Il Cane del Pastori Maremmano-Abbruzzesse

The Dogs of the Maremmano-Abruzzese Shepherdesses 


   The official Italian breed name for the Maremma Sheepdog is "pastore maremmano-abruzzese" but they are more often called "pastore abruzzese" which omits reference to the breed's English name. The Maremma sheepdog is believed to have originated in the Apennine mountains of Abruzzo over two thousand years ago where early shepherds used the dogs to drive off wolves.

   Sheep farming developed into an annual trek from mountain grasslands of Abruzzo and Molise and other parts of central Italy south to lower pasture land in Apulia where sheep were over-wintered. These dogs came to play a central role in the centuries-old migration, or transhumance, an annual event vital to Abruzzese culture. Although the Italian Transhumance ended in the 1860s, the dogs continue to be widely used by Italian sheep farmers in areas where predation is common especially in the open range land of Italy's national parks in Abruzzo. 

   Ironically, working Maremma are a rarity today in the Maremmano section of Tuscany where sheep farming has declined and the wolf is nearly extinct. Earlier, during the Second World War, the Maremma were almost eradicated by the invading German Army who could not contend with their ferocity as guard dogs and shot them on sight. However, working Maremma numbers have been steadily increasing and are in more demand today due to the conservation efforts that have resulted in a return of the wolf and bear to the Italian Wilderness. 

   Besides their wide use in Italy, Maremma are extensively used as Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Canada. Recently in Warrnambool, Australia, the world's first trial utilizing Maremma to guard the dwindling penguin population of Middle Island has been met with great success. While using Maremma to guard an endangered species is rare, Maremma along with other breeds of LGDs are appreciated by environmentalists because they make it possible for livestock to coexist with endangered predators such as wolves and coyotes, reducing their predation by 70% to 80% or more. National park authorities in Italy, the United States and Canada have promoted use of the Maremma Sheepdog, as well as other types of LGDs, to minimize conflict between endangered predator species and ranchers. 

This article was adapted from:  Accessed Jan 13, 2012.


Contact Details

Paul E Withers BSc, DipEd, MA.
Ganmain, NSW, Australia
Phone : 0413 245 125
Email : [email protected]