The Hovawart is a very old German working breed. The name originates from the middle high German (an old form of German):
Hova = Hof (= a yard, farm) and Wart = Wächter (= watchman).
The history of Hovawart is actually short compared to other breeds, but so far most of the information about its origin is unknown. Thus, it is not entirely certain who bred Hovawart and which breeds contributed to its creation. However, already in the medieval periodicals it was possible to find references of "hovewarts", but until the beginning of this century no one was able to say how such a dog should look like. There were mentioned only some information about his coat and purpose, and that's all. The paintings of medieval artists are dominated by nobility with their hunting dogs, but sometimes we also find strong, medium-sized, long-haired dogs with hanging ears, which certainly can not be counted among hunting dogs. These described dogs correspond most faithful to references from the writings. Also, competent literature from the last century gives only a few pieces of information. While L. Bekmann distinguishes in his book from 1894 "Dogs breeds", 2 types of courtyard dogs, one of them is Hovawart. In R. Strebel's book "German Dogs and Their Origin" from 1904 about Hovawarts is not mentioned at all. However, in the book of cavalry captain von Stephanitz "German Shepherd in the description and painting", Hovawart is mentioned as the ancestor of the German Shepherd. Unlike von Stephanitz, sees the role of Hovawart in the development of the domestic dog breed, Kurt F. König, considered as a person who rebuilt the breed. König regarded Hovawart as the first step in the domestication of the wolf. Moreover, the reminiscence of his father's dog, who always guarded and defended him, and which looked like "Hovewart", led Kurt F. König to start the planned Hovawart breeding. The first photos of dogs in the Hovawart type come from 1908 and were made by Bertram König, Kurt's father.
So Kurt F. König went into the planned Hovawart breeding. He began by reconstructing the breed, penetrating the Harz and Schwarzwald villages in search of dogs similar to Hovawart. Thanks to these dogs, as well as those who had some common characteristics with Hovawarts, in the cross-breeding with other breeds, König showed in three series of breed reconstructing (until 1914, up from 1918 and from 1952) that it is possible to obtain a dog which would correspond to descriptions of old sources. Significant was also, that apart from a certain appearance, it was mostly importnat how Hovawarts behaved. According to the descriptions in ancient works, Hovawart should demonstrate his own (naturally) ability to protect and guard, not because he was trained to do this. As a courtyard dog, Hovawart also had to be able to live in harmony with other animals, i.e. he had to own outstanding social skills. However, he can perform his guardian tasks only when he is on free territory, he can not be a vagabond or hunter at all. In relation to strangers, he must behave with reserve and remain mistrustful, but only with a real threat he should protect his family and its possessions with his teeth. Only intelligent and not shy dogs are able to assess new situations such way that they can react to them correctly.
König stated that Hovawart should show these features ad-lib, and only a little training is needed for complete adaptation to these assumptions. That's why already from beginning he introduced the so-called predisposition test (Körung), where dogs had to show appropriate behaviors in certain everyday situations. Only with Hovawarts who passed the test it was possible to breed.
As for the appearance of Hovawart, it has not changed much over the years. Watching photos from the beginnings of Hovawart breeding, it can be safely said that there are no great differences. On the other hand, the scale of Hovawart's appearance looks quite big, there are Hovawart of various types: starting from large, slim, even windhound type to medium, heavy, Newfoundland type dogs. It is easy to explain, the reason is - using other breeds for breeding, as well as the principle that a given dog should behave like Hovawart, and does not necessarily have to look like Hovawart.
Let's go back to Königs yet. The planned Hovawart breeding started in year 1922 and this year also the first entry to the Hovawart breeding book (Zuchtbuch) took place. The first breeder was, of course, Kurt König, litter date of birth is 3.04.1922, the father was a dog named Baron, the mother was a bitch named Ortrud Hudson (Kuvacz breed!). There were 4 puppies: 1 gray colour dog and 3 light blond colour females. In the following breedings were also used Leonberger, Newfoundland, Bernese Mountain Dog and German Shepherd, as well as dogs described as - in the Hovawart type. König also used later a suspicious African wolf bitch, which is mentioned in every description of the breed, and whose photographs and documents nobody has ever seen. Of course, one breeder can not rebuild the entire breed, so in 1922 the first Hovawart union was established in Thale / Harz.
