A medium sized breed developed in Egypt as a herding dog, the Armant is well known for its fearlessness, courage, and strong protective instincts. As a result in recent years the breeds role has shifted from that of a simple herding dog to use for personal and property protection as well. Armants have not yet been recognized by any major canine organizations, though the breed has been by several minor canine organizations. Although Egypt is credited with developing the breed, the Armant may actually have descended from early Western European dogs. The Armant is also known as the Egyptian Sheepdog, Ermenti, Hawara Dog, and Chien de Berger Egyptien.
The Armant was developed almost exclusively as a working dog in rural areas. Combined with the fact that the breed was probably developed before accurate records were kept of most dog breeding this means that almost nothing is known for sure about the breed’s origins. All that is known for sure is that the breed was definitely developed in Egypt some time prior to 1900. The breed gets its name from the village of Armant where a large number of breed members reside. It is possible that the dog was first developed in that village, but there is no evidence to support this. Although each is based on little more than pure speculation, there are a number of theories as to how the breed was developed.
Some claim that the Armant is descended either entirely or almost entirely from native Egyptian dogs. Herding dogs do have a longer history in Egypt than perhaps anywhere else in the world. Although there is a substantial amount of dispute as to the exact details, most experts now agree that dogs were fully domesticated from the wolf by at least 14,000 years ago. There is now a consensus that all dogs are descendants of one or possibly two individual domestication events that took place in India, China, Tibet, or the Middle East. These early dogs were very similar to the wolf, and were probably virtually identical to the Dingo of Australia. The first species to be domesticated by man, the first dogs predated the development of agriculture and accompanied bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers, serving as watchdogs, camp guardians, hunting aides, sources of food and hides, and companions. Dogs proved so useful that they rapidly spread around the world, eventually coming to live everywhere that man lived besides a few remote islands. Since it is comparatively easy to reach Egypt from any of the possible domestication locations of the dog, especially the Middle East and India, dogs almost certainly reached Egypt at a very early date.
Initially, all dogs were very similar in appearance as they lived in similar environments and performed similar tasks. Around 14,000 years ago, humans living in the Middle East began to develop agriculture and settling into permanent villages. They began to tend fields of crops and raise herds of livestock. Even the earliest agriculturalists realized that the hunting instincts of dogs could be transformed into herding behaviors to help manage flocks and that the dog’s urge to protect it pack and territory could be used to defend flocks and homes from both wild predators such as wolves, bears, and lions and human thieves and raiders. These early Middle Eastern farmers began to breed dogs specifically for these purposes, perhaps the first attempt to significantly alter any animal from its original form. Agriculture was so successful as a way of life that it rapidly spread, and the first herding dogs spread with it. Located only a few hundred miles at most from the first farming villages, the regions of Egypt and Mesopotamia were home to some of the earliest agriculturalists. Although the first farmers lived in small villages, the fertile river valleys of these two regions allowed for the development of the world’s first cities. Kingdoms and then empires developed, which produced enough extra food to support artists and record keepers.
Between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago, Egyptian and Mesopotamian relics such as statues, paintings, and tomb walls begin to show several different types of dogs. These dogs were clearly bred for specific purposes as each different looking dog type is shown performing a different purpose. There were thin and fleet-footed sighthounds used for hunting. There were large and ferocious Mastiff-type dogs used for battle and protection. There were also herding dogs which managed and defended the flocks of shepherds. This is solid evidence that by 3,000 B.C. at the latest (and probably thousands of years earlier) the Egyptians were already breeding herding dogs and that these dogs almost certainly possessed a strong protective instinct. Further evidence is provided from ancient dog cemeteries. The Ancient Egyptians both cherished the dog as a pet and revered it for its connection to the god Anubis. Countless thousands of Egyptian dog mummies have been discovered, many of which have had their names translated. In addition to names such as Blacky, Antelope, and Useless, many dogs possessed names such as Good Herdsman and Brave One. There are those who believe that the Armant may be descended from these first herding dogs. Believers point to evidence that suggests that the breed was present in Egypt since at least the 1400’s. This theory is certainly possible, but there is almost a complete lack of evidence and such dogs would have almost certainly been heavily crossed with other breeds throughout the centuries.
The other major theory surrounding the origin of the Armant is that it is the descendant of European dogs that were introduced into Egypt in the last two centuries. The breed is very similar in appearance to several French herding breeds, particularly the Briard of France. Many claim that the Armant is descended from French herding dogs brought to France by Napoleon’s army in 1798. Allegedly, these dogs accompanied the French army and its followers and were subsequently acquired by local farmers either through trade or when they were abandoned in the French evacuation of 1800. It is certainly possible that such dogs accompanied Napoleon, but there does not appear to be any records confirming this. While the Briard and other breeds such as the Beauceron have been used extensively by the French Army, this did not really begin until World War I. It is also unlikely that Napoleon would have brought large numbers of dogs with his army if he brought any at all.
