alpaca herd is safe because our LGDs are on duty.

Besides Snowy and Sassie, we have a 6 year old rescue Maremma (Bella) that came to us via Alaska and a new 18 week pup (Gus) that we just adopted. We are hoping for some beautiful Maremma pups this year from Sassie and Gus.
Baby Sassie - 2015

Baby Sassie - 2015

Snowy, Sassie & Bella, Christmas 2017

Snowy, Sassie & Bella, Christmas 2017

Sassie & Bella with their alpacas

Sassie & Bella with their alpacas

Sassie, 2019-4 yrs old

Sassie, 2019-4 yrs old