Today's situation: In 1984, the International Hovawart Federation (IHF) was established, bringing together now 14 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Hungary, Great Britain, Italy) as well as Canada and the USA. In Germany, there are currently active 3 large breed clubs: RZV - the biggest, so-called West German, once putting a lot of emphasis on the Hovawart working abilities, at the moment RZV breeders set as others on the so-called breed family features; RZV is the supreme IHF body; HZD - so-called East German, does not belong to IHF (for a moment he belonged, but again there came to misunderstandings and HZD left the IHF), he was created from former DDR clubs; and Goslar Klub - the smallest of the three, uniting those who do not feel well in RZV or HZD. In addition to these big clubs, there are lot of others that are usually land-based rather than nationwide, and what`s most important, they are dissident clubs, not belonging to VDH, and therefore to FCI, which means that their dogs are not pure-breed in the opinion of the whole kynological world. What is the difference between the biggest three? RZV focused primarily on Hovawart`s working abilities. A dog that is supposed to train well and pass all exams. A lot of emphasis was put on the defense competition, where the dog on the order is supposed to grab the helper's sleeve and hold it firmly. At the moment, 90% of RZV litters are so-called family dogs. HZD adopted the Köning guidelines as mentality criterion, who selected dogs, above all, showing their guard instincts themselves. The HZD does not pay too much attention to defense training, they focus more on Hovawart being a great guardian, a well-socialized friend of humans, and that he would show these qualities alonef. Goslar Klub associates those who treat Hovawart as a family friend, their only training is tracking and obedience.
An important year for the breed is 1972, when Hovawart was recognized as a working breed with the required defense dog exam.
In the 90s of the last century, the selection of the native breed in Germany was very severe and any symptoms incompatible with the breed standard were immediately eliminated, so to have a breeding dog, he had to be completely free of dysplasia (acceptable result only HD A1 and A2), he had to pass many character tests and for a time there was a regulation that at least one of the puppies' parents must have had defense training. Unfortunately, in the course of time, the entire breeding regulations of German clubs have been devalued. At the moment, the B1 and B2 results of dysplasia test are acceptable, mentality tests are illogical for me and many other breeders, and the care about the exterier has fallen into oblivion long ago. Hardly any dog is also trained in defense. As a judge, I am observing with concern that even dogs with numerous anatomical defects are promoted in breeding. Some time ago the best hovawarts were in Germany, is it so now, I'm afraid, it ism`t. For sure, Germany still has the largest populations of the breed and there are a lot of mentally good dogs, but there is also a lot of weak ones.
In RZV since 1986 only dogs with free score (i.e. A, frei), could be further bred (until 1986 there were allowed also dogs with the result V - borderline, fair). In order to obtain breeding license, dogs must pass the following exams testing their mentality and exterior: Jugendbeurteilung, so-called youth assessment of a dog, i.e. its description and first tests of character, it should be done until the 22 months, then from 22 months dog should pass ZTP, that is an adult breeding test, granting a breeding license. The ZTP consists of: a description of the dog (very accurate consisting of 46 points and sub-points), staged situations, checking the dog's reflex reactions to given stimuli, reaction to the shot (should be indifferent) and to strangers. ZTP should be taken without previous preparing! Only a dog who successfully passes all these tests, is free from dysplasia, eyes tested, is over 2 years old and has received at least once evaluation "good" on the show, can be used for breeding. Until more or less year 2004, the majority of breedings in RZV club had at least one of the parents with defense training, e.i. VPG (formerly Sch H). In those days, almost half of the litters were from parents with defense training (so-called Leistungszucht). Currently breeding policy has changed and also RZV wants to breed nice, non-conflict dogs, typically family ones, and finding a working puppy is more and more difficult. Working litters are born around 10 a year, e.i. below 10%. Each stud male has a breeding limit of 5 times, it was decided so as not to narrow the gene pool of the Hovawart population, using the same sires for breeding. All litters are always controlled 3 times: at the age of 2 weeks, 8 weeks and then again at a time when puppies are between 4 months and 1 year (so-called Nachzuchtbeurteilung). Brud female can have max. 3 litters in life. Only in the case of giving healthy, mentally correct offspring, she can get permission for an additional litter (very rarely for two additional litters). A stud male may also be allowed to have additional matings when his offspring is healthy and mentally correct. What does it mean? The regulations say the following:
brud female after 3 litters can get permission for additional litters if she meets the following requirements:
at least 70% of her alive and living in Germany offspring from the first two litters must be examined for dysplasia,
at least 50% of her alive and living in Germany offspring from the first two litters must be presented for evaluation on one of the tests (Nachzuchtbeurteilung, Jugendbeurteilung, ZTP),
in the previous two litters she did not give repeated disqualifying faults, such as: malocclusion, missing teeth, tail anomalies, lack of testicles, congenital eyes defects,
if in the first two litters she did not give more than 50% of timid, aggressive, aggressive from fear or impossible to evaluate offspring,
a stud male after 5 litters in Germany can get permission for additional litters if he meets the following requirements:
at least 70% of his alive and living in Germany offspring from the first two litters must be examined for dysplasia,
at least 50% of his alive and living in Germany offspring from the first two litters must be presented for evaluation on one of the tests (Nachzuchtbeurteilung, Jugendbeurteilung, ZTP),
in the previous two litters she did not give repeated disqualifying faults, such as: malocclusion, missing teeth, tail anomalies, lack of testicles, congenital eyes defects,
if in the first two litters she did not give more than 50% of timid, aggressive, aggressive from fear or impossible to evaluate offspring.
A stud male can be used freely for breeding outside of Germany.
Practically, the permission for additional matings or litters is given to very few dogs, averagely 2-3 dogs a year, and usually they are females.
Germany, as the breed homeland, they set requirements for its health, working abilities and appearance. And this is the priority order in the breed development. All countries associated in the IHF must stick to these guidelines (Poland does not belong to the IHF, so it does not have to). The selection of dogs is quite large, depending on the size of the population in a given country. The more individuals, the severer the selection. In terms of quantity, the first is of course Germany, then Finland, Austria, Switzerland (which is not in IHF!). Unfortunately, in every European country, the hovis looks vary quite distinctly. At the moment in Germany rarely can be seen hovawarts of old, heavy type, which still reign on the Czech, Slovak, sometimes Finnish and Polish rings. The Germans are moving towards a healthy, sporty hovi, at the cost of skeleton heaviness and lush coat.
Actually, only Austria has dogs like Germany, which is connected with geographic proximity and significant use of German dogs for breeding (curiosity here is even greater exacerbation of the rigors of breeding qualification, especially in terms of teeth and training, what restricts the number of breeding dogs, but improve their quality).
In previous years, large deviations in the appearance of Finnish dogs were noticed - they were heavy, often too large (in height and body weight), result was working ability loss, but also health. Hips dysplasia, but also more frequently elbows dysplasia became a big problem there. There were also few so-called working lines, most of the Finnish hovis were show dogs, not working ones (by Germans vice versa). Currently, also Finnish hovawarts have changed. You can find there many nice dogs in the desired German type, but also a lot of very average dogs, with faults, especially of ears and colour. They are not so heavy and overgrown, it came several imports, more emphasis on working abilities was put, more dogs are trained. What is imitative and enviable, the number of dogs tested for dysplasia is amazing, often whole litters in the set are x-rayed, almost like in Germany.
Amazingly, so close to Finland Sweden and Norway were until recently completely different, mainly due to quarantine. At the moment it is gone and the Scandinavian hovis are same like continental ones. Swedish hovawarts from old lines with some German blood were really beautiful. The present Swedish hovis no longer differ from those from other European countries, but unfortunately many faults of ears, tail and colour have appeared. Because there are not so many of them, they are much better in terms of health and mentality. Many pups are imported, most breeders go for breeding to Germany.
Norway has the least Hovawarts, is completely dependent on Sweden and the hovis population is treated as one in both countries, as there are no Norwegian lines, all matings are based on Swedish dogs. The number is comparable to Hungarian, the density of the lines too. Both Sweden and Norway have their ZTP - Kornings. They are very similar to the German mental tests, except that you do not have to have them to be able to breed, but this happens rare, because most breeders are aware of the working abilities need by hovawart. The appearance of Norwegian hovis is different from Swedish, they are lighter, less hairy, more sportive, they go towards the German-type Hovawart.
Switzerland, as it is not in the IHF, it has diverged from the rest of the countries. Their dogs differ greatly in appearance, especially in the head structure (long, narrow), they are quite tiny (in bone) and do not always have the correct colour.
France is currently a voluminous country in terms of hovawarts number. There are few kennels, the majority consists of one female, they have 2-3 litters in life. But unfortunately there are also a few factories-kennels, which have 5-6 litters in a year, their females are mated every heat 5-6 times in their lives. France does not respect breeding limit principle, popular stud males have even 10-20 litters, despite the lack of health tests by offspring. In France, it is also possible to breed with dogs suffering from genetic diseases, it is enough for the dog to be dysplasia free (HD A and B). Most of the breedings are within the country, more ambitious breeders go for matings abroad, especially to Germany. The French have their character tests called TAN, they check inborn predispositions and working abilities. French mental tests are not difficult, breeding selection is virtually none.
Belgium and the Netherlands. They have very few Hovawarts, lines based mainly on Germany and France. Quite a high level of dogs, but few litters and for a puppy you have to wait a long time (about 2 years), this is why most of the byuers decide to import, what greatly affects their situation.
The Italians currently have averagely large hovawart population. Lines based mainly on France, a bit of Germany, they go for breedings abroad, but rarely. However, there are a lot of imports from the Czech Republic. There are also Hovawart factories in Italy, which have 5-6 litters per year. There are several kennels in which more than 10 dogs live.
Czech Republic and Slovakia. They are IHF members, what has recently tightened their breeding requirements. Until recently, females with light dysplasia could be breeded in the Czech Republic, fortunately not anymore. Lines, however, are still burdened, and due to the fact that few dogs are officially x-rayed, it is difficult to say which lines are already healthier in this respect. Same situation is with mentality, the Czechs have their bonitations, checking the dog's socialization, reactions to stimuli and the desire to play. Dogs with a weak mentality get permission for 1-2 litters. In the years 1990-2010, the problem by them, apart from mentality, was the colour, especially of the blond hovawarts. This was caused by long-standing blond for blond matings. Out of such matings, came into being almost completely white hovawarts (like kuvasz) and so-called Berlin red - dark red colour, without lightenings. Therefore, since 2000, it is forbidden to breed blond to blond, one of parents has to be always dark. Unfortunately, only some of the local breeders go abroad for matings. This is mainly due to formal difficulties, bureaucracy and the attitude of the Czech club. Some Czech or Slovak hovawarts are really beautiful (usually from German matings or lines). At the moment, the mentality of Czech dogs has significantly improved thanks to using German dogs for breeding. However, 95% of matings is still domestic. The Czech Republic does not respect the breeding limit principle, popular stud males have even 20-30 litters, despite the lack of health tests by offspring. More and more dogs unfortunately have ears, tail and colour faults.
Hungary. The amount of hovawarts is quite limited there, but the quality is relatively high. There are only few kennels, mostly based on old German lines, with a fresh blood supply from Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria. Unfortunately, 80% of the population is currently based on dogs from one kennel. Hungarian hovis are quite nice, in a good type, with correct mentality. It's hard to say anything about health, because, as in the Czech Republic, few dogs are tested.
Situation in Poland: The first hovawart was imported in 1985 by Helena Szêdzielorz from Rybnik and it was black and gold female Brita v.d. Funkenmühle from East Germany. Brita was the first brud bitch in Poland and gave birth to the first two litters of Hovawarts in the Heland kennel. Most Polish Hovawarts have this line in themselves. Two months later, a black and gold male appeared in Poland, also from East Germany - Ardak v. Kloster Rohrbach. This male had only one litter in Poland, his children were not used in breeding. Next litters after Brita, gave her daughters or granddaughters, these litters were sporadic, mostly one-off and just imported Czech females started regular breeding..
Until 31.12.2018 was born in Poland 2654 hovawarts in 353 litters (this is the exact number of puppies with documents). From what living is about 1800 or more. Part of them was sold abroad. We also had so far about 125 imports (it is not known the actual amount of imported hovis, because not all are registered in the Polish Kennel Club). Only in the 2001 year we got more than 100 puppies, in 2002 - 108 + imports, in 2003 - 104 + imports, in 2004 - 172 + imports, in 2005 - 258 + imports, in 2006 - 156 + imports, in 2007 - 99 + imports, in 2008 - 190 + imports in 2009 - 130 + imports, in 2010 - 158 + imports, 2011 - 142 + imports, 2012 - 127 + imports, 2013 - 122 + imports, 2014 - 102 + imports, 2015 - 94 + imports, 2016 - 87 + imports, 2017 - 97 + imports, 2018 - 101 + imports.
There are in Poland already registered more than 145 hovawarts kennels (as of 31.12.2018; kennels that had litter or had / have a brud-female), of which about 35 are active, although litters regularly (at least once a year at the moment) have about 15 kennels, the rest from time to time, had one litter and ceased operations or just starting.