It is frequently claimed that the Armant is one of the ancestors of the Bearded Collie based on the alleged similarity of the two breeds. However, this theory is probably completely false based on the age of the Bearded Collie and the likelihood of Egyptian dogs making their way to Scotland at the time that breed developed. However, it is much more likely that the British imported their herding dogs to Egypt. The British maintained a substantial trading and military presence in Egypt for a number of decades which in 1882 culminated in the establishment of a protectorate over the country or its outright occupation depending on which side is believed. Some of history’s greatest dog lovers, the British brought their pets with them around the world. It is quite possible, and perhaps even likely, that some British Collies and Sheepdogs made their way to Egypt. Although rarely discussed, the Armant could also be the result of much earlier introductions of European dogs. Both the Romans and the Greeks occupied Egypt at various times, and both possessed highly protective herding dogs which they are known to have brought to Egypt such as the Molossus and the Roman Cattle Driving Dog. Additionally, crusading knights from England, France, and Germany occupied the neighboring region of Palestine for several decades and may have brought their dogs with them as well. These older introductions may explain both the appearance of the Armant and its alleged potential age.
In fact, the Armant is almost certainly the result of crossing many different breeds together over time. As is the case elsewhere in the world, the farmers of Egypt bred their herding dogs almost solely for working ability. If a dog was a superior livestock worker, it would probably be used for breeding regardless of its appearance or origin. This means that the Armant is probably a descendant of both Egyptian and European herding dogs, with the possible additions of Arabian and Asiatic breeds as well. Although it is unclear when the Armant took its modern form, all evidence point to it being a fully developed breed no later than the end of the 19th Century.
The Armant served its masters primarily as a herding dog, tasked with rounding up stray sheep and goats, keeping flocks unified, and moving them wherever the farmer needed them to go. The breed also served as the guardian of its charges. When a predator such as a wolf or hyena approached the flock, the dog would first bark to alert the shepherds and then move in to drive off the invader itself. At night, the Armant would serve the same purpose at its master’s home. The Armant not only defended against wild animals, but ill-intentioned humans. According to Islamic tradition, dogs are considered unclean and numerous restrictions were placed on them such as that they are not allowed to enter houses. Only the Al-Hor or Noble One was exempt from these restrictions, the Al-Hor being a collection of ancient sight hound breeds usually including the Saluki, Sloughi, and Afghan Hound. Because of these restrictions most Egyptian farmers would not have let their Armants enter their homes. However, a very large percentage of Egypt’s population (between 10 and 25% percent) is Coptic Christian. The Islamic restrictions on most dogs would not have applied to Coptic farmers and they probably gave their Armant’s greater privileges as a result, but there have apparently not been any studies conducted on this.
For most of its history, Egypt has been a primarily rural and agricultural society. This meant that the Armant had plenty of herding work to do. In fact, the breed is still quite commonly used by Egyptian herdsmen to manage their flocks. Beginning in the 20th Century, a succession of Egyptian governments have worked to modernize the country. Technology and industrialization have increasingly come to Egypt, and a massive wave of urbanization has accompanied them. As has been the case elsewhere in the world, urbanization has led to both an increase in crime rates and a heightened public perception of crime. In order to defend themselves and their property, the Egyptian public is increasingly turning to the use of guard dogs. The Armant is one of the most popular breeds selected for this purpose, as it is renowned across Egypt for its intense loyalty and total fearlessness when faced with any opponent. Use as a protection dog has caused Armant numbers to rise dramatically and the breed is now increasingly common in most parts of Egypt.
Although increasingly in popularity in its homeland, the Armant is rarely seen outside of Egypt. There are a few Armant breeders in France and the Netherlands, and possibly Belgium as well. Additionally, the breed is occasionally seen in other Middle Eastern countries, especially those that border Egypt. Dog shows are still not popular in Egypt, and as a result there has been little effort to standardize the breed in that country. Because of this lack of standardization and almost complete lack of pedigrees, the Armant has not been recognized by any major national or international kennel clubs such as the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) or the American Kennel Club (AKC). Several smaller canine organizations have granted the breed recognition, including the Continental Kennel Club (CKC) in the United States.
French and Dutch breeders are apparently keeping pedigrees and working towards a more standardized breed, but it remains to be seen what comes of their efforts. It is unclear whether or not any Armants have found their way to the United States, but if they have it is only a few individual dogs. In Egypt, the Armant is well-known and is probably one of the most common breeds in that country, although Egyptian dog breed statistics are essentially non-existent. Unlike most modern breeds, the vast majority of Armants remain active or retired working dogs. Most breed members are actively used as herding dogs and protection animals, and it is likely that will remain the case for the foreseeable future. The dog is so poorly known outside of Egypt that it is very difficult to find accurate images of the bred, and many supposed pictures of Armants are actually completely different breeds such as Newfoundlands, Harriers, and Briards.
The Armant is a medium-sized breed. Most breed members stand between 21 and 23 inches tall at the shoulder, although it is not uncommon for individual dogs to vary from this average by up to three inches. The weight of an Armant will be determined by the height and condition of the individual dog, but a breed member of average height in good working condition will usually weigh between 50 and 65 pounds. The Armant is first and foremost a working dog and should always appear as such. This breed does not have any overly exaggerated features which would impair its working ability. Armants are a very muscular and toned breed, although the longer hair of some breed members may partially obscure this. This breed possesses a strong, straight back and a deep chest. The legs are strong and end in well-padded feet that are relatively small for the size of the dog. There is some dispute as to the correct nature of the Armant’s tail. All agree that the breed typically possesses a curled tail and that the tail is relatively long. Some claim that the breed is also occasionally seen with a straight or slightly curved tail. Apparently the tail of the Armant is sometimes docked to a very short length although this is not an especially common practice.
