In the eighteen years from 1939 to 1957 the breed was recognized as the Illyrian Shepherd Dog by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, however at the request of the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology in 1957 the breed name was changed to Yugoslav Shepherd Dog-Šarplanina after the Šar Mountains where the breed is most common. This name has remained as the official FCI designation in the fifty three years since
SizeThe Šarplaninac is a robust, well proportioned dog with plenty of bone, of a size that is well above the average and with a thick, long, rather coarse coat that emphasizes the short coupled appearance. They are about 102–170 pounds (46–82 kg) and 75 to 90 cm. Although much larger dogs do exist which can reach up to 100 kg (220 lbs)- most of these "giants" are probably of mixed breed origins and probably not pure.
CoatThe coat is dense and medium in length, it can be rough or smooth. The coat is also about four inches (10 cm) long. The coat will benefit from occasional brushing. All Šarplaninac types are solid in colour: fawn, iron grey, white or almost black. The colour need not be completely uniform, and most Šarplaninac have several different shades of the same colour fading into one another. There are no bicolours and no uniformly black-coated dogs among purebreds, but odd-coloured specimens do exist.
ColourUsually sable or gray with darker "overalls" on the head and back, the undercoat being paler. Almost all other colours are accepted, but the dogs must not have large white patches in their coat.
The Šarplaninac is a reserved and intuitive breed, stubborn and undemonstrative, but properly trained and handled with authority, it excels at a variety of tasks. Dog-aggression and wariness of strangers are common traits of the Šarplaninac, which is why early socialization is of utmost importance. Heavily-boned and muscular, the dog has a full top-coat, with an abundant dense undercoat, making it weatherproof and suited for an outside life.
The Šarplaninac has been known to fight or chase off a wolf, lynx and even Balkan bears.
The breed can also work cattle and serve as a guard dog.
They were first used as military dogs in 1928 by the army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and later under Josip Broz Tito in the communist Yugoslavia. Today it's used by Military of Serbia as guard dog in mountain regions.