The head of the Armant is proportional to the dog’s body. The breed’s muzzle is of average length but is wide enough to possess great power. The nose of the Armant is relatively small and usually black, although some dogs have a nose which matches the color of their coats. The ears of the Armant are quite variable with some dogs having completely drop ears and others possessing fully erect ears. Some breed members may have mismatched ears as well. Some owners chose to crop and/or prick the ears of their dogs although it is not clear how common this is. The eyes of this breed are small, round, and darkly colored.
The coat of the Armant is medium long to long, shaggy, and rough. The dog’s coarse coat provides it with protection from both the elements and predatory animals. This breed comes in many colors, possibly any color found in any dog. However, the majority of breed members are either black, black and tan, grey, or grey and yellow. Those few breed members which have arrived in the West are all one of these color variations.
The Armant has been bred almost exclusively as a working dog. As a result it has a temperament very similar to those of other herding/protection breeds. However, those who have kept the breed primarily as a companion animal claim that it makes a very affectionate pet as well. The Armant is famous for its intense loyalty and devotion. This is a breed that wants to be in the constant company of its master and would follow him or her anywhere without question. Because this dog was almost always kept outdoors, it is more than capable of being an outdoor dog. This breed would return from a day working in the fields to its master’s property where it would interact with his family. Modern Armants are said to be extremely tolerant of children when they have been socialized with them and make excellent family dogs. The Armant is usually quite affectionate with those that it knows best.
Although the Armant wants nothing more than to be in the company of its family, most do not particularly want to be in the presence of strangers. This breed is known for being extremely protective of both its family and its territory. Socialization is extremely important for Armant puppies, otherwise they are likely to develop suspiciousness and aggression issues as adults. Properly socialized dogs will usually be more tolerant of strangers, although they will generally not be friendly or affectionate with them. The Armant is not only territorial and protective but also extremely alert, making the breed an excellent and reliable watchdog. Despite its medium size, the Armant makes an excellent guard dog that will fearlessly and ferociously defend its family and home no matter the odds. This breed will not back down from any opponent(s), man or beast, and will unhesitatingly sacrifice its own life if necessary.
As is the case with most herding breeds, the Armant is highly intelligent and extremely intelligent. This dog is capable of learning advanced herding behaviors with little difficulty and is also known to learn a number of tricks. It isn’t clear if the breed has been used for other purposes, but the Armant would probably be capable of police work, search and rescue, and competing in a number of canine sports. As a working dog, the Armant has to be able to perform vigorous physical activity for long hours. This breed is said to be a tireless worker that is able to go as long as its master needs it to. As a result, the Armant requires a substantial amount of exercise. This dog should get at least an hour of rigorous exercise every day, and will gladly take any extra that it provided. Armants that are not properly exercised will almost certainly develop behavioral problems such as extreme destructiveness, excessive barking, hyperactivity, over excitability, nervousness, and aggression.
The Armant is a relatively low maintenance dog. In Egypt, it gets by with essentially no maintenance whatsoever other than food and water. It would greatly benefit this dog to have its coat brushed regularly, although it almost certainly would not require professional grooming. There does not seem to be any reports as to whether or not the Armant sheds, but based on similar breeds this dog probably sheds and sheds quite heavily.
There do not appear to have been any health studies conducted on the Armant, and veterinary information of any kind essentially does not exist in Egypt. Many sources claim that the breed’s lifespan is 13 years, although it is unclear what that estimate is based on. The Armant has been bred almost exclusively as a working dog in a country where there is very little veterinary care. Potential health defects would not have been tolerated by breeders as they would have impacted working ability, and in any case sickly dogs would probably have perished. This would seem to imply that the Armant is a relatively healthy breed, but until more evidence is compiled it is impossible to definitely make this claim. Sources on the breed claim that it is susceptible to both hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). It is unclear where this information comes from, nor is it clear if these conditions are prominent in Egyptian dogs or those few that have made their way to the West.
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common conditions found in dogs, both purebred and mixed-bred. Hip dysplasia is caused by a deformity of the hip joint which causes the leg bone and the hip to connect improperly. Over time, hip dysplasia leads to discomfort, pain, chronic arthritis, difficulty moving, and in the worst cases even complete lameness. Although hip dysplasia is genetically inherited, the timing and severity of its onset can be influenced by environmental factors. There are no universally accepted cures for hip dysplasia although there are numerous treatments, most of which are long term and expensive. Tests have been developed that can detect hip dysplasia in very young dogs, and responsible breeders are using them to eliminate the condition from their lines. However, there are a large number of irresponsible breeders and the condition is so common that it will take years before major results are achieved for many breeds.
Based on what little health information is available on the Armant and what is known about similar breeds, the dog may be susceptible to the following conditions: